Yogurt

I’ve been making yogurt off and on for a few years now, but honestly, I haven’t made any in over a year.  It just seemed like too big of a hassle, it was a good price at the grocery store, and I couldn’t find all the ingredients I wanted. 

Recently, though, I learned how to make yogurt in –amazing!!!–a slow cooker or crockpot!  How sweet is that????  Because normally, yogurt involves constantly stirring of milk over a double boiler for like 20 minutes, then stirring it while it cooled to the proper temperature, etc., etc.  Big pain, lots of scalded milk clean up yuckiness. 

My biggest motivator, though, was that this county (and the ones to the west and north and south of us, too) do not recycle plastic yogurt containers.  At all.  Not at the curb, not at the special recycling centers.  And it just really galls me to throw away plastic.  They do, however, recycle plastic milk jugs.  Plus, I can make 100% organic yogurt for half the price I can buy it at.  And I bought the big 1/2 gallon containers to try to save money on that, too.  Still costs 50% less to make my own, so that is a great deal, I think.

This is a combination of techniques that I have found in cookbooks and on the Internet that I have now compiled into how I make yogurt.  A few notes, though: be sure to read the thermometer correctly; the first time I made yogurt, I only looked at the Celsius markings…big mistake.  DO NOT use the milk in the tetrapacks that has been ultra pasteurized.  Very, very, very bad for yogurt making; took me years to figure that out so I am trying to save you the trouble here.  Ultra pasteurizing milk causes its protein structure to change, and it does not coalesce into that great yogurt consistency you want.  So, buy the stuff in the plastic jugs.  Which — ta da!– are usually recyclable, too, so it’s a great deal all around.

I eat a lot of yogurt, so I am excited that this is one more staple that I do not have to purchase from the grocery store.  Yes, I have to buy the milk…but I am still proud that I can now make this in my own kitchen, instead of paying someone in Oregon to do it for me.  (the brand I was buying before was from OR; I won’t go into that carbon footprint).

Homemade Yogurt
1/2 gallon organic whole milk yogurt
1/2 cup of plain whole milk yogurt or 10 grams of yogurt culture starter
1/3 – 1/2 cup powdered dry organic milk
crockpot (with removable insert is best, not the older one-piece deals)
thermometer (candy or dairy variety works fine, meat thermometer will not suffice)
yogotherm (preferably)

Pour 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk into crockpot.  Set on low for 2.5 hours.  Remove from heating element and set the insert/pot itself into a sink of cold water so that the water level is about equal with the milk level.  Put the thermometer in there, and kind of stir the milk around until is just above 110 degrees F.  Remove from cold water bath.

Remove about 2 cups of the warmed milk and add the starter and milk powder to that.  Whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add back into the rest of the milk and stir to combine.  Quickly pour into yogotherm, put the lid on, put it in the little yogotherm incubator, and  leave it on the counter for 12 hours.  Take the container out to the incubator, and put it in the fridge for about 6 hours before serving; 12 is best.

I usually make my yogurt in the evening after dinner so that I can put it in the fridge in the morning, and it is ready for breakfast the following day.

I would like to add that the yogotherm makes life much easier, but it is not neccessary.  The goal of incubation is basically to have the yogurt rest undisturbed and unjostled at 100 degrees F for 12 hours.  If you have a gas stove, the pilot light is usually enough to maintain that temperature and you can just put the yogurt mixture into quart Mason jars and leave it there.  Some people set it on a heating pad, wrapped in a towel or blanket.  You might have to experiment a few times to see what works for you.

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