One of my first posts here was about the classic Lebanese salad of yogurt and cucumbers, or laban khiyar. Tucked away with that recipe was the method for making your own yogurt—far too tucked away for all of us who want to try our hand at the extra goodness, and very Lebanese practice, of homemade yogurt.
Making yogurt, or laban, is a simple process and requires very little in the way of special tools. You don’t need a yogurt-maker, but a heavy-duty stainless steel pot works like a dream. The stainless steel here is of import; aluminum on its own is thin, and while it’s a great conductor of heat, it is so thin that it lends itself to burning the milk while it’s cooking. Aluminum is also reactive with, and will ruin the flavor of, certain foods like tomatoes, fruits, some green vegetables, and eggs.
I love my All-Clad stainless collection—the steel is wrapped around an aluminum core, which gives you the heat conduction of aluminum with the protective thickness of steel. The All-Clad copper core collection is of course fabulous, and if you have that, God love you! My 3-quart stainless pan is the perfect size for a half-gallon of milk to make a manageable batch of laban.
And not to worry if you have no heavy pan. This would be a great reason to go out and get one since you’ll use it for so many things (it’s my hushwe go-to pot), but if not, you can still make your yogurt. You’ll just watch closely and boil your milk ever so slowly.
Same goes for the thermometer. I use an “oil and candy” digital that clips neatly to the side of the pan and takes the guess-work out of laban-making, but Lord knows that my grandmothers and their grandmothers and theirs before that made a thermometer out of their little finger, which could gauge temperature as well as any digital. Their pan was also nothing like the heavy-gauge pans available today, and their laban was…perfect.
Bottom line: you can make excellent homemade yogurt with nothing more sophisticated than a pot and your hand. So let’s go!