Wednesday, June 6, 2012
There are links all over the internet on how to do this. (This site has a printable step-by-step guide that I used.) It's pretty basic. You cook milk in the crockpot on low for two and a half hours, allow it to sit in the unplugged crockpot for another three hours, mix some of the milk with yogurt (make sure it has live, active cultures), add it back in, cover the crockpot, wrap it in a thick towel or a blanket, and allow it to sit for eight hours.
After 8 hours, the yogurt should be firm. Scoop it into clean containers and refrigerate. Allow to chill before serving or eating.
That's basically it. (If you're vegan or lactose intolerant, it's apparently quite possible to use soy milk with soy yogurt as a starter. I gather can also use almond milk, though the linked recipe calls for regular yogurt as a starter. Find an almond milk yogurt recipe that is totally dairy free here. You can also use coconut milk if you want. I haven't tried any of these, so if any of you have tried making them or are inspired to do so, please tell me about your results in the comments section.)
I used two quarts--about 1.9 liters--of milk (I used powdered skim milk), and store brand yogurt. It came out pretty well. I had some for breakfast and stirred in some frozen blueberries and a little honey.
Some people add in some dried milk powder with the milk or gelatin as it adds thickness. If you want Greek-style yogurt, line a mesh colander with a coffee filter or cheesecloth, put the yogurt in it, and set it over a bowl. Allow the moisture to drain through for about 4 hours (8 hours if you want yogurt cheese/spread, which is supposed to have the consistency of cream cheese).
Save a 1/2 cup or 118 ml of the yogurt you made to use as a starter for the next time you make it. Or freeze some of it in 1/2 cup portions, pop out of molds, and put into a freezer bag. When you want to make yogurt, you can take out one or two of these (or however many you'll need), thaw it, and use it as a starter.
This was a lot less expensive than buying yogurt, it cut down on the amount of plastic I use since I wasn't buying new packaging, and it is strangely satisfying to make your own yogurt.
Yogurt has a lot of uses--I will use it instead of mayonnaise sometimes when I make tuna salad--a few tablespoons of plain yogurt, some curry and cumin and cayenne pepper, and I have a delicious filling for a sandwich or a tasty pate for some crackers.
Yogurt is great if you're eating spicy food and you need to cool your palate off a bit.
It's great in smoothies.
You can blend it with fruit and freeze it in molds for healthy freezer pops.
You can allow it to thicken for a few hours and mix it with herbs and spices for a vegetable and cracker crudites dip.
It can replace things like sour cream when you're baking--it adds moisture and body to cakes and muffins.
You get the idea. If you have a slow cooker I suggest you give this a whirl.