The yogurt maker (yaourtière in French) is often used to illustrate the concept of an appliance that seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase (back in the seventies), but ends up collecting dust in the dark depths of a kitchen cabinet. It strikes me as terribly unfair a way to disparage a perfectly respectable peace of household equipment.
I grew up on the homemade yogurts my mother made using her yaourtière, so much so that she is probably the only individual on the planet who actually had to buy a second one when the first one got so much use it broke down. Homemade yogurts have a taste and texture that make them absolutely perfect for breakfast in my opinion, eaten as is or poured on cereal. I had one every morning for as long as I lived with my parents but had to go without for the two years in the Silicon Valley (where I drank Kefir -fermented milk-, an acceptable substitute).
When I moved back in France and into my own appartment, my grandmother offered to give me hers, that was collecting dust in the dark depths of her kitchen cabinet. I was thrilled (as such things do have that effect on me) and have been happily making my own breakfast yogurts about once a week since then, in keeping the tradition.
Originally, the way to make yogurts is to get yogurt ferment from the pharmacy. For the first batch, you mix the ferment with one liter of milk (I use part-skim) and pour this into the eight glass yogurt containers of the yogurt maker. Push the button, and don’t touch or move anything for at least 8 hours. After that time, tadaaa, home made yogurts. Put the lids on, store in the fridge (the rack half-way up the fridge door is where mine like to sit), enjoy.
Don’t forget to save (and hide at the back of the fridge so no one will eat it) one of the yogurts to act as the ferment for the next batch. You will then use the content of that yogurt and the volume of milk that’s equivalent to seven containers (875 ml, but you can use the empty yogurt seven times to measure this out).
The problem with pharmacy bought ferment is that the yogurts get tarter and thinner after a while, and you have to get new ferment. As an alternative, my mother and I use a plain store-bought yogurt as a starter (we use “Danone Velouté” yogurts – we always have plenty of these, because homemade yogurts are just for breakfast, you see). This makes for much better and fresher tasting yogurts every time.