Wednesday, June 8, 2011

{ Homemade Yogurt - Say What? }


That's right, homemade yogurt. Last summer when a friend from church said she made yogurt I thought, "You crazy lady." She said that it was easy though and the thought hung in my head, so much so that I bought a yogurt maker for myself for Christmas. After reading the instruction manual it took me several months to actually commit to making yogurt, it still seemed tedious.

When I actually got around to making it, in April, it wasn't difficult and it was delicious. So much so that I found it difficult to keep up the supply for our family since the yogurt maker I had bought was for baby food and it only made about a half a quart at a time. I also wanted to make more than a quart at a time, which is what most yogurt makers make, and I didn't want to buy another gadget. My friend Wendy, who initially intrigued me with the idea of making yogurt, said that she did hers in her oven and that some of her friends did theirs in their crock pots.  My oven, like most, doesn't go down to 110 degrees so that method was out of the question. That left the crock pot. Yes, the crock pot. And guess what? Crock pot yogurt is even easier to make than yogurt in a yogurt maker, crazy I know.

It boils down to four phases: Phase one, heat up the milk in the crock pot. Phase two, cool down the milk in the crock pot. Phase three, mix in the starter yogurt and hold at a steady temperature. Phase four, chill.

If your still on board, follow along for a more detailed how to. If you don't eat plain yogurt or even yogurt for that matter but you think that you would like to, follow this link to the Kitchen Stewardship site and you'll find a great guide for getting yourself to enjoy plain yogurt - yes, like wine and beer it is an acquired taste, but well worth it. And for the record, homemade plain yogurt is way smoother and more palatable taste wise than store bought; my choosy eater loves it!


Pretty much all I know about crock pot yogurt comes from these two blogs: Nourishing Days (from what I can tell this is the original crock pot yogurt blog as everyone seems to refer back to it) and The Girls' Guide to Guns and Butter (a more scientific and refined approach to the basic Nourishing Days recipe/method). Please feel free to go to the original sources if you prefer, but here's a basic how to and my experience with making crock pot yogurt.

Ingredients:
2 quarts / 1/2 gallon of milk (we use whole but you can use whatever you want)
2 tblsp plain, live active culture yogurt (buy from the store to start and then use your own yogurt so long as you are actively making yogurt weekly, so that your culture doesn't die)

Tools of the trade: 1) I highly recommend buying a 2qt crock pot if you don't have one. I got mine for $10.99 at Target and for some reason the yogurt comes out better in the smaller crock pot, but feel free to try in a larger one as well- I did. 2) You may also want to use a digital candy/meat thermometer if you want to be precise, but this is not a necessity.




Phase One: Heat 'er up!


Step 1: Fill your two quart crock pot with milk, we use whole milk because it's what we drink but you can use any type of milk. Turn your crock pot on low and heat the milk for two and a half hours. If you are using a larger crock pot Nourishing Days suggests adding 15 minutes to this time for a total of 2 hours and 45 minutes of heating.

My experience: I made the yogurt without a thermometer and it came out fine, but when I used a thermometer I found out that my crock pot wasn't heating the milk to the recommended 180 degrees. Raw food enthusiasts skip this step, so it isn't vital to your yogurt turning out. Heating your milk to between 180-190 degrees is "to create a sterile medium to be inoculated with your yogurt" (A Girls' Guide...). To reach 180 degrees in two and a half hours, I have to heat my milk on high in my crock pot. This is why you may find a digital thermometer helpful, so you can figure out what your crock pot is actually doing.


Phase two: Cool 'er down


Step 2: Once it's been two and a half hours, or you have verified that your milk has reached between 180 and 190 degrees, turn off and unplug your crock pot. Come back in three hours.


Phase three: Hold 'er steady


Step 3: Inoculation. Sounds dirty doesn't it? After three hours, or once you've verified that your milk has cooled to between 110 and 120 degrees (hotter than this will kill your culture), you're ready to inoculate your milk with yogurt culture. There are two ways to go about this: one, if you are lower in the heat range and don't want to lose any more heat take out about a cup of milk and whisk it with the two tablespoons of yogurt and then whisk the yogurt/milk mixture back into the milk in the crock pot and replace the lid. OR Two, if you're higher in the heat range and could stand to lose about two degrees of heat just whisk the yogurt into the milk in the crock pot and replace the lid. If you aren't using a thermometer I suggest using method one.


(The Girls Guide... suggests that the higher in temperature, closer to 120 degrees, your milk is the thinner your final product will be and vice versa, that the closer to 110 degrees that you can keep the milk the thicker and creamier your yogurt will be in the end. All of these are recommendations, I haven't gotten her exact results yet, so like me you may have to play around to find out how to get exactly what you want; but even the thin yogurt still tastes good.)


Step 4: Turn on the oven light, but not your oven. Then lay out a thick bath towel in your oven, place the crock pot (the inner portion that holds the food, not the heating element) on the towel and wrap it up like a baby to keep it warm for the next eight hours.





Phase four: Just chillin'


Step 5: After eight hours pull your yogurt out of the oven. It should be thickened at this point and it will continue to thicken in the refrigerator. Move the yogurt from the crock pot into storage containers, I recommend two one quart jars (if you don't want to buy anything just use recycled jars, the pictures of jarred yogurt here are in an old Costco jelly jar). Put it in the fridge and let it chill for eight hours for optimal thickness, although it can be eaten at any time after you take it out of the oven.


Voila! Homemade yogurt!




It takes about 24 hours total to make your yogurt, but it's a very hands off project and totally worth the wait. And did I mention the monetary savings? I pay $5.69 for a gallon of organic whole milk at Trader Joe's, divide that by four and I'm only paying $1.42 per quart of organic yogurt! It's usually anywhere from three something to five dollars a quart, depending on the store you're buying it from and the brand.


As for eating, we like ours with berries and granola. We also use it in recipes that call for yogurt and I'm looking forward to making yogurt cheese (to replace buying cream cheese) with it too. How will you eat yours?










3 comments:

Wendy said...

I'm so glad this is working out for you! I've never tried yogurt in the Crock-Pot, but it certainly seems easy. We add wheat germ and ground flaxseed (and tahini for the littlest member of our family) to our homemade yogurt. You're right--it's SO much better than store-bought plain.

(For the record, you're right--I am a little crazy.) :)

jacquelyn said...

I have read a while back about how to make this but just couldn't muster up the motivation to do it. We go through so much plain yogurt over here! We could really save some money! these kids love it and from what you say I bet I would love it too if it was homemade. Still sounds complicated though, but I might give it a shot soon! Temperatures and timing... bleh, not my thing to be exact! (:
thanks for the encouragement! I will let you know how it goes.

Mallory said...

Wanna know how excited I was to read you're from the Pacific NW?! Super duper. I'm in Oregon and feel like every other blogger is in Utah or anywhere other than our beautiful area of earth. :)

Also, I LOVE this idea. I have never ever thought of this. I found you via TT&J. I am one post before yours. I am your newest follower! Would love if you checked out my corner of blogland at purplestpecalin.blogspot.com.

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