Should You Make Or Buy Yogurt?

A great reason to introduce live bacteria into your kitchen

Homemade yogurt: Is it worth the effort?

If it is possible to emulate the smooth, thick and slightly sweet consistency of White Moustache, the answer is yes.

Homa Dashtaki is the genius behind the family-run brand, and lucky for me—and you—she was willing to serve as my personal yogurt coach. "I”m a BIG believer that homemade yogurt is the only expert yogurt," she wrote via email. "It's a spiritual process. If I went out of business because everyone started making it at home: Well, that would make me happy."

So, what is yogurt exactly?

Yogurt is made by mixing warm milk with a live probiotic starter. You can use bought cultures, or you can use a few tablespoons of yogurt as the starter. (No big surprise, I'd suggest choosing White Moustache.) After a few hours, it thickens and curdles as the whey separates from the milk solids. Other than straining the whey for a thicker, Greek-style yogurt, that's really all there is to it.

A note on methods.

There are many ways you can make yogurt, including with a sous vide, an Instant Pot, a thermos, a Dutch oven and, yes, a yogurt maker. "These are all safe methods," Dashtaki said. "But I like to go commando. The fun part isn't controlling the yogurt—it's manipulating it."

How to Make Your Own

 In a large pot, bring a gallon of milk to a boil over medium heat. Watch it as it starts to bubble and rise, and turn it off just before it bubbles over (about an inch from the top). It should take around 25 minutes.

 Let your milk rest for five minutes before pouring into a large bowl. Take in its wonderful smell.

 Instead of using a thermometer, do as Dashtaki does: "When you can hold your pinky in there for three seconds," you know the milk is ready (about 30 minutes).

④ Take a cup of the warm milk and dump in two tablespoons of yogurt; just don't mix it.

 Put a plate over the bowl, wrap the whole thing in a blanket and place it in a not-too-hot yet not-too-cold spot. For a thicker yogurt, wrap in a cooler blanket; for something thinner and more savory, a warmer one. Mine went in a light blanket under the kitchen table.

 When I awoke the next morning to check my yogurt, the results were disappointing; the curious substance looked clumpy in parts and thin in others. But Dashtaki encouraged me not to give up. "Put it in the fridge for 24 hours," she advised. "Time is the secret ingredient. My gut tells me you nailed it."

 The next morning, to remove the whey, I let the yogurt seep through a cheesecloth-lined colander for three hours in the fridge. The end result? A half gallon of delightful slightly sweet, creamy yogurt that held its integrity—and it even passed the toddler taste test.

Bec Couche is a writer and doodler based in Brooklyn. You can follow her on Instagram at @thesnackdoodler and @beccouche.