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What-Not-To-Do-Wednesday: Homemade Greek Yogurt

“Well, it’s like this,” she shouted: “MY YOUNGER SISTERS MAKE YOGURT.”

My sisters show up at family gatherings with homemade yogurt, sometimes in artistic glass jars, and say things like, “Oh it’s easy, you should try it.”

I know that peer pressure is not a good incentive to do things. But, I do eat copious amounts of nonfat Greek yogurt because it’s free on the WW plan, and I love it with a little stevia and frozen blueberries. So it would be cost effective too.

So, last week, as I was rushing off to an appointment, I called my sister and took her instructions over the phone while driving. (First mistake? Okay, probably.)

Heat to 180 degrees. Maintain heat for 30 minutes. Cool to 110 degrees. Add yogurt. Let sit for 8 hours. Strain. Add vanilla and stevia. Cool and indulge. 


When I return home, I confidently pour a gallon of skim milk into a kettle, and have my first setback. It turns out that this particular kettle holds exactly one gallon.

I consider switching it to a larger kettle that would have more than 0.5 mm of kettle showing above the milk, but I decide that having it on the verge of overflowing is preferable to the mess I would make by the transfer. I put the kettle on the stove and turn the burner on. Not on high, because I certainly don’t want it to burn.

I am at my computer awhile later when I begin to smell something burning. By the time the milk gets to 180 degrees (which takes much longer than I expected), it smells strongly of charcoal. Again I consider pouring it into another kettle, but again I choose to stick with the misfortune I already have. I doggedly cool it, mix in the yogurt, and hope for the best.

The entire process has now taken much longer than I thought it would, and the 8 hours won’t be up until close to midnight. But, my sister has assured me, it doesn’t have to be exactly 8 hours. I put the kettle in the oven gingerly. One small bump and a huge wave of milk will spill over the side.

I go to a baby shower and come home and peek into the oven. I nudge the kettle. The consistency is close to that of water, but a slight gel has developed, so I decide to strain it. I select a lingerie bag (that has never been used of course!)  and pour in the yogurt.

My plan is that the thin stuff that I don’t want will pour out and go down the drain, and the good yogurt will stay in the bag.

Instead, the yogurt begins to pour through the bag in streams.

Somehow, Marnell chooses this exact moment to come out to the kitchen sink to talk to me about something. He finds me there, dumping my all day yogurt project down the drain. 

“You need to put a bowl under it,” Marnell said. 

Even though my husband DOES NOT COOK, he’s full of unsolicited culinary advice. What kills me is that half the time he’s right, such as in this case.

I definitely need a bowl.

After half the yogurt has disappeared down the drain, I catch the rest in a bowl and switch strategies. I will let it drain in the refrigerator over night,  through a cotton towel. I pour all of the yogurt out of the kettle and into the towel.

I now inspect the bottom of the kettle. A thick charcoal hide had grown on it as if it were a beast. Using a plastic tool, I skin the hide off in huge leathery strips.

When I check the yogurt in in the morning, a little more whey has drained off. But alas, the smell of charcoal meets me when I open the fridge door. The yogurt (is it yogurt if you can pour it?) is still nearly the consistency of water, only a lot more slimy.

Perhaps adding a little vanilla will make it taste good, I think.

I stick a spoon into the slime, and tasted it.

It is AWFUL.

Would a year’s crop of Haitian vanilla be equal to the task of making this yogurt better? I don’t think so. 

I think of throwing it away, but I am getting low on Greek yogurt and I decide there is no reason I can’t eat it. I add stevia and vanilla, and I pour it on top of frozen fruit, and the resulting slushy is tolerable.  I can eat this stuff, oh yes I can. 

Until Saturday afternoon when I’m prostrate on the couch.

On Saturday morning, I gulp some of this frozen fruit-charcoal yogurt mash down before going to work. On the way to work I think, I don’t feel so well. I arrive, get out of my car, and vomit charcoal flavored yogurt blueberry slime in the fresh snow.

In all fairness, it probably isn’t the fault of the yogurt, because I end up leaving work early and vomiting on the way home while driving. 

I get horizontal on the couch and feel much better. But I can’t convince my stomach that it wasn’t the fault of the yogurt. 

I may try again someday, maybe soon. Maybe one of these days, I will arrive at a family gathering with homemade yogurt and tell people how easy it is to make it. 

But that charcoal-flavored slime in the fridge? That is getting PITCHED.

Leave me a comment about your own yogurt-making experiences, good or bad. I would love to hear both kinds!  

And to clarify, my sister does truly know how to make yogurt. If my instructions are wrong, it’s because I took them down wrong. 


