After a few convos with folks, here's an update on the yogurt front:
Some were asking how exactly I made the yogurt. Well here's how:
I bought 4L of Homo milk. Why homo?cause I think it would taste better and make thicker yogurt. Buy whatever you want, just not lactose free milk (lactose is needed for fermentation), also I avoided filtered milk.
I also bought 1 tub (750g) of plain yogurt. I chose Baltic style, as it has the least amount of crap in it. Again, buy whatever you want, but make sure it lists 'active bacterial cultures' as an ingredient.
You'll also need a thermometer and a cooler. And a stove, containers and running water. I used old yogurt containers, but I'd recommend anything that seals tight, small glass containers would be great. Salsa jars, mason jars etc.
So start by taking your plain yogurt out of the fridge. Pour 2 bags of milk into a large pot (2.66L if you are counting) and SLOWLY start warming it up. Also put your thermometer into the milk and keep track of the temp. Keep stirring it to avoid scorching.
While that's heating up, get out your containers. You'll need to sterilize them, so either boil them in water, or fill them with boiling water from a kettle. Also fill a bowl and put the lids in there. It is VERY important that anything that touches the warm yogurt be sterilized, or else infection can occur. This includes the spoon you will be mixing the yogurt with, so add it to the water now. Cleanliness equals consistent results.
Keep stirring the milk it and get the temp to 180 degrees. Try not to go over. As you are heating the milk, fill your sink with some cold water and put some ice in there. When the milk is at temp., sit the pot in the icy water and GENTLY stir it. Now we need the milk to get down to about 110-100 degrees. Once it's there, stir in the plain yogurt. I used 1/2 the container of yogurt.
Now that it's at 100 degrees or so, fill your containers with the milk (empty them of the hot water first (save the water for the next step)) .
Now that you have all your containers filled and closed, put them in the cooler, along with a bottle of hot water. Hot tap water will work great, I started with the boiled water i used to sterilize with. We want this to incubate @100 degrees for 4-8 hours. It helps to put your thermometer in there. The longer it sits, the firmer and more tart the yogurt will be. I went with 6 hours. You may have to refill the hot water after a couple hours, but try not to peek too often.
After 6 hours I put it in the fridge, and that's it! I had somewhat tart and firm yogurt, about as firm as the Balkan style I bought. Tastes great and good for me. 1 hour setup and cooking, 6 hours in the cooler and I have yogurt for a few weeks!
One question I was asked "How long is it good for?" Well I was told (or I read) that it is easily good up to the expiry date on the milk, so go with that for a safe standard.
** A word on sweetening your yogurt
What I've been doing for this 1st batch is using a few different methods to flavour my yogurt. Here's what I've learned:
Commercial flavoured yogurt is CRAZY sweet - i only need to add a bit of sugar to make it just right. 2 tsp of maple syrup or honey in about 300-500 ml is about right. Even less if you have some other flavour in there (Vanilla is good, soon to try cocoa)
Jam seems like a natural, flavour and sweetness in one, but I haven't tried it yet.
Ideally I will have the flavour added into the yogurt from the start, as I like my yogurt firm and stirring it in later defeats the work of making it firm. Just keep in mind any flavouring you add in before incubation must also be sterilized. What I plan to do is make a syrup up on the stove while the milk is heating, making sure to boil it so as to kill any bacteria in there. I think a mixture of Jam/water will work. Or a syrup of honey and vanilla.
I'm sure you are also wondering how my lawn is doing, well it's still fuzzy and green, what did you expect? We had frost today!