My kids love yogurt – breakfast, lunch, snack time, not to mention the teenager who has a huge bowl of it after dinner. Any time I hit Trader Joe’s with kids in tow, I can’t leave without buying yogurt…Because yogurt is such an important food staple at my home, I started making my own a few years ago. I tried heating the milk on the stove and using a cooler without much success. Invariably I would burn the bottom of the milk when I got distracted by something else, like the kids. Then I tried warming the milk in a crockpot and using a Yogourmet to set the yogurt. Success!
The last addition to the recipe was adding unflavored gelatin to prevent very soft yogurt. My kids like their yogurt to be a little firm even though it’s harder to mix in homemade jam when the yogurt is a bit firm. 1 Tablespoon of unflavored gelatin gives it just enough firmness without being too solid which is also not wanted. I buy my unflavored gelatin in bulk at a local bulk foods store (The Head Nut). It’s cheaper this way, and I don’t have to deal with ripping open little paper packages of gelatin and recycling the paper. When I’m out of the bulk gelatin, I try to buy the big boxes of Knox Unflavored Gelatin at the grocery store which are cheaper than the small boxes.
I use whole milk to make my yogurt because I think the fat in whole milk is fine. In the past I’ve used 2 percent milk with success. I’ve also used raw milk, though making yogurt with raw milk doesn’t require heating it as far as I’ve read. I just haven’t gotten around to figuring out how to do it a new way. The kids didn’t like the raw milk yogurt as much simply because the cream in the milk would leave yellow strands at the top of the yogurt. It still tasted the same, just looked different.
The crockpot I use is a medium-sized one I found at Walmart for about $20. It holds 8 cups of milk. I ordered the Yogourmet Yogurt Maker through Amazon for about $60; it comes with one container. I also bought the Yogourmet Extra Batch Container runs about $20. Since my kids go through a lot of yogurt, I rotate the containers, generally making yogurt twice a week. The containers are dishwasher safe and hold 32 oz. of yogurt.
I use 2 T of the previous batch of yogurt to start the new batch. When the yogurt starts to get runny, I buy a fresh container of plain yogurt from Trader Joe’s to start the process again. The yogurt starter can be frozen in 2 T amounts in ice cube trays.
Crockpot Homemade Yogurt
8 cups of whole milk
1 T of unflavored gelatin
2 T plain yogurt (starter for the batch)
1. Pour the milk into a medium-sized crockpot, and mix in the unflavored gelatin. Turn on low for 2.5 hours. I usually set a timer in case I forget.
2. Turn off the crockpot and unplug it. Allow the milk to cool for 3 hours. You have a little wiggle room with the cooling. Sometimes, I’ve let it cool for an extra 30 to 60 minutes due to unforeseen circumstances, or forgetting, and the yogurt has come out fine.
3. About 30 minutes before putting the milk into the yogurt maker, set out 2 T of yogurt in a small bowl on the counter to warm to room temperature.
4. Set up the electric yogurt maker, plug it in, and heat the water. Yes, I do heat my water in the microwave for 2 minutes. Pour the hot water into the yogurt maker.
5. In the yogurt container, whisk together the yogurt starter with a few tablespoons of the cooled milk and gelatin. Then add the rest of the cooled milk and whisk to incorporate.
6. Put the lid on the yogurt container and set it in the water in the electric yogurt maker. The water will rise up, but not overflow. Make sure you have the Yogourmet yogurt maker set up in a spot where it can sit undisturbed for 4.5 hours. I leave mine on the counter as a reminder.
7. When the time is up, unplug the electric yogurt maker and take the top off. Take out the yogurt container and have a rag handy for drips of water. Put the yogurt container in the fridge overnight to cool down. If the yogurt has whey on top after it cools, the whey can be added to pancakes and baked goods for extra nutrition or used for fermented foods.