I eat a lot of plain Greek yogurt. I put it on my granola, and sometimes eat it at lunch. When I was in NJ a few weeks ago, one of my hostesses (Barbie) told me how she makes yogurt. It sounded so easy that I decided to try it when I got home. Once home, Lorna reminded me that she used to make yogurt all the time.
Barbie makes her yogurt in a heavy, enamel casserole dish kept warn in an oven set at a low heat and that works. The down-side for me is that my dish is pretty heavy and it’s too hot in Texas for half the year to keep the oven on for hours at a time, even on low. After thinking about it, I knew I would do better with a yogurt maker. I found one that is neither expensive nor fancy. It’s a small crockpot made by VitaClay with a yogurt setting.
I followed the instructions, took photos, and made some amazing yogurt! I’ve made 3 batches so I know that it continues to work. Here’s how you do it:
Choose your milk. I like organic whole milk. The VitaClay booklet tells you what kinds of milk work (1%, 2%, whole).
Have 2-3 tablespoons of a plain yogurt on hand to use as a starter for your batch of yogurt.
One batch takes 7 cups of milk (that is 1 cup shy of a 1/2-gallon). Pour the milk into a saucepan and bring it to 180° over medium heat, stirring every now and then. I measure the temperature with a precise candy thermometer. The milk will froth, but not boil.
Once the milk reaches 180°, remove it from the heat and let it cool to 110°. This takes about 45 minutes. The booklet says that you can place the pan of milk in a cool bath to make this go faster. I have not done that. I did stir the milk every now and then.
Once the milk is 110°, spoon 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt into the yogurt maker. (I used 3 tablespoons each time.) Pour 1 cup of the warm milk into the yogurt maker and stir to blend. Then add the remaining 6 cups of milk. The mixture fills the pot.
Plug the yogurt maker in. Turn it to ‘yogurt’. Place the lid on the pot and don’t touch it again until it’s done. Apparently disturbing the pot is bad for the yogurt.
The yogurt is done in 6-8 hours. If you like tart yogurt, cook it longer. I have had success at both 6 and 7 hours of cooking time and the yogurt is about as tart as I want it to be.
Remove the lid carefully, so that the condensation doesn’t get into the yogurt. I may have mis-read it, but I think that’s a bad thing.
Take the crock of yogurt out of the crockpot and let it cool. I cool for a while on the counter top, then in the fridge. You can eat the yogurt at this consistency (after chilling) or strain it to make thicker Greek yogurt.
I think it works a little better to cool/chill the yogurt before straining it but I’m not that patient. I let the yogurt get to room temp and then I set it up to strain.
I line a small colander with fine cheesecloth and spoon the yogurt into it. I place the full strainer on top of the crock (you could use a bowl if it fit your strainer better) and use a twisty-tie on the corners of the cloth. The crock and strainer move to the fridge for a few hours or overnight.
The next day the whey is in the colander (and there is a lot of it) and the Greek yogurt is ready to be spooned into a container and put back into the fridge. You can add whatever you like to flavor the plain yogurt or eat it as is.
Buying yogurt is faster and more expensive. Making yogurt is a minor chore, but I think this yogurt tastes better and it is less expensive. I suspect I’ll be making my own yogurt for a long time.
PS – In case you wondered why Lorna quit making yogurt, it was because her oven couldn’t maintain the necessary low heat for the length of time it takes for the yogurt to set up. Plus, it heated up the house too much. She’s looking forward to receiving the new yogurt maker that is coming her way from Amazon :-).