When you think of yogurt, no doubt your mind wanders to the dairy section of your favourite grocery store and you may start daydreaming about some of the fruity and other sweet flavours of the thick, creamy treat that it offers.
Yogurt is defined as a food that comes from the bacterial fermentation of milk, and over the last several decades, yogurt has come a long way from its humble plain jane beginnings and is now a more mainstream type of food. It can be made with different flavours, fresh fruits and honey mixed in, and it can even be frozen for an ice cream like treat. It is overall regarded as a healthy food because it makes for a versatile treat that delivers calcium and good bacteria and cultures that work to keep your gut healthy.
Have you ever thought about making your own yogurt instead of buying the stuff at the grocery store? Perhaps you think it requires a lot of fancy tools, including specialty yogurt thermometers, but this isn’t true. While it is recommended to have a thermometer while making yogurt, yogurt making without a thermometer can be done- after all, how do you think folks made it before such things were invented?
Although it can be done, it’s important to note that making yogurt without a yogurt thermometer can lead to a greater risk of error that could ultimately result in waste and having to throw away what you created due to the poor quality of taste. Just remember that this was how our ancestors did it, and if you really want to master the art of making yogurt without a thermometer, plenty of practice, trial and error is ahead.
So if you prefer making yogurt with a thermometer, then we highly recommend a yogurt making thermometer like one of these. But if you’re willing to give making yogurt without a thermometer a go, then please continue reading to learn more about the history of this creamy, tart treat and the process of making yogurt without using a thermometer.
The History of Yogurt Making
Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to access yogurt in a variety of flavours with the implementation of mass production and grocery stores. However, those who make their own foods know and understand that there is a certain sense of pride and enjoyment in making and enjoying your own goods, and that was the only way that you could have yogurt centuries ago.
In fact, the word yogurt is of Turkish origin that comes from “yogurmak,” a verb which means “to thicken.” Yogurt is thought to have been first made by the Turkish people in the 6th Century BCE.
The first use of yogurt is said to have been by some herdsmen from Central Asia, as they would store their extra goats milk using animal stomachs as a container to keep it fresh while they were traveling. However, the result of some of the milk being stored this way caused it to thicken and become tart in taste, which surprised the herdsmen. But they happily discovered that in spite of this and having been exposed to the hot sun for so long, this substance was edible.
The reason for this reaction is because the good bacteria contained within the milk took off when it came into contact with the stomach containers it was placed in. This made it an uninhabitable environment for bad bacteria and left the herdsmen with a more substantial source of food.
Proof can be found all throughout history that point to yogurt being a popular part of an Asian diet, being favoured by the likes of Genghis Khan and his army of Mongolians; Khan and his men claimed that yogurt gave them strength and stamina for battle. Supposedly Akbar, the former Emperor of India, loved yogurt as well and would use mustard seeds and cinnamon to give it a little extra flavour. Oxygala, an ancestor to yogurt, was consumed by the ancient Greeks, and it was made with sour milk and had honey added to it to sweeten it.
Another historical account of yogurt in Europe is that of Francis I, who was afflicted with terrible diarrhoea and there didn’t seem to be a cure in sight according to French doctors – at least not until he was sent a doctor by his ally Suleiman the Magnificent. This doctor allegedly gave Francis I some yogurt and he was soon cured, then went on to spread the word about this food cure.
For centuries, the production of yogurt was strictly an at-home affair because it wasn’t until the twentieth century that mass production for such a product would become available. The discovery of Lactobacillus bulgaricus in 1905, which is the strain of bacteria that causes milk to ferment into yogurt, by microbiologist Stamen Grigorov of Bulgaria led to the production of commercialized yogurt by Danone in Barcelona, Spain, known as Dannon in the United States, in 1919. Commercial yogurt got a facelift when having fruit jam added into it was patented by the the Radlická Mlékárna dairy in Prague in 1933.
How You Can Make Yoghurt Without Using a Thermometer
In order to make yoghurt without using a yogurt thermometer, first of course you need the proper ingredients and components. You can either use certified raw cow’s milk, whole cow’s milk from your grocery store, or even goat’s milk to make it. You can also add half-and-half to make a thicker, creamier yoghurt.
To make the yoghurt, you have to first heat the milk to the yoghurt maker temperature slowly in a sauce pan over low-medium heat until you start to see little bubbles begin to form around the inside edge of the pan. This means that the milk should be at around 180 degrees Fahrenheit, the best temperature to make yoghurt, and when the pan should be removed from the heat in order to begin the rest of the process.
After taking the milk off of the heat, check it every now and then. A recommended method for doing this if you don’t have a yogurt thermometer is to thoroughly wash your hands each time before you check and then dip your pinkie in. If your pinkie can stay submerged for at least five seconds without feeling like it’s burning, then this means that the bacteria will begin to grow. This would make the milk somewhere around 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Your next step is to take around a quarter of a cup of the milk and put it into a cup and then add to it one or two tablespoons (per quart of milk that you have prepared) of pre-made plain yoghurt of any brand with live cultures like L acidophilus in it and mix the milk and this starter yoghurt well.
