Making your own yoghurt allows you to control the sweetness, flavouring, additives and consistency. It is relatively easy to make and requires few ingredients. Whether you choose to purchase a starter or use a commercially made yoghurt as a starter, the results will be similar. Homemade yoghurt has a different consistency from the commercially prepared versions; it is often thinner or looser and can retain lumps. While commercial yoghurts are thickened with a variety of agents, you can thicken the yoghurt yourself without additives.
Choose a bowl slightly larger than the bowl of the strainer. Hang the strainer in the bowl and ensure it will be sturdy enough to hold the yoghurt. Cut a piece of cheesecloth large enough to hang over the bowl on all sides. Layer the cheesecloth inside the strainer or sieve. Pat it gently into the contour of the strainer.
Spoon yoghurt into the cheesecloth until it is about 3/4 full. Take care not to overflow the cheesecloth and strainer. You can strain in batches if necessary. Pull up all four corners of the cheesecloth and affix with a rubber band or clip. You can gently squeeze the cheesecloth to give the process a head start, but patience is your best tool.
Place in the refrigerator for several hours or overnight if possible. The liquid will drain from the yoghurt, rendering it thicker. Experiment to achieve a palatable consistency. The first time, try checking the yoghurt every hour or so to achieve the thickness you are looking for. Discard the liquid or save it for another use.
You can use the discarded liquid as a starter to make more yoghurt. Other natural ways to thicken yoghurt include adding wheat germ and thick blended fruit like banana. Or, you can add gelatin to the cooking process to add a little extra thickness. If the yoghurt is still too thin for your tastes, adjust the fermentation time for the next batch you make. Allowing it to ferment longer makes it thicker.
If you thicken the yoghurt too much, it will become yoghurt cheese. Add salt and fresh herbs to it or use it in recipes calling for cream cheese. Yoghurt cheese is especially good in dips. Failure to heat the yoghurt to 180F when you are making it will result in a thinner yoghurt, which will need to be thickened.