To make yogurt, milk is heated then cooled. I had been using a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the milk. When I bought my daughter Heather a yogurt maker as an early birthday gift recently, she told me that she uses a digital thermometer that beeps when it reaches a preset temperature. I immediately ran down to get one at Target. No more endless annoying trips to check the temperature. It has simplified the process so much that making homemade yogurt is as easy as running to the store and grabbing a carton off the shelf, but homemade is WAY better tasting... so smooth and fresh.
To acquire an accurate reading, you don't want your probe touching the bottom of the pan, so it was one of those... it was there... let's use it... it works... moments. My sweater wrapped tea jar and a clothespin, that I use for various purposes such as sealing a bag of oatmeal, were both sitting on the counter next to my stove. By snapping the clothespin onto the jar's edge, I was able to prop the probe so it hung in the milk at a level just above the pan's bottom.
Why fuss making homemade yogurt? Heather described the experience by saying that homemade yogurt is "smooth, not just smooth, the silkiest smooth that ever passed my tongue, so mild, not a hint of tang whatsoever, thick like pudding." According to the Stonyfield web site, "Probiotic cultures, also known as probiotics and beneficial bacteria, are micro-organisms that naturally live in your digestive tract, but need regular replenishing. Antibiotics, poor nutrition, surgery, stress, alcohol, smoking, pollution and aging can all reduce the amount of beneficial bacteria in your intestine, causing your immune system to decline. You can replenish and maintain a healthy balance of the beneficial bacteria in your intestine by eating a cup of (live active culture) yogurt each day."