How to Make Your Own Yogurt or Kefir

It is easier than easy to make your own yogurt or kefir, super-source of probiotics, and it takes less time to make it than it would take to get it from the grocery store.  No yogurt maker required.  A couple of bowls, which you'll find in your own kitchen, is all the gear you need.  Of course you need a starter. something you can buy at any healthfood store.  You need to buy a starter only once though; for, when you have made your first batch of yogurt, you use a tablespoon or two of it as your next starter.  Here goes....




      Here the quick way of telling you how to make yogurt. This is the way we make yogurt now. We have tried -- and used -- all the variations described below but have settled for this approach. If you want to make your own Kefir, simply substitute KEFIR for YOGURT in what follows. More detailed observations below.

      Pour 1/2 liter of 1% Milk in a food-grade plastic/china/glass bowl. (15 seconds) Add 1/4 liter of evaporated milk. [All quantities are plus/minus/approximate... I don't measure.] (10 seconds) Add and stir in two tablespoons of starter. (15 seconds) Put the lid on. (3 seconds) Place a small basin in the sink that's part-filled with VERY warm water. Place bowl with yogurt-in-the-making in the warm water. (27 seconds) All this for a total of less than a minute and a half.

      And that's just about it. When the water has cooled to less than lukewarm, replace it with VERY warm. Do this two or three times at intervals of perhaps an hour. (Total time more or less one minute). Precise timing of no importance. No problem if you get back to your yogurt/kefir two or more hours later and find the water in the bowl quite cold. Just replace it with very warm again. I have occasionally forgotten about it altogether, not to remember till next morning, and found that the yogurt had made itself at my room temperature (+/- 22 C or +/- 72 F)

      After +/- four hours, your yogurt should be made or ALMOST made. Check. When it starts to thicken, put it in the fridge. It will finish making itself there. You'll have a deliciously sweet yogurt. The longer you leave it AFTER it starts to thicken, the tarter and the more sour it will become.




     The latest modification. A few years ago, I simplified even the milk part of yogurt making. All I use now is the 10% cereal cream you can buy in any grocery store. Big variations in price though. Walmart's is probably the best.

      Well, I pour say half a liter of the cereal cream into my container, add the starter and stir the mixture. That's all. Then I proceed as I explain below – cover the container and put it in the warm-water bath.... What I say about milk in the next few lines still applies but the 10% cream way is even easier.


      Any kind of milk -- fresh milk (raw, skim, 1%, 2% or whole)... canned evaporated milk (2/3 milk and 1/3 water)... powdered milk reconstituted... mare's milk... camel milk... even soy milk... a mixture of any and all of them.

      If you use only fresh milk, you will end up with a runny yogurt. Don't let that worry you. You still get all the goodness of the yogurt. Most commercial yogurt makers add thickeners to make their yogurt thick, so thick that you can cut it with a spoon. If you want a thicker, less runny yogurt, add a few ounces of evaporated milk or a coupla tablespoons of powdered milk to the fresh milk . Experiment....




      "Starter" in my "quick way of telling" above means simply some yogurt or kefir from a previous batch. The first time you have to "import" a starter. Ideally you get a yogurt or kefit culture from a health food store or get a few tablespoons of yogurt or kefir from a yogurt/kefit-making friend. Failing that, look for a commercial yogurt that has not been sterilized. A yogurt that has been sterilized won't work as a starter because sterilizing kills the bacterial culture that transforms milk into yogurt. Sterilizing, or pasteurizing, moreover destroys the very health-giving property we associate with good yogurt – the fact that the yogurt culture props up ailing, or stands in for defunct body flora. But once you have your own yogurt, all you have to do is save an ounce or two from one batch to the next to use as a starter.

      Here is something else we do. Once we have a good batch of yogurt of our own, we freeze a small quantity of it against future "accidents". Though you may keep going on the same starter for a year or even two, something CAN happen to "spoil" your current yogurt. An enemy culture may invade it. That can happen no matter how sterile you are in your procedure. You can forget to put your yogurt in the fridge; and, by the time you remember, perhaps days later, it may be beyond redemption. I don't know why, once in a blue moon it just happens that you find your yogurt bubbling (fermenting) when you expect it to be nicely coagulated.

      That in itself does not mean your yogurt is no longer fit for human consumption. Quite on the contrary: fermented or fermenting, it may be even better for you nutritionally. It's a matter of taste. I don't like the taste of yogurt that has started to ferment. Besides, I am not sure that the bacterial culture at work in the fermentation won't get there first and prevent the acidophilus culture from producing the effects I am interested in.

