Although I have always tried to eat yogurt throughout my life (though not consistently), it's never been something I would say that I love. I am trying to commit to making it a part of my daily diet now, though. I love the whips style yogurt. But, I know that not all containers that claim to be yogurt are full of the beneficial probiotics that are so import to keep our guts healthy. So, I have given myself a personal challenge; learn to eat plain yogurt.
The same container of plain yogurt can morph into any number of versions of fruit yogurt. Honey can be added to sweeten it naturally. Vanilla can be added. I sometimes eat it with my cereal in place of milk. Plain yogurt can also be substituted for sour cream - adding beneficial protein and probiotics to a dish. We tried this recently. My family was very surprised that we could tell no difference what-so-ever between sour cream and yogurt in a side by side comparison with our enchiladas.
I have found, though, I prefer the milder flavor of Greek yogurt to the regular variety. It's not quite as tangy. It is also a little thicker and creamier, which I like. A 16 oz. tub of Greek yogurt costs me $3.00. Not terribly expensive, but not cheap either.
I recently found a recipe for making yogurt in the crock pot at A Year of Slow Cooking. My first attempt was a horrible failure. We ended up with yogurt soup. Not one to throw in the towel that easily, I tried it again yesterday. Lesson learned; NO PEEKING! This time it was a success! Here is the extremely simple steps to make yogurt at home.
You will need a crock pot, 1/2 gallon of milk and a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt as your starter - regular or Greek style works just fine, depending on the type of yogurt you want.
Pour your milk into the crock pot. Cover and turn on low for 2 1/2 hours. DO NOT PEEK! Every time the lid is opened it loses 25 degrees in temerature.
After 2 1/2 hours have passed, turn the crock pot off and unplug it. Leave it alone for 3 more hours. STILL NO PEEKING!
Once your 3 hours have passed you may open the lid. :0) Take out 2 cups of the mild and add 1/2 cup yogurt to it. Stir it up and then place it back in the crock pot.
Cover it again and wrap with a large bath towel or blanket. Leave it alone for 8 more hours.
Now you should have yogurt! Mine was thinner than I expected. But, I think this is normal. There is a simple way to thicken it.
Place a sieve over a bowl and line with coffee filters or cheese cloth. I personally think cheese cloth would be a better option, but I didn't have any.
Pour in your yogurt and let some of the liquid drain off.
This is called the whey and is full of nutrients. You can save it in the refrigerator and add some of it to smoothies to add more nutrition. You can also use it to lacto-ferment grains, beans and veggies. I haven't ventured into that territory, yet. :0)
Once you've drained off a good bit of the whey, you're ready to decant it. I simply reused 16 oz. sour cream and yogurt containers. Can you see how it has thickened beautifully?
You can drain more whey off and make yogurt cheese. You would use it just like cream cheese.
A half gallon of milk gave me 2 full 16 oz. containers of Greek style yogurt and a quart of whey. Not a bad return!
This morning I checked my whey and saw that the solids had separated further, leaving the clear, yellow whey on top.
I'm excited that this turned out so well this time. From now on I can use my homemade yogurt as a starter and just have to buy a 1/2 gallon of milk when I need to replenish our stash.
If you like yogurt, this is something you simply must try making yourself! It only has 2 ingredients and takes very little hands on time. It is sheer simplicity. But, be warned, if you live with other people you might want to tape a note to the lid that says; NO PEEKING! I'm just sayin'.
*UPDATE: I made my second batch of yogurt and put it in the fridge overnight before straining off the whey. This made a huge difference. The yogurt was much thicker and creamier, and yielded about 3/4 of a container more yogurt than last time. Also, I used a mesh-type cloth instead of coffee filters to drain the whey this time. That worked much better.