“Homemade” Yogurt // Saratoga Apple // Argyle Cheese Farmer

homemade yogurt

We passed Saratoga Apple en route to Argyle, but the stand’s happening scene — hordes of people, cider in hands, pouring in and out; live music; wood-fired pizza; alpaca petting — lured us back on our way home. We soon discovered the main attraction: apple cider donuts. Made on the premises, these warm, cinnamon-and-sugar coated, crispy on the exterior, feather-light donuts disappeared by the tray-full about as quickly as they emerged from the fryer.

Upon returning from the stand, I read online that Saratoga Apple’s donuts “have been known to inspire jealousy, ecstasy, and even inter-state travel.” I wasn’t surprised. I have never tasted anything so delicious. And of course I immediately had to tell everyone I knew — new friends, my neighbors, the mailman, everyone at the Niskayuna Coop — about my experience. I quickly learned that apple cider donuts are kind of a “thing” around here. And that you don’t need to travel 40 miles to find a good one. And that one of the most popular spots in the area is, as the crow flies, two miles away. So much to learn, so little time.

And the focus of this post is yogurt, so let me get back on track. We passed Saratoga Apple on our way to Argyle Cheese Farmer, the farm that makes the most delicious yogurt, buttermilk and cheeses, but most notably a Greek yogurt lightly sweetened with maple syrup. All of the ACF Greek yogurts have a light, whipped, mousse-like texture, a consistency achieved by whipping the strained yogurt in a stand mixer. After watching them make their Greek yogurt online, I had to try it out for myself, starting with the yogurt.

I couldn’t be more happy with the yogurt-making experience as well as the end product. Watching the transformation, as with other homemade dairy endeavors — crème fraîche, ricotta, butter — is magical, and the active work, which entails monitoring a thermometer first and keeping an eye on the clock second, is minimal. Moreover, as promised, the process is cost-effective: my first half gallon batch cost $3.22, but from here on out, each batch will cost about $2.75, the cost of a half gallon of milk. This is a welcomed bonus because since discovering ACF as well as adding toasted muesli to the daily regimen, our yogurt intake as a family has increased tenfold (or something like that).

And wait, did I mention how pure and clean and delicious the yogurt tastes? Just something to keep in mind if you’ve got that making-cultured-dairy-products-at-home bug. I’m on my third batch, and there’s no going back.

A few more things:

• I made a page of my Fall Favorites including Pumpkin Bread, Big Apple Pancake, Teddie’s Apple Cake, Balzano Apple Cake, French Apple Tart, Apple-Cheddar Hand Pies, Rotini with Butternut Sage Sauce, Parmesan Chicken with White Wine, Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken and Bread Salad, Fresh Corn Polenta, Rosemary-Butternut Bisque to name a few.

• Also, the next Baking Steel pizza post is up: Grated Summer Squash with Ricotta and Basil.

After you make one batch of yogurt, you can use your homemade yogurt to make the next batch. You need 2 tablespoons of yogurt for every quart of milk.
Argyle Cheese Farmer plain yogurt

While you can use any milk you like, it’s worth splurging on some good milk for this sort of project. I buy this milk at the Niskayuna Coop, and after the one-time $1.50 bottle deposit fee, each half gallon costs $2.75, so from here on out, every 1/2 gallon batch of yogurt I make costs $2.75 plus the cost of 1/4 cup of the homemade yogurt, which comes out to be about $0.12 (For details on the math, see below).
Battenkill Valley milk

Making yogurt entails heating milk to 180-190 degrees:
milk at 180 degrees

Then cooling it to 115 degrees and stirring in two tablespoons of yogurt for every quart of milk used:
115

cooled

You can pour the cooled milk-yogurt mixture into a large vessel…
largeballjar

… or several smaller Mason jars. I recommend smallish (the 2-cup size is nice) glass jars.
ready to be covered and placed in a warm spot

