I have a knack for pinning lots of recipes on Pinterest, then like many within the world, forget about those pins entirely. Sometimes that isn’t the case. A recipe will creep into my head and reside there until I follow through with making it. For instance, these cheese-stuffed buns have been calling to me for months. This cauliflower alfredo sauce has taunted me over and over again since I pinned it. Let’s not even talk about my avoidance of the magic custard cake I keep having to talk myself out of making.
A few months ago, I came across a recipe for making homemade yogurt in the crockpot. I love yogurt. Especially all varieties available here in Southern Oregon. Cream topped, thick Greek style, sweetly thick Australian style, Icelandic yogurt. IT’S ALL GOOD. But expensive when you make a habit of eating them all the damn time. When I saw Alana Chernila’s recipe for crockpot Greek yogurt, I knew I needed to make it. While it took me a good few months to give it a try, all I can say is I wish I had done it sooner!
The crockpot makes things really simple. There’s lots of waiting time, but the result is a deliciously smooth, delicately flavored yogurt. While you can order powdered yogurt starter, the easier method of getting your hands on the good little bacterias we need for yogurt-making, is to simply purchase a container of plain yogurt. Make sure it says the container has probiotics; not all yogurts do. I used Smári Organics yogurt. Not just because you can “meet” the cows whose milk makes up the yogurt, but because I wanted to use a yogurt whose flavor I enjoy. This is important for creating a final product that has a flavor you’ll enjoy. Use whatever you like.
While the yogurt is great plain, if you’re into that sort of thing… It’s equally delicious topped with agave, or honey, or maple syrup… Or fresh fruit… Fresh fruit and granola? Oh yes.
Yields about a half gallon of yogurt.
½ gallon whole milk, pasteurized not ultra-pasteurized
6 oz. plain Greek yogurt or 3 tbsp. dried yogurt starter
Pour the half gallon of milk into your crockpot. Cover and turn on to high, then let the milk heat up until it reaches 185° F. No thermometer? Don’t worry. Heat until the milk gets hot, steamy, and reaches just below boiling. A good quality crockpot will take 1 – 1½ hours to reach this point. A lower quality crockpot can take anywhere from 2 – 2½ hours. It’s important for the milk to reach this temperature, as it’s hot enough to kill the bacteria present in the milk, so we can add the good cultures/bacteria for making yogurt, without worrying about them killing each other off entirely.
Once the milk reaches 185° F, crack the lid open to let some of the heat escape then turn off the crockpot completely. Let the milk cool to 110° F (still no thermometer? The milk should be warm, not hot, where you can stick your finger into it and keep it in place for 10 seconds without it burning you). This takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1½ hours. Don’t let the temperature drop too low.
Add the plain yogurt or 3 tbsp. of powdered yogurt culture. Do not stir the mixture! Replace the lid of your crockpot and wrap the whole thing with a warm blanket or towel (creating an incubator of sorts for the crockpot). Let the mixture sit for 6 – 24 hours, completely undisturbed. (Overnight works great!)
Once the mixture has set, you’ve made yogurt! Refrigerate it for at least two hours, then you can do either of two things: eat it as is or make Greek yogurt.
To do the latter, line a colander with cheesecloth. Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth, allowing it to strain for 30-45 minutes, or until the yogurt left is thick, creamy, and the consistency you prefer.
Straining the yogurt will produce a liquid called yogurt whey – it’s slightly sour, but not overwhelmingly. I have a recipe for a beverage you can make, coming tomorrow. Yogurt whey can also be added to a stock pot when cooking beans, or used as the liquid to cook rice. It freezes well, so you can use it in smaller batches, too.
Keep the yogurt in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Remember to set aside 6 ounces, which can be used to make another batch of yogurt.
The yogurt can be sweetened to your liking with honey, agave syrup, maple syrup, etc. We prefer doing that on a bowl-by-bowl case, because plain yogurt makes a great replacement for sour cream!
My preferred method of eating this yogurt: topped with agave syrup, ceylon cinnamon, and fresh strawberries. YUM.