Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Make Yogurt, or Laban

Tangy, cool, and poured from a one liter jug.  Or sometimes from a bucket.  That was the laban, or yogurt that I grew up with. 

When we ran out of our store-bought jug of yogurt, my mother would often make yogurt.  I always knew when she had a batch of yogurt going because I would come home to a find a blanket-swaddled mass in my parent's bedroom (the warmest room in the house?).  Do NOT touch those blankets, girls, my mother instructed us.  So, we dutifully stayed away until she was ready to peel back the warm layers of flannel quilts and open up the pot to reveal the miracle:  milk into yogurt.  We always had to taste spoonfuls of warm tart warm yogurt, even though it would be better after a few hours in the refrigerator. 

In Palestine, where I grew up, yogurt is savory, never sweet.  Spooned next to spiced rice and ground lamb, or stirred with cucumber and garlic or mint.  Yogurt is how you eat rice, really.  Rice and lentils with yogurt.  Rice and meat stuffed vegetables with yogurt.  At almost every dinner table, we had a bowl of yogurt on the table.  My American father sometimes sprinkled sugar on his yogurt and my mother allowed us to stir home-made strawberry jam into our yogurt for an occasional treat, but other than that, we ate it like Arabs:  plain. 

All yogurt, even store-bought yogurt, was made from whole milk and without gelatin or other preservatives.  That meant that it was pourable.

Chock-full of the probiotics Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus bulgaricus, yogurt supports digestions because it replenishes our microbiota.  This in turn, builds up our immune systems and supports our overall health. 



2 quarts of whole milk
1/4 cup of your favorite prepared yogurt (I like Nancy's Organic)

1.  Scald the milk until bubbles start to form around the edge of the pot.

2.  Cool the milk until it reaches 115-120 F.
3.  Skim off the cooled milk skin, if you prefer.

4.  Stir in the prepared yogurt.
5.  Wrap the covered pot with a heavy blanket and place it in a warm place in the house. 
6.  Wait 6-8 hours and then refrigerate.

Yogurt-Making Tips

  • The cooler the incubation period, the more sour the yogurt.  For mild yogurt, use a yogurt incubator.  Otherwise, you can preheat your oven for a couple of minutes, just until barely warm, and then place your wrapped pot in the oven overnight, with the oven light on.  I often use my cast iron dutch oven with excellent results.  Just remember not to turn your oven on!

  • Cream-on-top yogurt is extremely delicious.  Unhomogenized milk, of course, is preferable, but if you don't have access to it, add a cup of cream to the whole milk.  You will have a lovely layer of cultured cream on top.

  • If you would like a thicker yogurt, add a cup or so of powdered milk to your whole milk, stirring in at the same time as you add the prepared yogurt.

  • For the easiest yogurt in the world, microwave your yogurt in a large glass bowl until scalded.  This will eliminate cleaning the bottom of the pan with its inevitable burned-on milk. 

  • Swap out cow's milk for goat's milk for an even tangier yogurt.

Related Posts: 

*How to Make Yogurt Cheese, or Labani


  1. Today was hot and perfect for making yogurt. Tried it with heavy cream and it is so yellow and thick. Thanks for the idea!

  2. Did you all fight for the cream on top? Isn't it delicious? Yum!

  3. I've made my own yogurt twice now and it isn't quite tangy enough for me. Can you explain to me how to make it more tangy; according to above post I think it may be too warm during the sitting period which is usually over night for me??

    Also, from your blog today I see you live in VA, so do I, in the Hampton Roads area, where abouts do you live in VA??

    1. I live in Northern Virginia! And tell me about your process in making yogurt. How do you incubate it?

  4. Hi, would this work with soy or almond milk? And I was thinking about adding custard powder to make it thicker and sweeter. Do you think that would work?

    1. Hello! I'm afraid I don't have any experience in this area. I have only ever made dairy yogurt. I am sure that you can find other resources online for making these non-dairy yogurts. I know that some people have to find non-dairy starters, and that other additives/steps are used to thicken the yogurt.

    2. If you're worried about lactose, the probiotics in the yogurt will break it down, making yogurt much easier to digest.


Trying this recipe? A question or a comment? I'd love to hear from you!