I feel like I should write some sort of disclaimer for this post… I have a feeling that people might get the impression that I’m either super domestic and make homemade everything, or that I’m all into natural foods. The truth is that neither of those is true – I’m just kinda funny about things that interest me, and for whatever reason, I got interested in making yogurt! I’ve thought about it for years, and when baby boy started eating whole milk yogurt, I decided it was time to try my hand at making it.
Here’s the deal – there are TONS of crockpot yogurt blog posts all over the internet, so you should feel free to look around if you’re interested in making some of your own. I did, and it definitely helped. I found that in the end, you just have to experiment and learn how your particular crockpot works. I wanted crockpot yogurt to be pretty hands off, so I’ve learned the specific amounts of time my crockpot needs for each stage, so I don’t have to be constantly monitoring it.
You can do the same, it might just take a few tries (it did for me!). Just be sure and write down how long each step takes in your crockpot. After a few times, you’ll have a good idea of what the average lengths are.
Here is the basic premise of making yogurt:
- Heat milk to 180 degrees in order to kill the competing bacteria.
- Cool milk to 115 degrees and add yogurt starter (if it’s 115 degrees or cooler, it won’t kill off the good yogurt-making bacteria).
- Let milk & yogurt mixture continue to cool as slowly as possible, giving the good bacteria a perfect environment to thrive and multiply!
That’s all there is to it! Once I understood those parameters, I was able to figure out my specific method better. When I first tried making yogurt, I just went off of instructions based on time – the yogurt didn’t turn out, probably because it never got hot or cool enough at the crucial points.
Okay, so here’s how I do it…
– 1/2 gallon of whole milk
– about 1 cup of plain yogurt
A note on milk: The people on the world wide web say that you can use a lower fat milk than whole, but obviously I want Luke on whole milk yogurt right now. I also don’t have a problem with Ian and I eating whole milk yogurt, but we’ll probably switch to 1% when Luke isn’t cruising through tons of whole milk anymore. Supposedly you can thicken the yogurt with powdered instant milk too.
A note on the starter yogurt: you really can use any kind of yogurt, just remember that whether you use plain yogurt or vanilla yogurt, you will make plain yogurt. It’s the bacteria that multiply, not the flavor! It doesn’t matter if you use whole or nonfat or greek or whatever – it all works! Once you make your own yogurt, you can use some of it as a starter for your next batch.
Step 1: Pour 1/2 gallon of milk into crockpot. Cover and turn the crockpot on high.
Step 2: Once milk temperature reaches 180 degrees, turn off the crockpot. Usually it takes my crockpot 2 hours and 15 minutes to heat to 180 – again, the key here is to watch the temperature!
Step 3: Let sit for 1 hour, then remove the pot from the outer heating pot so it can cool a little faster.
Step 4: When milk temperature reaches 115 degrees (usually it takes my crockpot a total of 2-2.5 hours to cool to 115 – 1 hour in the outer heating pot, 1 hour set aside), take out about 2 cups of the heated milk into a separate bowl or measuring cup. Gently whisk in yogurt starter. Pour mixture back into crockpot and gently stir it in.
Step 5: Replace the lid and wrap the whole pot in a beach towel or two. I use two towels, each folded in half. Then take the whole bundle and place it inside of your cool oven. Leave it overnight or about 8 hours.
Step 7: Depending on how much time I have, I either divide it up into smaller containers or just stick the whole thing in the fridge. I usually pour off a little of the excess whey (the watery part – it sits on top and can be quickly poured off). The key to keeping it thick is to just scoop it out – if you stir it, it will get more runny. It does continue to thicken a little more once it’s in the fridge. The texture is actually pretty good – it’s not identical to store-bought yogurt, because the main brands usually add pectin or other ingredients to make it a little more solid. It’s more like Greek yogurt, or yogurt from local farms.
Step 8: Eat! Our favorite mix-ins are honey, lemon or lime juice, raspberries, raspberry jam, and shredded coconut.
So that’s how I do it – it’s not actually all that hard! You just need to make sure you start it on time – usually I plan to do it on evenings I’ll be home by 5pm, so I’m not dealing with it too late in the evening. Right now I’m making a batch about every week or week and half.
PS, I’ve recently been super into using a dry erase marker to label plastic lids! Since Luke doesn’t eat all his yogurt in one sitting, I label his jar so Ian and I don’t accidentally grab a half empty one for ourselves.
So that’s my story on crockpot yogurt. It’s not for everybody, but it works for us right now! The worst part for me to get used to was the smell while it’s cooking – it obviously smells like warm milk, and I am not a milk drinker (blech!). It doesn’t fill the whole house, or even the kitchen, but nevertheless I know it’s there… Other than that, I find the yogurt to be delicious and easy.
If you’re interested, give it a try!