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Homemade Yogurt {Laban}

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Homemade Yogurt  (Laban)

I remember as a child watching my Mom make homemade yogurt.

mom making Homemade Yogurt

This is her making it when I visited Tennessee.

She had this awful orange colored yogurt maker that held 6 cups of yogurt and kept the Homemade Yogurt  warm while it incubated.  We would eat that stuff like it was candy.

If you are Lebanese you will probably know what I am talking about. We eat it with pita, kibbeh, grape leaves, for breakfast, mixed into a cucumber salad and list goes on. Yogurt is the “ketchup that you dip your fries in.” I can eat plain yogurt with nothing in it..actually I prefer my yogurt that way which a lot of people can’t stand (it can have a tart flavor).

Fast forward years later ..my Mom decided to give the orange yogurt maker to Goodwill. This brings us to 2012 and my one year old son.  I try my hardest to keep the foods he eats healthy, wholesome and also try to eliminate as much processed stuff as I can (those ingredients you can’t pronounce). He loves yogurt but as I started buying it week after week the amount of sugar and other ingredients started to really bother me. The cost of buying the organic, no sugar yogurt seemed a little ridiculous when I can make my own Homemade Yogurt .

I remembered as a child all of that yogurt that my Mom made us in her kitchen. She knew exactly what she was putting in it and could control the fat, the ingredients and what fruit or sugar was in it. That’s it, I thought! The solution to my yogurt dilemma (yes, I know, some people may think that is a pretty lame dilemma…but controlling the sugar and weird ingredients is important to me!).

When I went home to visit my parents my Mom taught me how to make homemade yogurt the way that she has been making it for years. I found it surprisingly easy, not to mention you only need two ingredients–the starter and the milk.

You only need 2 ingredients (can’t beat that): 

  • 4 cups of 2 % or whole milk (We used 2%, skim milk creates a very thin yogurt with not as much flavor.)
  • 3 tbsp. of plain yogurt or 3 tbsp. starter  (We used Stonyfield’s plain low fat or regular yogurt.  I do not recommend using non-fat yogurt as a starter as you want it to have some fat in it. Try to buy the freshest yogurt possible that have live and active cultures. Other brands that you could use are Dannon, Fage or whatever your preference is.  See the tip section at the end if you would prefer to buy a starter instead of store bought yogurt.)

Other things you will need for making Homemade Yogurt:

  • Thermometer
  • Towels to keep container of yogurt warm
  • Large container with lid
  • Large pot
  • Measuring cup
  • Stirring spoon

Now that you have everything that you will need here’s how to make your own yogurt:

Pour 4 cups milk into pot and bring to just below a simmer, you will begin to see foam when it is close to being done. Make sure you are stirring constantly (set to medium high and it should take about 10-15 minutes to get to a simmer depending on your stove). You do not want it to boil- if it starts boiling remove immediately (it will scold the bottom of the pan and milk if left on too long).

Remove the heated milk from heat and let cool until the temperature drops to 120 degrees or when you can hold your finger in the milk to the count of 10 comfortably (you can use a thermometer like below).

Homemade Yogurt or Laban

This can take a good 40 minutes for the milk to cool or longer depending on the temperature of your house (you will begin to see a layer of foam forming).

Put the 3 tbsp. of the starter yogurt (Stonyfield in this case) into a mixing bowl. Mix several tablespoons of the warm milk with the starter yogurt and mix until a smooth paste.  Add paste to the remainder of the warm milk and stir it in gently.

Homemade Yogurt recipe

mixing Homemade Yogurt

Pour the mixture into an enamel or porcelain bowl, cover with a lid or plate and wrap a towel (in summer) or blanket or two towels (in winter) around it and allow to stand in warm place for 4-12 hours hours or until set (we let it sit overnight, you will know if it is set because it will be firm on the top of the yogurt).

ingredients for Homemade Yogurt

finishing the Homemade Yogurt

These are the towels cover the container with the yogurt..we used two towels and put it in the corner of the kitchen where we knew it would stay warm.

resting Homemade Yogurt

It turned out great and we had it alongside a traditional Lebanese meal of Kibbeh, pita and hummus.

finished Laban - Homemade Yogurt

Tips:

  • When we made the Homemade Yogurt we did not have a starter so we used 3 tbsp. of Stonyfield plain yogurt. If you have a starter use that. Here is some I found online:
    • http://www.culturesforhealth.com/starter-cultures/yogurt-starter.html
    • http://www.kingarthurflour.com/shop/items/yogurt-starter
    • The longer the yogurt sits the better it will taste (in our humble opinion).  You can cover and let sit for 3-4 hours but we let it sit overnight. My Mom has also let the yogurt set (incubate) in the oven.
    • Once you make your yogurt you can set a small amount aside in a container to use as a starter for your next batch of your yogurt and keep doing this with each batch.
    • The taste of the yogurt will vary according to the age of the starter.  If the starter was refrigerated for a week or more the yogurt will be tart.  If the starter is fresh it will be sweeter.

