Want an easy homemade yogurt? It doesn’t get easier than matsoni or the many other traditional yogurts that culture best at room temperature (think of villi, piima and filmjolk). Even if you’re so clumsy in the kitchen that you manage to burn water, you can make this simple, easy yogurt. Just whisk starter culture with milk, set it on a warm spot in your kitchen, come back in one to two days, and it’s done. You’ve made matsoni.
Easy Homemade Yogurt Basics
room temperature for easy yogurt
Matsoni is a cultured dairy product like traditional Greek and Bulgarian yogurts. Unlike Greek and Bulgarian yogurts, matsoni’s unique complement of beneficial bacteria (which include lactobacillus delbruekii, streptococcus thermophilus, acetobacter orientalis and other friendly microorganisms) culture best at room temperature – about 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit (20 to 26 degrees celsius). Greek and Bulgarian yogurts, by contrast, culture best at an elevated temperature of 108 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit (42 to 44 degrees celsius).
long and slow fermentation for easy yogurt
Matsoni and other easy, room temperature yogurts require a longer period of fermentation. Where Greek, Bulgarian and other thermophilic yogurts require only eight to twelve hours to culture properly (you can culture them up to 24 hours, if you like), matsoni should be cultured for about 24 hours and up to 48 hours. After 24 to 48 hours, the beneficial bacteria present in the matsoni starter will cause the milk to transform from liquid to a syrupy, semisolid mass and that, dearest real food lovers, is the easiest yogurt you’ll ever make.
what?!? you expect me to leave milk on my counter for two days?
Well, yes, I do. In a time when everything is pasteurized, purified and chilled to preserve freshness, it’s easy to forget that, yes, there was a time before refrigeration. And it wasn’t that long ago. Simple techniques like culturing milk into yogurt helped to preserve foods for long-term storage.
The bacteria naturally present in matsoni will prevent spoilage as they do their magic turning milk into yogurt. Remember, these are lactic acid bacteria; that is, they turn sugar into acid. That acidic environment preserves the milk, is responsible for yogurt’s characteristic tartness, and that prevents spoilage by opportunistic or pathogenic microorganisms.
Have a little faith in tradition.
so how’s it different from regular yogurt? what does it taste like?
Different combinations of bacteria are responsible for both the flavor and texture that differentiates one yogurt from another. Matsoni is faintly tart in flavor and well-loved by children for this reason. Other easy, room temperature yogurts like the Scandinavian varieties of villia, piima and filmjolk offer different flavors and textures (learn more about them here).
Where to Find Starters for Your Easy Yogurt
As with all yogurts (and most cultured dairy foods), you need matsoni to make matsoni. Unless you have a home-dairying friend who can share some starter with you, you’ll need to purchase a starter culture for matsoni. You can purchase one online (see sources). With proper care which means you make your easy yogurt regularly, your starter will sustain itself indefinitely.
- ¼ cup matsoni starter culture
- 1 quart whole milk, (preferably raw)
- Whisk matsoni starter culture with whole milk in a medium bowl, and pour into a quart-sized jar. Cover loosely and place it in a warm spot in your kitchen where it will culture for 24 to 48 hours.
- When the milk forms a semi-solid mass and pulls away from the sides of the jar when you tilt it, the matsoni is ready. Transfer it to the refrigerator to halt fermentation. Serve as you would any other yogurt. Reserve ¼ cup to culture another batch.