Instant Pot Greek Yogurt From An Heirloom Starter

When something is this easy to make from scratch, why not?

Armenians have been eating and making yogurt for a long time! In fact, there are reports that it was the Armenians who first introduced yogurt to America in 1929. (Then why is my recipe titled Greek Yogurt you say???) Well, because Armenians rarely get the credit for anything.  Actually, in all truth, it's because I'm partial to the greek yogurt we're all most familiar with in U.S. grocery stores.

So I purposely purchased a starter that is a traditional, thermophilic greek yogurt culture. (Matzoni, a mesophilic type of yogurt, may be the more authentic type of yogurt traditionally made by Armenians. For those curious, mesophilic cultures like to incubate at room temperature and thermophilic cultures need a little warmth.)

Plus, I needed an excuse to put my instant pot to good use, so I'm not messing with any room temperature yogurts just yet. (Other than kefir, but we can get to that another day.)

What ingredients do I need to make Instant Pot Greek Yogurt From an Heirloom Starter?

  • Pasteurized milk
  • 2-6 tablespoons plain yogurt from heirloom starter
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/4 cup of honey

What is an Heirloom Starter? 

An heirloom starter is packed with various strains of probiotic bacteria that you can use to make yogurt indefinitely. Just remember to set aside starter from each batch, before you add anything to it for flavorings or sweetenings. Then, keep your starter alive by making yogurt consistently week after week. It is also a good idea to save a little extra starter in ice cube trays, that you can then freeze, as a back-up stask.  My starter came with two packets of powder starter.  The extra one is also in my freezer.

Before you make a big batch of yogurt, your yogurt starter brand will probably recommend that you make a small batch of about 1 quart, to help jumpstart the activity of the cultures. I increased the amount of yogurt I was making with each batch, until I was using 3 quarts of milk.  

You can even start with a whole gallon of milk in the instant pot. I use 3 quarts of milk, because I have a special yogurt strainer that can only hold 2 quarts of yogurt.  Some of the whey gets strained out immediately, and then I can pour more into the strainer.  

Do I need special tools to make greek yogurt?

All you truly will need is cheese cloth or a nut milk bag to strain your yogurt. However, knowing my own habits and those of my family, I decided to invest in some special supplies to make our yogurt making and consuming process so much more enjoyable:

  • Euro Cuisine GY50 Greek Yogurt Maker: After straining many batches of yogurt with a nut milk bag, I decided it was time to splurge on this special strainer.  It eliminates so much of the messiness that was required of me before, which was a deterrent.  
  • 10 oz Glass Mason Jars: Before I started using these, I noticed that my family rarely helped themselves to yogurt.  These jars are so much more fun to grab from the fridge, and make them portable for those on the go.
  • Colorful Plastic Mason Jar Lids: These are great to replace the regular metal lids that tend to rust or are difficult to screw on and off.  Plus, they make the yogurt more fun for everyone.  If you want, you could coordinate your lids to the flavors or fruit you may want to add to your yogurt.  I usually don't do this, because I've found that I just like to sweeten my yogurt with a little vanilla and honey and let people add the fruit they want. 
  • Wide-Mouth Funnel: I didn't buy this tool for yogurt making, but when I remembered that I had it, it has made the process of filling the individual jars all the more cleaner and easier.

Again, none of these purchases are necessary, and I understand they are a bit of an investment.  But for me, I have found them to be a worthwhile expense that is off set by the fact that I no longer have to buy costly store-bought greek yogurt, particularly the small ones that cost an arm and a leg.

How do I make Instant Pot Greek Yogurt from an Heirloom Starter?

First you'll need to find an heirloom starter.  I decided to go with Cultures For Health Greek Yogurt Starter. Although you can use store-bought plain yogurt to make your own yogurt, after a few batches, the yogurt will start to change in consistency and eventually die out. For this reason, I recommend using an Heirloom Starter, which can be re-used over and over again, indefinitely.

Pour 3 quarts of milk into an instant pot. If you have an Instant Pot Duo, then hit the yogurt setting and adjust to "boil." The milk needs to heat up to between 165-180 degrees Fahrenheit, which this setting accomplishes.  It will beep when it is finished. Now your milk is reasy to use.

Use pot holders to remove the inner pot from your instant pot and set on the counter to cool down until the milk reaches 110 degrees Fahrenheit.  Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature of the milk.

Skim off any milk skin that has formed. Then ladle about a cup of milk from the inner pot into a bowl.  Whisk 2 tablespoons of yogurt into the cup of milk and then pour it back into the inner pot and stir.

Note: Cultures For Health recommends using 2 tablespoons of starter per quart.  I did this for the first few batches, to make sure my yogurt cultures were nice and active, but then I reduced the amount of starter to just 2 tablespoons of starter per 3 quarts. In the case of starter, more is not better.  I have found that it just produces more whey, which I will be straining out anyway.

Place your inner pot into the instant pot and hit the yogurt function button.  Then hit the adjust button until 8:00 appears.  You can adjust up or down, depending on your schedule and how tart you want the yogurt to be. The longer you culture, the more tart your yogurt will be.  I have found success with 6-8 hours, but even as few as 4 hours.  Many recipes say to culture greek yogurt for 8 hours, which is the default time on an instant pot. I have noticed that the heirloom culture is very active and produces a more tart taste, so I prefer to stop the culturing process as soon as it is set.  Just simply twist off the lid of your instant pot and gently tilt your inner pot to see if the yogurt pulls away from the sides of the pot.

Important step: Remove 6 tablespoons of plain yogurt and refrigerate for your next batch that you will need to make in a week, if you want to keep your heirloom starter going indefinitely.

Pour yogurt into a greek yogurt strainer, over a cheese-cloth lined strainer or in a nut-milk bag. The liquid that strains out is called whey.  It is full of probiotics and protein and can be used in smoothies or to replace the water content in baked goods.  To be honest, I usually just toss mine because I find that no one ends up using it.

Once your yogurt has strained to the consistency you desire, you can flavor it with vanilla, honey, or any other flavors you like. I usually strain my yogurt all day or overnight for an extra thick consistency. My yogurt maker has a bowl that catches the whey.  I dump out the whey (or save it) and then flavor my yogurt, without having to dirty up another dish. After I flavor and sweeten it a bit, then it's ready to dish up into storage containers or individual jars. Sometimes I also like to stir in jam or fruit.



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