Friday, April 5, 2013

Raw milk yoghurt

When we first got our cow, Bella, I had read “The healthy house cow” and really wanted to make raw milk yoghurt because Marja made it seem so easy and healthy, but every time I tried, I just ended up with a mess.

mmm yoghurt
If you need to catch up on how to make yoghurt, here are the different methods that I use, all methods use the Easiyo thermos to keep the yoghurt at fermentation temperature:

Easiyo packets

Powdered milk with frozen yoghurt culture (starter) or yoghurt from previous batch

Pasteurised Bella milk with frozen yoghurt culture or yoghurt from previous batch

Pasteurising the milk kills all the other bacteria that may compete with the yoghurt culture, but it also kills any beneficial bacteria and denatures enzymes that may help with digestion of the yoghurt. Up until recently, I had accepted that raw milk yoghurt didn’t work for me, and that at least I was getting the benefit of the yoghurt bacteria, even if I was missing out on those other bacteria and enzymes. I had actually started using milk powder again, even though we had plenty of Bella milk, just because I find that the pasteurisation was adding so much extra time to the process. I heat the milk slowly so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot, and it was taking an hour to heat and an hour to cool down enough to add the culture. What a pain!

But you might have heard that process of making powdered milk causes the cholesterol to oxidise, which means its not a great thing to eat. It also contains soy lecithin as a flowing agent. I'd really rather not use powdered milk, but its just so much more convenient, and I have been hoping that the health benefits of the pro-biotic might just outweigh the negative effect of the oxidised cholesterol.

So you can see why I was hoping to find a way to make yoghurt using raw milk, it is way easier to just put the culture in the milk straight from the cow and let it ferment and make yoghurt, with no fiddly pasteurisation involved, and you get to keep all the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the original milk. 

here's where the milk comes from...
Finally someone ( a friend of Ohio Farmgirl) noticed my plea for help and very kindly emailed me with instructions. He said that I need to maintain a small batch of yoghurt made from pasteurised milk and use that batch to inoculate the raw milk, rather than just using a sprinkle of the frozen yoghurt culture. I already (always!) had a batch of yoghurt made from powdered milk, so I tried adding several tablespoons from that batch to a litre of raw milk fresh from Bella. I let it ferment for 12 hours and the yoghurt was ready.

My previous attempts at making raw milk yoghurt had resulted in curds and whey, because the yoghurt bacteria hadn’t had a chance to multiply before the natural lactic-acid bacteria in the milk had started to grow instead. Apparently this method of inoculating with a yoghurt made from pasteurised (or powdered) milk gives the yoghurt bacteria a better start in the raw milk. The key is to keep the pasteurised yoghurt batch going at the same time, this batch will contain only the yoghurt bacteria, and not all the competing bacteria that may eventually take over if you inoculated with the raw milk yoghurt (although I am of course very tempted to try that too, I’m all for simplicity!).

milk fresh from the cow
I wonder now if another reason why I had so much trouble with raw milk yoghurt was because Bella had been treated with antibiotics and wormer before she arrived at our place. The antibiotics were for mastitis (which has not recurred under our care). I mention this because if you are having trouble with raw milk yoghurt, maybe wait for a while and try again, it could be something else in your cow's system that is causing the problem.

Do you make yoghurt? Why not? Its so easy and there's so many different ways to make it, surely one will work for you! Get yourself a big thermos and give it a go!

PS I get my yoghurt culture from Green Living Australia, and you can also order from Cheeselinks.


  1. I'm probably telling you what you already know - but maybe others aren't aware --- its really important not to consume milk (or meat) from an animal that has been treated with antibiotics (etc -- eg worming treatment) inside the withholding period..... for most antibiotic brands this ranges from 30 - 90 days --- it's not just that you won't be able to make a good raw milk yogurt - you risk a nasty lot of health issues sucking down animal antibiotics!

    raw milk is wonderful (it's all we consume!)

  2. thanks Ronnie, very good point. Bella was outside the withholding period for the drug at the time, but I wonder how long it really takes for everything to go back to normal. Cheers, Liz

  3. Thanks so much for the research here Liz :)

  4. Oh that was very interesting, as I add powdered milk to UHT milk for my yoghurt. I cant see myself getting anywhere near raw milk in the foreseeable future unfortunately! I use skim milk which has no cholesterol, but it is good to keep that information in mind.

  5. What a timely post. Hubba & I are planning to make yogurt & trying to decide if a yogurt making appliance is worth the investment. Part of me says yes, & the other part says not really.

    1. Hi Kathryn, you can just use an old thermos or 'esky' (not sure what they are called in the US) with hot water to keep the yoghurt warm if you don't want to invest in an appliance.

    2. I think esky = cooler. Also found a post about using a crock pot. The more I read, the more I think the appliance is not worth it. ;-)

  6. I have really enjoyed reading your blog. I hope to come back soon and read more. We live on a farm too, I love everything about it. Have a great day.

  7. I have tried many to times to make a raw yoghurt and it hasn't worked very well, just too thin. I now barely pasteurize it - take the milk to 80 C and then cool it quickly. I use a freeze dried starter and incubate it in my food dehydrator - I do about 3 litres at a time. My yoghurt is just milk and starter and pretty good!

  8. Great post Liz. I do have one question however, if you're not pasteurising the milk first, what temperature would you heat the milk to before adding your starter. I've always heated raw milk to 80C then cooled to 43C added a few grains of yoghurt culture then wacked the lot in a thermos for 12 hours. It alway turns out although it can be a bit grainy at times.

    1. Hi Lisa, good question, the milk does need to be held at about 43degC for the yoghurt culture. I usually use the milk fresh from the cow (around 37degC), so I just put hot tap water in my thermos to raise the temperature a little, and sometimes I have to replace the water after 12 hours to get the yoghurt thick enough. If I'm using milk that's cold from the fridge I use boiling water in the thermos, as per the normal Easiyo instructions. You may have to play around a little with your system until you figure out how to get the temperature just right.

  9. I make my own yoghurt using the easiyo sachets, but I like the sound of your powdered milk version. Will skim milk powder also work, or does it need to be full cream?

    I saw an easiyo thermos in the op shop yesterday for $5, and I should have grabbed it. Might check tomorrow and see if it is still there.


Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, if you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at


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