Yogurt – From Culture

Breakfast yogurt 1

You mean a recipe using yogurt right? No? But who need a recipe for yogurt?

Using kitchen cultures has passed down from generation to generation till ‘food’ companies took over and we could only reminisce about making jams, pickles, and preserves like Anne and Aunt Marilla of the Green Gables – until now; when everybody is suddenly trying to jump on the ‘eat healthy’ bandwagon! Trouble is that everybody’s grandmother’s pickling, fermenting and jamming recipes are long lost.  Yep! We only have her Deep Fried Chicken and Lasagna recipe in our recipe box.

Irrespective of what you have read or been told, making or setting yogurt is the simplest thing in the world and I’ve been itching to bust some much exaggerated myths!

You do NOT need Mason jar or any jars to make yogurt. You can use any glassware or earthenware that can withstand heat and has a lid. What I have noticed over the years is that yogurt set in taller containers produces very little whey and that if the containers are well sealed, it doesn’t turn sour very quickly either.

No need to buy incubation boxes to maintain temperature.

You will NOT need a kitchen thermometer. Think of it this way, its living bacteria and it needs warmth… if you put it in cold milk it will become dormant. If you put it in hot milk, you will kill it! I just feel the temperature with my finger tip (yes yes, washed of course) It should tepid. If it helps, you can heat the milk to 40°C/104F° once and get the feel of the temperature on your palm.

There is NO precise ratio of milk to yogurt. The more yogurt culture you use, the more the bacteria you will add and hence faster the fermentation process.

There is No fancy whisking or stirring gently and lovingly. Just stir like you would stir in sugar to distribute the good bacteria evenly.  You CAN move it. It will not SHOCK the bacteria. Its only when the milk begins to ferment and set should you avoid moving and jarring it.

You do NOT need any fancy heirloom yogurt cultures. You just need a teaspoon of fresh yogurt or yogurt that has active culture in it! You have these basic options.

  • Buy some fresh yogurt from your local dairy.
  • Take a teaspoon worth of fresh yogurt from a friend or neighbor.
  • Buy a jar of yogurt but make sure that it contains Live & Active Cultures or had an Active Cultures seal on it.
  • Last resort, you can buy some starter culture.

People have set yogurt for centuries, using the same culture or sharing cultures with neighbors. Even though I can run to a nearby dairy shop and buy fresh yogurt, I still prefer to set mine. And I hardly ever run out of culture even if I use up all that glorious white goodness. So bring on the probiotic and let’s set some curd!

heating milk

Measure out the milk. Use either fresh or pasteurized milk. Do not try to culture UHT milk…. Doesn’t work! Simply heat the milk till it’s a notch more than tepid around 40⁰C/104⁰F if you want to be precise as a beginner.


You can use a kitchen thermometer the first time around to get the feel of the temperature. I roughly use 1-2 teaspoons of fresh yogurt to 1 1/2 – 2 cups of milk depending upon how tart the culture is. If it is sour I only add 1- ¾ of a teaspoon of yogurt for culture. Simple rule of the thumb is that the yogurt will take after the flavor, sweetness or tartness of the culture introduced. The better the culture is, the more delicious the yogurt shall be.

stir in culture yogurt

Pour the milk into your preferred container and stir in the teaspoon of yogurt.

leave milk to set

If its summer time you can leave it covered on the kitchen counter until it sets, which is fairly quick varying between 3-5 hours. During our coldest winter nights, I preheated my oven to 40⁰C/104⁰F and then turned it off leaving the cultured milk jar inside to do its magic overnight.

set yogurt 1

You can tell the yogurt is set when it is smooth and set like mousse although it might be a bit creamy on the top.

yogurt and whey

There might even be a pale, almost clear layer of liquid on or around the surface. That’s just the whey….like the whey in the Little Miss Muffet nursery rhyme, and it’s full of proteins and very healthy. Consume within 2-3 day or it will turn too tart as the good bacteria keeps digesting the lactose and producing lactic acid.

You can even use it after 5-6 days but by then it will be too sour and you can at best utilize it in cooking or for dips unless you enjoy the tartness.

Wait…. We are not done yet. Once your first batch of yogurt is ready do not forget to back it up. Yes, you should have some backups of the culture that you painstakingly acquired, especially if you have set sweet tasting yogurt.

saving yogurt culture

I normally take a small tray and spoon one teaspoon of yogurt an inch part and stick the tray into the freezer. Do not freeze culture backups from tart yogurt, always use sweet and fresh yogurt.

frozen yogurt chips

The whey in the yogurt might crystallize into ice upon freezing

yogurt chips 1

Once the yogurt is frozen into little discs, you can defrost them slightly and move them into a little tub or a zip lock bag and place back into the freezer. The bacteria in the frozen yogurt will remain dormant till you add it to some warm milk. You can freeze it up to 3 -6 months.

milk with yogurt culture

On a hectic day, when you happily whip up something with creamy yogurt and suddenly realize that you didn’t leave any yogurt for culture (yes I more than often do that) or you left the yogurt waiting too long and its too tart… your backup culture discs will come handy… and then, you can sent a little prayer my way.

Breakfast yogurt

So try making healthy, probiotic-loaded yogurt at home. You can use it for cooking, marinade, cream cheese, parfait, dips or enjoy it just as it is; a delicious treat!

Yogurt – From Culture
Serves: 2-3
Prep Time:
Cooking Time:
Total time:
  • 2 Cups Whole or Skimmed Milk- Fresh or Pasteurized
  • 1-2 Teaspoons Yogurt- With live culture/bacteria
  • 1 jar or bowl – Should be heat resistant with lid
  1. Heat the milk to 40⁰C/104⁰F or tepid if not using a thermometer
  2. Pour into a glass jar or bowl.
  3. Stir in the culture yogurt.
  4. Keep in a warm sealed place like the microwave/oven/hotpot in cold season for overnight.
  5. Leave it covered on the counter top on warmer days for 5-6 hours.
  6. Once the yogurt is set, move to the refrigerator as soon as possible.
  7. Use within 2-3 days.
  8. Using in cooking or dips if it turns too tart.
  9. Freeze culture from a fresh and sweet tasting batch of yogurt to have great yogurt everytime.