Adventures in Yogurt Making
Even though I can’t travel, one positive from quarantine has been the chance to try new things. Enter yogurt making. I’ve heard people say how easy it is, but is it? Here’s how it went.
I read about different methods: stove top, instant pot and slow cooker. As I have an unnatural attachment to my beloved 6 quart slow cooker, that’s what I used.
Other equipment: food thermometer, timer, spatula, ladle, colander, bath or beach towels, cheesecloth/disposable coffee filters (if you’re making Greek yogurt).
Milk and yogurt. You need yogurt to make yogurt because you need live yogurt cultures to make it. Plain yogurt. I used whole milk and my store brand Greek yogurt.
I looked for a recipe that had the fewest ingredients and the easiest method, and referred to three recipes. While all three were pretty similar, each provided slightly different, but helpful, information. Ultimately, I used the recipe on Bless This Mess because I had to pick one. Here are the recipes/methods I relied on:
My pro/con on the experience
Came out great! Super fresh and tasty! (I strained to make Greek yogurt)
The process was mostly easy.
If you cost it out, it’s cheaper to make yogurt. Check out the post from A Year of Slow Cooking on the cost of buying vs. making yogurt.
The process is slow. If you’re impatient like me, it’s a con.
The first time making yogurt, you have figure out what process works for your equipment which takes time. See above statement.
It takes up a lot of room in fridge if you’re straining to make Greek yogurt. But, since I prefer Greek yogurt to regular yogurt, I moved the cauliflower and the pitcher of iced tea out of the way in the fridge.
It seemed like I was using a lot of equipment compared to what I hoped for. Or should I say, it took equipment that you can’t simply throw in the dishwasher and/or equipment that takes up a lot of room in the dishwasher, like the insert to my 6 quart slow cooker, the big bowl and the cheesecloth.
Along those same lines, it was a bit messier than anticipated. Besides the equipment mess, I had yogurt on my counters, on my cabinets, and in a couple of other places that made me wonder how it could have possibly gotten there.
I only had to make one change. Most of the directions specifically mention that the milk has to come to 180 degrees (hence the thermometer), which take about 2.5 hours on low. For my slow cooker to get the milk to 180, I had to do 2.5 hours on low, then 30 minutes on high, and that did the trick. You'll probably need to figure out what works for your particular cooker, too.
Don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the slow cooker. It may change the temperature read.
What I’d do different next time
I’d use disposable coffee filters instead of cheesecloth. Cleaning the cheese cloth was a pain in the ***. On the flip side, disposable coffee filters tear easily when wet. Choose your poison, but if you’re only interested in regular yogurt, then you can skip the straining situation.
Definitely give it a try!
Here’s the Bless This Mess recipe I used (as published on the blog):
1/2 gallon (8 cups) whole milk (you’ll get a thinner product with a lower fat content milk)
1/2 cup commercial plain yogurt that says “Live and Active Cultures” on the tub
In a large crock pot, add the milk. Add the lid. Turn it on low for around 2 1/2 hours*.
After that time has passed, unplug the crock pot and let it sit for 3 hours. I always set a timer for these or I don’t remember.
After the 3 hours has passed, stir in the 1/2 cup of yogurt. Replace the lid of the crock pot and cover with 2 big towels or a blanket. Let rest for 8 to 12 hours (overnight works well). In the morning you’ll have yogurt!
Place it in a 1/2 gallon mason jar and refrigerate for a few hours before serving. It will thicken up in the fridge. Keep a 1/2 cup of this yogurt for your next batch and say goodbye to buying yogurt!
You can also let the yogurt strain in cheese cloth in the fridge for a few hours and you’ll get a thicker Greek yogurt!
*The goal is to scald the milk which takes place around 180 degrees. So you could check it with a thermometer the first time to see if the “warm” setting is warm enough or if maybe an hour and 45 minutes would work on low. Once you figure it out, I don’t think you would have to use the thermometer every time.
After the milk is scalded the waiting time is meant to bring the milk down to around 115-110 degrees so that it’s still warm but won’t kill your yogurt culture!