      If a batch of yogurt goes bad, I don't throw it out. Yogurt never goes bad in the sense that it would harm you. It would not harm you even if you left it at room temperature long enough to become cheese. No, I am not being facetious. You can make -- and I HAVE made -- delicious camembert-like cheese from yogurt. But there is no time to go into the how of it now. As I was about to say, if a batch of yogurt goes bad, I still eat or drink it or use it in a smoothie but I won't use any of it as a starter for a new batch.

      That's when the frozen sample comes in handy. Thaw it and use is as you would ordinary yogurt, but be prepared for a longer wait. If it takes 3 to 5 hours for yogurt to make itself with regular yogurt for a starter, it may take more than twice as long if you use a previously frozen starter. Not aware of this, some people I know have given up on their yogurt to be made from a frozen starter when it had not made itself six or eight or even ten hours later. Sure that it had somehow gone bad, they threw it out. If they had waited another half-hour or hour, they would have had perfect yogurt.

      While "incubating," its temperature should be somewhere between 80 F (27 C) and body temperature. If it is too cold, it won't "hatch"; if too hot, the starter dies and it won't "hatch" either. In either case you will end up with spoiled milk rather than yogurt. If conditions are right, it will make itself in 3 to 5 hours. Experiment with a few small batches first. When you have the hang of it, you can make big batches.




      Instead of putting your yogurt-to-be in the warm-water bath, you can just warm the milk to a little less than body temperature, add the starter and wrap the bowl in a big towel to keep it warm. We do this if we know we won't be there to replace the VERY warm water. Check after 3 1/2 to 5 hours. When your yogurt starts to coagulate (thicken), you can put it in the fridge. It will "finish" itself there and it will be nice and sweet. As I said above, the longer you leave it at room temperature, the more sour it will get.

      Or you can put it in a warm place -- like on top of a rad in winter, a folded towel under it lest it get too hot, or in the oven, with the door open a crack so that the light bulb comes on. The heat produced by the light bulb is enough to keep the oven at the right temperature.

      I think the laziest way to keep the yogurt-to-be at the right temperature is the one I talk about above, where you keep your yogurt warm in a warm-water bath. Let me expand on it a bit more. The water in the basin can be a little warmer than body temperature. But make sure it is not TOO warm. If it is too warm to keep a finger in it without howling, it IS too warm.

      If you use the warm-water-bath approach, you don't even have to warm your milk first. You can take it right out of the fridge, stir in your starter and then put it in your very-warm water bath. Check the water half an hour -- perhaps an hour later -- and, if it has cooled to less than lukewarm, replace it with very warm water again. You may have to do this two or three or four times before your yogurt is made.

      A friend of mine has refined this approach further. She has the basin with the VERY warm water in the sink... after placing the yogurt-to-be in the basin, she part-fills the sink itself with fairly hot water. This slows the cooling of the water in the basin. She says she usually has to replace the water in the basin and the water in the sink that surrounds the basin only once.

      Yogurt can be eaten in a variety of ways: it can be eaten by itself; it can be eaten with fruit that has been cut up or mashed; it can be made into milk-shake-like drinks that are both highly nutritious and delicious. We get our daily ration of yogurt in our breakfast of pureed fruit. We throw a bit of whatever happens to be in season -- a plum or two, an apple, a kiwi fruit, a banana in the blender, add a little apple juice and a lot of yogurt and blend till we have something that is the consistency of apple sauce for a delicious and highly nutritious breakfast. Yogurt is a food I would not want to live without.


[Change of heart. I wrote this some 25 years ago. Today, we don’t mix sweet fruit and yogurt any more. When yogurt (mostly protein), then yogurt; when fruit (largely carbs), then fruit. Your digestive system prefers to deal with proteins and carbs separately.]


      I have been making my own yogurt/kefir without any major interruptions for more than forty years. You'll see, once you get the hang of it, making your own yogurt is much less trouble than going to the store for it. Surely you can invest twice five minutes a week in a chore which is no chore unless you positively program yourself to think of it as a chore and which yields such tremendous health benefits.

      I made yogurt while I was in Africa. There I made it from powdered milk coz fresh milk was not usually available while powdered milk was everywhere. I believe that, though milk loses much in the process that makes it into powder, metamorphing it into yogurt rehabilitates it to a large extent.

      Had to make yogurt more frequently in Africa than elsewhere I have been coz, though there was a power grid and my house was wired for power, there seldom WAS power and much of the time the inside of my fridge was as hot as the room surrounding it. There I made a smaller quantity of yogurt every second day during the hot season and every third day during the cold season.