38 Responses to What-Not-To-Do-Wednesday: Homemade Greek Yogurt

  1. Sheila Yoder January 23, 2019 at 9:21 am #

    thanks for the grin this morning. I’ve made regular yogurt & it wasn’t hard to do but we never completely loved the texture as much as store bought yogurt..Tasted quite good but oh well. I used a similar technique as what you mentioned. My kind husband encouraged me to just buy yogurt 😉 .I’ve never made the greek yogurt though. I have some lo carb cookbooks like Brianna Thomas’s and Glenda Groff. They have recipes for yogurt that i’d love to try but just haven’t taken time for. They even make greek yogurt cream cheese! OY! Man wouldn’t I feel like a Prov31 woman if I managed that one.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 9:51 am #

      No kidding about the Proverbs 31 thing! But maybe I shouldn’t kill myself to succeed. Thanks Sheila.

  2. Rachel Ramer January 23, 2019 at 9:45 am #

    LoL! I’ve made yogurt on and off for years and I have never heard of heating the milk at 180 for 30 min. I bring it to temp, cool it down and add the starter. An instant pot works great for making yogurt.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 9:53 am #

      That’s what my sister was saying. No instant pot here yet!

  3. Marlene January 23, 2019 at 9:52 am #

    We make & love our homemade yogurt! It’s even easier now that I have an instant pot that has the yogurt feature. The instant pot never burns the milk either! 😉 My family begs me to make the yogurt & we love to eat it with homemade granola. Before I had the instant pot I made yogurt the way you described but I didn’t know that you keep it at a boil for a 1/2 hour! I have had 1 batch that didn’t set up & I’m thinking my starter soured. Just the other week I had a batch that turned out really weird. I’m still not sure what I did different but it ended up with a consistency of ricotta cheese! Most of it I used in cooking! Happy yogurt making…it really is easy 😊

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 9:54 am #

      Okay Marlene thanks for the encouragement!

  4. Loreena January 23, 2019 at 10:13 am #

    What a visual!😊 I have an Instant Pot and it is the best all in one gadget there is. I have yet to do the yogurt though.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 10:21 am #

      I keep hearing that. 🤔 Maybe I need one!

  5. Renae January 23, 2019 at 10:20 am #

    Homemade yogurt is easy when you’re used to it but don’t feel bad if it isn’t the first time you try it! I get frustrated making things that have to be done just right in order to turn out …there are definitely times cutting corners does not pay! I haven’t made yogurt for a long time even though my son asks for it and I do have an instant pot now! Maybe these comments will get me motivated.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 10:22 am #

      Good for you! I can definitely relate to things getting a lot easier after you’ve done them repeatedly.

  6. Edith January 23, 2019 at 11:53 am #

    😄 Have to tell you how I do it! Add 2 tbls yogurt to a qt of milk. Put in oven on bread proof setting for 12-20 hrs. You have yogurt! If you want Greek, do the straining. Bread proof is 100 degrees. My recipe said to put in with a pilot light, which would be gas.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 11:58 am #

      Wow that sounds easy! I don’t think our oven goes as low as 100 degree though.

      • Faith January 23, 2019 at 11:06 pm #

        I think the warm setting on any oven is 100 degrees.

        • Katrina January 24, 2019 at 5:05 am #

          Hmmm. I will have to check!

          • Joanna Martin January 24, 2019 at 11:56 am #

            My mom wraps her kettle in a towel n let’s the oven light on.

          • Katrina January 24, 2019 at 12:22 pm #


  7. Heidi warren January 23, 2019 at 12:11 pm #

    Thanks for the smile this morning. I made yogurt in college with powdered milk and an electric heating pad ( multi purpose tool). Now I make in instant pot- but a few months ago I made it and it came out tasting weird. No one wanted it. I tried it and realized the curry meal from night before must have permeated the silicon ring. Now we have a sealing ring for yogurt and one for meats. No more curry yogurt with blueberries and granola.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 1:27 pm #

      That’s interesting! And kind of refreshing to know that there are other flavors besides charcoal. 😀

  8. Anna January 23, 2019 at 1:30 pm #

    Yes it’s easy, but not foolproof in my experience. I heat it to a boil, just to where it starts climbing the sides of the pot, then turn it off, cool to about 105, add yogurt, whisk, strain into whatever container(s) you’re using. I use jelly jars for individual servings. Keep as close to 100 as you can for 8 or more hours. I often leave it 12 hours or more, usually overnight, but my oven is closer to 90 than to 100. It just gets a little more sour. If you are using a gas oven with just the pilot, as I do, it does take longer. I still get a weird batch sometimes. To cut down on scorching, use the heaviest bottomed pot you have. It still sticks. Also, I feel totally accomplished when I get a batch boiled without it boiling over on the stovetop, because I know it’ll take awhile so I think I’ll load the dishwasher or something right there next to the stove and next thing I know I hear that old familiar sound, again.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 1:33 pm #

      I’m laughing about the old familiar sound Anna. Thanks for sharing!

