We go through yogurt rapidly at our house, especially now that the boys have discovered thick, creamy yogurt with honey and fresh fruit is quite tasty. Yogurt is one of the easiest things to make at home that can save you lots of money. Case in point, I like the greek-style, which runs around $5/lb. I can make 4 lbs. at home for the price of a gallon of milk (2.80-3.20) and a 50 cent container of plain Yoplait yogurt.
You can use whole or 2% milk. The whole milk is a little richer, but since we'll be draining off the whey, creaminess is unaffected.
Heat up the milk to 180 degrees F. If you don't have a thermometer, this is when it's hot enough to be frothy, but not boil. If you use whole milk, you can bring it to a boil with no problem.
Cool the milk to 110 degrees. I put mine in a bowl like this with a little cold water. Doesn't take long. If no thermometer, test on the inside of your wrist like you would for a baby's bottle. It shouldn't feel ouch-your-mouth hot, but it should be pleasantly warm.
Take about 2 cups of the warm milk and mix it with a container of plain yogurt in a separate bowl. I like the plain Dannon, but you can use any kind of yogurt so long as it says "live culture" on the label. Different yogurts have various bacterial cultures which affect the flavor. This is what I like and for consistency, I use a fresh container each time. Once mixed in the smaller bowl, add to the large container and gently stir. You don't want to mix a lot of air in. Just stir to distribute the culture throughout the milk.
Cover the yogurt and let it sit and place with a consistent temperature from 5 to 12 hours, or until it firms up to a desired level. I heat my oven at 400 degrees F for 1 minute, turn it off, and set my covered yogurt in it overnight. This is convenient. Less time would probably be fine, but the trick to working "slow food" into a busy life is fitting it into the rhythm of your days.
When checking how it's "set up," I tilt the pan and it will pull away from the edge. You can kind of see it in this picture, but the pan was too heavy to take the pic and tilt it as I normally do. You'll know if it's firm or not. Trust me.
Here you see the yogurts been poured into the colander and is set to chill for another 5-12 hours in the fridge. Since I let the culture go over night, I usually do this step in the morning.
Yogurt: My teen boys like yogurt best with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey. If you're craving chocolate, mix in a chocolate syrup to taste. I eat mine mixed with rolled oats and blueberries for lunches. I also use it in place of sour cream and add it to baked goods to enhance moistness and often reduce the amount of butter or oil. If you enjoy indian food, you'll love having a large quantity of high quality yogurt on hand.
Whey: Add to soups and breads instead of water. Whey greatly improves the flavor of both.