Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Greener Fields: Homemade Organic Yogurt

Ok, seriously.

No, seriously.

SERIOUSLY.  You HAVE to do this.

For like approximately a billion years, I've wanted to try making homemade yogurt.  I've heard that folks in the middle east and India think we are ridiculous for all of our expensive, store-bought yogurt because it's so super easy to make yourself.  The process intimidated me a little though because, well, yogurt only works if lots of bacteria are growing in warm milk, and that was kind of gross to me.  Then I thought about it for awhile and decided that if I was going to regularly eat organic bacteria-filled solid milk and pay lots of money for it, I might as well make my own organic bacteria-filled solid milk and pay less money for it.

No, but seriously, you have to try this!

I only only one cookbook, and it is Make it Fast, Cook it Slow by Stephanie O'Dea.  It's filled with loads of gluten-free crock pot recipes.  When I saw the yogurt recipe, I thought about it for a long time.  Then one day I finally decided to make it, mainly because I was fed up with prices of whole milk yogurt for my baby.  It was awesome.  And since I just shared my new reusable squeeze tubes, now I can have "Go-Gurt" any time we want!

Here's how I did it.

Homemade Yogurt
(Mostly taken exactly from Stephanie O'Dea's recipe.)
1/2 gallon (8 cups) organic whole milk  (Yes, use whole!  It's good fat, kids, and you probably need the vitamin D.)
1/2 cup store-bought organic, live culture plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
several cups fresh or frozen fruit

Also needed:
crock pot
big bowl
coffee filters

Put the milk in the slow cooker and turn it to low.  Cook for 2 1/2 hours.  Unplug, leave the lid and let it sit until the milk cools.  The book said 3 hours, but I wanted to go to bed after 1 hour and 45 mins.  I think the key is that your milk can't be so hot that it will kill the bacteria in the store-bought yogurt.  Mine was pretty warm, but I guess not too warm, because it worked.  Anyway, after you've let the milk sit for at least an hour and a half, scoop out a couple of cups of milk and whisk in the store-bought yorgurt.  You can use whatever you have on hand; I used half a cup of strawberry greek yogurt.

Pour the mixture back into the crock pot, but keep it turned off.  Drape a blanket or towel over the cooker to help trap the heat.  (The recipe said that your yogurt won't set if your house is too cold, so be sure it's not colder than about 60 at night.)  Let it sit for about 8 hours.  I went to bed and mine ended up sitting about 9.5 hours.

When you take off the blanket and lid in the morning, the yogurt will have solidified.  I was super excited.  It might have even started to separate from the whey if you left it long enough, like mine did.  Next, line your strainer with the coffee filters and pour the yogurt in to stain out the whey.  The longer you leave it, the thicker the yogurt will be.  The recipe said about an hour, but I let mine sit in the fridge most of the day.

Pour the strained yogurt into a re-sealable container and add sugar, vanilla and fruit to taste.  You could pretty much add anything you want!  Your yogurt won't be as thick as store-bought, but it actually solidifies a bit more in the fridge.  I loved the consistency, but there are ways to thicken it (gelatin, dry milk) if you prefer.

Those lumps went away with a little more mixing!
This was the best yogurt I've had since I spent a few days in Switzerland.  I loved the yogurt there, and didn't think it could be beat since they have such happy cows there.  I guess in reality what I really loved was the freshness and simple ingredients, because that's what made my yogurt so yummy.  Basically, it was yummier than anything I've gotten at the store (we're mainly Stoneyfield and Chobani buyers) and about half the price.  Next time, I'm going to leave more of the whey and make drinkable yogurt smoothies.  I can't wait.



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