Continue adding the milk to this mixture until it becomes runny, then pour the mixture into containers such as canning jars with a wide mouth and continue stirring in the rest of your warm milk. Then, place a lid on the containers and place it into a warm bath in a Styrofoam cooler, wrap towels or old shirts around the jars, replace the lid, then leave them for anywhere from 4 to 24 hours. It can be eaten fresh while it’s warm or room temperature, or you can put it in the fridge so it can firm up.
The fermentation process for yoghurt is anywhere from four to 24 hours. We recommend the 24 hour method because it allows the bacteria to have plenty of time to consume all of the lactose as they continue to reproduce. This 24 hour method gives you an even healthier yoghurt packed with billions of probiotics, makes it easier to digest, and makes it lactose-free.
Common Problems: Why Isn’t My Yogurt Setting?
It’s worth noting that if the water in your Styrofoam cooler is too hot, you may speed up the fermentation process and when you open the cooler you may find the jars are full of separated curds and whey. So what do you do? You simply open the jars very carefully as to not upset the pressure of fermentation gases, then pour off the whey. Don’t just dump the whey down the drain though because it can be drank as a source of protein rich in minerals, use it for cooking, or you can even use it as a starter to make lactic-fermented vegetables. The curds can be enjoyed by simply sprinkling some salt on top of them, or you can beat them with a whisk until they turn smooth.
This fail can actually be fixed if you reheat the milk back to 100 degrees Fahrenheit; if you heat it more than that you may accidentally make ricotta cheese. Be careful trying to do this without a yogurt thermometer.
If you suspect that the starter was the culprit, you can add a fresh, new starter and begin the incubation process of heating it to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
If your yogurt simply comes out thin and runny but still smells good, keep the incubation process going and even potentially try another starter. If it’s sort of thick but still runny at the same time, it can be strained to make the perfect, thick yogurt you’re looking for.
If you’ve made your yogurt from raw milk, it could turn out runny for two reasons; for one, when it comes to raw milk, it is loaded with enzymes and these enzymes will keep on digesting the milk until makes a runny, rather soggy yogurt. The other reason could be that the proteins contained in the raw milk didn’t go through the proper denaturalization process while being heated. If the raw milk is scalded or pasteurized, this denatures the proteins in it, thus making them easier to reconfigure and coagulate better during fermentation.
If your yogurt comes out stringy, foamy, or smelling like beer or bread, this means that at some point the yogurt was contaminated with yeast. This can be caused by baking while making your yogurt or even from naturally occurring yeasts on your skin, so it’s important to wash your hands thoroughly and try not to cross-contaminate your yogurt with other things you are making.
If the yogurt you have made comes out grainy or gritty but still has a pleasant taste, this means that the milk was probably heated too fast. A slower increase in temperature creates the perfect breeding ground for the milk bacteria to coagulate and make the yogurt well-blended and solid.
If by any chance you encounter mold forming on top of your yogurt, this means that either your jars or the utensils you used weren’t properly cleaned, you may have used old milk that wasn’t heated right and then was cooled prior to cultures forming, or your starter yogurt may have been compromised. It’s best to start the process all over with fresh, clean supplies, fresh milk, and a good starter yogurt.
How Long Can Homemade Yogurt Sit Out at Room Temperature?
To allow for the best fermentation possible, homemade yogurt can and should sit out at room temperature anywhere from 4 to 36 hours. The longer it sets, the thicker in texture and more tart in taste it will become. It’s best to check its taste around the four hour mark and keep checking until it reaches the taste and consistency you desire.
After you yogurt has completed the fermentation process and is the right taste and consistency for you, place it in a container with a lid and it can last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
If the yogurt sits out too long and/or room temperatures reaches or exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the process, your yogurt could be at risk for bad bacteria starting to grow. Be sure to make sure you know the room temperature using a Room Thermometer to prevent spoiling.
The History of Yogurt and the Process of Homemade Yogurt in Summary
Yogurt is easily something that can be taken for granted just because of its constant availability at our favourite grocery stores due to the benefits of mass production. However, once you really get into making your own yogurt and seeing the process that our ancestors went through just to make the stuff for their own enjoyment in their homes, it is much easier to appreciate the hard work and precision that goes into it.
This is especially true when you are doing it the old fashioned way without the use of a yoghurt thermometer to tell you exactly what temperature your milk is at. It’s hard to think that the store-bought yogurt we know and love came such a long way from such humble and rather odd beginnings, especially looking at it from a modern perspective. Imagine how many times after it was discovered that someone went through the process of heating the milk with more primitive tools than we have today and going through the entire process only to find out it wasn’t any good, and how many more times they would try before they got it perfect.
To sum it up, making yogurt is as much of an art form as painting, drawing, sculpting, or even writing because just like these art forms, it takes trial, error, and lots of practice to get it to the perfect taste and consistency. So if you decide to undertake the task of making your yogurt without a thermometer, just be sure to keep this article for reference and don’t be afraid to do your own research as well.