Monday, September 13, 2010

Frugal Recipe: Homemade Yogurt

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If you haven't noticed, I purchase yogurt often as most of my family members eat it once a day. I am constantly on the lookout for great yogurt coupons and it truly makes my day when I find a great deal on it! After hearing about homemade yogurt from my friend Alice, I just couldn't stop wondering about the process. Is it easy? Does it taste good? Finally, several months ago I went out on a limb and decided to try it out.

I researched it extensively and settled on trying the crock pot method of making yogurt. No fancy gadgets or tools, simply a cup of yogurt, some milk and a crock pot. Easy enough, right?

Right! No joke! It does take some time, but very minimal effort is required and the outcome is healthful, delicious and so inexpensive! I've since made it several times, testing out different yogurt starters and methods.

Just to clear the air- homemade yogurt does taste different than store bought yogurt. It doesn't have sugar, for one and second, it just tastes very simple. Also, no matter what I've tried, I can't get it as thick as store-bought yogurt, which is why I still buy yogurt. Homemade yogurt in a bowl is too difficult for my little kids to eat! It dribbles all over the table and down their chins and is frustrating for us both. However I love it- especially when I add a bit of juice and drink it, much like those pricey store-bought yogurt smoothies! It's also great in recipes and milkshakes. I've substituted it in recipes for mayonnaise, sour cream, or even butter milk.

Here's how I did it...

Homemade Yogurt

Ingredients:
1/2 gallon whole milk
6-8 oz yogurt, to use as a starter {I love using Greek yogurt as it makes it a lot thicker!}
1/3 cup powdered milk
1 TBSP vanilla {optional}
1/3 cup sugar {optional}
fruit, as an addition once it's made {optional}

You'll also need a crock pot, heavy towel, candy thermometer and a cookie sheet.

First I'll summarize the basics steps involved, then I'll detail out the crock pot method and a short-cut crock pot method.
  1. Slowly bring milk up to 180 degrees. Add powdered milk and whisk to dissolve.
  2. Cool milk down to 110 degrees.
  3. Whisk in starter yogurt, sugar and vanilla, if you choose. {I personally like it better without!}
  4. "Incubate" yogurt in a well-insulated place for 8-10 hours. {An oven works great!}
  5. Transfer yogurt to smaller containers, if necessary. Refrigerate until set, about 12 hours.
  6. Enjoy by iteself or with added fruit!      
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Crock Pot Method: {Learned from A Year of Slow Cooking, with a few alterations}

Step 1: Plug in your crockpot and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2.5 hours. When 2.5 hours is up, add the powdered milk and whisk to combine.

Step 2: Unplug your crockpot. Leave the lid on and let it sit for 3 hours.

Step 3: When 3 hours have passed, turn your oven on 170 degrees.

Step 4: Scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Add sugar and vanilla, if you'd like. Then dump the bowl contents back into the crockpot. Whisk to combine.

Step 5: Put the lid back on your crockpot. Remove the crock and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around it for insulation. Place it on a cookie sheet in the oven. Turn oven off.


Step 6: Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.


Step 7: In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened! Transfer it to the container{s} of your choice and refrigerate.

{The pic above is some yogurt I made using regular plain yogurt as a starter. It was very creamy, but a lot thinner than the yogurt I've made using Greek yogurt as a starter.- see pic farther below.}

When it comes time to try it out, you can add fresh fruit, jam or a bit of sugar. As I said before, I like to thin mine out a bit with juice and drink it! It's also great with granola. If you prefer, freeze it in 1 cup measurements to use in recipes.

Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.
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Short-Cut Crock Pot Method {as improvised by me, with the help of these 2 articles on making homemade yogurt on the stove.}

Essentially, this method shaves about 5 hours off the time it takes to make yogurt using the crock pot method. It does require some "hands on" effort, but in my opinion, it's worth it. This is my preferred method!

Step 1: Plug in your crockpot and turn to low.

Step 2: Get out a large saucepan and place it on medium temp on the stove. Add an entire half gallon of milk. When the milk begins to feel warm, add the powdered milk and whisk to dissolve. Leaving the burner on medium, you want to slowly bring the milk up to 180 degrees. You don't have to babysit it constantly, just stir it every once in a while to make sure nothing is collecting on the bottom. Mine took 40 minutes and I stirred it about once every 10 minutes.

