My family goes through a lot of yogurt…we eat it for snacks, pack it in lunches, and serve it for breakfast and dinner. We use it for smoothies, dips, and salad dressing. We use it to soak grains.
But yogurt made from high-quality, organic, whole milk is insanely expensive. Plus it comes in plastic tubs that will fill up your recycling bin at an alarming rate.
(And please don’t get me started on the whole concept of “kid-friendly” yogurt; that single-serving, dyed, sugared, made with “natural” fruit flavors and sprinkles on top CRAP that is touted as a healthy snack. Which is also insanely expensive, but which will not fill up your recycling bin because your kids will throw all that packaging away at school. Grrr…)
Fortunately, it is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezey to make yogurt in the crock pot.
What you need:
A crock pot
½ gallon of the best milk you can find (we use whole, vat pasteurized milk that is not homogenized)
About a half-cup of yogurt – any plain yogurt with live cultures is fine
A thermometer – optional, but helpful
What you do:
Put the ½ gallon of milk into the crock pot. Turn it to LOW for 2 ½ hours. (UPDATE: I now heat it for 2 hours and 45 minutes and am getting better results!)
Then, turn the crock pot OFF and leave it to sit, covered, for about 3 hours… until the milk is between 110 and 120 degrees.
You may (or may not) notice that a “skin” has formed on top of the hot milk. This is perfectly normal. Ignore it and it will go away.
Once the milk is below 120 degrees, stir in the yogurt, known as a “starter.”
Keep it warm for 8-24 hours. An easy way to do this, is to unplug the crock pot and wrap the whole thing in a couple of bath towels. I have also put the whole crock in a cooler and added a couple of bottles full of hot water to keep it warm.
I prefer to leave it for at least 12 hours… and have left it for at least 36 hours with no harm done! The longer you leave it, the tangier (and usually thicker) it is!
You may find that this yogurt is runnier than the stuff from the store, and you will likely find some liquid floating on top. This is the whey, and it is supposed to be there. Some batches are runnier than others… and I don’t know why.
If you like, you can save some of the yogurt to use as a starter for your next batch of yogurt. I find that I can usually make 3-4 batches of yogurt before I need to buy a new starter. Make sure you store your starter in a glass jar.
If you don’t mind runny yogurt, or if you intend to use it for smoothies, on cereal, or for soaking grains, you can simply stir the whey back into the yogurt. Otherwise, you will want to drain it. I find that a colander lined with a coffee filter works wonderfully. I always save the whey in its own glass jar… and use it to soak grains or to lacto-ferment things. Or sometimes I feed it to the dog!
It is best to only drain enough yogurt for a day or two… it keeps longer undrained. And 15-20 minutes is usually more than enough time to make a nice, thick yogurt. Obviously, the longer you drain it, the thicker it becomes.
Milk in = yogurt out… So a ½ gallon of milk, plus a starter will make about ½ gallon of yogurt, plus a starter.
Pictured here is almost 2 quarts of undrained yogurt, plus about a half-pint of drained yogurt, plus the whey. The starter is already in the fridge! Way in the back so no one eats it by accident!!!