Then you swaddle the covered jars or jar in a blanket…
wrapped in a blanket

and place in a warm spot such as the oven with the light on
yogurts in blanket

or a sunny spot on your deck or front porch.
resting in a sunny spot

In about 4 hours, the yogurt will have set and is ready to be chilled. After it is chilled, you can portion it into smaller containers:
homemade yogurt

Homemade Yogurt | Homemade Greek Maple Yogurt

Source: Harold McGee: They do the work, You Reap the Yogurt

Notes: I am finding the homemade yogurt making process to be cost effective. Here’s the breakdown: 1 jar of plain ACF yogurt (about 2 cups) costs $3.79, which means, 1/4 cup costs about $0.47. The milk I buy costs $2.75 for a half gallon, so the first batch of homemade yogurt cost me $3.22. There are 128 tablespoons in a half gallon, so every tablespoon of homemade yogurt has a value of $0.03, so every quarter cup has a value of about $0.12. So, from here on out the cost of my 1/2 gallon batches of yogurt is about $2.87, and over time, as long as I keep using my homemade yogurt to make subsequent batches, the cost eventually will nearly equal the cost of the milk: $2.75.

4 tablespoons yogurt
1/2 gallon whole milk

maple syrup (if making Greek-maple yogurt)

1. In a large saucepan, heat the milk to 180 – 190ºF, or to the point that it’s steaming and beginning to form bubbles.

2. Let the milk cool to around 115 to 120ºF. Place yogurt in a small bowl. Thin it out with some of the milk, then stir this mixture into the pot with the remaining milk.

3. Pour the milk-yogurt mixture into a warm jar or container or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep the milk still and warm until it sets, usually in about four hours. Harold McGee swaddles his quart jar in several kitchen towels but also recommends putting the container in an oven with the light bulb on.

4. Once the yogurt sets, refrigerate it to firm its structure. To make a thick Greek-style yogurt, spoon it into a fine-mesh strainer or colander lined with cheesecloth or sieve lined with a coffee filter, and let the whey drain into a bowl for several hours.

5. To make Argyle Cheese Farmer-style Greek yogurt, place your strained yogurt in a stand mixer. Whip it until it’s light and airy. Add maple syrup by the tablespoon to taste. Chill until ready to eat. I find the light texture becomes even more mousse-like once it chills for a bit.

Strain yogurt in a cheesecloth or a yogurt strainer or a coffee filter set over a sieve to make thick, Greek-style yogurt. Drain for at least 18 hours.
Greek-style yogurt

My absolute favorite Argyle Cheese Farmer yogurt is the Greek Maple. All of the ACF Greek yogurts have a light, whipped, mousse-like texture, which is achieved by whipping the strained yogurt in a stand mixer. You can watch them make it on this video.
Greek maple yogurt

Saratoga Apple

Apples for Health

Saratoga Apple

Saratoga Apple

live music

making the donuts

donut making machine

apple-cider donuts

apple-cider donuts

pizza

alpacas

heads

Saratoga Apple

Incidentally, I made a batch of oatmeal-apple-yogurt muffins with my homemade yogurt — it’s a simple, delicious and, as far as muffins go, relatively healthy recipe. See below.
apple-yogurt muffin

Oatmeal-Apple Yogurt Muffins

Inspired by this recipe in Bon Appetit
Original recipe hails from Tazzaria
Yield = 15 to 18 muffins

Notes:

• This muffin batter can be made ahead of time and baked off as you wish: the muffins taste as good on day 8 as on day 1.

• If you do want to bake off the whole recipe in one go, use a quarter cup measuring cup to fill your standard pan. You’ll have some leftover batter, likely enough for 1 jumbo muffin or a few small muffins. Try to refrain from dividing that leftover batter among the filled cups — the muffins bake more evenly when they are not over filled, and you can always bake off the remaining batter in a greased or lined ramekin.

• You can make your own liners by cutting sheets of parchment paper approximately into 5×5-inch squares. It’s kind of a pain to do this, but they look pretty, and they work remarkably well. It’s helpful to make the liners before you mix up the batter and to weigh down each one with anything that will fill in the cup. I also love these liners and these, too.