Step 3: Before the milk is heated to 180 degrees, turn your oven on 170 degrees. Also fill your sink part way with col water and ice.

Step 4: When milk has reached 180 degrees, remove the pot from the burner and place it in the cold water. Make sure water isn't high enough to go in the pot. Mine covered the bottom 2-3 inches of the pot and it worked great. Cool milk down to 110 degrees. Mine took about 6-7 minutes to drop temps.

Step 5: After it has cooled, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt. Add sugar and vanilla, if you'd like. Then dump the bowl contents into the crockpot. Whisk to combine.

Step 6: Put the lid on your crockpot. Remove the crock and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around it for insulation. Place it on a cookie sheet in the oven. Turn oven off.

Step 7: Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.


{The yogurt above was made with Greek yogurt. It's so much thicker! I did use a whisk to make it creamier as this batch turned out with a grainy texture initially. See below for more info on that.}
Step 8: In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened! Transfer it to the container{s} of your choice and refrigerate.


Additional tips:
  • You might see some clearish liquid on top of your yogurt when you lift the lid in the morning. This is just a nutritional by-product called whey. Not only is it normal, but it's super healthy! You can choose to drain it off using a ladle, or simply stir it in!
  • Also, depending on what types of yogurt you use as a starter, your yogurt might have varied consistency. Your yogurt might look super creamy, or appear to have a slightly "grainy" texture. If it's grainy, a quick whisk will do the trick to make it creamy!  
If you are an experienced yogurt maker and have a tip to suggest, please leave a comment! I'd love to hear any words of wisdom!

14 comments:

JanelleS said...

HI!
I frequently make yogurt when I find a really great deal on milk. You are right about the taste and the texture. If you make your recipe with either half milk and half, half-and-half or completely half-and-half, you will get a wonderful thick, Yoplait style yogurt. Two problem with using the half-and-half is that it is usually is not on sale and costs significantly more than whole milk, and the fat content is much higher. In one of my recipes, they said to use a recipe with unflavored gelatin to achieve the desired thickness. I haven't tried it yet so I'm not sure how well it works.
Great post!
JanelleS
www.financiallyfree4ever.blogspot.com

Utah Deal Diva said...

Hi Janelle- I did try adding unflavored gelatin once and it completely ruined the texture for me! It never fully dissolved and just wasn't creamy. I ended up tossing it all out! Bummer. I'll have to try the half & half combination- sometimes I do find it on mark down at Smith's! Thanks for the suggestion!

reggstyl said...

One thing that I do to thicken my homemade yogurt is to add 1/2 c of powdered milk as I add the started yogurt. Hope that helps you!

Franny Frugal said...

Definitely try adding more powder milk. I've added as much as a cup per 1/2 gallon of milk. Works just like the half & half and is great for rotating the powdered milk in my food storage.

I also saved up my Amazon Swag Buck Gift Certificates and bought a great individual serving size yogurt maker. Just dump in the ingredients, plug and go.

Mandi said...

can you use skim milk? i try to use nonfat yogurt for most recipes

Alice said...

I've gotten lazy about watching the temperature on my yogurt lately, and the quality has decreased. It's not nearly as thick. Thanks for the reminder to use a thermometer.

I don't add sugar to mine while it's yogurting, that way it's easier to use for other things. We just mix in jam when we're ready to eat some.

When we send it to school in lunch boxes, we use a cup with a lid, and the kids just drink it.

A tasty thing to use yogurt for is to mix it with a lot of pureed fruit, a little sugar and put it in the ice cream maker.

Kimberly Cherrine-Bell said...

Anybody who wants to add thickness to homemade yougurt and likes it even thicker than you can get with adding the powered milk to it should try Maryjane Butters Chill-Over powder as an additive after the yougurt is made and before chilling..You just need a very very small amount and it make the texture so smooth and thick without changing the flavor...It may seem pricey but in the amount used for this method is not....Or you can try finding agar agar powder and use the same method..Although agar agar powder can be hard to find in this area of the country as far as I know...

