How to Make Greek Yogurt Better than Fage without a Thermometer

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My family loves yogurt. It used to be plain yogurt which I made by the gallon but then it morphed into a love affair with Greek yogurt. I’ve made it with 2%, whole milk, and even a super fatty whole milk and cream version which was beyond this world. Though most days, it’s just plain ol’whole milk greek yogurt that we eat.

Personally, I hate most of the fat free, low fat Greek yogurts on the market like Choboni and Dannon Oikos. To me, they taste horrible and I have no idea how anyone can eat them. You’d have to hold me at gun point just to take a spoonful, they are so hideous to my taste buds. My mind is blown over our countries love affair with them. Yuck!

The only brand that I can stomach is Fage. Their whole milk greek yogurt is creamy and delicious the way I imagined yogurt should be. It’s also expensive and hard to find unless you want 0% fat which is why I became obsessed with making my own creamy, dreamy, better than Fage, greek yogurt.

To be honest, my first attempts at making Greek yogurt weren’t really that successful. In fact, the yogurt tasted off, not creamy and dreamy the way that Fage did. What I learned is this:

Better than Fage Greek Yogurt Recipe

Greek yogurt, granola, and berry parfait

  1. Don’t strain Greek yogurt on the counter – always do it in the fridge.
  2. Don’t use old t-shirts or pillow cases that someone has sweated in or your yogurt will taste funky. Unfortunately, we learned that one the hard way.
  3. Always smell the straining cloth that you are using as any bad odor will impact the final product. Trust me on this one, you can’t get out funk once it’s in.
  4. Don’t use cheap paper towels or coffee filters, they will rip and get caught in the yogurt when you put it in it’s final container. If you have super strong paper towels like Bounty, those will work in a pinch.
  5. Many Greek yogurts aren’t strained, instead they use fillers to add protein and thickness. Don’t let them trick you, read the ingredients.  To my knowledge, Fage is the only truly authentic Greek yogurt on the market. The rest are just impostors.
  6. Kids like yogurt bling and are hard to convert to homemade once they’ve had stuff like YoCrunch. Don’t let that stop you. You can make your own fruit blends and toppings at home. My kids love sweetened lemon or lime juice, Newman’s O’s, granola with fresh fruit, chocolate, Trader Joe’s mini peanut butter cups and homemade berry blends in their yogurt. I love that I can control the ingredients and the quality of the finished product.
Before you can make Greek Yogurt, you need to make regular yogurt. If you search the web, you will find lots of recipes that require thermometers, double broilers, temperatures and heating pads. I’ve learned through many years of trial and error that you don’t need any of these to make a high quality, comes out perfect every time, yogurt.

Better than Fage Greek Yogurt Recipe (a two part recipe)

I had photos for the yogurt making process but they got lost when I updated my phone so you’ll have to wait to see those. Sorry

Part 1: Making Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients:

1 or 1/2 Gallon of Milk (Organic or Raw from Local Farmer)

Yogurt Starter: Stoneyfield Farm Plain Yogurt is my preference or Greek Yogurt Starter from WellsofHealth

Big Stainless Steel Pot

1/2 Gallon or Quart Jars (I used 1 gallon of milk and 2 half gallon jars)

Large Cooler or Heavy Socks and Blanket (Don’t worry socks won’t touch your yogurt. We prefer the non-stinky variety)

What to Do:

  1. Add milk to your big pot and cook over a medium low heat until the milk begins to bubble.  If your milk begins to foam up, that’s perfect, turn off the heat. If you must measure the temperature it should be around 185°F.
  2. While your milk is heating, get your jars ready. I use two half gallon jars. I keep them on the counter until my milk is cool enough.
  3. Let milk cool down to the point where you can put your finger in it and it doesn’t burn. You can use an ice bath or just let it naturally lose heat like I do.
  4. When it’s ready, the milk should be the temperature of a hot but not too hot bath. If the milk is too hot to keep your finger in for more than 3 seconds then it’s too hot to add your starter.  Temperature should be between 90°F and 110°F. I’d say mine is closer to 90 than 110 but if it’s too cool the yogurt will come out stringy. It’s ok, to slowly reheat if you’ve gotten to low for an optimal yogurt.
  5. Remove the skin off the cooled milk.
  6. After your milk comes to temp, add 1/4 cup of yogurt starter to 1/2 gallon jar and pour in your cooled milk.  I like to strain my milk through a mesh strainer when I add it to the milk so any yogurt skin that is hiding doesn’t end up in my final product. Note: If using WellsofHealth starter follow their instructions for your first batch and then use 1/4 cup of their starter to use this recipe.
  7. Fill your container to the top with milk then stir, mix or shake to incorporate your starter before covering with a lid.
  8. If you have a cooler, I use Styrofoam, place the jars inside and put the lid on. I like to add a blanket to wrap the jars in but you don’t have to. Now the jars are in a nice warm cooler, relax, your done for at least 6 hours though, I usually let it sit over night.
  9. If you don’t have a cooler, find two large wool socks to put your jars in or wrap them in a nice warm blanket so they stay warm for 6 to 24 hours. The longer you let these ferment, the less sugar or sourer they get. We ferment ours 6-12 hours typically and our yogurt is deliciously sweet and creamy.
  10. When fermented to your taste, put in the fridgerator or move on to Part 2: Straining the Yogurt.

Part II:  Making Greek Yogurt

Ingredients:

Yogurt (homemade or store bought)

Strainer

Bowl or Pot (I use a large pasta pot with strainer)

Straining Cloth (Juice bags work great, white linen dish towels, tight weave cheese cloth)

What to Do:

  1. Take your strainer and place inside a larger pot so you can collect the way.
  2. Line the strainer with a tightly woven cheese cloth, or cotton t-shirt
  3. Add yogurt and place into the refridgerator while it drains the whey from the yogurt.
  4. Leave straining for at least 4 hours. I typically let it go overnight but not over 12 hours or it gets too thick. The longer, you strain, the more whey that gets removed and the firmer the yogurt gets. If you strain too much you’ll have a cheese like product that you can use to make vege dips  or savory cheese spreads.
  5. Eat with fresh fruit and granola, or have it greek style with a drizzle of fresh, local honey
  6. Sit back and smile, you just made the best tasting greek yogurt in town. You’re amazing!
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