Thursday, April 29, 2010

Making Yogurt in a Crockpot

We eat a lot of yogurt. The active cultures in yogurt and kefir are a boon to good health. Aiding in digestion and utilization of nutrients, strengthening the immune system, keeping candida and other unwanted pathogens at bay, even contributing to healthy skin... yogurt should be a staple of every good diet.

Have you found that yogurt can be pricey? Especially if you want to buy organic! Especially for a big family...

I have been making our yogurt since grad school days. Since good quality milk is much cheaper than yogurt, I have found that making yogurt at home keeps our grocery budget from skyrocketing. In times past, I made a quart of yogurt at a time. Then, I upped it to two quarts. Now, with six yogurt eaters in the family, we can easily eat a quart a day! I was getting weary of making yogurt over and over again...

So I decided I would try to make a gallon at a time. I thought using my crockpot would be the best solution for this large volume. I found that using a crock pot to make yogurt can't be more simple!

In my experimentation, I started with the how-to on Nourishing Days. (Read the detailed steps here.) However the instructions there are for making only two quarts... which may be exactly the volume you need to make for your family. If so, visit Nourishing Days for the exact timing for each step. But, if you are like me and need to make a gallon... here's how I tweaked the timing to make the process work for me.

Like I said, it's really simple. But times do matter because temperatures matter with yogurt. You may want to follow the timing laid out below, but use a thermometer to double check temperatures... just to be sure. Crock pots may vary in their performance, so using a thermometer the first time may prevent failure.

  • Pour one gallon of milk in a crock pot set on low.
  • Leave for 5 hours and 45 minutes. At that point, the milk should be 180 degrees.
  • Turn the crock pot off, unplug it. Let cool for 4 hours. At that point, the milk should be 110-115 degrees.
  • Ladle out about three cups of the warm milk into a bowl. Gently wisk in one cup of plain yogurt (either from a previous batch or from store-bought yogurt if this is your first time). Then gently wisk this four cup mixture back into the whole batch of milk.
  • Wrap the crock pot in two heavy towels to keep in warmth, and leave it alone to culture for 8-12 hours. (Less time equals less tart, more time yields more tart.)
  • Move the lidded crock pot crock to the refrigerator and let set for about 8 hours. During this time, it will thicken, or what I call "set".
  • At that point, you can stir up the yogurt and transfer to quart glass jars for storage.
  • You may want to add some maple syrup to one quart for sweetened yogurt. Or some all-fruit preserves for flavored yogurt. Or, you can just keep it plain for use in smoothies and other recipes.
Not difficult at all, right? It does take about 24 hours, but none of the steps require much work.

One note: I used non-homogenized milk, which I won't do again. Because the milk sits still for so long while heating, the cream separated to the top. In the end, there were some tiny lumps of creaminess. It didn't affect the flavor or the usability (especially since most of our yogurt is for smoothies), but I plan on skimming the cream off next time.

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For your health,


busymomof10 said...

Perfect Timing! I was thinking that I was ready to give yogurt making a try! I had read the crockpot method on nourishingdays and had decided that method sounded pretty easy and foolproof! So, I'm going to give this a try. Do I need a candy thermometer or would a meat thermometer work? My new crockpot gets pretty hot on low, so I'm a bit worried about the temp.

Tell me how you use yogurt, other than for smoothies. I used to LOVE eating a container of Yoplait yogurt for a snack. . . but then, I started label reading . . . Unfortunately, I have not quite developed a taste for plain, tart yogurt yet! I love the Stonyfield vanilla yogurt too, but it has organic sugar in it. Do you have any ideas for how I can sweeten my yogurt a bit and still make it healthy? Other than the maple syrup, which can be a bit too sweet with a price tag that is not Sweet! :)

As always, thanks for your helpful and informative posts! :)


Noel said...

I love this recipe for yogurt and it's so easy in the crockpot! :)

The Flatten Family said...

This sounds wonderful! I would like to try this sometime soon! I am also interested in sweetening it. I suppose using some fruit preserves would be yummy... Thanks!!


Cheesemakin' Mamma said...

Umm, I love cream top. This is a great method that I've never heard of. Thanks for sharing! Someone gave me a plastic yogurt maker but I avoid using it because I don't like "cooking" things in plastic. This is a great alternative!

Amy Ellen said...

Hi Elizabeth!

Hmmm... meat thermometer? I don't know if that would work in liquid. Do you have a candy thermometer? I would think it would take a more accurate reading... and if you think your crock pot heats more quickly than others, I would definitely check the temps.

Sweetening yogurt... in the past, we have used all-fruit spreads, or honey, or fruit juice concentrate. You're right, maple syrup can be pricey. We bought a gallon of it a while back on huge special. Did you know you can freeze it? I froze it in pints... and since we use it sparingly, it seems never-ending.

You could try adding some honey and a teaspoon of vanilla to a plain quart.

:-) ae