Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Homemade Greek-Style Yogurt in a Crock Pot

This is a super simple, two-ingredient yogurt recipe that you make in a crock pot. Sounds easy enough right? The only catch, with all crock pot recipes, is that it takes some time, but hardly any effort at all. I am determined to make this on a regular basis. 

1/2 gallon whole milk (8 cups)
1/2 cup yogurt start or yogurt from store 

(I used some Greek Yogurt- you can actually use any flavor or plain yogurt, although if you want a flavored yogurt, you have to add your own flavoring at the end- the flavor doesn't grow with the culture, you know.)

Pour the 8 cups whole milk into your crock pot, with lid, and turn on low for 3 hours. This heats the milk up to the right temperature in order to prepare it for culturing, but you actually have to let it cool before you add the yogurt start. So, after the 3 hours are up, simply unplug the cooker and let the milk cool for the next two hours. Scoop out 2 cups of the milk into a glass or plastic bowl, and mix in the yogurt start. Then pour it all back in the crock pot, replace the lid, place a clean bath towel or two around the cooker, and let your milk culture for the next 8 hours (unplugged). It simply needs to stay warm enough. I started the first step in the afternoon, and the yogurt was through culturing the next morning, but I like my yogurt cold, so I am going to start my next batch in the morning, so it can chill overnight. 

Your yogurt should be thick, but still slightly runny. You can pour your yogurt into an airtight container at this point, after the 8 hours are up, to refrigerate it, or you can drain the whey from the yogurt to get a super thick and creamy Greek Yogurt, like in the picture. To do this, fold a piece of cheesecloth over a fine wire mesh strainer, and place over a large plastic or glass bowl. Pour in the yogurt, and the whey will drain into the bowl. I did this in two batches. 

You can use the left-over whey in lots of other things, since it's packed with lots of vitamins and protein. A few things you can do with it are, freeze it in ice trays and add to smoothies, soak your grains in it for things like Muesli, use it to replace the liquids in baked goods like biscuits, add it to soups, use it to boil fresh veggies in, or use it instead of water in cooking rice. 

To sweeten your plain yogurt, you can add:
•white or brown sugar
•your favorite freezer or store-bought jam

Save 1/2 cup of the yogurt you just made to make your next batch.

Tips for thickening: I've also heard of adding 1 can of evaporated milk, or 1 cup dry, powdered milk, to make thicker yogurt. I tried the evaporated milk on my last batch, and it was gross. It made it taste funny. So just follow the original recipe. But I think I will try to substitute a cup or two of cream or half-and-half for the milk though. One other way of thickening your yogurt is adding pectin with your sweetener, or draining some of the whey into a bowl and adding plain or flavored gelatin till dissolved, and add it back to your yogurt. You only need 2 teaspoons of gelatin, added to 2 Tb. of hot whey. Sorry I am still experimenting with different ways to thicken and flavor, so check back again to see which way I end up preferring. 

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