  9. Sheila January 23, 2019 at 2:30 pm #

    I enjoy making yogurt. I’ve had some that didn’t turn out too though. For the incubation period I usually use an ice chest or cooler. Put the jars in the chest, fill with warm/hot water (but not too hot!) and then let it go for 6-8 hours. Remove the jars and place in refrigerator.

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 3:08 pm #

      Hmmm. That’s a great idea!

  10. Lois Troyer January 23, 2019 at 3:25 pm #

    I make foolproof Greek yogurt on a regular basis. I’ve taught numerous people to do it and I’m sure you can too! First I let my milk set out until it’s room temperature, several hours or overnight. Then I pour it in the pot (old and thin bottomed, actually!) and put it on my least vigorous burner and set it on the lowest setting. Then I pop the lid on, and set my timer for an hour. It’s usually perfect when the timer goes, getting frothy and steaming well. I don’t bother stirring it while it heats and it’s never stuck on or scorched at all. Then I take off the lid, remove it from the heat and set my timer for another hour. At this point it’s usually cooled down and ready for the starter, too warm to take a bath in (not that I would!:)) but not so hot it actually hurts when you stick your finger in it. Remove the skin that formed, whip in your starter and in the oven with the light on it goes for six hours, then I strain it through a cotton towel for several hours. You may have to play around with a batch or so to get it figured out completely because the temperature of your kitchen and how hot your burner is both figure in. Remember to take your starter out for the next batch before adding stevia and vanilla. Better yogurt days ahead!:)

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 5:20 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Lois! You have some great ideas. I especially like letting it get to room temperature before putting it on the stove. I do not have a gas stove so it doesn’t have a pilot light. I thought maybe just the enclosed space would keep it warm enough but apparently not.

  11. Christine January 23, 2019 at 3:36 pm #

    I love yogurt too, but do a couple of things to “cheat” so that there’s more of a chance of a good turnout.
    1. Put 1 gallon of milk on to heat in a 6-8 qt. kettle. (I only bring it to 180 and then remove from heat, nothing about 30 minutes!!)
    2. While milk is heating I stick around (guess why–learned the hard way myself! :-)) and do the following:
    A. Put 2 T. unflavored gelatin in a half cup of cold water and set aside to soak. (This way the yogurt will still get thick when chilled, even if it’s a fail.)
    B. Whisk 2-3 cups of dry milk powder into the warming milk. (Another cheat… it adds more stuff for the yogurt starter to feed on)
    C. Add 1 cup sugar and a little vanilla into the warming milk. (Might could use stevia here. I like to get that step over with.)
    D. By this time the gelatin has usually softened and I stir it into the warming milk so it gets melted.
    E. Get my sink filled with ice water for cooling the hot milk.
    F. Turn the oven on for about a minute to warm it up.
    F. If the milk still isn’t 180 degrees, I get my jars ready. I like to wash them with hot, soapy water that has a few drops of bleach in just to make sure everything is sparkly clean, no bacteria to compete with the yogurt starter.
    3. Somewhere in there the milk will reach 180 and that’s when I remove it from the heat and set it into the ice water bath to cool. It usually only takes about 5 -9 minutes to cool. I have a nice long handled whisk that doesn’t fall down into the milk so I leave that in my kettle of milk from beginning to end and whisk it regularly as I walk around doing things in the kitchen. (Ahhh, no burned bottoms!)
    4. As soon as the kettle of milk reaches 115-120 I whisk in plain or vanilla yogurt from the store. I usually try to put in at least 3 cups of store bought yogurt.
    5. Pour it into my clean jars, it usually fills about 5 quart jars. I place them uncovered in my warmed oven and leave the oven light on for heat. I like to incubate for 6 to 7 hours, but sometimes I forget and it gets like 8 or 9. I have had it separate and taste extra sour when that happens, oh dear. Another thing I do is check if the oven feels warm after 3 or 4 hours. The inside of the oven door should feel nice and warm to touch. I will turn the oven on for 15 seconds at a time to get a little burst of heat as needed, but normally I don’t need it, as we keep our house around 73 in the winter.
    6. I have no idea about straining the yogurt, I like it straight out of the jar. Please try again, it’s worth it!!!

