I checked out recipes on the internet and came across a few that called for making yogurt in a crock pot. After trying a crock pot recipe, I started wondering why I couldn't just use a heated bowl. I tried it and that worked great without all the bother of getting the crockpot out. My first attempts at making yogurt were not exactly what I had in mind; the yogurt was too thin and runny, but it tasted good. So, I kept at it, learning from each batch I made, trying new things and am now at the point that I am thrilled with the results. The texture, thickness and flavor have surpassed any expectations I started out with.
It is not hard to make. It is actually surprisingly easy although it does require some time, but most of that is for culturing the yogurt and does not require anything from the person making the yogurt other than waiting. I find it to be a very interesting and rewarding endeavor and I hope that if you decide to try making yogurt, you think so too.
Besides reducing your use of plastic, making your own yogurt gives you control over the ingredients that go into your yogurt. It will also save you money. Your yogurt will have a lovely tang, not that sour flavor so often found in commercially produced yogurt that has to be covered with loads of sweetener to be edible.
You will need the following ingredients to make your yogurt:
1/2 gal or 2 liters whole or reduced fat (2%) milk
6 ounces / 100 ml plain whole milk yogurt
You will need the following items:
A large heat safe glass or ceramic bowl or a slow cooker/crock pot with removable crock
Cooking thermometer (preferably electronic/digital, but I have used a candy thermometer successfully)
Large cooking pot
Three large towels
Three large towels
While milk is heating, bring water to a boil, pour into heat safe bowl and let stand. If using a crock pot, turn empty crock pot on to low in order to heat removable crock.
When milk reaches 200 degrees, remove from heat and let cool to 115 degrees F/ 46C. To speed up this process, you may put your pot into a sink or large bowl full of ice.
When milk reaches 115 degrees F / 46 C, pour hot water out of heat safe bowl, dry bowl and add cooled milk. If using a crock pot, remove the crock from the cooker before adding cooled milk. If water conservation is a concern, save the water for watering plants, filling pet bowls, making tea or coffee, etc.
In a separate small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup / 100 - 120 ml of cooled milk and 6 oz / 100 ml of plain yogurt. These measurements do not have to be exact; I'm trying to give both the US system of measurement and the metric measurements while keeping in mind the size of containers sold in the grocery stores. For example, in the US a small container of yogurt is six ounces, but a half cup is 4 ounces. There is no need to try to measure four ounces of yogurt to get a half cup - six ounces will work just fine.
Stir the yogurt/milk mixture into the bowl/crock containing the rest of the milk.
Cover bowl of yogurt mixture. I use a dinner plate. If using a crock pot, use the lid that comes with the crock.
Place out of reach of curious pets and away from drafts. Leave for 12 - 14 hours. I like my yogurt really thick and have found that 13.5 hours works best for me. I make my yogurt mixture in the evening and let it sit overnight on my kitchen counter. After 12 hours have passed, remove towels and check yogurt. It should be thick and look similar to pudding. If it is too thin, cover and allow to stand longer. Check every 30 minutes until it is the right consistency.
When yogurt has reached the proper consistency, fold cheesecloth into three thicknesses and line colander. Place colander over large bowl and spoon/pour the yogurt into the colander.
Refrigerate, cover and allow excess liquid to drain into bowl for 4 - 8 hours. The amount of time is a matter of preference. When you decide the yogurt is the thickness you like, it is done.
Midway through the draining period, remove yogurt from fridge and gently stir in order to allow whey to continue to pass through colander.
The liquid byproduct that results from draining the yogurt is whey which is a good source of protein and micro nutrients. I love the taste of it and usually drink it after it has been chilled in the refrigerator. It can also be used in cooking - add to mashed potatoes, soups, smoothies or use in bread dough in place of water or milk. I recently used whey instead of milk in my bread dough and it made the best bread - a wonderful, chewy texture and a light sour tang that was reminiscent of sour dough bread. Will be doing that again for sure!
When yogurt reaches desired thickness, stir gently until creamy and put into a covered storage container. As I mentioned earlier, I like my yogurt thick enough that a spoon will stand up.
This recipe will yield approximately 45 ounces of yogurt and 16 ounces of whey.
I love the slight tang this yogurt has and find that eating it with fruit adds just the right amount of sweetness for my taste buds.
However, I realize that many people do not care for the flavor of plain yogurt, not even delicious homemade yogurt. To get the flavor you want, simply add honey, sugar, maple syrup, jam or jelly, fresh fruit, canned or frozen fruit, dried fruit, granola or chocolate chips - the possibilities are endless!
Refrigerate and enjoy. Will keep for two weeks, although I think it would be fine for up to three weeks.
Whole milk makes a richer, creamier yogurt, while reduced fat (2% milk) has less calories. For my taste preferences, I find the reduced fat milk to have a lovely creamy texture and I feel that it is a healthier choice.
Prior to making yogurt, remove milk from fridge and allow it to come to room temperature to shorten the time it takes to heat the milk to 200 degrees.
My experience has been that if the milk is allowed to culture longer than 14 hours, it turns into a soft cheese. Similar to cream cheese, it can be spread on English muffins, bagels or crackers. The cheese can also be seasoned with garlic and herbs if desired.
Save 1/2 cup of your homemade yogurt as a starter for your next batch of yogurt. If you keep it going, you will never have to buy yogurt again!
This yogurt has a nice tang, but is not sour like so many commercially produced yogurts.
Rinse out cheesecloth, hang to dry and it can be used again and again.
Besides having found a way to reduce my consumption of plastic containers, I have come to really enjoy making yogurt. To me, it's very interesting to see how the culturing works and to explore the sometimes unexpected results (such as making cheese!). If you decide to give it a try, I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I have.