Monday, August 22, 2011

Hey!! I Made YOGURT!!

My friends think I've gone a bit overboard. Perhaps I have...but sometimes overboard is a fun place to hang out. It all started when I was listening to a podcast in which a woman mentioned that her family made its own yogurt. Then I remembered seeing a segment on Martha Stewart where a lady "taught" Martha how to make yogurt and I didn't think it looked too involved or complicated. Soooooo I did what all modern home cooks do...I Googled it.

No fewer than 1.5 million hits later, I found an acceptable "Yogurt Primer" on a blog called Keeper of the Home. I decided to give it a go. I grabbed my prairie skirt, donned my bonnet, tied on my apron, followed the recipe, and met with success.

My excitement knew no limits. I've talked way too much about yogurt to my friends (who already suspected that I'm a bit nuts), and to my family (who knew I was nuts long ago), and to my poor hubby (who knows better than to go on record about his wife's nutso condition). And end my yogurt yammerings, I'll pass on my newly acquired's the only cure I'm afraid. Please bare with me.

Here's how I made HOMEMADE Yogurt...

You will need:
  • 4 cups of milk - you can use any kind of milk. I used whole milk for the first batch and am using 1% for this one.
  • 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt with ACTIVE Cultures. (Dannon works well and so does any generic brand)
  • a crock pot 
  • a heavy towel or two
That's it-- no foolin'! Two ingredients. See, it's already easier than you thought, huh? You may wonder why it is necessary to use yogurt to make yogurt. The active yogurt is the starter. You only need 2 tablespoons of active yogurt to make 4 cups of HOMEMADE yogurt. After you have your very OWN yogurt, just reserve as much starter as you need to make your next batch, should you choose to do so.

While there are only two ingredients in homemade yogurt, there are more than a few very easy steps involved in the process.

First, in a medium to large sauce pan, heat the milk to 185 degrees which will be just when the milk begins to come to a full bubble. I like to use my candy thermometer ($10 at most stores like Target or Walmart) for this step.

While waiting for the milk to heat do three things:
  1. plug in your crock pot and turn it on low to preheat,

     2. remove the starter yogurt from the fridge and measure it into a small bowl (like a cereal bowl),

     3. draw cold water into the sink or a large bowl to place your heated milk pan into.

Once the milk has reached 185 degrees,

place a lid on the sauce pan and transfer it into the cold water bath.

Make sure the water cannot get into the milk. Let the milk set until it cools to somewhere between  90-110 degrees. This takes about 10 minutes. Again, you can use the candy thermometer for this, or you can dip a clean finger into the milk. If you burn your finger, it's still too hot. If you don't have to jerk your finger out of the milk,'s ready.

Remove a small amount of cooled milk, about a cup or so, and pour it into the bowl with the yogurt starter and mix well.

Pour BOTH the small bowl and the rest of the cooled milk into your preheated crock pot and stir gently.

Place the lid onto the crock pot and immediately unplug it.

This next step is a smidge odd, but ultra necessary and easy. Cover the crock pot completely with a thick towel or two.

The next step is my favorite one. Walk away for 8-10 hours. If you make this in the evening while you are cleaning up the dinner dishes, this means that you literally go to bed and sleep while the yogurt makes itself, or as we seasoned yogurt makers say, while the yogurt cultures.

When 10 hours or so has elapsed (longer is fine), wake up and tell your fresh yogurt--your HOMEMADE yogurt-- Good Morning!

After the culturing process is complete, set your crock pot (or inner part of the crock pot if yours is the kind with a removable bowl) into the fridge for the yogurt to cool.

Don't jostle it around much if you can help it. Just let it set peacefully. This allows the yogurt to become nicely firm and creamy. Let it cool for at least 4-5 hours or so (the longer the better).

Now, you've got yogurt--HOMEMADE yogurt, I know how excited you must feel! You'll want to dip it out into sealed containers for storing conveniently in your refrigerator. Don't forget to set aside some starter yogurt for the next batch if you're so inclined.

The yogurt-- the HOMEMADE yogurt-- is not sweetened like the flavored yogurts you may be used to. One of the perks of making your own is that you can sweeten it exactly as you wish with sugar, honey, artificial sweetener, or the peach jam you made from the South Carolina peaches you received earlier in the summer.  You can choose whatever fruit you have on hand, or no fruit at all! Other toppings include granola, your favorite dried cereal, wheat germ, the list is endless!

You can make as large of a recipe as you wish. Simply use 1 Tablespoon of active yogurt per 2 cups of milk. Generally the yield of yogurt is equal to the amount of milk you used.

In addition to avoiding all of the additives and preservatives that come in "store bought" yogurt, there is a huge cost savings in making your own. Last week I purchased 1/2 gallon of milk for a pricey $2.62 and the 32 ounce tub of plain generic yogurt for $2.18 of which I used only 28 cents worth which brings my total investment in ingredients to $2.90.

From my investment, I made 64 ounces of yogurt, the equivalent of nearly 11 of the 6 ounce containers sold at the grocery store. Those 6 ounce containers are around $0.60 cents each or $6.60 for 11.  Compare 60 cents per container for brand name yogurt to 26 cents for an equal amount of homemade yogurt and you can see why it's well worth my crock pot's time and a bit of my energy to do this for myself.

One of my favorite reasons to make homemade yogurt is that my kids are fairly impressed that their mom can actually make one of their favorite breakfast/snack foods. They've no clue about the yummy muffins I'm going to make this week using yogurt as an ingredient (stay tuned). They also don't know that there's a future science lesson about how that crock pot "makes" the yogurt!

If you'd like to read even more about yogurt, click here for a link to Dr. Sears' EXCELLENT online article called "10 Reasons Yogurt is a Top Health Food." He highlights many reasons why yogurt is super for all of us, but especially for growing children and for senior adults.

Here's to being more cultured!!

Click here for printable recipe...


Anonymous said...

You've outdone yourself!! HAAAA! Way to go! (Won't be making this one either--although I do like the thought of getting points from the family)

Deborah Ware said...

This is fabulous! My only question is, how long does it stay good in the fridge?

Gretchen said...

Hi!! The yogurt should keep from 7-10 days in the fridge. Ours is usually gone by then! The latest Food Network magazine has an article about making yogurt, it was very's the link. I'm going to try that recipe next time I think and compare.

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