Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Crock Pot Yogurt

About a year ago, I saw a Facebook friend's comment about homemade crock pot yogurt. I was intrigued, but never took the initiative to make it myself (and I was afraid of a soured milk smell wafting around the house, but my fears were unfounded...there is no spoiled milk smell). Also at that time, I wasn't thinking about a food conversion, and store bought (even highly sugared) yogurt was fine with me. However, as I started reading labels, and paying attention to the foods I'm feeding our children, I decided homemade might be the most cost-effective way to provide healthy yogurt for the girls. As I said in a previous post, we're going through a batch (it makes about a half-gallon) each week. It immediately became the firstborn's snack food/breakfast food/anytime food of choice. Here's the rundown on how to make it (click here for the real recipe):
1. Heat a half-gallon of whole milk in your crock pot (with lid) on low for 2 1/2 hours (but don't use ultra-pasteurized as UHT (ultra high temperature) milk won't firm up. Where I live all organic milk except Publix Greenwise milk is ultra-pasteurized so make sure you double check.) .
2. Unplug or turn off your crock pot and wait for 3 hours (don't remove the lid).
3. Scoop out 2 cups of warmed milk and mix with a 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (I've been using a whole cup...not sure what difference it makes). Return this mixture to the crock pot and stir.
*You can either buy a cup of plain yogurt (try to get one with multiple cultures. I used Stonyfield Farms the first time because it has 6 active cultures) or after the first batch, you can reserve a cup of homemade yogurt to use on the next batch.
4. Return the lid to the crock pot and wrap with a thick towel to insulate. Allow to sit for at least 8 hours. Voila! You've made your own (healthy) yogurt.

The result is a little thinner than most store bought yogurt (although if you've ever bought Stonyfield Farms' Yo-Baby it is about the same consistency). I've heard it will continue to thicken the longer you allow it to sit, but I'm not sure how long is too long as far as spoilage is concerned. And, you'll notice the whey on the top, which I mix back into the yogurt. I make sure to scoop out some to use as my starter the next time as well as some extra that I use instead of sour cream. Then, I stir in some vanilla and a little sugar, although I think I'll start using honey in the future. Depending on the firstborn's mood, she'll eat it just like this or with fruit mixed in. I've also started blending it with fruit in the blender and pouring it into Popsicle molds, which the girls think is really cool to eat "Popsicles" for breakfast. The original recipe says it can be stored in the fridge for 7-10 days, but ours is always gobbled up before then.

Another thought: Haven't tried this but my friend says she uses unflavored gelatin to thicken her yogurt. I assume you would need to put the gelatin in while it is still pretty warm.

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