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How does one make yogurt when there isn't any existing yogurt to use as a starter?

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2 Answers

There are various bacteria that can make yogurt. They ferment milk at warm temperatures and are called "thermophilic" for that reason.

These bacteria were cultivated by millenia ago. I assume by having milk accidentally spoil to something that didn't kill the starving person who ate it.

Tasty thermophilic lactobacilli do exist in the wild but so do plenty of other very untasty bacteria that would love to eat the lactose in your warm milk. You can't just let warm milk spoil and hope you get yogurt bacteria. The only way to be sure is to not get sick when you eat it.

Getting yogurt starters is very easy.

Any yogurt from the store that contains "live active cultures" can be used as a starter. Yogurt starters can also be purchased dried online.

Once you have some yogurt, and won't be making more for a long time, you can save a little dried or in the freezer.

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Getting yogurt starters is easy right now. However, it may not be easy to acquire in a post-apocalyptic world where I want to recreate yogurt. I was looking for a definitive recipe to restart yogurt. –  Error 454 Jan 30 '13 at 22:56
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@Error454 I am +1-ing this just for that comment. Most people would want to know how to purify water. You, on the other hand..... –  mikeTheLiar Jan 31 '13 at 0:07
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@Jefromi This is a practical question and it should be answerable. As a plane crash survivor, I could build a radio from spare parts but I couldn't make yogurt without yogurt?! There are a number of realistic scenarios where I find myself unable to reach a Safeway and in desire of yogurt. –  Error 454 Jan 31 '13 at 2:40
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P.S. If after a plane crash you're able to find lactating dairy cows, please just go find their owner, rather than sitting down and trying to make yogurt. –  Jefromi Jan 31 '13 at 3:42
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@Error454- It's not magical. It's just that when yogurt bacteria were discovered, people were desperate for food and food preservation so they were willing to risk getting sick eating questionable food. You could certainly make 20 portions of milk, heat them all overnight, and see which ones had a yogurt-like consistency and fragrance in the morning. Then you could eat them one at a time and the one that doesn't kill you you can use as a starter. Obviously you would have to be truly desperate to preserve milk to make that risk worth while. –  Sobachatina Jan 31 '13 at 20:30
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It is possible to use pepper stems to create a yogurt like product. They place the stems of hot peppers in prepared milk (heated to >70°C) for 12-24 hours at incubation temperature (40-45°C), after which time it solidifies. The stems are discarded and further batches are created with the product.

I myself have tried once with one stem from a sweet red pepper but I didn't dare eat the result and didn't try making further batches beyond the first one. One worry I had was that there is some question as to whether it is bacteria living on the stem or pectins from the pepper stem itself that create the "yogurt."

Sources: (Google has more)

http://www.wildfermentation.com/yogurt-cultured-by-chili-peppers/ http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/863207

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