Monday, May 7, 2012

Homemade thick and creamy crockpot yogurt!

With 4 kids, a desire to eat truly healthy and a small budget we try hard to make as much of our food as possible. Mind you, we homeschool and with a 2,3,5, and 7 year old it is pretty tough to find time to make all the things I want to, but we are working on it.  I have recently quit buying store bought bread, and we just make our own whole grain bread instead.  If we run out of bread and I don't have time to make it we make some quick biscuits or handmade whole wheat tortillas.  It saves us a  ton of dough (pun intended :) ), and we get to skip all those unpronounceable ingredients that are even in the healthy breads!

So now that we have made that change we are trying to add homemade yogurt to our list.  I have made it before but usually it was too runny, and the thermos style yogurt maker we have made too little for our big family.  I checked into some strains of starter you could buy that cultured right on your counter without the addition of heat, but it turned out that it produces a more stringy gluey style yogurt.  That was NOT what I wanted.  So I started researching what made a rich, creamy, thick yogurt without adding anything additional to the yogurt like gelatin.  After reading countless blog posts, blogger comments, and more this is what I came up with...
A thicker rich and tangy, yogurt with a nice creamy consistency.  Much to my delight my son said and I quote "Wow!  This tastes just as good as the store kind!"  Just what I was going for!

Without further ado.. Here is the recipe with all the tips, tricks and "need to know's" mixed in.

1.Bring one 1/2 gallon organic WHOLE pasteurized milk up to 180 degrees in a pot on the stove.  DO NOT SKIP this step.  

If you want to use the crock pot exclusively and skip the stove top method you can add the cold milk to the crock pot and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours, then unplug the crock pot and let it sit with the cover on for 3 hours before continuing on from step 4.
I use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature.  Keep an eye on the milk as you are heating it to make sure not to burn the  milk.  This breaks up the proteins in the milk to smooth thick yogurt, kill competing bacteria that will give the yogurt an off taste, and stops the whey from separating out as much.  Do not use ultra pasteurized milk as it doesn't have enough healthy bacteria to culture properly.  For a thick yogurt you really need whole milk.  You can make it with reduced fat milk, but it will be runnier.  The addition of powdered milk (about 1/2 Cup) can help to offset this if you are set on using reduced fat milk.  Many bloggers suggested that the quality of your milk really effects the overall end product so I used Horizons Organic whole milk.

2. Place the pot in a sink full of cold water to bring the temperature down to 105-115 degrees. 
Don't mind that fact that my thermometer has been completely disfigured by a run through the dishwasher.
3. While this is happening turn on your crock pot to low for 15 minutes before adding your milk.  Now turn off your crock pot.
Do not forget to turn it OFF!!
I did forget once and had a boiling thick cottage cheese like mess hours later.

4. Now that your milk is down to 105 degrees and will not kill your starter, take out about a cup of the warm milk and thoroughly whisk in your 1/2 cup of starter yogurt.  Add this back into your milk and thoroughly incorporate.  
How thoroughly you mix this in will determine how incorporated your starter will be through out all the milk mixture and therefore how smooth and creamy (think lump less if that is a word) your yogurt will turn out.  I used open nature brand from Safeway.  It is very important that the starter be FRESH. Do not open it until you are using it and then freeze the rest in 1/2 cup portions for the next time you need starter or just save out 1/2 cup of the resulting yogurt.

5.  So your milk and starter should now be fully incorporated in a crock pot that is turned OFF.  

6.  Wrap the crockpot tightly in a thick towel, and DO NOT MOVE IT! Wait 7-15 hours for a full, rich, creamy yogurt.
It is very important that the yogurt not be disturbed by curious little hands or moving around, so find a spot it will be safe in.  Now comes the part where you have to restrain yourself and be patient!  The longer it sits the thicker and tangier it will become.  Because everyone's home's temperature will vary you will just have to see what works for you.  I got mine out at 7 hours but will try waiting longer next time to see how I prefer it.
And that is it!   I like to use mine to replace sour cream and mayo in recipes, or add stevia and frozen berries to eat it for breakfast, bake with it in place of cream,  as a base for a delicious fruit dip, add it to smoothies, flavor and make popsicle or frozen yogurt.  The list is endless.

To make greek yogurt just strain it in cheese cloth for a day or so to remove some of the liquid.  

So the process itself is simple, yet it seems that the little tips and tricks can make the difference between grainy, thin, stretchy yogurt and thick, smooth, creamy and tangy yogurt.  I vote for the latter!  Ever made yogurt?  Share your tips and tricks with us!


Marcy Payne said...

I have never made it but am so super curious to try it. I think my kids may be so used to the store stuff that they would hate the homemade. Almost scared to try and waste. Thank you for the very comprehensive techniques and tips. said...

Hey Marcy, It is worth the try. I just made a gallon with 2% milk since that is all the store had. I just whisked 1 cup powdered milk in to the milk at the start and followed the reg directions. It came out the perfect consistency. I let it sit 15 hours but that was too long as it was a little more tart than I wanted and I like it tart. Have a good one!

Unknown said...

Thank you. I am so trying this. I have tried it in my crockpot w/ the milk in a jar and water in the crockpot and it never turned out. The only recipe I've got that worked had gelatin and powdered milk in it. I will try the entire crockpot method since I don't have a thermometer. said...

Jessica, glad you are going to try it! Adding powder milk does make it thicker. I did it with and without. It is thicker with but fine for me without. The little steps like making sure it does not get bumped or moved around help. GOOD LUCK! Thanks for the comment!