Every once in a while, I will go back through my trough of half-started posts and figure out what to do with them - cull, finish or save them for future inspiration. (Kind of like my half-finished kitchen - but that's another story...)
Sitting right there in the middle of that listing of posts was this one. For homemade yogurt. And I wasn't sure what to do with it. So, here goes nothing. Let's talk about yogurt.
I know that there are still some people out there who subscribe to the Dark Helmet camp: "Yogurt! Yogurt! I hate Yogurt...Even with strawberries". (If I have to explain, then you probably aren't an avid fan of the movie Spaceballs - which is only The Best Movie. Ever.)
However, I believe that the reason there are still yogurt haters is because they have spent a lifetime of being inundated by things like this. Sorry, but it just doesn't seem right when you run out of fingers and toes to use while totaling up the ingredient list. Truly, it makes my head hurt thinking about it.
I have to admit I was a little leery the first time through. It seemed like it was going to be a difficult process. Or that I would have to buy one of those special little incubator thingies (for some reason this kept reminding me of the chick hatching thing we did in elementary school - in my head, I knew that I wasn't going to get little chicklets from a yogurt incubator but still...)
But I went there. And gave it a try. And was pretty happy. And for less than 4$, I end up with eight to ten 8-oz jars of yogurt. (Do the math - normal containers in the store contain ~4-6 oz & are priced at 50 cents to $1 + per container. Like I said - you do the math.)
And it tastes a heck of a lot better... No gelatin. No food dyes. No mystery ingredients. Just me and my milk. And I feel pretty cool - because, "Yeah, I did that".
Yogurt a'la Crock pot
Adapted from Cuisine at Home - June 2011
2 quarts milk (I like 2% organic)
1/2 cup nonfat powdered (dry) milk
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla (optional)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (I like to use Fage or Stonyfield - after you have made your first batch, you can reserve some of that for future batches)
Crock pot - filled with ~1-2" of warm water and set on warm/ low
8-10 1/2 pint (8 oz) clean, dry canning jars (recycled jelly jars work well here too) or other heat-proof seal able containers
Fill crock pot with one to two inches of warm water (the ultimate goal is to have the warm water come ~1/2-2/3 of the way up the side of the jar once they are placed in the crock pot) and set the crock pot to warm. Let come up to temperature while you work on the yogurt.
Heat milk, non-fat dry milk & sugar (if using) to 185F in a double boiler. (Medium heat) Stir frequently (this will take ~30-40 minutes). Once mixture has reached temperature, immediately transfer bowl to an ice bath. Stir frequently - until mixture cools down to 115F.
Once milk has cooled down to 115F, remove from ice bath. When mixture reaches 110F, stir in 1/2 cup yogurt and 2 tsp vanilla*. Ladle into jars (or other heat proof container - they should have air tight lids). Seal and place into heated crock pot to incubate the yogurt. If needed, add more water so that the jars are covered 1/2 to 2/3 of the way.
(*For "fruit on the bottom" style yogurt, spoon ~1 Tbs of preserves into the bottom of the jar before adding mixture.)
Now, the crock pot is not the most precise instrument in the world; but with a little attention it works pretty well for this step. Here is how I incubate & finish...
1) Insert the probe of an oven thermometer into the water bath. The optimal temperature for incubation is ~122F. However, you want to keep the temperature of the water no lower than 98F and no higher than 130F. If the water starts getting too warm (125F), turn OFF the crock pot and wrap the crock pot in a heavy towel. When the temperature of the water starts to get down ~115F, turn the crock pot back on to "warm". You may need to turn the crock pot on/ off a couple of times during the process - I usually like to incubate about 7-8 hours (longer incubation = tangier yogurt).
2) Once the yogurt is done incubating (you will notice a thickening - it won't be all the way thick, but it shouldn't still look like milk), remove the jars from their warm water batch and refrigerate overnight. (This stops the feeding cycle of the cultures & allows the yogurt to thicken).
3) Now you are ready to enjoy. You will probably notice a light yellowish liquid on top of the yogurt - this it the whey & that's OK! Either stir it back in or drain it off. Your house. Your rules.
Yogurt will keep refrigerated ~2 weeks. Homemade yogurt makes an exceptional base for frozen yogurt - just saying...