If you have been making yogurt for very long, you have probably experienced a failure. Oh, the disappointment, not to mention the anguish over wasting all that money on milk that isn’t cheap these days. I cannot count how many times I get desperate emails seeking to recover and make good yogurt from the same batch of milk or recycle the non-yogurt-milk into something entirely different.
The answer to these questions can go several ways. If you know why your yogurt failed, you have a good chance at success if you try again with the same batch. Was your incubation temperature too high or too low? Was your starter too old or dead? Check out my yogurt trouble-shooting post if you aren’t sure. If you don’t know and do everything the same way again, as the old saying goes, you can probably expect the same poor results.
Here are some suggestions based on my own experience:
STEPS TO YOGURT RECOVERY
- FIRST: Does the milk smell bad?
If so, throw it out. No need to ask any more questions. If the milk still smells fine and you aren’t feeding it to anybody who is immuno-compromised such as the very young, the very old, or someone who is ill, then proceed to the next step.
- SECOND: Assuming you have already heated the milk to 180 degrees and no higher the first time around, reheat milk to 100 degrees.
I put mine back in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, but the time may vary according to the size of the batch and your microwave.
- THIRD: Add more starter.
If you suspect the original starter was the cause of your fail, try a different starter.
- FOURTH: Re-incubate per my original instructions as seen here.
I’ve had several failures through the years, mostly due to my forgetfulness. Just last night, I heated 3 batches of milk (2 quarts each), then set them on the counter to co0l down to approximately 110 degrees. Later in the evening, I went to bed without thinking about the milk ever again until I awoke at 6:00 this morning, and as I lay in bed, it hit me that I forgot to add starter and put the milk into the oven to incubate. Throwing out all that milk was unthinkable. It didn’t smell bad, so I heated the milk to 100 degrees, added a little more starter, and incubated as usual. Five hours later I had perfect yogurt.
Another scenario I often hear about is forgetting to turn on the heat for your incubation “system.” Again, if the milk still smells OK, reheat milk mixture to 100 degrees or so, turn on your heat source for incubation, and give the milk a few more hours to make yogurt.
Perhaps your “fail” could be better described as yogurt that didn’t get as thick as you hoped or expected. As long as it smells good, you could try the process described above, but I would recommend using it as is even if it is not what you originally planned. Try it in smoothies or substitute it for buttermilk in baked goods such as these cinnamon biscuits. I have not purchased buttermilk in years since I always have yogurt on hand. I usually have to thin it with milk to get the right consistency unless I have a batch of yogurt that didn’t get as thick as I wanted.
As one of my readers once told me, “The yogurt gods can be fickle.” Whenever you’re dealing with a live organism, the results can be somewhat unpredictable. But don’t be discouraged. The more experience you have, the fewer failures you will experience, unless you forget, like me, and go to bed without finishing the process. I have no remedy for that unless it would be a timer with a loud buzzer.