• milk, half gallon
  • plain yogurt, half cup

Many of you already know that you can make your own yogurt. Of course, yogurt has been made in homes for thousands of years, right? Well, for some reason it never really crossed MY mind to do it myself. I guess I assumed it was harder, took special tools, ingredients, skills.

Turns out it’s really easy and can be done at home by anyone. Many online recipes use large pots, jars, and hot water. I read a friend’s blog post about using her slow cooker and decided to give it a go over the weekend. In fact, reading her blog is what inspired this entire project.

Begin with a half gallon of milk. I used whole, but it doesn’t matter what kind you use. Pour it into your crock pot and heat it to 185 Degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 2.5 hours on the low setting. Then turn it off and leave it covered with the lid for about 3 hours while it cools down to around 110 degrees. It should not be warmer, but can be slightly cooler, say 95 F.

  

This is where you must add a “starter” of live cultures. “Where does a person get yogurt starter” you may be asking yourself? Here’s the secret; buy some plain yogurt at the store for your starter! I bought whole Greek yogurt. It must be plain and it must have live and active cultures. (Most yogurts do have this).

Scoop a 1/2 Cup of plain yogurt out of the container and gently place it into the warm milk. Too much stirring will irritate the live cultures. They don’t like motion, nor do you like to get too hot or too cold. In high heat they will die off and in cold temperatures they will stop reproducing.

So all that milk heating and cooling is meant to pasteurize the milk a bit, to be certain you aren’t going to breed any bad bacteria while your incubate this for hours and hours.

The next step is most important and where I screwed up the first try. You must wrap the slow cooker in a large beach towel or blanket (Still turned off). During my first try I simply placed a thick towel over the top of the crock and assumed the cooking base would stay warm enough. FAIL. Overnight it cooled way down and was still just milk in the morning.

Thanks to my internet research I assumed I could still use this concoction as buttermilk in baking. But a BIG thanks to a friend for telling me that you can reheat the existing milk too 100F-110F again and “reinoculate” with new plain yogurt starter. She saved the day and I proceeded correctly this next time.

So you must take the crockery out of the base and wrap that in the towel or blanket. Then place back into the base/cradle and leave it alone for at least 6 hours (turned off). Just to be sure this time, I turned my crock back on to low for 15 minutes, after about 2 hours. I just really wanted to make sure it stayed warm enough. This time around I could smell the sweet cream scent in my kitchen, so I knew it was working.

After 8 long hours I unwrapped my treasure to find this:

Half a gallon of fresh, creamy, plain, yogurt!!

Give it a good stir before serving. I think next time I will suction some of the watery whey out with my gravy juicer sucking thing. (what is that called?Baster!), and make it more thick like Greek yogurt. I know you can also use cheese cloth and a colander to really get the liquid out, but I don’t usually do things that involve that much work! :)

The very best part about making your own yogurt is you can make it how you like. No sugar added, no preservatives, no salt, nothing added. (Oh, and it’s WAY cheaper than buying yogurt). When my science experiment was completed on Saturday evening, my husband drank 3 cups of it right away. He fondly remembered drinking fresh yogurt in Kyrgyzstan and was impressed with mine. He was also laughing at how easy it was and wondered why we hadn’t done this earlier. I preferred to eat mine with strawberries, honey, and oat bran for breakfast the next morning.

Have you ever made yogurt? What method do you prefer? What toppings do you enjoy on it?