When I moved from France to the US over 20 years ago, I did not realize I was coming from the country with the most yogurt consumption per capita worldwide (a steady average close to 20 kg per person per year, or, if you consider the average size of a US yogurt of 6 oz, 118 individual servings annually).
In most French supermarkets, the yogurt aisle (which also includes other dairy desserts like flan, chocolate mousse, and custards) is much bigger than here—I would say the same size of the entire dairy section in America (including milk, butter, cheese, and yogurt)—and offers a wider variety of styles and flavors. So I was very disappointed on my first trip to the local grocery store to find that my options for plain yogurt were extremely reduced, that apricot was not as popular a flavor and would have to settle for peach, and that neither tasted as good as back home.
I still ate yogurt, because of its health benefits:
- Rich in critical nutrients like calcium, B vitamins, and minerals
- High in protein and helps with appetite control
- Contains probiotics that keep the digestive system healthy
...but I did not enjoy it as much.
Homemade yogurt is cost-effective
In the past 7-8 years, new premium products appeared on the market, and I finally found brands that I liked, my favorite being Siggi’s Icelandic skyr. The only snag was the cost, as 1 container was over 3 times the cost of a regular brand.
So I decided to make my own yogurt. I remembered my Mom doing it when I was a kid, and we were living in a rural area where you could go to the farm and buy fresh milk. I bought a simple yogurt maker for less than $30. It came with 7 individual jars, but very soon, I figured it was easier to make bulk yogurt, and now, I only use the kit’s heating element. A gallon of milk yields about 10 individual servings of strained yogurt plus the starter for the next batch.
Making yogurt is easy and you control the ingredients
Making yogurt is pretty straightforward:
- You need milk (I use 2% fat organic, but the beauty of this is that you can choose whatever you like and control the quality)
- You need a plain starter yogurt in the style you like (then you will save some of your own as your next starter)
- To make skyr, I heat up the milk to 185°F, then let it cool down to 130°F before adding the starter yogurt and a couple of drops of rennet, a curdling agent used in cheese making that will result in a thicker yogurt
- I let the milk mixture sit on the heating element for 12 hours (the longer it stays, the more curds you get)
- Then I strain the yogurt for a couple of hours in the fridge to reach a creamier consistency. Voilà!
You can use the whey to bake delicious artisan bread
When making yogurt, I save the whey, the liquid byproduct of the straining, and use it to bake bread. Making bread is more demanding than yogurt, as it involves planning and dedication, but it is extremely rewarding!
The whey bread I make is 15% rye, it has a beautiful crust from the residual lactose and derives great flavors from the acidity of the whey.