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How to Make Yogurt

Slideshow SLIDESHOW: How to Make Yogurt

After years of daily yogurt eating, I've probably worked my way through a mountain of plastic containers. I tried to re-use them, but opening a container out of the fridge became a kind of Russian roulette. Last night's dinner? Some long-forgotten egg yolks? Or yogurt? When New York City stopped recycling yogurt containers, I feared I would soon be buried under plastic.

So I picked up a packet of freeze-dried yogurt starter and a half gallon of milk (in a recyclable container) from my food co-op and followed the directions.

Making yogurt is a straightforward process: you heat the milk just shy of boiling (this step helps the milk proteins gel later on), cool the milk to the temperature that the yogurt cultures love (around 110°F), stir in the cultures, and let the mixture sit, warm and undisturbed for several hours. Then comes the miraculous moment when you see that you've made yogurt. It makes the wait and the temperature monitoring worth the while.

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Without an electric yogurt maker, I had to experiment a little, but I managed nicely with a slow-cooker (see slideshow for details). Eventually, I got a simple insulated container designed for yogurt-making from the New England Cheesemaking Company and experimented more, trying out different milks, flavors, and cultures.

Generally, I stick with good ol' plain non-fat cows milk yogurt for my breakfast, but you don't have to.

See the slideshow for the basics, plus ideas for easy variations »

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