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 5:24 pm #

      Wow what a lot of interesting ideas! Thanks for taking the time to share with me step-by-step. I do want to try again.

  12. Jean Nisley January 23, 2019 at 8:11 pm #

    Katrina this was great! I enjoyed the mental pictures. 😄 And I always admire your determined spirit and just willingness to try something knew. I used to make yogurt. Don’t know why I don’t anymore. I don’t think it saved me much money with milk being so expensive but it IS satisfying. I learned this recipe from a friend. It is super super simple and good. Someone else on here mentioned the cooler. Seriously, try it! It’s so super easy.
    1. Sterilize jars
    2. Heat 2 qt. of milk to 180.
    3. Cool to 110 (can give and take a bit but for sure not over 125)
    4. Quickly add 1/2 cup sweetener (maple syrup or honey, etc) and splash of vanilla
    5. If it cools, just reheat to 110 again.
    6. Get starter ready(1/4 cup yogurt per quart of milk)
    7. Pour a little hot milk into starter and mix with spatula till smooth.
    8. Pour back into remaining 110 milk.
    9. Don’t whisk too much because this adds too much air.
    10. Pour into jars
    11. Cover with lids
    12. Put into cooler (i just used a thermos for that small amount) with 110 degree water up to neck of jars
    13. Check in 4 hours and every hour after until it is “one body.”

    Good luck! 😉

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 8:16 pm #

      Good to hear from you, Friend! I like your ideas. I just told Marnell that I maybe should have started with a quart or two instead of a gallon 😀

    • Mary January 28, 2019 at 9:25 am #

      This is very similar to how I make yogurt. I use Bolivian stevia for the sweetener and like to change up the flavors. I make it in 2 quart batches and a 2 quart glass jar fits perfectly into a 2 gallon insulated water jug.

      • Katrina January 28, 2019 at 9:30 am #

        Hurray for Bolivian stevia! That is what I also use and I love it.

  13. Jeanie M January 23, 2019 at 8:33 pm #

    My husband liked the part about Marnell being right😝 once again I had to read this out loud to him!

    • Katrina January 23, 2019 at 8:35 pm #

      My husband liked the part about your husband liking the part about him being right 😂

  14. Cris January 24, 2019 at 1:50 pm #

    You’ve got a lot of good advice here but I’m going to add my two cents since there are a few things nobody has mentioned. First of all, I think it’s going to be hard to make good yogurt with skim milk. Not saying it can’t be done, but in my experience yogurt turns out best when made with whole milk and whole milk yogurt for starter. Sorry, I know you were going for low/nonfat!
    Secondly, yogurt is also very easy in a slow cooker, and I bet you do have one of those! I’ve had my share of yogurt fails, to the point where my husband was suggesting that I quit trying and just buy. I decided to do one last try with the slow cooker method and if it didn’t work I was done. I am very glad I decided to go for the one more try because it worked beautifully and I don’t think I’ve ever had a fail with this method! Here it is:
    Put milk in the slow cooker and heat to 180. (This takes considerably longer than the stove top so you have to plan accordingly. But you don’t have to watch it much! I usually start late afternoon so the yogurt can incubate overnight.)
    Cool milk to 110.
    Dip out 1-2 cups of milk into a bowl. Add 1 cup of starter to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Pour the milk and starter into the slow cooker and stir gently.
    Put the lid on the slow cooker and cover with a thick bath towel. Let it set for 8 hours or overnight and you’ll have yogurt!
    And by the way, it’s perfectly fine to keep on buying yogurt. 😊

    • Katrina January 24, 2019 at 1:54 pm #

      Thanks Cris! I am totally going to try the slow cooker!

  15. Amy January 24, 2019 at 8:44 pm #

    There are variations in recipes for the amount of yogurt to add as starter. It should be a very small amount. If you use several cups for a gallon of yogurt, the culture won’t have enough sugar to eat and all you will have done is flavor your milk with yogurt. And keeping the yogurt at 180 degrees is not necessary. I like to add soaked unflavored gelatin for a thicker consistency. Even though the process is simple once you’re familiar with it, results will vary. One time my yogurt came out with the consistency of Elmer’s glue.

    • Katrina January 24, 2019 at 10:27 pm #

      Elmer’s glue sounds very similar to what I made! Thanks for the tips!

  16. Jen January 29, 2019 at 11:47 pm #

    Oh my goodness! This is so funny! Except for being sick…while driving. You have talent!

    • Katrina January 30, 2019 at 5:05 am #

      Thanks Jen. I do know I have talent at vomiting into an empty insulated mug!