We’re now being told by scientists what our ancestors have known for thousands of years: namely, that live natural yoghurt is really good for you. It doesn’t really matter if you spell it yoghurt, yogurt, yoghourt or even joghurt, it’s healthy, tasty and we should eat more of it. The best bit is that you can make it at home for a fraction of the shop price with almost no effort at all. Once you have the base natural yoghurt you can flavour anyway you wish.
To make 1.5 litres of natural yoghurt you need to start with 2 litres of milk and a 150g pot of live yoghurt. You can pick any brand you like as long as it contains live cultures. Since the resulting yoghurt will resemble the taste of the starter pot, it makes sense to pick one you like the flavour of. The beauty of making your own yoghurt is that the last 150g of the current batch can serve as the starter for the next. You can keep doing this until you find the flavour changing or experience difficulties getting the yoghurt to set. Low-fat milk is OK if you want but the results are better with normal milk. Some people even add cream!
Take the starter pot out of the fridge. Pour the milk into a large saucepan. The pan should not be more than one third full, in order to avoid the milk spilling all over the stove when it boils. Putting enough water to cover the bottom of the pan in first seems to help keep the milk from catching, but unless the pan is teflon-coated, you’ll still have a little scrubbing to do afterwards. Bring the milk to a boil and immediately reduce the heat very low, so that the milk barely simmers. Let the volume reduce to about 1.5 litres, which should take about 1 hour. Skim any thick skin that forms according to your own preferences: some cultures actually prize the bits of skin in the yoghurt. Transfer to a clean ceramic or glass bowl and let cool, again removing any thick skin.
Sterilise 2 750ml jars in a lowish (about 125°C) for 20 minutes of so. Leave to cool so that you can handle them. Judging when the milk has cooled sufficiently is the only tricky part of making yoghurt. If it’s still too warm it will kill the yoghurt culture and if it’s too cold, the yoghurt will take forever to set. Generally a little over body temperature is a good target. If you hold the bowl in your hands and it feels only barely warm, then that’s good. Other people say that once they can comfortably hold their finger in the milk for 10 seconds then it’s at the right temperature. You can even consult the literature and measure the perfect temperature using a thermometer! Anyway, I find that it takes about an hour at room temperature.
Add the starter yoghurt and stir well. Pour into the jars, wrap these up snug in a warm place for about 8 hours or overnight. The airing cupboard or hot press is suitable and an old sleeping bag works well for keeping the heat in. Next morning transfer the jars to the fridge. You can leave the yoghurt longer if you prefer a tarter taste. The yoghurt will keep for around 2 weeks.
The tangy taste of crème fraîche makes it very versatile in the kitchen. If you can’t get your hands on some, it is possible to make a pretty good substitute in a similar manner to yoghurt. Bring 250ml of whipping cream (about 40% fat) to a boil and let bubble for a 30 seconds or so. Let it cool to just over body temperature and add about 30g of live yoghurt. Stir well and transfer to a sterilised jar. Place in a warm place for 24 hours and then keep in the fridge. It is not quite as thick or tangy as real crème fraîche but it’s still a good substitute and will keep for around 2 weeks.