Friday, August 14, 2009

making yogurt at home-simple & delicious.

Did you know you can make homemade yogurt, and that it's easy? and that you can make it in a crock pot and don't need a yogurt making machine? and that it tastes good? and it's way cheaper than buying it from the store? yep, it's all true! this is my latest cooking experiment, and it literally could not be easier. I know I've said that before, but this one really is about as easy as it gets. I knew this could be done, but I was leary of the time I assumed it would take, and that it would taste good. But we just eat so much yogurt around here, and so much of the store bought yogurt is just full of sugar and all sorts of less than healthy ingredients, that I decided to just give it a try. Organic yogurt is particularly expensive, which is the main reason that I decided to try and make my own. I was very pleased, and would love to continue to make my own rather than buying it. I am not promising that I will do this every single week, but ideally, I would like to.

Making yogurt is very, very simple, and requires only two ingredients: yogurt (with live active cultures), and milk. No major work is involved, and it can all be done in your crock pot. Whole milk and yogurt supposedly make for the best results, but I did read that you can make it with low-fat ingredients. I used both whole milk and whole yogurt, and was very pleased with the results. And all these years I thought I could only get yogurt from those plastic containers at the store. an added perk-this is better for the environment because you aren't buying all those plastic tubs every week; you can just reuse a couple that you already have on hand.

I looked here and here and here for instructions on how to make yogurt in your crock pot. all three follow the same directions but each have a few extra tidbits of information that i found helpful(health benefits, making it with lowfat ingredients, adding flavors, making it thicker, price comparisons, etc.), so you might want to check them out.

You'll use plain yogurt, so if you want it flavored you'll need to add either fruit, some preserves, honey, maple syrup, or vanilla after the yogurt cultures (sits in the crock pot). I have not experimented with vanilla yet, but if I do I'll let you know how it goes. I did eat this yogurt plain with just a few fresh berries, and found it to have a wonderful, mild flavor on its own (and I honestly find the store bought plain yogurt to be rather tart by itself). I also tried adding some honey, and thought it tasted great. Fresh berries and granola on top, also delicious, and so healthy. For more about adding fruit to the yogurt, read Stephanie's blog about it.

Hands on time: 5 minutes
Hands off time: 13 1/2 to 17 1/2 hours (it just has to sit and culture).

The hands on time for this is really less than 5 minutes. However, the yogurt has to sit in the crockpot and do its thing for several hours, so make sure you time it accordingly. I found that starting it around 5-6PM allows me to complete the final hands-on step just before I go to bed and allows the yogurt to be fully done by breakfast. Or, if you'll be home during the day, you can start it in the morning, and it will be done by the evening so that you can refrigerate it overnight before breakfast the next morning if you want to eat it really cold the first time. It seems like I read somewhere while I was googling about it that letting the yogurt culture for longer (12 hours overnight versus 8 hours) gives it more of a tangy flavor and might make it thicker. I really liked how mild the yogurt tasted after it cultured for 8 hours, and I was very happy with the texture. The texture is not springy or very thick, but I found it to be thick enough. It would also be delicious to use in a smoothie.

Here are the Directions
Recipe taken from

I N G R E D I E N T S :

1/2 gallon milk
1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures

D I R E C T I O N S :

Turn your crock pot to low and pour in 1/2 gallon of milk.
Heat on low for 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Once 2 hours and 30 minutes have elapsed turn your crock pot off and unplug it. Let the milk cool in the crock with the lid on for 3 hours.
After 3 hours remove 1-2 cups of the warmed milk and place in a bowl. To that add 1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures and mix very well.
Pour the yogurt-milk mixture back into the milk and whisk thoroughly.
Place the cover back on the crock and wrap the entire crock pot in a thick bath towel or two.
Let it culture overnight, 8-12 hours.
In the morning stir yogurt (if desired) and store in glass quart jars or a container of your choice.
For optimum texture, refrigerate for at least 8 hours before using.

Store in the refrigerator. The fresh yogurt lasts 7-10 days.

Once you've made the yogurt, simply keep 1/2 cup of it to serve as a starter for your next batch of yogurt, which means all you have to buy for the next time is milk. This means that, once you have the half cup for a starter, you can get 8 cups of yogurt, which is the same as buying two large tubs of it from the store, for the price of a half gallon of milk. The first batch costs a little more because you pay for the yogurt and the milk, and if you are using organic, then you may pay around $8 for both of these (unless your stores have better deals than mine, which they might). But once you've already got the half-cup left over, you can replinish your yogurt supply by just buying a half gallon of milk and making a fresh batch every 7-10 days. Even with organic milk, that means you are paying around $3.75 (this is a rough estimate of what I paid for the organic milk) and getting as much yogurt as you would get in two tubs of yogurt. Considering each tub or organic yogurt typically runs $3-$4, you're saving at least half of what you would normally spend. Not bad! And for me, knowing that I'm getting yogurt that is free of added preservatives, sugar, and processed ingredients, is a good thing.

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