Homemade yogurt

If you love the taste of fresh yogurt but want to be kind to your budget, here’s an easy solution: make your own! It’s actually far simpler than you think, and you don’t need those fancy Williams & Sonoma yogurt-makers, either.

There is one method that involves a baking pan, water, and towels all in a working oven, but I have never been comfortable sticking flammable textiles into an oven overnight. I found this recipe over a year ago that just requires basic ingredients and a slow-cooker, and it works perfectly for me!

Here’s what you need, as listed in the recipe:

  • ½ gallon milk
  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • crockpot/slow-cooker
  • dishtowels

Tip 1: As far as possible, avoid the “nonfat“s or you’ll end up with a really runny yogurt. The fat helps make it lovably thick.

Tip 2: When getting your “starter” yogurt from the store, it’s best to get a tub instead of those small one-serving packs, as I find the active bacteria needed to make yogurt are a lot more hip and happenin’ in tubs, compared to the smaller packs which aren’t as fresh.

Tip 3: Since it’s an overnight process, I suggest starting around 6pm, or 5 hours before going to bed. Which really isn’t saying much, as essentially all you’d be doing is turning the slow-cooker on, going off and doing your own thing, turning the slow-cooker off, going off and doing your own thing. . . .

The original recipe tells you what to do, but I’ll repeat it here so that I can get all Alton Brown on you. Put the milk in the crockpot and set it on low for 2½ hrs. This helps make it all nice and toasty for the active bacteria, but wait! (Da-daa!) It’s a li’l too toasty, if you know what I’m sayin’, so switch off the crockpot and wait three hours so that it cools off a bit. Remember, you want to provide the good bacteria a rad party, not knock ‘em dead with a Swedish sauna.

. . . Okay, I admit I get a little impatient and end up just waiting 2½ hrs for it to cool down. But that’s all right, it still works!

After the wait, use a ladle to mix one or two scoops of the warm milk with your yogurt. When bakers do this with eggs, it’s called tempering. I think of it as getting the good bacteria acclimated to the change in temps and making them happy-la-la. I also envision them skipping merrily over fields of green. Look, go with me on this, ‘kay?

This done, you pour it all back into the crockpot to join the rest of the milky brethren, then cover and swaddle the top of the crockpot with dishtowels overnight. This helps retain some of the heat and get the rest of it yogurtizin’. (Note: when I say “overnight,” I’m assuming you sleep around 8-10 hours. I’ll leave it to your experimental self if you decide to leave it sitting for a lot longer.)

So in the morning, ta-da, done! You have yogurt waiting for you to store in clean containers. Good for breakfast, like so:

Homemade yogurt with honey & granola

This is with granola and honey for added sweetness. If your cereal tastes pretty blah, I find that jazzing it up with yogurt instead of milk works wonders. That, and the fact that I really don’t drink much milk in the first place (sidenote: I’ve heard that some folks who are allergic to milk are able to have yogurt, weirdly enough. This does not apply to the lactose-intolerant, of course).

Oh, hey, you know what else tastes good with yogurt?

Homemade yogurt with local raspberries

Seasonal fruit, like so! Mmmmm, raspberries.

The fun doesn’t stop there. You can strain it overnight with cheesecloth and come away with yogurt cheese. It has the consistency of cream cheese but with a slight tang. I like it. I’m guessing you could also make paneer with this, though I haven’t tried. Also, there’s yogurt cake! Mmm!

The best part is you can save some of this homemade yogurt to start a whole new batch next time. If you choose to do so, I would advise not leaving the yogurt untouched for more than one-and-a-half weeks, certainly no more than two, otherwise the active bacteria might not be so active and won’t feel like partying in your milk. I know that last part sounds like a euphemism but it really isn’t.

So that’s it. Make and have fun!