Friday, June 17, 2011

All the cool kids make (really easy, I swear) homemade yogurt

Brief disclaimer: my computer imploded.  I'm blogging from an old loaner that is working less and less as the days go by.  If I disappear briefly, keep the faith---the new laptop is arriving on Weds. 

Maya loves yogurt.  It was the first "real" (as in something grown-ups also eat) food that she ate.  We started with the Stonyfield Farms Cream Top Vanilla (yum) and then switched over to Fage whole milk greek yogurt (which is much thicker than regular yogurt) when we wanted to help her progress to thicker textures.  She still eats the Fage (plain, we add honey to it) several times a week.  It's a big favorite, but it's $8 for a 32oz container. 

Enter the homemade yogurt idea :)

I've heard of making yogurt in the crock pot, but without knowing anyone who had really tried it I was hesitant.  So when a friend took the plunge and I was able to quiz her about the results (which seemed great!) I decided to give it a shot.  Here's what I did:  (You can browse around online, but all of the recipes are basically the same)

Half a gallon of milk (*I read somewhere not to use ultrapasteurized milk.  My milk is just regular pasteurized and worked fine)
1/2-3/4 cup of plain yogurt (this is where the active cultures that turn your milk into yogurt will come from)
That's it :)
(Optional ingredients:  You can add vanilla or honey to sweeten the yogurt during the production process---I don't do that, and I'll explain why later.  You can also add powdered milk to up the protein content and help thicken it a bit, which I do.)

Other stuff you need
A crockpot
A strainer and/or cheesecloth if you want thick, Greek-style yogurt

1. Pour milk into the crockpot (mine is 4 qts and works well).  Set it on low for 2.5 hours.

2. Then, turn the crockpot off.  Let it sit (off and unplugged) for 3 hours.
3. Next, remove 1-2 cups of the milk and put it in a small bowl.  Add the yogurt and whisk together to combine.  (This is when I also add the powdered milk---I mix in about 2/3 of a cup.)
4.  Dump the small bowl back into the crockpot and stir to combine.
5.  Wrap a large towel around your (unplugged) crockpot and let it sit for 8 hours. (No, I'm not kidding.  This looks weird, but this is where the magic happens.)

6.  Now you have yogurt!

It tastes better than it looks, I promise.  I don't think any type of yogurt photographs well.  At least not with a cell phone camera and kitchen lighting.

7.  If you want thick, greek-style yogurt, now you strain it.  I use a strainer lined with cheesecloth (which I found at the hardware store, but my friends tell me you can also find it in the baking section of many stores).  Pour the yogurt into the cheesecloth-lined colander (inside another bowl to catch the whey that drains out) and let it sit in the fridge overnight (or until you reach your desired thickness.)

(dramtatic reenactment--there's not yogurt in here, but you get the idea)

Important! If you plan on making more yogurt, before you strain off the whey set aside 1/2-3/4 of a cup of the yogurt so that you have a starter for your next batch!

My review:
It's delicious and cheap!  I didn't let it thicken long enough to get the same consistency as Fage, but it's good anyway.  It's a little bit milder than store bought yogurt (which I prefer)---I wonder if it would get more tangy if you let it sit for longer than 8 hours (and the cultures continued to work in there).   I made full fat for Maya (which I had with honey the other night for dessert) and today I'm making a pot of skim for Dave &I (I'll update on how the skim turns out after it is strained, which will be overnight tonight).

The time commitment isn't that bad---you have to start it, be around in 2.5 hrs, and then be around 3 hours after that.  Takes a minimum amount of mental math and planning.

It's a lot of yogurt for the price of a half gallon of milk, and you get to control the thickness and quality of ingredients.

Other thoughts:
This stuff has endless possibilities . . . it's not like you're just strictly making yogurt, it's like making a creamy dairy product.  You can sweeten it with honey, fruit, or fruit purees----although I read reviews online that said it's better to do that to single servings because if you mix in all the fruit up front the yogurt loses a little bit of its thickness. 

You could keep it on the savory side by using it as a sour cream substitute.  If you let it thicken a lot, you would end up with yogurt cheese.  Although it may sound questionable, it's kind of like a cream cheese spread---for bread, crackers, bagels, etc.  I imagine you could get creative by mixing spices, chives, etc into the yogurt cheese---homemade cream cheeses?  Super fancy!

About the whey:
Allegedly the whey (which is the liquid that drains off if you decide to strain the yogurt) is a great substitute for buttermilk.   I don't think I've ever cooked anything that required buttermilk, but if you do (I've heard that pancakes and other baked good recipes often use it) then try it out.  I read that you can also freeze the whey to use it later---if you do that, I would freeze it in ice cube trays for easy measuring and defrosting later.  This blogger also says you can add the whey to smoothies for a nutritional boost.

In conclusion
Not only is making yogurt cheap, but I feel like a total badass homemaker.  It makes me want to wear a little apron skirt (well, I'd have to buy an apron skirt first---but then I would wear it) and heels in the kitchen.  I wish I had a t-shirt that says "I make my own yogurt", for real.  I think if you do it, you get serious bragging rights. 


rocketmommy said...

That... looks... awesome! I so have to try it! Thanks for posting the recipe and how to. =)

Kristen said...

Thank you!
Another thought--I love "natural" frozen yogurt but the shops aren't everywhere and I found that it's really expensive to make (because you use, and strain greek yogurt). I'm happy to send you the recipe if you'd like--the recipe is great and will now be much cheaper!

Sarah DuBrava said...

My little buggers had whey pancakes for breakfast this morning! Next batch goes in Sunday. I am loving the homemade yogurt, and I totally want the shirt! I would wear it with the apron skirt and heels...bright red heels.

Dana said...

Kristen, I would love the frozen yogurt recipe!

Sarah, do you watch United States of Tara? When I'm spooning the yogurt from the pot into the cheesecloth, I feel like I should be dressed up like Alice.

Sarah DuBrava said...

I never have...I should!

Nancy said...

I have yet to make yogurt in my crockpot (I need a smaller one, for starters) but you make it seem very easy, and the savory possibilities have me drooling.
If you want to learn to make homemade strawberry jam, hit me up. I'll lend you my equipment. :)

Dana said...

Homemade jam is out of my league, Nancy! But thanks for the offer :)

Darlene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darlene said...

How did the skim milk one come out?

naeesnyder said...

I'm new to your blog and loving it! Mom to a daughter with Rett Syndrome who is 5. She drinks yogurt in place of milk (about 1-2qts per day) I make mine on the stovetop. Just another method. I cook until just before boiling about 180degrees. Then I cool to around 112degrees. I pour into glass jars and add a scoup of yogurt to each. Seal them up and put them in a cooler of 112degree water overnight. Makes lovely thick yogurt too. I use it for everything! Great in place of milk in mashed potatoes, as a ranch kind of dip with some spices in it. Ellie can't survive digestively without it - so I'm forever in debt to yogurt and it's wonderful bacteria!

Aramati said...

I just discovered your blog and have reading back in time - I don't know if you're still making yogurt, and/or if you've discovered this already - The longer you incubate the stronger (more tart) the flavor. I also make yogurt on the stovetop, as a previous commenter mentioned.