2 1/3 cups (230g) quick-cooking oats*
1 cup (136g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (114g) packed, dark brown sugar (light would probably be just fine)
1/2 cup (116g) sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 to 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon (I prefer a light cinnamon flavor)
1 cup yogurt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup boiling water
2 apples, peeled and diced (I used Cortland)

*I have the best results using the 1-minute Quaker Oats but rolled oats work just fine, too. And although I haven’t tried this, I bet you could quickly pulse rolled oats in a food processor to make them behave more like quick-cooking oats.

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a standard muffin pan (12-cup) with nonstick spray or line them with paper muffin liners. Whisk oats, flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together. Add yogurt, oil, egg, and vanilla. Whisk to blend. Stir in 1/3 cup boiling water and let stand 5 minutes. Batter will be on the wet side. Fold in diced apples. Divide batter among prepared muffin cups. (Note: Again, you will have extra batter, so don’t divide the whole batter among the cups — save some for another day or bake off the rest in ramekins.)

2. Bake muffins until tester inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 (maybe as many as five minutes longer) minutes. Cool 10 minutes. Turn muffins out onto rack; cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

43 Comments

  1. I really love your blog! It’s gorgeous and I love the recipes you post. I’ve tried making homemade yogurt before, it didn’t turn out as well as I expected, but now I want to try again.

    Reply
    • Oh Dana, thank you so much. Sorry to hear about your past homemade yogurt attempts. Which recipe did you use? I’ve only used Harold McGee’s, and it’s come out well every time, but I’m curious as to where things could go wrong.

      Reply
  2. Your blog is very timely for me as I was looking for a yogurt “recipe”. I bought some raw goats milk in Lancaster this past weekend and I want to try my hand at yogurt making. I have a question regarding the straining part for greek-style yogurt. 18 hours…at room temperature? At what point does yogurt need to be refrigerated? Thanks in advance for your advice! I enjoy reading your blog!

    Reply
    • I have been thinking the same thing! They sell goats milk at the Niskayuna Coop, and I am dying to try making yogurt but have no idea if I need to adjust anything. Also, thank you so much for asking this question. I adjusted the caption above the photo, but the draining should take place in the refrigerator for 18 hours. I just put my coffee filter-lined sieve over a bowl and every few hours poured the whey into a jar. Hope the helps. Let me know if there is anything else!

      Reply
  3. Ha – I love the image of the yogurt in the stroller! Too funny. I’ve made yogurt once but didn’t love it… perhaps it is time to try again? Now those donuts… those I could get behind!

    Reply
  4. My mom has made her own yogurt for years, with a similar recipe but it also calls for instant milk (I think as a thickener?) and then she lets it sit in a yogurt maker. When she bought a new King Arthur model, she passed on an older model with individual cups to me. But it’s just sitting in the cupboard now, because the few times I tried to make yogurt, my milk scalded on the stove and became a smelly mess. Any ideas for how to bring it to 180-190 without burning?

    Reply
  5. I pulled two apples out of the crate and got baking today. The muffins are ridiculously easy to make. The only thing I plan to do different in the next batch is to add spices because they need to have the flavor turned up. I don’t think it’s going to take long for us to shove all of these muffins in our bellies. We’ve had two or three each over the last few hours.

    Reply
    • Oh good, so glad you found the process to be easy! And yes, I should make a note in regard to other spices, which would definitely add some more flavor. Did you just do the half teaspoon of cinnamon or more? I don’t know why I like these less cinnamony…so not like me!

      Reply
  6. Now those muffins! Those are right up my alley. I will have to share with coworkers or I will try to eat every single one myself! Gorgeous, Ali!

    Love this informative post about yogurt-making, you describe it so well and so simply, I am positive that I could pull it off! Your cost break-down was also fabulous, but my favorite is the picture of the yogurt sunbathing in the sunny stroller :) So, so great! So glad you post such yummy stuff for us!

