how to make yogurt

2016 has been my year of fermented foods. If you came to my house, you’d find bottles of kraut, kimchi, and kvass in the refrigerator. Brian has had a 3 gallon glass jar of kombucha brewing since January (in our bedroom, of all places.) I also enjoyed a loaf of bread from a sourdough starter living on a shelf in our kitchen until I accidentally forgot to feed it and it died. The point of all of this listing is just to say that there are so many happy bacteria living in my house! And after watching Cooked last month, I’ve become even more smitten with the idea of all the microbes moving in with me.

I made yogurt once a few years ago in a cooking class on milk fermentation. We also made beautiful stretchy mozzarella and I learned what rennet is. (Sorry if I just ruined cheese for you.) At a farmers market about a month ago, I was talking to the lovely Genesis of Full Hand Farm and she informed me that yogurt can be made very simply and with very little effort in a crockpot! This was news to me and the encouragement I needed to start exploring yogurt making on my own. Some of the biggest advantages of making yogurt at home include being able to adjust the tanginess to your liking (I like a super tangy yogurt) and to decrease the lactose content if you have trouble digesting dairy. Who knew that these things could be so easily controlled?! So, without further ado, some instructions:

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  1. Acquire a half gallon of milk and two tbsp. of plain yogurt (these are the only ingredients.) The amount of milk you use will equal the amount of yogurt you make, so use a quart of milk and 1 tbsp. of yogurt if a half gallon seems like too much. Arguably the most important thing here (and one of the biggest reasons to make your own yogurt in the first place) is to select ingredients that you feel good about. For me, that means milk and starter yogurt produced by cows who live outside and eat grass and that are raised by a small dairy. If you’re in the Midwest like me, I’d suggest checking out Traderspoint Creamery whose products can be found in groceries throughout the region.
  2. Pour milk into your crockpot and turn to low/medium heat. Allow milk to warm for approximately 2 hours or until it reaches a temperature of 180F (you’ll need to use a thermometer to check this.) Once the milk gets to temperature, unplug the crockpot and allow the milk to cool to 120F.
  3. At 120F, stir yogurt into milk until it is fully incorporated. Put the lid back on the crockpot and cover with several bath towels. Leave the yogurt to ferment in a place where it will not be disturbed for at least 8 hours. If you want a tangier yogurt or to reduce the lactose content of the yogurt further (good thing to consider if you’re sensitive to dairy products) ferment for closer to 12 hours.
  4. After fermenting, place the crockpot of yogurt in the refrigerator for a few hours to make sure it is fully set.
  5. If you’d like to make a thicker yogurt, you can use a cheesecloth to strain off some of the liquid. I did not do this, but it is quite a straightforward process.

This entire process can also be done over the stove and in less time, but requires a bit more stirring and double-checking to ensure that the milk doesn’t scald.

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20160329_140556If you need some inspiration for what to do with all of the yogurt you just made, may I recommend a banana oatmeal smoothie? Throw all the below ingredients into a blender and blend to desired consistency. Quantities listed will make two generous servings.

ingredients:

  • two bananas (ideally frozen, but not a problem if they aren’t)
  • 1 c. milk of your choosing (I often use a nut milk)
  • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 c. yogurt
  • 1/3 c. old fashioned oats/rolled whole oats
  • handful of ice cubes

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Now go get all of your friends together and eat some yogurt!

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