      People in the Balkans, especially in Bulgaria, have long been known for their longevity -- their long lives. Yogurt probably plays a part in their exceptional health and their long lives. Yogurt and other soured milk products are the staple food there.

      Can't say too much about yogurt's infection-fighting properties. US Dept. Agriculture experiments with rats -- some fed yogurt and some fed milk. Then they were injected with the dreaded salmonella. None of the yogurt rats died and the ones that got sick soon recovered. The milk rats got much sicker and many of them died. Remember – kefir does what yogurt does, only it does it better.

      In Michael Reese Hospital, Chicago, the staff fought a big epidemic of diarrhea in the early 60s with yogurt, feeding patients nothing but yogurt when conventional antibiotics had failed. The yogurt did not let them down. In one study of 59 patients, all but two got better within a day. In some of the cases the diarrhea had been CAUSED by the antibiotics in the first place.

      In 1963, physicians at New York City Jewish Memorial Hospital fed forty-five infants admitted with diarrhea three ounces of skim-milk yogurt three times a day. A control group was given antibiotics. The average recovery for the yogurt group was 2.7 days, for the antibiotic group it was 4.8 days.

      There is the story of Japanese servicemen in action, who were plagued by dysentery. Five hundred of them were given two cups of yogurt a day and a control group of another five hundred received no yogurt. After a week, there was no dysentery in the yogurt group while the control group continued to suffer from it.

      The "fermentation process," says one of the experts, "spawns unique antibiotics, just as moldy bread yielded penicillin.

      Yogurt is, besides, the supreme immune system builder. Perhaps the Bulgarians live longer because they have fewer infections.

      One last thing. If you take antibiotics for whatever reason, you should take yogurt during the intervals. If you take a pill at 12:00 and another at 6:00, you should eat a few spoonfuls of yogurt/kefir at 3:00. Why? The antibiotics knock out foe AND friend alike. They may knock out the bad bacteria – just may, not certain – but they knock out the good bacteria too. No maybe about the latter. The good bacteria are the native body flora. With the good guys dead, the body cavities are defenseless against invading disease-causing microbes and – BINGO – another infection. Take vaginal yeast infections. Antibiotics (may) knock out the yeast. The yeast infection disappears. Wonderful stuff those antibiotics. But, with the vaginal flora decimated or dead, Vagina is defenseless and in no time at all, the yeast infection is back. Combine the two – antibiotic and yogurt between pills – and the infection disappears for good. Eat a few spoonfuls of yogurt during the interval but work some into the vagina with a finger too. It is, incidentally, a good idea to work some GOOD yogurt – few store-bought yogurts qualify as good, certainly not the fruit-flavored and sugar-junked varieties -- into thevagina every once in a while, yeast or no yeast.


The miracle of the yogurt rinse


      Put a teaspoon or two of freshly made yogurt in about four ounces of water in a screw-top container. Cap tightly, shake well and refrigerate. This is your yogurt rinse.

      When your eyes feel tired after long staring at the computer screen or after hours of reading, give them the treat of a yogurt rinse. Better for and ultimately kinder to your eyes than the best "tears naturale." Always shake the rinse well before applying it.

      If you have no eyecup, use a spoon. Fill the spoon with yogurt rinse and hold it against the bottom of the eye. Pressing the edge of the spoon gently against the eye to prevent the liquid from running down, slowly tilt the spoon upwards toward the eye and at the same time lower your head. When you feel the liquid touching your eyeball, blink vigorously several times to work the liquid into every part of the eye. Repeat the procedure with the other eye.

     I discovered the usefulness of the yogurt eye rinse while I was in Africa. At first I used it, faute de mieux, to rinse the red and irritated eyes of the native neighborhood urchins, hoping that it might provide a measure of relief. I soon noticed that the eyes so treated improved wonderfully. After a few days of the yogurt-rinse therapy, "red eye" -- conjunctivitis, I was sure -- disappeared. Eyes as good as new.

      I tried it on myself and found it a pleasantly soothing lubricant after long   reading or computer sessions. If you asked me what I attribute the salubrious effect of the yogurt rinse to, I would venture this guess -- the bacterial culture which transforms milk into yogurt. It is virtually identical with the native flora of the various cavities of a healthy human body. As long as the flora of a body cavity is intact, that cavity is all but immune to hostile invaders. I suspect that the yogurt rinse helped restore to full vigor the flora of the eyes I treated and in so doing helped those eyes heal themselves.