Homemade Yogurt

One of the things I love to make at home is yogurt.  When my good friend who makes the most wonderful foods from scratch first told me that she did this, I was impressed with such an effort but immediately ruled it out for myself because I assumed it was too much work.  Even when she forwarded the link to me on how to make yogurt in a crock pot, I skimmed through the multiple pages and decided it just wouldn’t happen.  But upon further discussion, she explained that it was a very straight forward process, time being the only real factor and I decided to try it on a cold, winter day when I was planning on being home.  Since then, I’ve been making it every four to six weeks because the taste is just amazing, exactly the output you hope for when making something from scratch.

The first thing to know is that the effort is worth the result.  Homemade yogurt is so tasty and you can control the thickness, making it exactly the way you like it.  I spent a number of years living in Germany and remember eating yogurt for dessert because it was so rich, creamy and delicious.  The yogurt I make in my crock pot reminds me of this.

The second thing to understand is that the better the ingredients going into the crock pot, the better the outcome, noticeably.  When I use locally delivered whole milk and whole milk yogurt from the same dairy as a starter, the yogurt is absolutely decadent.  It is a farm to table experience that wraps me in joy.  This is not to suggest that a gallon of milk from the grocery store and your preferred brand of yogurt as a starter will not yield good results.  It will and is worth the effort.

The third thing to share is that it’s actually really easy.  Time is the only real consideration because you need to be around at certain points, i.e., when the milk heats to the correct temperature for sterilization and then again when it cools to the exact temperature at which point you add your starter to inoculate it.  Other than that, it’s essentially pouring a gallon of milk into a crock pot, heating it, cooling it, stirring in some starter yogurt, then draining it to your liking after a period in which milk is wondrously transformed into yogurt.

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Good ingredients yield good results.  We get our milk delivered from a local dairy where cows are raised on pastures and eat grass most of the year.  The milk is thick, creamy and delicious and has no added hormones, just the way nature intended. 

 

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You will need two tablespoons of plain yogurt with active and live cultures.  This local yogurt is my favorite, just thinner than I make it at home.

 

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I set my crockpot on low for six hours because it takes just over four hours to get to the 180 degree range and I don’t want it to turn off before reaching that point.  I like to let it get a little higher than 180 degrees, just to be sure.  Keeping the lid on helps it heat up faster.  Around four hours, I crack the lid, insert my thermometer probe and watch the temperature climb to where I’m comfortable, for me between 183 and 185 degrees.  Then I turn it off, remove the lid and allow it to slowly cool.

 

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I have made this so many times now but never without marveling at this outcome in the morning when I take the crock out of the oven and sink that first ladle into the thick, warm yogurt.

 

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I drain the yogurt in colanders lined with thin kitchen towels.  This recipe makes a good amount of yogurt as you can see.  The longer it drains, the thicker it gets and thereby the less yield as well but the fun is in allowing it to drain to your preferred consistency.

I like to make overnight yogurt parfaits with oats, using a portion of the homemade yogurt, setting up an area with add in’s and letting my family create their own.  After sitting overnight, the oats are infused with the rich milk of the yogurt and honey from our bees, of course.  The result is a healthy, delicious breakfast that we all enjoy and it’s portable as well.

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The makings for homemade yogurt parfaits.  Don’t forget to label everyone’s creation, perhaps nicer than our haphazard painter’s tape.

 

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When I let the kids make their own, they add almost as much goodness as I would, but with the benefit of them eagerly wanting to eat their parfaits because they made them.  My daughter keeps hers simple but my son likes to add almost every option available.  In addition to the yogurt and oatmeal, my son likes to add berries, sliced almonds and a grain mix before one last spoonful of honey.

 

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I like adding seeds and grains to mine, along with a new favorite- coconut.

 

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Ready to go into the refrigerator where the oatmeal will expand overnight and the flavors will deliciously intertwine.

I have always wondered what to do with the leftover whey, knowing that it’s nutritional and that there are uses such as adding to smoothies.  Mostly, it ended up being disposed of but now, I have chickens who enjoy it!  I like my yogurt a little on the thick side so there’s always a lot of leftover whey, enough to fill a big bowl.  The girls love it!

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This whey drained from yogurt was a delectable treat for my girls.

If you’d like to try making your own yogurt at home, the recipe I repeatedly follow is from the Granny Miller site.  She explains everything wonderfully and provides step by step instructions:

Granny Miller’s Crock Pot Yogurt Guide

Also, consider the timeline.  You may want to try this on a weekend at first when time is more flexible and keep track of when you did what for planning purposes because believe me, you will want to make it again and you can plan around these steps if you have a record of when you need to do what based on the time you start.  After you do this one time, it will become a smooth process and you can tinker the start time to suit your schedule.

I like to start it around 11am.  It takes my crockpot close to five hours to heat the milk to 180-185 degrees on the low setting and then another three to four hours to slowly cool to the magical 110 degree mark needed for inoculation (removing the lid speeds this up).  After adding the starter, I place the lidded crock pot into the oven, wrapped snuggly in a thick towel, close the door and turn on the oven light.  It then sits undisturbed overnight, transforming into thick, rich yogurt after 10 to 12 hours.  With this schedule, it is then ready to drain around 6am.  I usually bottle it up after about two hours of draining as this is our desired consistency.

There’s not much to it, just the need to catch it at those key points.  Well, there’s that and then trying not to eat it all right away!  If you’re looking to try something new for a farm to table or just a homemade experience, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with making homemade yogurt with this method.  Enjoy!

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We visited the local dairy that delivers our milk this past summer, learning about their sustainable efforts and just how milk ends up on our table.  I wanted the children to see how the cows live that give them our milk, understanding that milk does not just magically appear on our doorsteps or in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  A bonus was feeding new calves like this sweet girl.  The milk we get from her family brings the farm to table experience front and center for us and makes amazing homemade yogurt too!

 

The horizon leans forward, offering you space to place new steps of change. 

   – Maya Angelou

 

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