Basically, it boils down to a few simple steps. But knowing why we do these steps is pretty important to your success, I think.
Other options for incubating include placing your container in a cooler and adding a few glasses full of hot water next to your yogurt. Or placing it in a preheated and turned off slow cooker. Or if you're doing it in the Summer, just leave your yogurt in the sun, believe it or not. I liked the oven, though, since it seemed reliable. Of course I prefer my yogurt maker since it's designed to maintain the perfect temperature. So if you love the results, and I think you will, you might want to someday invest in a yogurt maker.
Tools that are necessary or that I recommend:
candy thermometer or digital thermometer with an alarm. I bought mine at IKEA and love it
large, non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot
cheesecloth or fine muslin
fine mesh strainer (sometimes when you heat up the milk, there will be little pieces. You want to start with a smooth base)
Metal spoon for stirring
large container for incubating (preferably glass. non-reactive, doesn't give off flavor, and see-through!)
Let's get started, shall we?
makes 1/2 gallon, easily halved or doubled
3 tablespoons (1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons) of your favorite plain yogurt with live and active cultures
- In a large, non-reactive, heavy-bottomed sauce pan or pot, heat the milk over low heat until it reached 180°F (82°C). Don't stir the milk.
- Once heated, let the milk cool to 120°F (48°C). You can speed up this process by placing your saucepan inside a large bowl full of ice water, or transferring your milk into a small bowl that will fit inside a larger bowl full of ice water. Taking care not to get any water into the milk.
- Once the milk has cooled down to 120°F (or a little lower), put the yogurt in the container you will be using to incubate it in. Pouring through a fine mesh strainer to catch any bits or the skin that has formed, pour about 1/4 of your milk into your container with the yogurt. Stir gently with your metal spoon.
- Once incorporated, add the rest of the milk mixture through the strainer as well. Give it another gentle stir, cover, and incubate for 6~24 hours, depending on desired consistency. (Suggested incubation methods above)
- If you want a thick, Greek-style yogurt, line a sieve with a piece of clean, damp cheesecloth or muslin, place it over a bowl and pour in your yogurt. Let it strain for 4~6 hours until desired thickness is reached.