This has been updated to add things that I have learned making yogurt 3/26/14
You do not need anything fancy to make yogurt! Anyone can do it too! My kids helped me and I think with a little practice they could do it on their own too.
Homemade yogurt cost the price of the milk you use. We go to Aldi and get a gallon of milk for $1.69. So that is about 85 cents for a half a gallon of yogurt. The first starter will cost more but after that, I pay 85 cents for 2 weeks worth of yogurt!
This is my Kitchen Multitool! Meet my slow cooker!!! It is my favorite kitchen appliance! I need like 5 more!
Things you will need:
- slow cooker
- candy thermometer
- yogurt starter (Don't worry I will tell you how to make one!)
- whole milk (raw if you can get it!)
- coffee filters (or cheese cloth or even a pillow case) and colander
- A day off from work
Although this is easy, it does take some time. I start mine in the evening so and sleep through at least 8 hours of it.
For starters, you need to find a starter.
This is where a lot of people get hung up. Like me, you may not have friends who make yogurt. It is really hard to find out how to get a starter. A lot of websites said ask a friend for one. If I asked my friends they would be as confused as I was. If you are lucky to get one from a friend, get one, that will be the best. If you are not so lucky, fear not!
You can use store bought yogurt. Yes that is the big secret! You just need some of the live bacteria to get you started. Once you have that, it will grow and create more. You can not use just any yogurt though. Try to find one that is organic, and plain. If you can not get organic that is okay too. I did not know that when I got mine and used regular. This makes it thinner, but as you make more it will thicken up. Also do not get reduced fat yogurt if you can. Reduced fat yogurt will again result in watery yogurt. It does need to be unflavored and unsweetened though. If you can get Greek Yogurt, this is even better, and your yogurt will be thicker from the start.
Unfortunately when I went to the store I could only find reduced fat non organic in the plan. If I wanted vanilla though that would be a different story. So I do know it will work, it just is not as good. It resulted in watery, but good tasting yogurt.
When I made it the second time, using my homemade watery starter it worked great! My second batch was amazing! Do not give up!
I have also learned you can use homemade cream cheese as a starter. I was in a pinch and forgot to thaw my frozen starter, and I gave it a try. When I make cream cheese, I set some aside because I found I prefer that as a starter.
Why whole milk?Like your starter you want whole not reduced. The reason why is the creaminess comes from the fat. If you really want to use 2% it may work but it will not be rich. I have not used 2% so I really do not know what the results with that would be.
Okay so now what do I do?This recipe yields about a half gallon. Why so much? Well it does take about 20 hours. I also have a household of 5, and it is a healthy snack. Did you know cream cheese is made from yogurt?
- Heat 8 cups (half gallon) of milk in a slow cooker. Using a candy thermometer check the temp often. You want 175-180 F. Depending on your slow cooker this can take about 2 and a half hours.
You heat the milk to kill the bacteria that you do not want growing. If it gets too hot it may kill the bacteria that you need to make it.
- Once you have the right temperature you want to let it cool to 100-115 F
This is the ideal temp for the good bacteria to grow in.
- While the milk is cooling turn your oven on the lowest setting.
- When the milk is at the correct temperature add your starter. The amount does not really matter, but the more you put the thicker your yogurt will be.
- Turn your oven off
- Place in the heated oven
This is to keep the heat in. Be sure it is really off though
- Leave it alone for 12 hours. This is very important. Opening can mess it up. You want it to stay warm! If your house is not too hot (summer in Texas can be) you can let your yogurt ferment even longer. I let mine set for about 24 hours now. This creates more of the bacteria that is so good for you!
I planned it so that it went in the oven before bed, I slept for 8 of those 12 hours.
- Take it out of the oven. When you pull the pot out of the slow cooker you want it to still be warm on the bottom. Open, and stir! You now have the best yogurt EVER!
- Save some for a starter for your next batch. (You may want to label it so it does not get eaten)
If you want nice creamy yogurt, or Greek yogurt there is more steps, but at this point it is safe to eat and tastes good.
For Greek Yogurt:
- Using coffee filters to line a colander strain the yogurt. This will take some time! (30 mins at least) Stir from time to time scraping the bottom, to get the thick layer off so more whey can drain.
I tried a large colander lined with like 3 or 4 filters to do it all at once and all I did was make a mess. If you can get large filters to use with a colander I recommend that. If you can't get some small kitchen sieves and line with regular coffee filters. This will take a while, because you can only do small amounts at once.
- Save the yellow liquid that comes through! This is called whey and is very good for you. It is pretty useful too. I will post more on that later though. (Until then look up uses for liquid whey.)
- Once it is strained, flavor and enjoy!
When does it go bad?
As I was making my yogurt with the help of my kids, my middle son asked me, "So when does this expire?" I just looked at him and said, "uhmmm, I don't know." He wisely pointed out that I should find out.
So looking it up I found most people say go by the date of the milk used to make it. That seems reasonable to me.
Useful Note for the Starter:You can freeze starters so that they last longer. I keep mine in a small 2 oz container that is freezer is safe. I am not sure how long it is good for, but I have kept mine for over a month before. I always freeze mine, because I may need in next week or next month, and I want to know I have some.
When you are ready to use it, pull that out before you start heating your milk. I thaw it by placing the unopened starter in a cup of cool water. Make sure the starter is at room temp before you add it to your milk. It will look weird once it thaws, because it separates. It is completely safe though.