Saturday, March 5, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

When I first heard about making yogurt at home, it sounded frightening. All of the heating to a certain temperature, and then cooling, and the ovens (or oven lights) and thermometers -- no thanks! But I was eating a quart of Trader Joe's yogurt per week and it's my philosophy that if you eat something that much, you should learn to make it at home. So I set out on my quest to find a simple and easy yogurt recipe that I could make frequently enough to fulfill my yogurt obsession. Then I came across the blog, A Year of Slow Cooking, and, lo and behold, a recipe for crock pot yogurt.

I've been making yogurt in a crock pot probably every two or three weeks for over a year now. Well, I don't really remember when I started doing it, but it's been long enough to forget. I've tried several varieties of milk and have played with the amounts and I've finally landed on what I think is a pretty good yogurt. And it's so easy!

All you need are three simple ingredients to start:

A half-gallon of 2% or whole milk (I actually prefer whole)
1/4 cup non-fat dry milk
4 T. plain yogurt with active cultures

You don't have to use organic ingredients, but I try to when I can afford them. This weekend I stumbled upon this organic milk at 50% off since it was nearing its expiration date. After reading Jonathan Bloom's new book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), I was excited to see that my local store is making an attempt at reducing food waste. The store reduces waste; I get cheap grass-fed milk. Win, win!

Now on to the good stuff -- proving to you that making yogurt at home is much easier than it sounds.

Homemade Yogurt
Adapted from A Year of Slow Cooking

Set the crock pot to low. Pour the 1/2 gallon of milk into the crock pot. Whisk the dried milk into the milk. Make sure there aren't any clumps.

Cover and let the milk heat for 2 1/2 hours.

Unplug the crock pot or turn it off.  Let the milk cool for 3 hours.

After 3 hours, gently whisk in the yogurt. Replace the lid. Fully cover the crock pot with two layers of bath towels so it's nice and cozy.

Let it sit for 7-8 hours.

Take the pot part out and put it in the fridge. Let the yogurt cool for at least 8 hours.

Take 4 tablespoons of the new yogurt out and put them into individual 1 T. servings in an ice cube tray and freeze. This will be your yogurt starter for your next batch.

Now you're ready for a delicious snack!

I store the homemade yogurt in old yogurt containers from the good old days of buying yogurt. Now two quarts of yogurt just cost me whatever I spend on the milk (in this case $2.48, instead of the $6 I would have spent at Trader Joe's). You may notice that eventually your yogurt batches get runny and thin (maybe after 10 batches or so). When that happens, you just need to buy a plain yogurt to use as your fresh starter. It's probably about time I made that investment.

This yogurt is about as thick as store-bought non-fat yogurt, but if you want, you can always strain it a bit through a coffee filter. I like it just the way it is. Especially when topped with some granola cereal.

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