Andrew and I work for the same company (this always elicits one of two responses: “Aww, how sweet! And how convenient for you guys!” or [more commonly] “Oh. My. God. I’d go positively crazy if I rode to work, worked in the same building, ate lunch, rode home, and then spent the rest of the night with my husband.”).
Before I started working primarily from home, we did, in fact, eat lunch together pretty much every day. And nearly every day, lunch included yogurt.
About the same time, I bumped into random blog posts about people making their own yogurt.
Wait, what? You can do that?!
Such things were a complete enigma to me at the time. I’d never considered that it was possible to make staples like yogurt or cheese outside of a gigantic factory. And when I realized I could make yogurt with organic milk for about the same cost (or less) of buying conventional yogurt, I knew I had to try it.
These days, yogurt is a staple in our house. I bake with it (in place of buttermilk, for instance); I make dips, sauces, dressings, and other condiments with it; and I start a LOT of days with yogurt and granola. It’s certainly more of a fixture than just for lunch.
Don’t be daunted by the number/length of steps. I can make yogurt in my sleep (and with a newborn at home, that’s pretty much how I do everything!), and do nearly everything by sight or touch now. Take comfort; it’s not an exact science, so aside from a few key points (the temperatures), it’s pretty hard to “mess up” yogurt.
The Essential Steps
I make my yogurt in half gallon (whole milk) batches. If I have left over homemade yogurt, I use that as my “starter.” Otherwise, I buy a small pot (they’re usually 6 oz.) of plain yogurt as the starter. You need at least 4 oz. of yogurt for a half gallon, but a bit more is certainly fine (I use the whole 6 oz. container if I’m starting with a store-bought yogurt).
- Put a couple inches of water in your slow cooker and turn it on low. Pull your starter yogurt out of the fridge so it gets closer to room temp while you get the milk ready.
- Warm half a gallon of whole milk in a stock pot over medium high heat. Leave it uncovered and stir regularly to help avoid scalding. Heat to 180 degrees (steaming but not boiling).
- Take milk off the stove and cool to 105-110 degrees (I do this quickly by setting the stock pot in cold water in a stopped up sink).
- Empty the water from and turn off the slow cooker. Dump the milk through a strainer into the slow cooker (no one wants “milk skin” or “stuck to the bottom of the pot” chunks in their yogurt; strain the milk!). Add the starter yogurt and stir gently, just to break up the yogurt into the milk.
- Cover the crock with the lid and then wrap the entire slow cooker in a couple bath towels (the milk/yogurt needs to cool slowly so the yogurt bacteria can grow) for 6-8 hours (or overnight).
- Move the crock to the refrigerator without disturbing the yogurt so it can cool thoroughly and set.
How I “Cheat” (Tips From Oodles of Batches)
- Make a mental note what half a gallon of milk looks like in your stock pot. For instance, on mine, I know half a gallon does not quite reach the bolts of the handle, so I never measure my milk. I just dump!
- Also note what 180 degree milk looks like (steam and some bubbles/simmering on the edges of the pot; ) and what 105-110 degrees feels like; I hardly ever use a thermometer.
- If you prefer a more “hands-off” approach than heating your milk on the stove, the entire milk heating/cooling process can be done in the slow cooker. Nothing changes process-wise (you still need to get the milk to the same temperatures listed); it’s just much slower.
- Experiment with your brands of milk and yogurt starter. I’ve had great results with Stonyfield and Noosa. Chobani consistently made really soupy yogurt for me. Also, you can use 2% milk, just know it’ll yield a much thinner yogurt.
- If you prefer Greek yogurt, line a strainer with a couple layers of cheesecloth and strain your refrigerated yogurt for a couple hours until all the whey (the watery stuff) has drained off.