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  • Liz Hoobchaak

Homemade 24-Hour Probiotic Yogurt

When I started on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), one of the most daunting things I learned was that homemade yogurt was a staple of the diet and very important for gut healing. I immediately had visions of myself churning butter while sitting on a little stool wearing my farm boots like I lived on Little House on the Prairie.


Fortunately, after attempting my first batch of 24-hour homemade yogurt, I soon learned that it would be one of the easiest things I could make from scratch. And it would also be one of the most delicious and beneficial foods to consume for gut health.

After years of making my own yogurt, I did more research on the science behind it, which I will share with you here. I will also share the easy recipe and steps you can take to make your own. Trust me, you won’t regret it after you taste how rich and creamy it is. And when you realize how much better it is for you and your health, you won’t want to buy store-bought yogurt again!


History of Yogurt

Yogurt is an ancient fermented food that has been eaten by people all across the globe for thousands of years. It is believed to have been invented by Neolithic people in Central Asia and Mesopotamia around 5000 BC when the first milk producing animals were domesticated. In the early 1900’s scientists began examining the strains of bacteria in yogurt. They were able to identify a specific strain called lactobacillus bulgaricus, which is now found in almost every commercially sold yogurt.


Health Benefits of Eating Yogurt:

Among the many health benefits of consuming yogurt, the most important one is the good healthy gut bacteria it provides. Good bacteria will help with healing and repairing the gut lining, decrease gut wall permeability, or ‘leaky gut’ and will provide for a healthy microbiome. Not only is this especially important for those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), but for anyone with a chronic illness since the majority of our immune system is housed in the gut.


Yogurt is also full of essential nutrients that your body needs to function optimally. It provides calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium which are important for bone health and aids in a healthy immune system. Yogurt also contains many vitamins including B and B12 which are essential for cardiovascular health and other physiological processes in our body.


Homemade vs. Store-Bought Yogurt

What sets homemade yogurt apart from store-bought yogurt is the quality of the ingredients. Most store-bought yogurts contain preservatives, artificial flavors or colors, thickeners and way too much added sugar. All these ingredients can wreak havoc on the lining of our gut, interfere with our microbiome and immune system and actually lead to chronic illness over time.


Another big difference is the amount of gut healthy probiotics. Commercially sold yogurts typically ferment for a much shorter period of time at a very high temperature. Many are also flash-pasteurized to make them more shelf stable which kills much of the good bacteria. Homemade yogurt ferments for a longer time at lower temperature allowing all the sugar to be consumed and the good bacteria to populate.


One cup of homemade 24-hour yogurt can contain up to 700 billion CFU’s (colony forming units) of probiotics compared to approximately 90 billion CFU’s in commercially sold yogurts. Compared to probiotic supplements, which typically contain around 1-5 billion, and are much more expensive, you are getting much more bang for your buck when you consume homemade yogurt. I am not saying that probiotic supplements don’t have a place in your healing journey. But consuming a homemade 24 hour yogurt, you are giving yourself the most optimal source of probiotic that is easy, affordable and could be the missing link to help your gut heal.


How To Make Yogurt

Yogurt is really just cultured milk. In only a few simple steps, you can take any type of milk, add some strains of bacteria, let it ferment and it turns into yogurt. Milk contains sugar known as lactose. When you heat up milk and add a yogurt starter, a lactase enzyme begins to consume the sugar and breaks down the lactose into two proteins called glucose and galactose. What you are left with is a thicker product that we know as yogurt. By fermenting for at least 24 hours at a consistent temperature of 100-110ºF, you ensure that all the lactose has been consumed and the product is completely lactose-free, making it suitable for those with IBD.


Bacteria Strains and Yogurt Starters

There are many options available for yogurt starters that can be purchased online or in the store. On the SCD diet, there are only a couple approved strains of bacteria that can be used as a yogurt starter. These include: lactobacillus bulgarians, streptococcus thermophilus and lactobacillus acidophilus. One strain to avoid is Bifidus, as it has been found to cause bacterial overgrowth in the gut.

It is not recommended to use already made homemade yogurt from a previous batch as a starter. The main yogurt starters that are recommend for SCD approved yogurt with these strains are:

- Dannon Plain Whole Milk Yogurt - This is the least expensive of the approved starters. It is not always readily available in stores so it is wise to have a freeze-dried starter on hand. It is important that you are using this specific Dannon Yogurt and not the low-fat or flavored variety, as they may contain added ingredients that are not approved.

- GI Pro Health Yogurt Starter - This is a powdered starter that must be kept refrigerated. It is not available in stores, but can be found online at www.giprohealth.com.

Type of Milk

There are a variety of milks that can be used to make yogurt including cow, goat, sheep and nut milks. I prefer to use an organic whole milk from pasture raised cattle that have never been treated with any hormones or antibiotics to ensure that I am using the highest quality product.


I have not tried my hand at making yogurt with nut milks, however, I know that it can be done successfully. It may not result in as rich and creamy of a final product, but it is a good option for those that may not be able to tolerate dairy.


Equipment

There are several commercially sold electric yogurt makers that will ensure the mixture stays at the appropriate consistent temperatures. Yougourmet and Luvele are two popular brands of yogurt makers that have great reviews. Many newer instant pots or crockpots now have a yogurt function that can be set for a 24 hour incubation period.


I personally use a multi-function slow cooker that has a yogurt function included and it works great. My yogurt always comes out consistently creamy and delicious.


Recipe and Instructions

Ingredients:

1 gallon of milk of your choice

1 cup of natural full-fat plain commercial yogurt with approved strains.


If using packaged yogurt starter, follow the directions on the package to determine quantity.

Directions:

1. Add milk to a large pot and place over medium-high heat until milk reaches a temperature 180ºF. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

2. Remove the pot from heat and allow milk to cool to 90ºF. You may place the pot of milk in an ice bath to speed up the process.

3. Once milk is cooled, remove any film that has formed on the surface.

4. Take 1/2 cup of the cooled milk and mix with the yogurt starter.

5. Pour the mixture back into the big pot of milk and stir to fully incorporate.

6. Transfer the milk mixture to your yogurt maker and follow the appliance’s instructions.

7. Set yogurt maker to 24 hours. It should maintain an internal temperature of 100-110 degrees during this time.

8. After the incubation period is done, remove the lid and stir the yogurt with a wooden spoon.

9. Transfer yogurt to glass jars and cool in the refrigerator for several hours.

10. Yogurt will last in the refrigerator for up to two weeks when stored in an airtight container.


Ways to Consume Yogurt

If you are in the early stages of healing with IBD, it is best to start slow with yogurt to make sure you can tolerate it. Start with 1 tbsp at a time to make sure it does not cause any additional intestinal symptoms.


The yogurt can be enjoyed as is, or with a drizzle of honey and fresh fruit for added sweetness. It makes a great addition to any smoothie. It can be dripped using a cheesecloth if you desire a thicker greek-style yogurt. It can also be a great replacement for any recipe that calls for sour cream, cream cheese or be used as a base for a salad dressing or dips such as ranch dressing or tzatziki sauce.


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