Please email me with any questions or leave a comment below! I was very intimated the first time I made yogurt but it gets easier the more you make it.

Julia

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Melanie

Sunday 26th of April 2020

Ok, I just made this. I put it in the ceramic container with lid at around 3 pm yesterday, wrapped in two blankets and let it sit over night. It’s now 9 am the following day and it’s still like milk ? Does it need to sit out longer or did I do something wrong? It’s Spring time here in MO and yesterday it was 65. I followed the directions to the letter! I’m so sad ??

Julia

Sunday 26th of April 2020

So unfortunately yogurt can be tricky to make based on temperature, the ingredients you are using, ect. So here are a few questions- did you use skim milk or what milk did you use? Skim milk can sometimes cause thin yogurt. Also, what type of yogurt starter did you use? If you use non-fat yogurt that will create a thinner, less flavorful yogurt. Another question- did you pull the mixture off the stove right when it started to boil but you didn't let it boil a lot? Then once you pull it off the stove you have to let it sit until it reaches 120 degrees. Let me know what your thoughts are on those things...sorry!!

Kefah

Thursday 21st of February 2019

I let mine sit over night but it did not set at all. Any fixing this ?!

Julia

Thursday 21st of February 2019

It sounds like it did not get warm enough. Did you make sure to do this part: Pour the mixture into an enamel or porcelain bowl, cover with a lid or plate and wrap a towel (in summer) or blanket or two towels (in winter) around it and allow to stand in warm place for 4-12 hours hours or until set (we let it sit overnight, you will know if it is set because it will be firm on the top of the yogurt). It is important that it keeps warm to help it set.

If you did that here are some other ideas: Let it set for a few more hours-if after 12 hours your yogurt is still the consistency of milk, which means it wasn't kept warm enough during the incubation, consider keeping it warmer next time. That would mean making sure you cover it with at least two towels and keep it in a corner of your kitchen that stays warm. Meanwhile, failed yogurt can be salvaged by re-heating it carefully over low heat back to 110 degrees and incubating it for the second time.

Rob Shahid

Wednesday 23rd of May 2018

Hello I am having the hardest time trying to make my Laban tart like my sitty used to make! I made some with your recipe above and it setup and everything but not tart like I’m looking for? So I would very much appreciate hearing your opinion as to what I should do? Do you think that it will get more tart or sour the more that I make it with a culture from the Laban that I make? Should I let it sit longer? I already let it sit overnight. Please help! Thanks

Julia

Thursday 24th of May 2018

Here is something I found-hope it helps: Why is my yogurt too sour (or not sour enough)?

The hotter the temperature at which yogurt cultures, the sourer it will be. Similarly, the longer it cultures, the sourer it will be. In our home, I love a slow-cultured yogurt that has been cultured for 24 hours which is longer than most thermophilic yogurts; however, the typical culturing time is 8 to 12 hours. If your yogurt is too sour, culture it at the lower range of temperatures listed for your starter, and for a shorter duration until it acquires the flavor you like.

If you like a sourer yogurt, simply culture longer until it acquires the flavor you like. Note that, with extended culturing, it may separate or turn lump.

Chris Boulay

Thursday 26th of October 2017

I occasionally make homemade yogurt, but I transfer directly from the pot into wide-mouth quart canning jars with plastic lids and set them into a small cooler filled with 120 degree water. I close it up, put a towel on top and leave it over night and ...voila! Yogurt in jars come morning. Your post makes me think I should start doing this more. I noticed an earlier comment about a 'mother laban.' As with most cultured foods there is often a reserve of starter culture - think sourdough. I have Sicilian friends who make wine and use the older or leftover open bottles to make vinegar. There is a large crock with a spigot in which is a nasty looking, gelatinous mass ...the mother (that is what they call it, literally!) I think this is what was being referred to, a reserved starter culture.

Julia

Sunday 29th of October 2017

Thanks for sharing!! I love hearing how others make yogurt and your ideas are really good ones. I have heard of a reserved starter culture. I think my Mom and Grandma used to do that when making yogurt.

Bunny Hess

Sunday 17th of September 2017

I've read lots of recipes for laban (yogurt), but I am absolutely amazed at all the details and trouble - My grandmother and aunt made it all the time, they never used a thermometer or any of that. They just heated up the milk until almost boiling, then let it cool a little bit and put in a couple of tablespoons of the last batch in it, stirred it up and left on the stove most of the day. They they just put in a bowl and put it in the fridge, thats it!

Julia

Monday 18th of September 2017

Thanks for sharing! We loved making Homemade Yogurt when I was younger.

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