1. Don’t be overly anxious.
Often, readers report having sleepless nights in anticipation of a successful batch of yogurt. It’s understandable. I remember how exciting the first attempt can be. That being said, getting up to check on your incubating yogurt like it was a sick child with a fever is not really necessary.
Resist checking your incubating yogurt every 30 minutes to see if it’s “done” yet. Jostling or moving the bowl will most likely spoil the process. After 5-6 hours it is OK to slightly shake the bowl and watch for a gelatin-like jiggle. If a slight shake causes a splash (of the milk, not just the whey sitting on top), apologize for interrupting and excuse yourself for another hour or two while the yogurt bacteria continue to multiply.
Along the same line, NEVER STIR or disturb your incubating yogurt before it has set. Pouring it into a strainer or another container stops the incubation process. You have no choice but to use as is or try again with more “starter”.
2. Don’t use old milk.
Using slightly old milk to make yogurt is not a good way to salvage milk on the edge. The fresher the milk, the better the taste and the longer it will store.
3. Don’t incubate yogurt in your oven right after using it to bake dinner.
Doing so can lead to mass murder of yogurt microbes and the sudden cancellation of your yogurt project. You might be surprised how long it takes a 400-degree oven to cool down to 100 degrees.
4. Don’t skip the heating process just because the milk you are using is pasteurized.
I don’t completely understand the chemistry. Nevertheless, heating milk to 175 degrees, pasteurized or otherwise, whether in the microwave or on top of the stove, rearranges the proteins in a way that is beneficial to yogurt bacteria. Skipping this step will result in thinner yogurt more suitable for drinking.
5. I know it’s hard to stop, but don’t eat every last drop of your precious homemade yogurt.
Save a tablespoon or two to use as starter for your next batch. It’s the best (and cheapest) starter there is.
Bonus Tip added to Five Things You Should Not Do When Making Homemade Yogurt:
Go right now and put a about 1/4 cup of your freshest homemade yogurt in a small plastic container. Place it in your freezer and save it for a rainy day. It will be insurance for the day you forget and accidentally eat the last of your yogurt. Or maybe you go on vacation. Then there are the times when you need a break from making yogurt but don’t want to give up the idea forever.
I tried it several times and absolutely could not tell the difference between using my own 3-day-old homemade yogurt as starter and homemade yogurt stored in the freezer for 3 months. Admittedly, I have not done extensive testing to know how LONG one can keep it in the freezer, but it should keep at least 3 months according to my experience.
If you have a precautionary tale gleaned from your own yogurt-making experience, I would love to hear about it.