Saturday, May 12, 2012

How to Make Yogurt at Home (in your crockpot!)

I've been thinking about making my own yogurt at home for quite some time. When I found a gallon of soon-to-expire organic whole milk on sale for just a little over $2 a few weeks ago, I figured it was a great opportunity to try without the risk or ruining a large quantity of expensive ingredients.

My only regret?  That I didn't do this sooner!

It was soooo easy! It's a great way to save money, too. A gallon of [non-clearance] organic milk makes about a gallon of yogurt and costs around $5. A quart of organic yogurt costs about $4. If your family loves yogurt like mine does, that's a huge savings! The savings is even greater if you normally eat Greek yogurt which is frequently sold for about $1 (or more) for 8 ounces!


Ingredients / Equipment Needed
  • Slow cooker
  • Food thermometer
  • Milk (whichever kind you prefer. I even hear this works with milk alternatives)
  • About 1/2 cup yogurt
  • Cheesecloth and strainer (if you want Greek style yogurt)
  • Fruit or sweetener of your choice (optional)
That's it!

A note about your starter yogurt:
Any kind of yogurt can be used to make homemade yogurt. Pick a yogurt you like the taste of. Keep in mind, though, that plain yogurt makes pain yogurt. Strawberry yogurt also makes plain yogurt (the yogurt cultures are what multiply. Strawberries, sadly do not.).


Instructions

Step 1: Prep the Milk
Pour your milk (use at least 2 quarts but up to about a gallon) into a clean slow cooker. Put the lid on and set to low for about 2 hours until the milk reaches 180 degrees F. Keep an eye on it so the milk doesn't get so hot that it starts boiling or scalds. If this happens you will need to start over.

Step 2: Cool down
Turn your crockpot off and allow the yogurt to cool about an hour until it reaches 120 degrees F. If your crockpot is well insulated like mine is, you may need to crack the lid to help it cool.

Step 3: Add the yogurt
Take about a cup of warm milk from the crockpot and stir it together with 4-6 ounces of yogurt in a bowl. Keep stirring until the mixture is the same consistency throughout without any lumps (though "lumps" from any fruit that may have been in your starter yogurt are okay). Pour the milk/yogurt mixture back into the crockpot and give it a stir to distribute it evenly.

Step 4: Bundle up
The goal is to keep the milk in the 110 - 120 degree range for 6-12 hours. To do this, I placed my crockpot on top of a folded beach towel, then draped another double beach towel over the top and left the crockpot turned off. I did give it a 15 min blast on low right before I went to bed for the night to make sure the yogurt cultures stayed nice and toasty. The longer it sets, the more tart and more set up the yogurt will be. I found 10 hours to be perfect for me, personally.

Step 5: Drain (optional)
Once your yogurt is done, you may see some little pools of watery stuff in there with it. This is whey. You can save it to use in baked goods or lacto-fermented veggies. Or you can stir it back into the yogurt. Up to you. If you like "Greek" style yogurt, you can set up a colander lined with damp cheese cloth over a bowl to strain the yogurt.  Keep in mind that once refrigerated, your yogurt will thicken even more. I over strained my first attempt at Greek yogurt and ended up with something of a soft cheese consistency once it got cold. If you're making a full gallon of yogurt and you get more than 16 ounces of whey, you probably want to stop.

Step 6: Store
I stored my yogurt in clean glass jars. If you are re-using jars that once housed food from the store I do not recommend using jars (or at least the lids) that used to store tomato sauce or pickled products. The scent is hard to get out of the lid and may ruin your tasty new yogurt.

I also made some personal size yogurts by added chopped frozen fruit to the bottom of 8 ounce glass jars, adding a squirt of agave and filled the rest with yogurt. Then when you want a snack, just stir and eat! Yum!

A note about canning jars: If you actually use your canning jars for canning, I do not recommend using them for storing things that metal serving or eating utensils will enter in order to remove the contents. Why? The tiny abrasions they leave in the glass can weaken your jars over time and create messy canning accidents. Keep your canning jars for canning and re-use store bought jars or use your retired jars for food storage/serving.


I hope I've inspired you to branch out and try something new that will help you save money, too!

2 comments :

  1. Thank you for the instructions! What kind of thermometer did you use? Do your kids like this yogurt? How long does it keep in the fridge? Thanks!!

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    Replies
    1. I've used two kinds of thermometers - a pocket thermometer as well as one from Pampered Chef that beeps once your food hits the desired temp range. It really doesn't matter as long as it is relatively accurate for foods under 200 degrees

      My son loves this yogurt. The yogurt you make will taste like your starter culture (assuming you don't change the base radically). If you start with yogurt your kids like, you will be fine.

      I believe the longest it has taken us to eat through a batch of yogurt was 6 weeks. I've never had any yogurt I've made spoil in that time. It may be worht noting that we split the finished batch up into 24-32 ounce jars once done cooking so it's living in a clean, relatively air tight environment in small portions which helps us keep it fresh longer.

      Hope that helps!

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