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I'm giving up milk, but thank goodness I don't need to give up yogurt. The bacteria in yogurt that has incubated for 24 hours eats the lactose and makes it safe for my digestion.
I love making it in the Crock Pot and it works like a charm. I get thick tangy lactose free Greek yogurt (or is it yoghurt?) for a fraction of the price in the store. I buy a gallon of organic milk with no growth hormones for $3.25. I use 3/4 of the gallon of milk, so say $2.25, plus about 1/2 of a cup of my last batch's yogurt for starter. You can also use a good commercial plain yogurt with live cultures or a dry starter.
Depending on how long you drain the yogurt, you will finish with a little more than half the original weight of your milk in yogurt. So for my 100 ounces of milk I get apx. 1 1/2-2 of the large (32 ounce) Greek yogurts that would sell for apx $9.00. That's a savings of $6.50 per week!
When I was researching I saw that many yogurt recipes called for dry milk as a thickener. I didn't want to add dry milk because of the cost. You really don't need it if you drain your yogurt. And I also tried the method of pouring the yogurt into sterilized jars before incubating but that was a pain, literally! I burnt my fingers and broke some of my antique jars too.
It's so easy! All you need to do is pour the milk (it's best not to use highly pasteurized UH or UHT) in your large Crock Pot and turn it on. I set mine to High, put on the lid, insert my meat thermometer in the lid and that's it, until it reaches 190 degrees. It takes about 2 hours for mine to reach that temperature. Try not to disturb or raise the lid until it reaches the desired temp. If you don't have the little hole for your thermometer like I do, then barely lift the lid to insert your thermometer. If your temperature doesn't register high enough, then close your lid to continue cooking.
It's important to heat the milk enough so that it rearranges the proteins in the milk to make your yogurt thick and healthy. (I'll tell you the rest of the procedure in the recipe below) Now I cook dinner so that the oven will have time to cool down but still be a little warm later when I need to incubate my yogurt.
Make sure you never put your yogurt into a hot oven. It will kill the healthy bacteria!
Sometimes it's solid and firm and other times it looks curdled. The first time I got a curdled looking batch I threw it out. I didn't know that once you strain or stir it becomes gorgeous creamy yogurt. Curds Ali, you know curds and whey? I was pretty upset that I wasted all that gorgeous yogurt! Live and learn.
Just make sure you have fresh milk (any kind will do), good plain yogurt starter with Live Active Bacteria Cultures, follow the recipe below and you will have great yogurt.
You can either strain it for Greek yogurt or spoon it directly into your containers.
To strain, line your strainers/colanders with natural coffee filters or fine cheesecloth and place a large bowl underneath.
Then I let the bowls sit on the counter or in the fridge to drain. The longer it drains, the firmer it gets. You will need to empty the bowl of whey often as it drains so keep an eye on it. I save the whey/drippings and use it in my smoothies and baking.
Homemade Crock Pot Greek Yogurt
You will need a Crock Pot and a meat or candy thermometer.
- 100 ounces of Milk of your choice (or depending on the size of your Crock Pot, pour in enough to fill your Crock Pot 3/4 full)
- 1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures, room temp. Or you can buy a dry starter and follow the directions (I started with commercial plain yogurt and now use 1/2 cup of my last batch) *
- Honey or Vanilla Liquid Stevia to taste- opt
Directions: Warm your oven to 110 degrees and turn on the light (you will leave the light on for 24 hours) turn the oven off.
- I fill my large Crock Pot liner about 3/4 full or apx 3/4 of a gallon of milk. I have a little hole in my lid and insert a meat thermometer.
- Turn the Crock Pot on High and cover, let the milk heat to 185-190 degrees. Sometimes mine goes a little higher. It's fine as long as you don't scorch the milk. You want it to just begin to simmer on the outside edges.
- Now let the milk cool in the covered Crock Pot until it registers 110-115 degrees. You should be able to stick your finger in and hold it for 10 seconds without burning. It must be cool enough before you add the starter or the heat will kill the beneficial bacteria.
- Put the 1/2 cup of yogurt starter in a small bowl and add a cup of the warm milk, a little at a time to temper, or if using a dry starter follow the package directions.
- Stir the small bowl of yogurt milk mixture into the large pot of your Crock Pot.
- Put the cover on the Crock Pot and place in your (110 degree) warm oven with the light on. Snugly cover the pot with a blanket or several large beach towels. Some people replace the light bulb with a 60 watt but mine does fine as is.
- Leave the covered Crock Pot in the oven for 24 hours in order to get the full benefit of the lactose eating bacteria. Keep the door closed and the light on. Having an oven thermometer is helpful too.
- After 24 hours remove the pot and either strain for Greek yogurt or ladle directly into clean containers. Refrigerate
Notes on Starter* I started with a commercial good quality yogurt with Live Active Cultures. Now I use my last 1/2 cup of each batch of homemade yogurt. I have also used 6 capsules of a my Live Active Probiotics and that works great but it's expensive. Once a month or so I "feed" my yogurt with fresh bacteria. I buy a small cup of plain yogurt to add and that keeps the batches thick. Let me know if you have any questions. Happy yogurt making! Ali
Update 2/9/14 These days I have found a method that's even faster and easier! I fill my large crockpot liner (without the lid) about 3/4 full with milk and put it in the microwave for apx 45 min to 1 hour on high.
I test the temperature after 45 min, put it back in if needed, and then when it has reached at least 190 degrees, I set it on the counter to cool down before adding my tempered culture. The rest of the steps are the same as the recipe above and it works perfectly. I hope you enjoy this new way of making yogurt as much as I do!