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In the last four days I’ve thrown away 5 cups of milk that I was trying to make into the holy grail of low temperature, raw milk yogurt. I’ve been making yogurt for number of years very successfully. Up until about a month ago I was regularly making yogurt with a locally produced milk I bought at Whole Foods which while pasteurized, was not homogenized.

My basic techniques for making yogurt has been to heat 4 cups of milk up to 180° remove the saucepan from the heat and cool down to 100°. After that I inoculate with a half a cup of previously made yogurt and let it sit in my yogurt maker for 12 hours. This has worked successfully for many years and I’ve never had a problem making yogurt this way. Occasionally, I’ll have to replace my starter, usually with a small container of organic, plain, whole milk yogurt from the store. But this is becoming harder to find.

I routinely strain my yogurt to make it thicker. I do not use dry milk products to make it thicker, instead I strain it to remove the whey. This makes a thicker Greek style yogurt. I save the whey from the straining to use when I lacto-ferment. There are various claims that dried milk powder can be bad for you, but the jury is still out. However, since I tend to try to stay with food in as natural state as possible, dry milk powder is not on my radar so I don’t use it.

With the raw milk, I did not want to heat the milk so high, effectively pasteurizing it. Raw milk contains many beneficial enzymes that are destroyed during high heat processes. So I tried, boy have I tried. 

The first time I tried to do a low temperature raw milk yogurt I did not have a starter. Usually I can go to Whole Foods and purchase a small container of an organic, plain whole milk yogurt. Unfortunately it seems that Whole Foods is also succumbing to the all yogurts must be non or low fat and all must be flavored syndrome. I finally found a small container of plain, whole goat’s milk yogurt, tucked away. I grabbed it and went home to start my first experiment.

For my first experiment I used 4 cups of raw milk, heating the milk up to approximately 120°, letting it cool to 100° and then inoculating with the goats milk yogurt and poured into my yogurt maker to sit for 12 hours.

What came out was very runny. I poured it into my yogurt strainer let it sit overnight in the refrigerator and the next day I was rewarded with approximately 1/2 cup of strained yogurt and the rest was whey. I speculated that the goats milk yogurt wasn’t strong enough and so I tried using the raw milk with my regular technique (inoculating with the small amount of yogurt I got in the previous batch) and the results were a full creamy wonderfully thick yogurt.

I had purchased some yogurt cultures that I heard worked better. Unfortunately the instructions for the culture requires you to make a batch of yogurt called the “mother” on a weekly basis using the pasteurization technique (the one I commonly use) to make a thick yogurt and using that to inoculate subsequent lower temperature raw milk. Since I already had my culture I decided to use that in my first experiment.

My first attempt was heating the milk up to 100° inoculating it with a half cup of my yogurt culture and letting it sit in my yogurt maker for 12 hours, which then was extended to 24 hours. The end result was gloppy and looked. smelled and tasted horrible. There went 4 cups of raw milk down the drain.

After doing some research, I decided to try heating the milk up to 110° and bring it down to 100°. I followed my usual procedures and let the mixture set for 12 hours. When I opened it up it smelled like acetone. Luckily for me I only tried a cup of milk on this experiment so I didn’t waste as much.

Most of my research on traditionally made fermented milk products, involve heating the milk. The reason to heat the milk is to create an environment where the live cultures in the yogurt starters can thrive and grow. I speculate that when heating milk to a lesser degree, while not killing the beneficial enzymes of the raw milk, also doesn’t create an environment where the live cultures of yogurt can thrive. They are effectively not being given enough room to grow.

Fermented milk products have a lot of health benefits which include: being easily digestible even by many people who are lactose intolerant, the friendly bacteria helps populate your gut with the good bacteria which helps to promote digestion, it also boosts the availability of the calcium in the milk it was made from. I love yogurt, I not only eat it by itself, but will use it as an ingredient or topping for other foods.

I’ve decided that heating my milk up to 180° is not so bad when I’m getting a delicious, healthy and high protein product. So with the last half cup of my old batch of yogurt I am now making a batch of yogurt which is being done according to my regular tried-and-true method. I think for right now I’m going to stick with this. It’s easy and I get consistent, healthy results.

One Response to “MisAdventures with Raw Milk Yogurt”

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