Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Home-made Yogurt using a home-made Marmite Norvégienne

No, no I am not going crazy, nor am I moving to the fin fond de la Norvège!

We eat yogurt everyday in our family, twice a day sometimes. Les yaourts et autres produits laitiers are a big part of the French diet. Most foreigners don't realize it (beyond the traditional crème brûlée or crème au caramel and the obvious fromages) until they enter a supermarket and get overwhelmed by the size of the dairy products aisles. It's like going to the chips section (or rather the granola/power bars these days) of an American supermarket. Except 10 times bigger! Whenever I go back to France, I love going to the dairy section of any supermarket. I love looking at the new offerings, the new packaging and generally go back home with more yogurts that I can have! It's just heaven to me!

I grew up eating plain yogurt. Homemade plain yogurt . Made without a yogurt maker. Plain yogurt made by my grand-mother in her kitchen huche or by my mother in a boite à chaussures... You see, you don't need a yogurt maker to make good yogurts. The only thing you REALLY need is a thermometer (in addition to milk and another yogurt/yogurt starter). Then, you need a shoe box and newspaper. If your place is not warm enough, a blanket or extra towels as well. And here is your Marmite norvégienne, (aka thermal cooker; I guess they use it a lot in Norway (like in Hong-Kong or Japan.))  The principle of the thermal cooker is simple: it uses heat retention to finish the cooking without additional energy : you heat your milk, you pour it into a jar, add a little bit of yogurt (or yogurt starter); you put the jar in the marmitte norvégienne and let it do the magic work overnight! Plain easy!  And no need to purchase a real thermal cooker unless you plan on going camping this Summer or making real enery savings (that said, I'd love to try to cook something in a real thermal cooker one day!)

Making home-made yogurt only requires you to go and get new shoes watch the milk while it's boiling. Nothing worse than burnt milk smell in a kitchen at night. Then you go and take a shower/read the news/read this blog while the milk temperature reaches between 50 C (122 F) and 55 C (131F; my mom likes it at 52C or 125.6 F).
I did purchase a yogurt maker a few years ago when good yogurts were really hard to find in Upstate New York. I used it a few times and then it stayed in my closet for years. Until I spent last Summer in France where my mother taught my children, my nephews and nieces how to make homemade yogurts. They were all thrilled... to the point that we were all fighting to have "du yaourt de grand-mère", instead of the other (really good) yaourts.
Since then, I have been making my own yogurts again... but because I can't really figure out how my made-in-China-with-instructions-that-make-IKEA-instructions-seem-really-detailed yogurt maker actually works (the light is always on and it's still warm after 8 hours even if I set it up for 4), I will definitively go back to a home-made marmitte norvégienne. I don't care if my  husband frowns (he tends to think that I have some eco-freek traits)... at least, my children will always know how to make yogurt! And that, for French people, is a survival skill!
Make your own! It's really easy! It's delicious and as usual, you control your ingredients! Bon Appétit!
- Glass jar(s) (with lid)
- Milk (I use Organic whole milk or 2%) : you want as much milk (in volume) as the volume of your glass jar(s)
- One plain Organic yogurt or yogurt starter
- A yogurt thermometer
- A marmite norvégienne (a shoebox filled with newspaper and an extra towel to keep it warm)

  • In a sauce pan over medium heat, boil milk.
  • Wait until milk temperature decreases to 122-131F (or 50-55C)
  • Add some yogurt (or yogurt starter) to the milk
  • Pour into glass jars and close lids
  • Put overnight in the marmite norvégienne
  • Put in the fridge for a few hours
  • Eat with fresh fruits, fruits coulis, Granola, Apple Sauce, etc.
My Personal Comments:
  • If you use yogurt starter, follow the instructions to add as much as needed depending on the volume of milk you are using.
  • If you are using regular yogurt, I generally use 1 Ts for a Bonne-Maman marmelade (12/13 oz) jar which I fill up to the top with milk.
  • If your yogurts are too liquid, contemplate adding a little bit more yogurt/starter at first and adding an extra blanket to your marmite norvégienne to increase heat retention.
  • Once you master the plain version, you can try to flavor the milk with vanilla bean for instance.


  1. Salut

    It is very difficult and expensive to find plain and good yogurt in China!

    Last year, I wanted to eat at least one yogurt a day, so I have asked our mother to explain me how to cook a home made yogurt!

    I have bought a thermometer in France and then we made together a marmite Norvegienne in 5 minutes (you can do it with Chinese Newspapers!). It was a miracle and very funny to have this new yogurt every morning.

    Then I have received a yogurt maker for my birthday in France and I am very happy with it.

    No more surprise in the marmite norvegienne but it is very easy to use!



    I bought my in cocotte norvegiennelearnt how to make home-made yowith my mother

  2. What a delightful post, Gaelle! I have a yogurt maker that I use periodically but I'm excited to try this new way now, especially with the kids!

  3. Interesting post! I have seen people making yogurt but never try it myself. My Indian friend also makes her own yogurt and her family eats it everyday. Btw, what is yogurt starter? Is there a difference between yogurt thermometer and the cooking thermometer? Can I leave my yogurt in an oven overnight? Sorry for asking so many questions. ;)

  4. Salut !

    En grande paresseuse que je suis, j'ai finalement acheté une yaourtière le mois dernier ! Et c'est vraiment très facile ! Pour l'instant on fait des yaourts nature ou avec de la confiture (ou crème de marron) au fond. J'ai essayé le yaourt aromatisé café mais ce n'était pas bon (j'ai dû manqué quelque chose). Sinon, on pense bien à toi car on a essayé aussi avec le lait de chèvre... quand tu l'ouvres, tu as l'impression de manger de la bûche liquide mais bon cela à son petit caractère...et même Garance en a mangé (avec de la confiture au fond!).



  5. @Foodfortots: don't apologize for asking questions!! They are good ones!
    The kitchen thermometer divisions are smaller since they have to cover a wider spectrum of temperatures (some thermometers go all the way to 300 F (150 C)). To make yogurts, you don't need a thermometer than can go very high since you really care about getting between the 50-55C (122-131F). You want to make sure that you can well read the temperatures between 45-60C.
    Yogurt starter is a mix of yogurt cultures (generally powdered) that you would use to start the yogurt-making process. You don't need them if you can find good quality (pref. organic) plain yogurt. The advantage of yogurt starter is that you purchase a box and then you make 30-50 batches of yogurt from that box. If you don't use a starter, you have to purchase one yogurt everytime you want to make your own.

    I don't see why you could not leave your yogurts in the oven (as opposed to in a shoe box). Try it out and if the yogurts are too liquid after 12 hours in the oven, then either you did not use enough starter or the oven did not keep the yogurts warm enough. You could cover them with a towel for instance and try again. Good luck!

  6. I love making homemade yoghurt but it's not well liked by my family who have become too used to the sweetened American kind. I remember my mom making it without a thermometer. I must ask her how she did it. Because we live in the tropics it was sufficient for her to leave it covered on the counter top nearest the back of the fridge. In the morning we would have fresh yoghurt