    Reply
  7. Thank you so much for the yogurt recipe! I have been struggling trying to get my own yogurt to come out right – I have made runny, grainy, sour, etc. yogurt so far and was just about to give up, until my sister forwarded this to me. This yogurt (which I just finished straining and whipping moments ago) is absolutely the best I have ever tasted! I think the 4 hour time for incubating is just perfect for making a buttery tasting and creamy, but not sour, yogurt. The 18 hour straining plus whipping the strained yogurt with maple syrup makes it divine! I don’t think I can go back to store bought now. Thanks again – my sister and I have tried many of your recipes and they are all delicious!!

    Reply
    • Lauren, hi and yay! I am so impressed that you made this already and that you did the straining and whipping, too! Isn’t the texture of the whipped yogurt so amazing? So many Greek yogurts (which I love) are just a little chalky, and I love that this one is light and airy. Thanks so much for writing in! And thank you and your sister for reading. Makes me so happy. Have a great weekend!

      Reply
    • Allison, hi, just use plain yogurt. Harld McGee of NYTimes suggests any of the ubiquitous brands found at the regular grocery store, by which I think he means full-fat, plain. Not flavored, and while Greek would probably be fine, I think regular might be better.

      Reply
  8. Oh, I cannot begin to tell you how happy this post makes me given that I come from the land of yogurt (Bulgaria in case you are wondering!) and given that my grandparents had every dairy-producing animal, I grew up on homemade yogurt (all varieties–cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) and am a total yogurt dork/snob. It is understandable really–there is an official government standard on yogurt in Bulgaria, and the way it pretty much goes is that if the ingredients have anything other than milk (condensed and powdered milk forbidden) and active cultures, it doesn’t qualify. Anyway, the reason I really love this post is that no yogurt-making contraption was even evoked. The “swaddle in a blanket” method is the best one for homemade yogurt. You may want to swaddle a bit more in the winter. The oven is a genius idea because it is important to have no draught for the yogurt to set right. My grandmother never left it out in the sun but not sure if there is a reason or if she just did that so cats don’t get in there. For goat’s milk, she did the exact same thing as for cow’s milk–just make sure that the goat milk and yogurt mixture has roughly the same type of consistency as the cow’s milk. And should you ever not have a thermometer–heating up the milk in a double boiler and then letting it cool until when you stick your finger in there it is warm but bearable works just fine too. And it prevents the milk from burning.

    Reply
    • Wow, I did not know this about Bulgaria, but now it makes sense. My mother always tells me to buy Bulgarina feta, and when I was in Philadelphia, I did, because I could get it very easily at Reading Terminal Market, but I haven’t thought about this in ages. How cool that you grew up on homemade yogurt. And, I learned today, that I definitely need to swaddle more in the winter. It was just a wee chillier, and after 4 hours, the yogurt hadn’t set, so I stuck all of the jars in my oven, and they set about an hour later. And I am dying to try goat’s milk yogurt. I keep eyeing it at my Coop, but I am nervous for whatever reason. Next batch will be goat’s milk yogurt. And I was talking to my mother about making yogurt, and she said that her grandmother, who grew up on a sheep farm in Manchester, New Hampshire, never used a thermometer — she could tell by touch. So cool. I hope I get to that point one day. I need to pass on your tip about the double boiler to katie, who asked about how to prevent the milk from burning. Thanks Mama Poule!

      Reply
      • I am a total dairy dork, I honestly think I am a milkmaid or something. You can buy Bulgarian feta at malincho (dot) com which has all sorts of BG specialty foods. I bought my expat share of homeland food from them when I lived in the US. The vacuum packed fetas are nice, though I prefer the ones in the large tins as they remind me of my childhood! They have 1 kg tins (2 pounds) which is manageable especially for a family. And yes, don’t be afraid to swaddle yogurt, my mother wraps a towel, some sort of blanket, and sometimes an extra layer if cold. And she lets it set overnight unless it is a gazillion degrees outside. If you are around milk, you know how it behaves – my grandmother was amazing that way just like your great grandmother.

