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Q/A:

  1. How gentle should I be with the culture?  Yogurt cultures are a lot hardier than people give them credit for. About the only thing that will kill them is heat.  There is a s story told that when immigrants could not get bottles of culture into this country through Ellis Island, a little old lady soaked a handkerchief in yogurt, dried it and put it in her suitcase.  And, apparently, that is how yogurt made it to the USA.
  2. I can't get my yogurt to thicken properly? There are a number of reasons this may occur.  One unappreciated problem is that many folks don't mix the culture into the warm milk properly.  We recommend using a blender and putting the culture and at least a quart of the warm milk into the blender container and blending it for 5-10 seconds. Then mix it back into the remaining warm milk if any and whisk with a wire whisk for 5-10 seconds more.  This will kick-start the process when you put it into your yogurt maker.  Another possibility, especially if you are using no-fat milk - you need to use at least a cup of dry powdered milk for each quart of no-fat milk. Then of course the incubation termperature needs to be around 110 - 115F.  And the cultures need to be active. Also, we use a 50-50 mix of sugar and Splenda and add a tablespoon or more per quart. This not only sweetens the yogurt but it also feeds some of the bacteria in the culture that need it.
  3. Can I mix cultures together?  Of course you can.  We have had great success with a mix of Y-5 and yogourment cultures mixed half and half. Just remember, though, to record somewhere what you did in case you lose a valuable mixture. We have a Designer tab/section on this website devoted to such mixtures. Our latest is a mix of Bulgarian and Activia yogurt which turns out rich and creamy yet has all the health benefits of Activia.
  4. Can I save some of one batch to use in the next? Yes, we regularly do that 2 ways.  We pour some of the culture to be put into the yogurt maker into small bottle(s) along with the larger bottles we are culturing and save the small bottle for the next batch.  It works very, very well! And the second way is to use a melon ball maker to scoop up some of the finished yogurt and put it in plastic sandwich bags to freeze.  We have dozens of cultures saved in these ways in both our refrigerator and our freezer.
  5. I am thinking of making yogurt myself at home since store-bought yogurt is so expensive.  Do you have any suggestions?  We recommend you buy a yogurt maker - the bigger the better.  Why? Because if you get a small one that only makes a couple of cups at once, you have to do an inordinant amount of work to make the yogurt - at least for the amount of time and prep it takes.  It takes us about 15 minutes prep time to make as much as a gallon of yogurt which we do every 2-3 days.  And yes, we use a lot of yogurt - and you are not afraid to use it when you can easily make so much of it at once. We have a Waring Pro Yogurt Maker which holds as many as 4 wide mouth quart jars - a gallon.  To do this, we put a towel over the cover since with the tall quart jars, the cover does not reach the base - but the towel closes the gap to keep the heat in.
  6. I want to culture a store-bought yogurt, but it has "pasteurized" on it? Will this work?  Only if the label says it has active cultures or active bacteria in it. When it says it is pasteurized, it sometimes means the milk has been pasteurized before adding the live cutures as we show in our instructions. And that is ok.
  7. Why do you say to mix the culture with the warm milk in a blender?  It is a matter of breaking up the culture. Whatever culture you use, it will contain billions upon billions of bacteria in it.  If you use a fork or a spoon or even a whisk, you may get lucky and break the culture into as many as a hundred or so "chunks."  But if you blend the culture into the warm milk with a blender, you will break the culture into millions and millions of pieces. And that guarantees things will start up as fast as they can.
  8. Can I use raw milk? Yes but we recommend using store-bought milk - it is not only safer to use, it is the basis for most yogurt making recipes. But as long as you heat it as high as 200F, there is no danger using raw milk. And if you are using cows milk, which most of us are, it doesn't hurt if it reaches the boiling point.
  9.  Here are some Q/As from About.com, and from MakeYourOwnYogurt.com
  10. I have this old yogurt maker up in my attic.  It has no directions with it and I don't even know if it works. Should I use it?  Test it first. The key thing about a yogurt maker is that it heats the warmed milk with the culture in it to the proper temperature.  Just put some cool water in it and turn it on. If it heats up to anywhere between 105 and 115, you should be good to go.  As far as directions.... you really don't need them - you could look them up on the Web or you might want to follow the directions on this website.
