Using Raw Milk with the Thermophilic and Mesophilic Yogurt Cultures

by Jerri

If you have access to raw milk, you may be wondering how to use it with your heirloom yogurt cultures. If you want your yogurt to be as raw as possible, there is an extra step/batch that often is misunderstood, but necessary. Waaaaaait for it. You have to heat your raw milk for the mother culture batches. WHAT? HEAT precious raw milk? But that's an abominable act, right?

Not to fret, we'll help you make as raw yogurt as possible, while ensuring your beloved mother culture bacteria will live as long as it can, generation after generation. It's actually very simple.

First, you have to understand it is because of the naturally bionic, super strong, amazing bacteria in the raw milk that it is necessary to pasteurize it. If you do not, the yogurt's bacteria will never properly populate to do its magic in the milk to turn it into yogurt. And, the older your raw milk, the stronger in number the competing bacteria.

In order to keep your mother culture alive and healthy, and able to continue self-perpetuating, you have to give her a clean slate each week. Whether you are activating your culture for the first time from us as a powdered/dormant state, or making a batch from a mother someone gave you, you need to first pasteurize your raw milk. Pasteurizing is easy peasy with this guide from Oregon State University.

Once you have cooled your pasteurized milk to the culturing temperature of 110ºF for the Thermophilic cultures (Greek and Bulgarian), or 70-77ºF for the Mesophilic (Matsoni, Viili, Filmjolk, or Piima), you can make your mother culture batch.

Save some of this once-raw-but-now-pasteurized-milk mother culture in the fridge in order to make more of her in 7 days or less. Label it with the date and DO NOT EAT, or you will be very sad. See below for general instructions.

For the Greek or Bulgarian, you will gently heat your raw milk to the culturing temperature of 110ºF (still considered raw), not 160ºF as our directions indicate for store bought pasteurized milk.

You will then take ¼ cup of the pasteurized mother culture and add it to 1 quart of the 110º milk. You will culture 5-8 hours, cool for 1-2 hours at room temp, then store in the fridge for 6 hours. You can actually eat this yogurt right away, since this is not a mother batch, but most people don't like warm yogurt. Finally, within 7 days, go back to your pasteurized-once-raw-milk mother culture and repeat the process, beginning with pasteurizing your new raw milk for the new mother batch.

Once your new mother batch is successful, the rest of the old mother batch can be consumed. Also know, because you are not heating the milk to 160, your end product of yogurt is likely to be thinner, which is completely normal.

For the Matsoni, Viili, Filmjolk, or Piima add cold raw milk to your culture (about ¼ c. mother culture yogurt per 3 cups milk). However, if your raw milk is older than a day or so, there will already be a build-up of competing bacteria ready to fight your little ¼ c. yogurt bacteria. For these cultures, if you find it does not work, try gently heating your raw milk to just 100-110º to see if that tones down some of that competition. We can't stress it enough, keep back-up mother!

After you've mixed your mother + new milk, culture at room temperature for 12-18 hours. Put that in the fridge for 6 hours. You can now flavor, sweeten, or strain! Within 7 days, go back to your saved mother culture and use her to make your brand new mother using your raw milk you pasteurize. Once you have a successful new mother batch, you can consume the rest of the old mother batch.

Because these yogurts are naturally thinner due to the absence of heat in the process, know that your end product of yogurt is going to be even thinner with raw milk, which is normal. This is as raw as it gets without compromising the health of your starter, friendsif you have any questions, contact us!