I have found the best yogurt starter ever. It makes THICK creamy yogurt. I purchased at Walmart - a small tub of Stoneyfield Farm OIKOS oganic Greek vanilla or plain yogurt to use as a starter. A tablespoon or so added to a quart of milk does the trick!!! I did use pasteurized milk and added stevia instead of sugar and a dash of vanilla flavor. Try it - I hope you are as delighted as I am.
Steve yogurt likes temps at about 110 degrees and it take 8 to 10 hours. You can do this with an ice chest by putting the milk and starter (sugar and flavoring too if desired) in a sealed container and filling the ice chest to rim of the container with hot water of about 110 or a little more. OR you can put the dish on a heating pad and cover with towels. Any way to keep it warm. A couple of spoons of starter to a quart of milk and keeping it warm equals yogurt.
That certainly is optimum temp for fast results but I just do it on the top shelf of the kitchen- in the low 80's up there and it takes longer but still does fine. I use the Bulgarian starter pack from Ricki's and keep a mother culture. Gets better with every batch.
I always add sweetener or fruit or flavoring after it has firmed up for fear of freaking out the culture. Nice to know you can do it at the same time. Mixed in or just at the bottom? Thanks for that tip.
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I add my sweetener and vanilla (and unflavored gelatin) when I start to heat up my milk. I find that the vanilla extract added later leaves a slight alcohol flavor in the yogurt and when I add it at the beginning, the alcohol has time to evaporate.
Holly, if you are just starting out, you can buy either plain or vanilla yogurt at the grocery store to use as a starter. Get the very latest expiration date you can find, and make sure it has live cultures in it. The more variety of cultures, the better it is for you. Once you find that you enjoy making it, you can buy cultures at places like www.dairyconnection.com or Ricki's...look for the link in the stickies under suppliers...I can't remember what it is off-hand. Also, if using storebought yogurt for your starter, do not open it until you are ready to use it and only use it once for that purpose...once you open it, there is the potential for contaminating the starter. There will be more yogurt than you need for starter, so just eat the rest. After that, you can use the yogurt that you make to be your starter for the next batch...just make sure that there's one container that you don't open until you are ready to use it for starter.