Fledgling Foodie: Homemade yogurt!

This week I decided to finally try making my own yogurt.  I heard that this could be done about a year ago, but still thought it sounded impossible.  Impossible it is not.  Here’s proof:

The yogurt shown was a very special little mini-batch that I drained in a coffee filter and mesh sieve in the fridge for several hours, which produced very thick, creamy, delicious yogurt.  The rest was fantastic as well, just a bit thinner.  This recipe produces plain yogurt, so if you’re not into the tartness (I’ll admit, I need some sweet in there…) add honey, fruit, or sweetened granola.  This recipe is so, so easy — and if you eat a lot of yogurt (or have kids who do), a huge money saver.  I did some research online and combined various advice to come up with my version.  Here it is: extremely simple, cheap yogurt.

Easy Crock Pot Yogurt

• 1/2 gallon of milk (anything not UHT-processed (“ultra high temperature” – like some organics).  I used 2%)
• 1 cup of plain, store-bought yogurt with active cultures and as few ingredients as possible. The container MUST say something about containing live, active cultures.  The ingredients list might list the specific cultures, like L. Acidophilus.
• Instant-read thermometer.  Probably possible without, but this is very helpful.

Yep, that’s it.

1. Heat milk in a pot on the stove until it’s just simmering (160 to 180 degrees).

2. Pour the milk into your crock pot (which is off!).

3. Let the crock sit for a couple hours, until it’s about 115 degree — I read that that’s just cool enough to hold your pinky in for 10 seconds.  For very heat tolerant people like me, this is where a thermometer comes in handy.

4. Pour the yogurt into the crock pot and mix it into the milk well.

5. Put the lid on the crock, wrap it in a big towel, and stick it in the oven.  Basically, try to create an environment in which the milk won’t cool down significantly.

6.  Wait for 8-10 hours, checking halfway through to make sure the temperature is still above 90 degrees.  When I checked mine, it was right around 95. In order to keep it from dropping too low,  I put the crock in its holder and turned it on “keep warm” for just about 10 minutes, enough to heat it slightly.  Then I put it back in the oven.

7. The yogurt should look set.  It will be slightly liquidy on top, and pretty gross-looking.  Put it in the fridge for several hours.  When it’s cold, eat it!

A note about the crock pot…
When you read “crock pot yogurt,” I’m sure you think that the yogurt is sitting in a crock pot cooking away all day.  In this recipe, the crock acts as an insulator, with convenient heating technology if needed.  If you don’t have a crock pot, I’ve read several other methods that work,  such as leaving the pilot light on in a gas oven or even turning your oven on and then off to keep some heat.  Again, just Google homemade yogurt — there’s a wealth of information out there.  Bottom line:  you do not need a fancy “yogurt maker.”

A note about timing…
You have a couple decent options for timing here.  You’ll notice there are two signficant waiting periods: culturing and cooling.  Being asleep during one of these waiting periods is convenient.  So is having yogurt ready to eat when you wake up!  So I suggest choosing a day when you’ll be home to monitor occasionally and starting mid-morning.  My yogurt started culturing at about 11 am, I put it in the fridge around 8 that night, and it was ready for breakfast the next day.  The other [less rad] option is to start your yogurt in the evening, sleep while it cultures, and then refrigerate it the following morning.

A note about thickening…
Although I didn’t try this, I read that fattier milks thicken better but that if you choose to use lowfat milk, you can thicken with dry milk powder or even unflavored gelatin.  If that sounds fun to you, do some research.  The thickening method I used works great for small batches:  put some yogurt in a coffee filter inside a small mesh sieve and let it drain in the fridge for a couple hours.  The whey will drain off and the yogurt will be thicker and richer.  Bonus:  you can use the whey in cooking or making ricotta cheese.



3 Responses to “Fledgling Foodie: Homemade yogurt!”

  1. I feel like I have been hearing about homemade yogurt constantly lately, so thanks for posting this! I might have to get brave enough to try it.

    My friend Julie makes an amazing homemade granola recipe. I should get that and put it in the homemade yogurt. :-)


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