Several years ago, my friend taught a class on making yogurt and cheese. Along with over a dozen women from church, I sat in amazement as she showed us how easy it is to make yogurt.
You don’t need a fancy, retro yogurt maker with individual serving cups. In fact, one of the great things about making yogurt in the crock pot or slow cooker is that you can make as much as your crock pot will hold. I am all about making (and buying) in bulk to save time and effort (and clean-up) in the kitchen.
Why would I want to make yogurt?
Yogurt with live and active cultures helps maintain the good bacteria in your intestines, which helps with the digestive and immune system. Yogurt can help prevent and treat yeast infections, which are often caused by antibiotics killing off the good bacteria that keep yeast under control. Since it’s made from milk, yogurt brings calcium, protein and other dairy nutrients as well.
Not only is yogurt good for your body, it’s great for your budget as well. Yogurt has one of the highest price mark-ups in the grocery store, so I was thrilled to know that making your own yogurt is very cost effective. Before I go through the steps, let me show you just how cost effective making your own yogurt is.
The ingredients will cost you about $3.00 ($2.50 for a gallon of milk, $.50 for a yogurt cup) and will yield 134 oz (128 oz of milk + 6 oz yogurt start). That is 22 yogurt cups-worth of yogurt. At the store they cost $.50 each, but made at home they cost less than $.14 each ($3.00/22). In other words, it would cost you $11 to buy the amount of yogurt that you can make for $3.00!
Homemade Yogurt in the Slow Cooker
- Slow Cooker– If you plan to do a gallon, your slow cooker needs to be larger than 4 quarts
- Thermometer– Can be digital or just a regular candy thermometer
- Towel- A bath towel or two
- 1 Gallon of Milk
- 1 Single-serving 6 oz Yogurt cup (with live yogurt cultures)
My current crock pot holds an entire gallon, so I pour the whole thing in. If yours holds a little less that is perfectly fine (my old one held less, but I always followed the “recipe” just the same). I set my crock pot to high and leave it for 3-4 hours or until it reaches 185 degrees (it’s okay if it goes a little over).
You could also heat the milk up in a double boiler or in the microwave, but you would have to pay more attention to it. I like being able to turn it on and forget about it for a while.
Once it reaches at least 185 degrees, turn off the slow cooker and let it cool down to just under 120 degrees (115-119 is perfect). If you leave the lid on, it will take forever to cool down, but if you just take the lid off and let it sit, it will get a “skin” on the top. My preferred cool-down method is putting the crock (stoneware part, not the part that plugs in!) in an ice water bath in the sink. I stir it for a few minutes while it cools to prevent skin from forming.
When it gets down to about 120 degrees, take out 1 to 2 cups of warm milk. Stir the yogurt start (the single-serving yogurt cup you bought or about the same amount of yogurt from your last homemade batch) into the 1 to 2 cups of warm milk to temper it.
When it is fully incorporated, mix it back into the crock of warm milk and stir thoroughly.
Cover the crock with a thick towel and let it sit still overnight (or somewhere between 8 and 12 hours). The longer it sits, the tangier the flavor. I usually heat my oven up a wee bit (maybe 100 degrees) and then turn it off. I try to plan it so that I stick my towel-covered crock pot into the oven just as I’m heading off to bed. I leave myself a reminder on the kitchen counter to get the yogurt out of the oven in the morning.
If you have never had plain yogurt before, you might be surprised by the tang. The yogurt you buy in the store is loaded with sugar and artificial flavors. If it’s too tangy for your liking, try adding a dollop of homemade jam in your serving. Also, if you want thicker yogurt, you can add powdered milk when you pour the milk into the crock pot.
It is normal to have a yellowish liquid in with your thick white yogurt. That’s whey and it’s great for you. You can mix it back together, or spoon it out. You can also strain the final product multiple times to make Greek yogurt.
The yogurt will last in the fridge for up to two weeks.
What in the world am I going to do with a gallon of yogurt?
- Add some granola and fresh or frozen berries for a tasty breakfast.
- Plain yogurt is a perfect substitute for sour cream in recipes (and it’s cheaper).
- It makes wonderful homemade frozen yogurt (we just call it ice cream around here… I’ll share some recipes later).
- Pack it in lunches (we use these spill-proof containers).
- Yogurt can replace milk or water in recipes. I do this sometimes in homemade pancakes.
- Replace half of the butter in recipes with 1/4 the amount of yogurt (if the recipe says 1 cup of butter, use 1/2 cup butter and 1/4 cup yogurt).
- Thicken smoothies with yogurt (one of our favorites). If you strain off the whey, you can use it in smoothie so you don’t waste all those great nutrients.
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