  11. Making yogurt seems so complicated? It doesn't have to be. And if you are willing to settle with a less than perfect result (we aren't) then you can make it by blending the culture into cold, whole milk right out of the refrigerator and then putting it in your yogurt maker. It's yogurt when it is firm and if you use a culture like Activia, it won't be all that bad.  In fact you may want to do it this way first just to get used to yogurt making.
  12. How do I keep it from clumping - it is not smooth all the way through? Clumping sometimes happens when the culture is not blended into the warm milk properly. We recommend using a blender - just add the culture to it and about a quart of the warm milk and blend for 5-10 seconds. The mix the cultured milk with the rest of the warm milk, if any, and then pour it into the containers or jars which go into the yogurt maker. And we strain the cultured milk as it goes into the jars. Straining removes any foreign matter, reduces the possibility of air bubbles and removes anything which migh result either in clumping or a rough rather than smooth yogurt.
  13. How fastidious about cleanliness do you really have to be?  Well they say cleanliness is next to Godliness. So unless you are ready to meet your Maker sooner rather than later, PLEASE, make sure everything involved in this process has been either run through a dishwasher or rinsed in boiling water. We are talking bacteria culture here and if bad bacteria get into the mix, no telling what can happen.
  14. Speaking of things going bad, how do you know what something is bad? Our motto has always been, "If in doubt, throw it out!"  As long as you practice safe culturing by properly following instructions, you should be ok.  We toss anything and everything which has an off-oder, has mold growing on it or does not look right.
  15. What do you mean by something that doesn't look right? If you have properly cultured a batch of yogurt and you move it into your firdge once it has firmed up and later look at it and it has turned to something that looks like runny library glue or has an off color, spots in it or a non-dairy odor to it, we believe those are grounds to toss it. If your fridge is set to 40F as ours is, then you should be able to keep yogurt in it for as long as 2 weeks. But we like to use it up long before then. The biggest problem is the cultures you may have sitting in the fridge for the next batch. Time goes by quickly for them - we usually use them before the first week is up also. And we toss anything older than 2 weeks, especially if moldy or smelly or discolored or runny. And for those techies who may be interested, one great problematic source is from bacteriophages which can attack the good bacteria in the yogurt culturing process and result in spoiled yogurt.
  16. What is this deal with "probiotics?" Probiotics are nothing more than a reference to the bacteria used in the culturing of yogurt. Even plain yogurt has some effect on your internal systems.  As an article in the SFGate.com publication a little over a year ago said about a dietitian, Jo Ann Hatrner: "Hattner figures out health profiles for individual patients before recommending particular brands of yogurt, like Activia for regularity, Yoplait's YoPlus for digestive health or DanActive for immunity."  11/2/2010 Update: here is a recent article of interest:  Blog Info
  17. I hear that eating yogurt can have some unpleasant side-effects? There is always a chance that someone is going to have an adverse reaction to ANY food you might eat, yogurt included.  And the best way to find out is to try some.  We personally know of no-one that has such complaints.  It always seems to be a complaint from some unspecified source which may mean anything or nothing.  And read this article about 14 reasons why yogurt is good for you.
  18. How can you consume a gallon of yogurt in a couple of days? First of all, you don't have to. And it may take my wife and I a whole week sometimes to eat that much yogurt.  But we find that having ready access to a large quantity of a delicious yogurt just seems to encourage us to consume it.  And we understand that the fat-free, low calorie stuff can help with dieting - something I really need.  Last night, I put over a cup (whose counting?) of our new designer yogurt with Bulgarian and Activia cultures in it into a large bowl and smothered it with strawberries.  It was simply delicious.  This morning, my wife and I will have the same amount with watermelon for me and the strawberries for her.  We can easily eat a quart a day and more so it goes quickly. And we do give some away either to our local Soup Kitchen for the needy or to other friends and family. And remember you can cook with it also.
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The Latest in News

August 5, 2011: Here
are some new ideas
we have used to create
fresh yogurt:

- we finally tried
using gelatin to
help thicken the 
resulting yogurt.
The good news is 
that the yogurt was
thicker than normal
but the bad news is:

+ that the gelatin we
used must have been
stale because it had
an off taste to it.
Perhaps using a 
flavored package 
might result in a
tasty flavored 
yogurt.

+ the yogurt would
not strain well to
make Greek yogurt.

- Also, we tried 
making double strength
powdered milk and 
using that for half 
the dairy. This worked
out very well.
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