Object Lesson: Yogurt Maker

Yep, I’m one of those people who eat yogurt every single morning for breakfast. I like having something that always tastes good to me and that doesn’t require a lot of thought to start my morning routine. So sue me. 

What I don’t like is yogurt packaging. There seems to be no way around it. Even larger containers of yogurt still demand to be recycled eventually (or take up a staggering amount of cabinet space, if you let them).

In France, I’ve found it’s actually harder to find larger containers of yogurt than it is in the U.S. Perhaps they are not undergoing the same kind of yogurt craze we are. At any rate, the enormous tubs of the stuff have eluded me, so the remaining options look more like the above packages (though there are some with recyclable glass packages). As much as I think the little glass jars are cute, the foil lids have to be chucked out and there is very little yogurt-to-glass ratio. It’s a few spoonfuls of yogurt in a few spoonfuls of packaging.

Why?!?!?!

This kind of thing drives me nuts. Obviously yogurt needs some kind of container, but does it need this much containment? Do people really want only a few spoonfuls of the stuff, anyway? Personally I could always eat at least two little cups of the stuff, but that seems beyond wasteful when you look at the packaging.

And it’s depressing to finish a meal with a pile of stuff next to you to throw away. Banana peels are bad enough–but this? Ridiculous.

Enter the yogurt maker.

The family I work for happens to have been given a yogurt maker, so the mother and I alternate yogurt making and make about two batches a week. Each jar is slightly larger than one of the store-bought packages and is also completely dishwashable and reusable. Unfortunately, we still have the plastic packaging from the milk jug and the glass-and-foil packaging from the one yogurt we use as a starter culture to throw out, but I think the net is still something of an improvement.

The yogurt in progress looks something like this – though with lids on. (Photo from this article.)

There are recipes available online for making yogurt without a machine, but I will say that it takes possibly 5 minutes to do this and I am less worried about harmful bacteria than if I were doing a stovetop recipe. The machines also aren’t particularly expensive. On Amazon, they seem to be about $25-40 and make 7-9 jars depending on the size of the model and jars. That’s comparable to 5 medium-large size tubs of Greek yogurt!

Please note that you need more than milk and a machine to get this to work; yogurt is a fermented product so it needs the appropriate starter culture to get the right bacteria to develop (so that it becomes yogurt and not toxic slime). If you’re in the U.S., I’ve been told that Stoneyfield brand works well as a starter culture. Once you have it going, you can just use one of your own yogurts as a starter. It’s also possible to source the culture itself through online retailers.

While I’m not usually a big fan of one-purpose gadgets, this one seems like a serious time and money-saver if you’re a diehard yogurt consumer (like I am). If you only want to try out making yogurt as a one-time culinary adventure, you might want to find a good stovetop recipe and go that route rather than cluttering up your kitchen with this little device.

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