Yogurt is a staple around our house.
Kids want a snack? Go get some yogurt.
Quick lunch? Yogurt with some berries and nuts.
Baking, and out of milk? No problem, substitute yogurt.
However, at over $5 per quart for good quality yogurt, my kids could polish off $25 worth of yogurt in a week, easy.
There had to be a better (read: cheaper) way.
Enter every mom’s favorite kitchen tool: the crockpot.
Yogurt is simply the culturing of milk with beneficial bacteria. In order for that to happen, the milk needs to reach a warm, consistent temperature while in a dark place until the culturing has been completed. I’ve seen dozens of recipes that call for dehydrators, yogurt makers, and sometimes even small food coolers lugged into the kitchen and filled with warm water. I know all of those methods work, but I have a hard enough time keeping my kitchen presentable and passable without pulling in my cooler and a bunch of towels.
Here is my (mostly) fool proof method for crockpot yogurt – without a lot of fancy tools or extra gadgets, except what you already own.
Homemade Yogurt in the Crockpot
- 1 gallon of full fat milk preferably raw if you can find a local source
- 1.5 cups of pre-made plain yogurt as a starter
- food thermometer
- 6 qt. crock pot
- kitchen towel
If using store bought pasteurized or lightly pastuerized milk: Set your yogurt starter on the counter (to allow it to reach room temperature while the milk heats.) Heat the milk in the crockpot on high for approximately 2-2.5 hours until it reaches 180' F. Once it has reached that point, turn off the crockpot and remove the lid, allowing the milk to cool to 110-120' F. Once it has cooled, slowly stir in your yogurt starter until it has been thoroughly incorporated into the milk. Turn the crockpot OFF, place the lid back on the crock pot and cover it with a kitchen towel (or two) to make sure that it is dark inside the crock. Bacteria loves a warm, dark place, so make sure to cover it well. Leave the crockpot on the counter overnight and allow the milk to culture for at least 8 hours (preferably longer). If you start the yogurt in the afternoon, you can have it for breakfast the next morning!
If using raw milk: Set your yogurt starter on the counter (to allow it to reach room temperature while the milk heats.) Heat the raw milk in the crockpot on high for approximately 2 hours until it reaches 110-120' F. Once at that point, slowly stir in your yogurt starter until it has been thoroughly incorporated into the milk. Turn the crockpot OFF, place the lid back on the crock pot and cover it with a kitchen towel (or two) to make sure that it is dark inside the crock. Bacteria loves a warm, dark place, so make sure to cover it well. Leave the crockpot on the counter overnight and allow the milk to culture for at least 8 hours (preferably longer). If you start the yogurt in the afternoon, you can have it for breakfast the next morning!
- A few notes on milk choices: My preference is a local source of raw milk yogurt that is available at our health food store, or Trader's Point Creamery yogurt. I've also used Trader Joe's, Danon's plain, and Stoneyfield Farm's plain yogurts. In another blog post I'll argue the evils of commercial yogurt, but we are talking frugality here my friends. Plus, once you have the starter, you won't need to buy any more yogurt, so you'll be consuming very little of the original starter.)
- Notes (and some troubleshooting advice):
- Store bought milk has been pasteurized and needs to reach boiling in order to kill any potentially harmful bacteria (pasteurized milk has NO good bacteria left in it to protect itself, which is why it can spoil, but raw milk will clabber - which means that it will curdle and separate but not spoil).
- Raw milk should not boil, or it will kill the beneficial bacteria and will no longer be "raw".
- Pasteurized milk yields a smoother consistency and raw milk yogurt will tend to be a little clumpier and more separated.
- If your yogurt is too runny: It may need to culture longer. Place the towel back on the top and allow it to sit out for a few more hours. If it's still thinner than you are used to, you can either strain it through a cheesecloth to drain the whey, or just use it in smoothies and for baking. There's absolutely nothing wrong with it, but every once in awhile, you might get a "dud" batch. Make sure that you are using a starter that includes "live and active cultures". Not all yogurts will make this claim on the label, so make sure that you have a good quality starter.
- Your yogurt will most likely begin to separate in the container after a few days. The liquid that rises to the top is the whey. It is packed full of minerals and probiotics, so don't throw it out! Pour it into smoothies, bake with it - you can even use it to water your plants! But don't throw it away - it's liquid gold!!
Have you ever made yogurt at home? What’s your favorite method?
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