I Am a Yogurt Wizard

Cam and I eat a lot of yogurt.  A lot.  We started buying plain greek for the protein, so things started getting a little pricey.  So what’s a budget-conscious girl to do?  Why, consult her good friend Google, of course!

I researched yogurt makers, but they looked a little finicky for my tastes, plus the ordering of cultures seemed like a bit of a hassle.  But after looking a bit more, I found the perfect solution over at Eating From the Ground Up.

A crock pot?  I have one of those!  Natural yogurt with bacteria cultures?  Sure, No Frills sells a lovely local brand!  Sold.

I tried the blog`s instructions first, then adjusted the levels to maximize the yogurt output.  Enter the incredibly convenient 4L bag of milk (3 individual bags).  Amazing for the equipment I own, but you can adjust the amounts as needed, keeping the same ratios.  So here is what you need:

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  1. Crock-pot (mine is about 4Q – fits 4L of milk perfectly)

  2. 1 cup of natural yogurt with bacterial cultures listed as an ingredient (I use Western Dairy that I buy at No Frills or Market Fresh in Guelph.  Ingredients are: Milk ingredients, bacterial culture.  You need the latter in order to end up with yogurt)

  3. 4 litres of milk (whatever % you want; I use 1%)

  4. Thermometer (digital is best)

  5. Whisk

  6. Thick blankets and/or towels (not pictured)

  7. For Greek-style: sieve/strainer and coffee filters (not pictured)

First, pour all milk into the crock pot and turn it on.  I use the high setting.

Heat the milk to 185ºF.  On high and for 4L of milk, this usually takes about 3.5 hours.

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When the milk reaches 185ºF, turn the crock pot off.  We need to reduce the milk`s temp to 110ºF.  Usually this takes another 3 hours for my 4L.  You can speed up the process by removing the lid and taking the crockpot out of its base.  If you take the lid off, a skin will form on top of the milk.  Simply remove it with whatever is handy (I use a spider utensil).

Keep checking the temperature with the thermometer.  Be ready to move fast When it reaches 110ºF!

When 110ºF is reached, whisk in the 1 cup of yogurt.  Place the lid back on and replace the pot in its base if you have taken it out.

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It is important now to insulate the whole crockpot as best you can to allow the bacteria to reproduce (leaving you with yogurt).  I use some nice, thick, fluffy HBC bath towels that we received as a wedding gift.  One goes on the bottom, the other on the top.  I further insulate by adding about 4 dish towels on the top.

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Now comes the magic trick.  Leave the crockpot overnight and in the morning you will have yogurt!  Whey may collect on top, so whisk it well before placing in the fridge to “set”.  I leave mine for the whole work day, but 3-4 hours should also suffice.

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You can eat the yogurt after it sets or continue with the instructions below to make greek yogurt.

Greek is a style of yogurt that is simply regular yogurt that is strained.  It is so pricey because it takes more milk to produce equal volume as regular-style yogurt.  Get yourself a fine-mesh strainer and some coffee filters. The latter is important to ensure you’re not losing the creaminess of the yogurt in the straining process.  Line your strainer with coffee filters and slowly pour in the yogurt.  Set the strainer over a bowl to catch the draining whey and place in the fridge.  I usually do this at night and leave until the morning, or in the morning and finish when I get home from work.

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For this volume of yogurt, I fill 2 strainers twice.  Once I forgot about it and ended up with some nice cheese after about 48 hours!

Once the yogurt has drained, I quickly flip the strainer into a stainless steel bowl and carefully peel off the coffee filters.  Then I whisk the yogurt to a creamy consistency and place in an old yogurt container.  I end up with two 680 g containers full of Greek-style yogurt after the entire process.

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It may sound like a lot, but I really enjoy making yogurt… I feel like a scientist 🙂 And I really like knowing what is in my food!  I’ve shared this with some friends of mine and they have all had success.  If you prefer things a little sweeter, simply mix in some honey or maple syrup before container-izing.  Enjoy!

– Jess

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