Anonymous said...

My husband's family is from Eastern Europe so we make yogurt all the time from just whole milk and some Greek yogurt (this is the specific brand we use: http://greekgodsyogurt.com/ and we use the green bottle; whole, plain yogurt, but I'm sure any low-sugar, whole milk, plain yogurt would do the trick) and it is thick enough to almost bite.

We use the pot method: slowly boil the milk (probably like a 1/2 gallon of whole milk) until it forms a kind of "skin" and starts to raise (watch it so it doesn't completely boil over). As soon as the little "skin" has started to work its way up the sides of the pot a little way, you remove it from the heat and let it sit and cool down until you can comfortably put your (clean) finger into the warm milk. Then you whisk in two heaping tablespoons of Greek yogurt, cover with a blanket and leave overnight (the oven is an awesome idea; gonna try that next time)... then when you wake up first thing, stick the yogurt in the fridge for about an hour and voila! You have nice THICK homemade yogurt. I would compare the consistency with sour cream.

Sometimes it is a little bit tart, but that is easily correctable with a little strawberry jam or sugar/vanilla if you want. We add sugar/honey/fruit jam in our individual serving bowls so we can use the last bit of yogurt in the pot as the starter for the next batch. You do need to reintroduce a new culture (another scoop of Greek yogurt or storebought culture) about every 6 times if you are recycling the yogurt bacteria like that, especially if you are using the yogurt as an acidophilus supplement. Anyway, hope that helps.

Julie said...

Most commercial yogurts have pectin or gelatin or another thickener added, which is part of why they're thicker.

I make my yogurt using 1/2 c. powdered milk to 1/2 gallon of milk, and I make mine in my food dehydrator, as that keeps it a very cosntant temperature. I heat the milk in a pot in the late evening, let it cool off while I'm putting the kids to bed, whisk in the yogurt and transfer to the dehydrator, and it's done in the morning.

Draining the whey out of your yogurt will make it much, much thicker (I often drain it all out and make "yogurt cheese" which is like cream cheese and can be used similarly). So, you should be able to thicken any of your yogurting attempts by draining it.

Jayne said...

Another way to make Greek yogurt is to simply let your yogurt strain through a coffee filter on a colander. You can let it sit in your fridge until the desired consistency--almost like ice-cream if you let it drain enough. Just add more yogurt as the liquid drains out into a sauce pan.
And yes, I do use skim milk and it's great.
I have tried adding gelatin, didn't do any good in my mind. I haven't tried adding powdered milk. I just use skim milk and my yogurt starter. :) This reminds me to make another batch. :)

Anonymous said...

i would make yogurt at home all the time . I will take wholemilk a gallon and heat the milk and cool it until when you keep your (clean) finger must feel warm. Then add any brand plain yogurt i use mountain high or dannon plain yogurt 1/4 th of the box and whisk, close with lid and put in a beach towel to make it warm and keep in the oven (off) make sure that oven is off and if you see in the morning yogurt is set. Store this yogurt for future use. Using the same yogurt makes thicker and thicker if its done 8 times with used yogurt it tastes excellent and same you feel as store bought yogurt.

Anonymous said...

I make yogurt using milk, powdered milk, and a plain yogurt as a starter.

After bringing to 180- 185, cooling to 110, I place mine in a 1 1/2 qt glass dish with a glass cover and wrap in a bath towel.

I then set it on a heating pad on the low-med setting.

8-10 hours later, super yummy yogurt.

Yogurt gets tart the longer it is setting up...8 -10 hours is perfect.

Anonymous said...

You also want to make sure that you are using a yogurt as a starter that does not contain cornstarch or gelatin. Also make sure it has a flavor you like. I don't like using oikos or cabot, but love using fage. It gives a mild flavor and the resulting yogurt does not have the grainy texture. If you want Greek yogurt, which is thick, you need to strain the whey from your yogurt. I line a colander with cheese cloth and drain until it is the desired consistency.

signingcharity said...

I just made my first batch. It is perfect!!! I used meijer Greek Yogurt as my starter. Now to find ways to flavor it for the family. Thank you for this great recipe.

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