Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Homemade Yogurt (+Recipe)

I've been making my own yogurt for months and have been asked by several folks how I do it, so here it is.  There are lots of homemade yogurt recipes out there, and even fancy yogurt maker gadgets, so I'm not re-inventing the wheel here, but I've looked at a few recipes, combined and adapted them to suit our needs and taste with this crock pot** yogurt.

- 1/2 gallon of whole milk
-1/2 cup honey
- 1-2 cups plain Greek yogurt (to start)
- Fruit, toppings, flavorings of choice (optional)

So lets get clear on the ingredients, of course organic milk is preferred, but if you can't do organic, lean towards a regular pasteurized milk and not "ultra pasteurized."  The ultra pasteurized wont thicken properly and you'll end up with a loose, watery yogurt. 

Honey is what we choose to sweeten our yogurt with, it's personal preference and you can increase or decrease the amount. You could also use an alternative sweetener, like stevia if you want.  I would avoid white sugar probably, I don't think the yogurt warms enough to dissolve it, and your yogurt will turn out grainy. 

Greek yogurt, buy yogurt to make yogurt? What? So yes, you do need 1-2 cups store bought plain Greek yogurt to start your 1st batch, after that you will use a reserved amount of our homemade yogurt to make subsequent batches. (Of course that's pending you don't eat it all.) I say 1-2 cups because again, it's personal preference, you definitely need 1 cup, but if you like thicker Greek style yogurt like us, you can use 2 cups of starter. 

Ok, so lets get cooking!

1. Pour half-gallon milk in the crock pot and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
I usually set alarms on my phone to keep track of times.

2. After the 2 1/2 hours is up, you are going to turn off the crock pot and unplug it and let it sit on the counter covered for 3 hours. 

3. Once this time is up, add in your yogurt starter and mix well. At this point while its warm, I go ahead and mix in the honey too (mixes better), and I also add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.

4. Put the lid back on the crock pot, wrap the crock pot with 2 bath towels and place in the oven for 8-12 hours, or ideally overnight is easiest. If you choose to start it in the morning and keep it in the oven during the day, just make sure it's not a day you need the oven to cook dinner. 

After the 8-12 hour rest in the oven, the yogurt is technically done. Just pop it in the fridge and you'll be ready to eat soon.... However, as mentioned before, we like thick, Greek style yogurt, so I choose to strain ours a little to give it that thick texture. 

5. To strain (optional,) line a colander with cheese cloth, (or note here, I used a paper bag) set in a bowl and I choose to strain it in the fridge. It doesn't take long at all. 
It really only takes like an hour to strain, worst case scenario if you feel like you strained it too much, you can still add the liquid whey back in. 

And don't throw that liquid whey you strained away! You can put it in smoothies, drink it, use it for fermentation, or I've even used it in place of water in baking whole wheat artisan breads. 

So in the end, it's a long process yes, but it's crazy easy! Your crock pot does all the work! And this is what the end result looks like--
Left to right-- the blue jar is strained whey, the medium jar is yogurt I'm reserving to use for my next batch, 7 small jars of ready to eat yogurt, and I made 2 medium jars of frozen yogurt for me! (Peanut butter frozen yogurt with coconut and dark chocolate chips mixed in.) 

Leeland likes to enjoy his with blueberries mixed in, how do you like your yogurt? 

**Disclaimer- not all crock pots are created equal, so keep an eye on it your first time, because your cook times may vary a little. We own 2 different crock pots, and only one of them I can use for yogurt making, the other gets too hot too fast and burns the milk.

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