After raving about how great it is to make our own yogurt, our last two attempts have failed! Two weeks ago we set up the yogurt maker to run overnight, only to wake up to warm sloshy milk that hadn’t thickened at all. I figured that time was definitely my fault, as I hadn’t kept track and had let the milk cool down too much… but this time I did everything just right… and was once again greeted this morning with a slightly thickened but pretty inconsistent slosh.
The process is pretty simple: Heat milk to 185°F, then mix in flavourings and cool to 110°F (I usually put the pan into another pan filled with ice water to speed it up). Mix in the yogurt starter and if you want, a bit of powdered milk to help it thicken. Then put it into the cups that come with the yogurt maker, and stick it in for 8-12 hours (longer for skim milk). And then you should have nicely thickened yogurt.
It worked a half dozen times with no problems… why is it suddenly not working? Bah!
The possibilities in this random troubleshooting guide:
- Be sure the temperature of the yogurt maker is maintained at about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. [Well, yeah… that’s why we use a yogurt maker. Unless the temperature somehow got out of whack, I have no idea why this would be a problem.]
- Check the cleanliness of all your preparation and yogurt making utensils to troubleshoot for contaminates. Make sure all your pans, spoons and yogurt containers are squeaky clean. This ensures that no contaminates interfere with the yogurt cultures. You may even want to take the extra step of boiling utensils. [Hmm. We sure didn’t boil our utensils, but everything was for sure clean. And certainly as clean as it was the first half dozen times we made yogurt successfully.]
- Look at the date on your yogurt starter. If the starter you’re using is out of date, you may no longer have live cultures. Buy new yogurt starter or alternatively, buy some plain yogurt to use as starter. Be sure the yogurt is organic or at least all natural. That way you’re not getting all those funky additives in your new batch. [We used plain yogurt – PC Brand, 1% MF… I know it wasn’t out of date, but maybe it’s not “all natural”.. maybe we do need a better type?]
- Troubleshoot mixing and temperatures. Mix the starter or yogurt with your milk after it cools to lukewarm. You’ll need to heat your milk to almost boiling to eliminate any unfriendly contaminates, but you need to let it cool a bit before adding the starter. If you don’t, the starter cultures will get cooked and not make yogurt. [I know this was not the problem. I was VERY VERY watchful of the temperatures, and got it exactly right.]
- Keep it quiet. It’s best to mix a batch of yogurt right before going to bed. That way kids bounding through the room will not upset things. In order for the yogurt to set properly, you’ll need to keep things fairly quiet, or the vibrations will disturb the process. [It went overnight… so unless the cats disturbed it, I don’t see how this could be a problem.]
Ok, so a few ideas of what to do better next time. But what a bummer… I was looking forward to some yummy fresh yogurt!