Lesson #3: Yogurt and Yogurt Cheese

milk kefir

How to Cook Real Food: Cultured Dairy Foods

Thank you for signing up for sneak preview of How to Cook Real Food. In this installment, we’ll cover how to prepare homemade cultured dairy foods on the cheap: yogurt, milk kefir and yogurt cheese. For cooks who are new to cooking real food, often these traditional cultured dairy foods seem to be an elusive challenge, but preparing them in your own kitchen is quite easy. With minimal effort and just a little time, you can prepare milk kefirs and homemade yogurts that are better for you and cost less than storebought versions.

This lesson includes:

VIDEOS: Bulgarian & Greek (Thermophilic) Yogurt, Making Farm Cheese, Milk Kefir, Making Fresh Whey/Yogurt Cheese, Scandinavian Yogurt (Mesophilic), Pure Seed Starter (Raw Milk Only)

WORKSHEETS & TUTORIALS: How to make raw milk yogurt, how to make pasteurized milk yogurt, making yogurt without a yogurt maker,

RECIPES: Yogurt (Raw & Pasteurized), Milk Kefir, Farm Cheese, Kefir Sherbet, Yogurt Cheese/Fresh Whey

FACT SHEETS: Trouble shooting yogurt, Yogurts around the world, Saving Money with Homemade Yogurts & Kefirs

STARTERS USED IN THESE VIDEOS: Bulgarian Yogurt (or plain, additive-free store-bought yogurt with live active cultures), Mesophilic Starter, Milk Kefir Grains

EQUIPMENT USED IN THESE VIDEOS: Thermophilic yogurts depend on heat to culture properly. If you intend to culture a thermophilic yogurt regularly, invest in a yogurt maker which you can purchase online. Milk Kefir does not require added heat to culture properly, so no special equipment is needed.


  • To determine which cultured dairy food meets your needs: traditional yogurt, room temperature yogurt and/or milk kefir
  • To understand how cultured dairy foods play a role in global cuisine
  • To use cultured dairy foods in other recipes

Master Download

Download all the recipes, worksheets, tutorials and fact sheets in the document below. Click here to download the print materials.

What We’re Making & Why!

Thermophilic Yogurt (Bulgarian & Greek)

Traditional yogurt such as that you find in most grocery stores and health food stores, is prepared through culturing milk at a slightly elevated heat. These yogurts are considered thermophilic, that is: their naturally plentiful bacteria proliferate at temperatures of around 110 degree Fahrenheit. Bulgarian and Greek yogurts are examples of thermophilic yogurts. These yogurts typically offer the tartness of traditional yogurts as well as their smooth, spoonable creaminess. These thermophilic yogurts typically contain a mixture of bacteria, many of which depend upon mild heat to proliferate. For this reason, it is essential that you culture thermophilic yogurts at a constant elevated temperature. A yogurt maker serves this purpose well; however, our print tutorials will also illustrate how you can culture thermophilic yogurt without a yogurt maker.

Bulgarian yogurt, the yogurt variety featured in the video, contains the bacteria Lactobacillus delbrueckii subspecies bulgaricus and Streptococcus salivarius subspecies thermophilus. Greek yogurt is another example of a thermophilic variety and most store-bought yogurts are also thermophilic varieties and may contain a wide array of beneficial bacteria including Lactobacillus acidopholus, Lactobacillus bifidus and Lactobacillus casei in addition to others.

Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is cultured from a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) that is coloquially referred to as kefir grains. The appearance of these small colonies of bacteria and yeast vaguely resembles that of cottage cheese or even cauliflower. Milk kefir grains are white, lumpy and gelatinous and are comprised primarily of lactic acid producing bacteria including lactobacillus brevis, streptococcus thermophillus, lactobacillus casei, lactobacillus helveticus, lactobacillus delbrueckii as well as yeasts that include candida maris, candida inconspicua and saccharomyces cerevisiae. Though, of course, strains of bacteria present may differ from one culture of grains to another.

Scandinavian-style Yogurts (Mesophilic)

Not all yogurts need to be cultured at an elevated temperature; rather, many traditional cultured dairy products can be cultured at room temperature without added heat and without a yogurt maker or other equipment. These yogurts are referred to as mesophilic. Mesophilic yogurts include many varieties of northern Europe including fil mjolk, piima, viili as well as matsoni (also referred to as Caspian sea yogurt). Just as Bulgarian and Greek yogurts are thermophilic, teeming with bacteria that proliferate best at elevated temperatures, the bacteria present in mesophilic yogurts proliferate best at room temperature. For those who wish to prepare a truly raw yogurt, mesophilic yogurts represent some of the best choices. The steps to prepare them are simple: stir culture with fresh milk and allow it to sit until the yogurt begins to solidify – usually about 24 hours.

Each mesophilic yogurt offers different characteristics (see print materials for details). Viili offers a sweet mild flavor coupled with a jelly-like consistency while piima is thin with a cheese-like flavor. In the video tutorial, we culture fil mjolk a mesophilic yogurt from Sweden that contains the active cultures Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc mesenteroides.

Both thermophilic and mesophilic yogurts can be recultured, indefinitely, if properly cared for. Note, however, that if you are making raw milk yogurt you will need to maintain a pure seed starter lest the beneficial bacteria present in your raw milk overtake the bacteria in your starter culture leaving you with nothing but clabbered milk. 


Videos: Yogurt, Milk Kefir, Pure Seed Starter & Whey

How to make Milk Kefir

Milk kefir is cultured from a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeasts (SCOBY) that is coloquially referred to as kefir grains. Milk kefir is extraordinarily rich in B vitamins, including folate. Click here.

How to Make Fresh Whey / Yogurt Cheese

Yogurt cheese (also called Greek Yogurt, Strained Yogurt and Labneh) is a smooth, thick yogurt created by gently straining yogurt through cheesecloth. Trouble viewing the video? Click here.

How to make Yogurt (Thermophilic)

Yogurt is traditionally prepared through mildly heating milk, then stirring in a starter culture and culturing the milk at an elevated temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Trouble viewing the video? Click here.

How to make Farm Cheese

Farm cheese, or paneer, is a simple homemade cheese that requires very little effort – by scalding milk and adding an acid, you separate curds from whey, strain the curds and make the cheese. Trouble viewing the video? Click here.



 How to make Yogurt (Mesophilic)

Fil Mjolk is a Swedish yogurt cultured at room temperature. Mesophilic yogurts are simple to prepare, trouble-free and allow you to culture a truly unheated, raw milk yogurt. Use this method when preparing any mesophilic yogurt including piima, viili or matsoni. Trouble viewing the video? Click here.

How to make a Pure Seed Starter (Raw Milk Only)

Yogurt can be cultured and recultured using a little bit of a previous batch to culture future batches. With care, these yogurts can be perpetuated indefinitely. If making raw milk yogurt you need to maintain a pure seed starter is essential. Trouble viewing the video? Click here.

 Links Addressing Dairy & Cultured Dairy Foods