Yogurt is one of those little pleasures that I sometimes enjoy at breakfast. Whether layered in a crunchy parfait or just sweetened with honey, there’s definitely something to love about yogurt’s creamy texture. I also enjoy it in sauces and dressings, like tangy Greek tzatziki sauce.
Honestly, I had never thought of making yogurt until this summer, when my Mom asked me to try it. The basic process of making yogurt is pretty standard: milk, plus your active culture, which is store-bought yogurt containing live active cultures. The growth of this bacteria in the milk is what turns it into thick and tangy yogurt. Although it may sound complicated, it’s a really simple process that just takes some time. The jars of bacteria-laden milk are incubated, or kept warm, for 6-8 hours to encourage the bacteria to multiply. It seems weird to actually encourage germs to grow in your food, but these bacteria are helpful probiotics that will improve your digestive health and add a delightful tang to your yogurt.
An ingredient I like to add is 2 1/2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin, which helps the yogurt gel in the fridge. Don’t add too much, though, or your yogurt will be more like jello! I learnt that the hard way. 😉 Before you use the gelatin, stir it into 1/4 cup cold water and let it sit for 10 minutes. It should look like this when it’s ready!
If you’d like to make Greek yogurt, which I actually prefer to do, there’s one additional step: straining the yogurt. This actually is less work than it might sound. Just pour the yogurt into a cheesecloth-lined colander set inside of a bowl, and let it chill in the fridge for 2 to 3 hours, or until it reaches your desired thickness. The whey will naturally drain through into the bowl. A tasty way to use it up is with a batch of homemade buttermilk biscuits; just use the whey as you would use buttermilk. You can also drink it plain, like I’ve done.
As an interesting side note, my grandparents were missionaries to Papua New Guinea, a country near Australia, in the 1990s and early 2000s. They couldn’t buy yogurt there, so they made their own. Their neighbors would share the cultures so everyone could make their own yogurt instead. Maybe you can try sharing some of your homemade yogurt with your friends!Print
A simple way to make your own yogurt with a crock pot.
- 8 cups whole milk
- rounded 1/2 cup store-bought yogurt containing live active cultures
- 1 envelope (about 2 1/2 tsp) unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup cold water
Heating the Milk
- Slowly heat the milk over medium low heat, whisking occasionally, until it reaches 180 F.
- Remove from the heat and let it cool to about 115 F. You may want to put the pot in a sink full of cool water, as this process can take quite a while.
Preparing Your Crock Pot
- Boil some water in a kettle and pour into the crock pot.
- Let the water cool, but do not turn on the crock pot. The water should be at 115 F when you put your jars into it later.
Preparing the Jars and Gelatin
- Preheat the oven to 250 F.
- Place all of the jars on a sturdy cookie sheet and bake them for about 25 minutes to kill some of the bad bacteria that may be on them. Be sure to let the jars cool before adding the warm milk, as the sudden temperature change may cause them to shatter.
- Sterilize the lids’ bands by boiling them for 15 minutes. Leave them in the hot water until you’re ready to use them.
- Prepare the gelatin by mixing it with the cold water and letting it stand for 10 minutes. It should gel up quite well.
Filling & Incubating the Jars
- Once the milk is at 115 F, whisk in the store-bought yogurt and the gelatin.
- Pour the milk mixture into the sterilized glass jars and screw on the lids.
- Place the jars in the water-filled crock pot and cover them with the crock pot’s lid, and then a towel for further insulation. Don’t turn on the crock pot!
- Let the jars incubate in the warm water for 8 hours.
- Remove the jars from the water, dry them off, and stir each one. You’ll find the first spoonful is quite firm, but the yogurt will get runnier as you stir.
- Chill until cold.
If You Want Greek Yogurt…
- Line two colanders with two layers of cheesecloth and place each one over a bowl.
- Pour in the incubated and stirred yogurt.
- Let the yogurt chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours, or until it reaches your desired thickness. The whey will collect in the bowl under the colander. I like to drink it, and use it instead of buttermilk in biscuits.
Using whole milk for this recipe results in a richer flavor, but you can use a lower fat milk if you like.
Once you have made your yogurt, save a rounded 1/2 cup of it as a culture for your next batch.