Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crockpot Yogurt!

Every couple of months or so, someone sends me an email or a message on Facebook that looks something like this:

"Hey, don't you make your own yogurt?  What's that all about?  Do you have a recipe I can use?"

I have to say, it is actually pretty cool to be known around town for your mad yogurt making skills (humble, yes, I am so, so humble), but I since I always end up typing the recipe back up and then going on and on with yogurt tips, I figured it might be a good idea to just stick up a blog post about it.  Then I can link to it if anyone ever asks me about the crockpot yogurt again (which, in accordance with Murphy's Law, will probably never happen again).

First, let me say that crockpot yogurt is not my original idea.  I got the idea from the extremely fabulous blog, A Year of Slow Cooking.  In addition to crockpot yogurt, this blog has some great crockpot recipes which you can literally use every day of the year.  Good stuff.  At any rate, here's a link to the original blog post that got me yogurt-making.

Now, you certainly can just follow the instructions in this blog and... wha-la!  you will have delicious crockpot yogurt.  Just click on that link above and go to town.  I have made it this way with no problems, and it has turned out just great!

I do have a different way of making yogurt in the crockpot which I prefer because it eliminates the several hour waiting period of heating up and cooling down the milk before adding the rest of the ingredients.  I like to do it this way because then I don't have to think about making yogurt until maybe an hour before bed.  Both methods (the blog one and the one I am about to post) work well.  I don't notice a difference in the quality of yogurt or in success in making it, so feel free to use either method without worry.  This is just the method that I prefer.  Here is my preferred recipe:

  • 8 cups (half-gallon) milk - whole milk works best, and you don't want the ultra-pasturized stuff
  • 1/2 cup live/active culture yogurt
  • 1/4 cup honey (optional)
  • 1 TBSP vanilla (optional)
  • Thick bath towel

  • Turn empty 4 qt crockpot on low
  • In a saucepan on the stove bring milk to 190 degrees Fahrenheit (I use a candy thermometer to keep track of the temperature)
  • Immediately place the whole pot in a cool water bath (I use cold water in my sink) and let the milk cool to 110 degrees F.
  • Mix in yogurt, honey, and vanilla
  • Dump everything into the crockpot
  • Turn off the crockpot, wrap it up in a thick bath towel, and let it sit for 8-12 hours.
  • Eat yogurt!

It really is that simple.  And that delicious.  Mmmmmm....

So here are my random crockpot yogurt tips:
  • The higher the fat content of your milk, the better and thicker your yogurt will turn out.  I always use whole milk.  Yes, that means you are eating more fat, but guess what!  It's nice, happy, healthy fat.  And you get to control how much sugar is in it.  And I think sugar is way worse on our bodies than animal fats, so I'm not terribly worried about the fatty yogurt.  It makes me happy.
  • I've read mixed reports on using different types of milk (as in, not animal milks).  My understanding is that you can't do this with soy milk.  I have no idea why or what kinds of milk it does or does not work with.  Cow milk - yes.  Goat milk - yes.  Anything else?  You may want to Google it.
  • Rumor has it you can buy yogurt cultures from health food or whole food stores.  I don't know how to use these, but they are an option if you prefer not to have to have random 1/2 cups of store bought yogurt around in order to make your yogurt.  Again, Google can probably be your friend on this one.
  • In the summer when I run the air conditioner, my yogurt doesn't turn out very well.  I suspect that it cools down too quickly with the air blowing into the kitchen.  I have been told that putting the whole crock, towel and all, into the oven and shutting the door will take care of this problem.  I haven't tried it yet, but I will next time I make it.
  • If you would like thicker yogurt, you can add one more step at the end and strain it through cheesecloth.  I usually get an enormous bowl, stick a collander in it, put the cheesecloth on top of that, and pour the yogurt in.  When it is the thickness I want it, I scoop it out and put it away.  The stuff that strains out of the yogurt is whey, and it has lots of super-good bacteria and healthy goodness in it.  You can substitute whey for water in pretty much any baking recipe, so I usually make whey bread when I make yogurt.  It's also good for plants, so you could water some plants with it if you like.
  • If you do decide to strain your yogurt, you will want to refridgerate it for a few hours to let it set up.  Otherwise, when you strain it to the thickness you like and then put it in the fridge, it will thicken up even further and you may end up with something resembling cream cheese (not that that has ever happened to me.....).  It does set up a bit when it gets cold, so let it cool before straining.

And that may be all I know about yogurt making.  I tend to eat the yogurt with either frozen fruit, preserves I've made, or homemade granola.  Or all of those.  At once.  Slightly delicious.

If anyone tries this and comes up with good tips, let me know and I'll add them to this post.  Until then...  happy yogurt making!

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