        Reply
        • Haha, I love it. I just checked out Malincho, which is awesome! I might have to buy some of that feta. Now, the 1KG tin is not in brine, right? Does that make a difference? I need to send my mother a gift because she is coming for the weekend to watch the kids while we go to a wedding, and I think this would be the perfect thing. Next time I am going to let it swaddle swaddle and let it set for longer — this last batch is a little thinner than I like, and I swear it’s because there was a draught. I might strain the whole batch and make Greek yogurt…seems like a good solution.

          Reply
          • Get the one in brine, not sure what difference it makes but real Bulgarian white cheese (we don’t ever call it feta cause we have a cheese rivalry with the greeks :) ) is always in brine!
            Attention, the cheese in brine is a little saltier I think so I take it out of the brine and then put it in a tupperware covered with water overnight or a little longer which gets the salt out, then change the water and store it like that and it keeps for like a week if it lasts that long….
            Or if you don’t want to bother and are worried about the brine, get the vacuumed one.

          • You truly are a milkmaid! I love it. I was leaning towards the one with brine — my mother always says to buy the feta — white cheese! — in brine. Thanks for the tip about the brine/water/etc. Sending a tin to my mother immediately. Will pass along the tips about the brine when her white cheese arrives :) Thanks so much!

  9. I am so glad you discovered apple cider doughnuts! No other doughnut compares. I hope you are grabbing some honeycrisp apples at one of the orchards they are a fan favorite out here.

    Reply
  10. I am so excited by your blog! I used to make swaddled yoghurt when my children were young , and now pay exorbitant prices for Gourmet Yoghurt . A question though before I start , I live in Queensland , Australia and temperatures rise to 35• , do you think I need to adjust my incubating time ? Kind regards Irna

    Reply
    • Irna, hi! I know, I was paying exorbitant prices as well. The Argyle Cheese Farmer Greek Maple Yogurt (my favorite) is something like $11 a jar (2 cups at the most)! OK, with it being so warm, your incubating time might happen much more quickly. I would start checking on the jars after 2 hours. If when you gently shake the jar, the yogurt looks like it is setting (getting thick), you probably can stick the yogurts in the fridge shortly thereafter. Maybe check every 30 minutes after the two-hour mark? I am not a pro at this yet, and it might take a couple batches for you to figure out the ideal incubating time. I did recently stick my yogurts in the fridge too early — it was a much colder day, and they still hadn’t set at the 4-hour mark, and I got impatient and stuck them in the fridge. They did end up setting up a little bit more in the fridge, but the texture was a little loose. Hope that helps! Wish I could offer more professional guidance.

      Reply
  11. I’m about to start my own yogurt-making. Do you listen to the Splendid Table podcast? I listened to one recently about yogurt-making, and the guest, Sandor Katz, said that using store-bought yogurt as your starter will only last for two or so batches. After that you have to buy more yogurt to use as a starter, you can’t just continue using your own yogurt to create the next batch. What has your experience been with using your own yogurt to start the next batch, does it become weaker? Do you have to vary the technique or timing or anything?

    Reply
    • Very interesting! This has not been my experience, though I only made three consecutive batches, so only two with my homemade yogurt, then I started over with my fourth batch. Now that you mention this, however, I am wondering if there might be something to it. On my third batch I noticed that the yogurt took longer to set, but I thought that because it wasn’t warm enough. I ended up having to let it incubate out of the fridge for more like 6 or 7 hours because it wasn’t set after 4. I wonder if this also had to do with strength of the starter? I am going to have to report back on this. I’ll get a new batch going today…won’t be able to give you an update on this for a few weeks :) Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  12. Warming yogurt in the Sun! What a fantastic idea! I may have to try this today. It is hot here it will be perfect! I usually use a hot water bath in a oven I have heated for 10 minutes. The sun sounds so much better!

    Reply

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