Monday, July 15, 2019

How To Make Yogurt In a Slow Cooker

How to make thick and creamy yogurt easily at home in your slow cooker. Store bought yogurt may be convenient but nothing compares to the creaminess and taste of homemade yogurt. 
Making Homemade Yogurt is super simple and I have been making my own for about 10 years. Back in 2009, I discovered how to make homemade yogurt on a Martha Stewart episode where she taught Jennifer Garner how to make homemade unsweetened yogurt. I was instantly hooked and have been making my own plain and vanilla yogurt ever since. 

I have changed the preparation method and now use a slow cooker versus the stove top and I love this method so much better. Making homemade yogurt is a bit time consuming, but totally worth it in the end. When I say time consuming, I really mean just waiting for the yogurt to culture overnight. 

The recipe itself is really simple and you don't need a bunch of fancy equipment. All you need is milk, a yogurt stater (plain yogurt with active cultures) and a slow cooker. Plain yogurt is your starter and it must contains active cultures which is the good bacteria that will turn your milk into yogurt.

We like to top our yogurt with fresh fruit, granola or freezer jam. I like to make individual fruit bottom yogurts for my family and store them in small covered mason jars in the refrigerator. I love this method because they are so easy to just grab and go on busy mornings. 

My family also prefers a thicker Greek style yogurt. The main difference in regular and Greek yogurt is the thickness. To achieve Greek style yogurt you will need to strain the yogurt for a couple hours or add powdered milk to your yogurt as it cultures. I've done both methods with good results. 

To make the fruit bottom yogurt, I make a simple fruit sauce (recipe below) or just use fresh berries or peaches. Once you make homemade yogurt you will wonder why you have never made it before now. Homemade yogurt can be made for a fraction of the price of store bought yogurt with no added preservatives. 

You can use whole or low fat milk (we prefer whole) with a bit of Mexican vanilla extract and raw sugar added. If you want a thicker Greek style yogurt add 1/2 cup powdered milk. If I need whey, I skip the powdered milk and just strain the yogurt for a couple hours at the end.  

To start turn your slow cooker to low and add 1/2 gallon milk (8 cups). Heat on low for 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until the temperature reaches 185 degrees (you just want to scald the milk). 

Turn the slow cooker off and unplug it. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. If you want plain yogurt omit the vanilla and sugar. Cool the milk in the slow cooker with the lid on for 3 hours until it reaches 110 degrees. 

After 3 hours, remove 2 cups warm milk into a bowl. Add the 1/2 cup plain yogurt (starter) and the powdered milk, mix to combine. Pour the milk and starter mixture back into the slow cooker with the rest of the milk and mix to blend (I use a whisk).  

Place the lid on the slow cooker (I recommend placing a double layer of paper towel between the lid and the slow cooker insert to collect steam). Place the entire slow cooker into the oven, but DO NOT turn the oven on. Now the yogurt needs to culture for 8-10 hours at 110 degrees. Turn the light on in your oven. This will keep the milk nice and warm so the milk can transform into yogurt. 

After 8-10 hours remove the slow cooker from the oven. The longer the yogurt cultures the more tangy the yogurt will be.  

Spoon the yogurt out into an air tight container and chill for 4 hours. If you're fine with the consistency of the yogurt then you're finished, but if you want a firmer yogurt you will need to strain off the whey a bit.  

To strain the  yogurt place a colander over a large bowl and line the bottom and the sides with coffee filters. Add some of the yogurt and allow the whey to strain out. This takes about 1 -2 hours. The straining process is what helps the yogurt thicken up to the desired consistency (we like ours to the consistency of Greek yogurt). The longer you strain, the thicker the yogurt and the more whey gets extracted. Once the whey is strained set it aside.  
Now don't go throwing out that whey because it has so many beneficial uses. Whey is basically just water with lactose and protein (liquid gold if you ask me). Whey is wonderful to save especially in the spring and summer, so it's important not to toss it out after straining. I like to use it in our vegetable garden to add calcium to our tomato plants. Just dilute the whey with equal parts of water and add around the roots of your tomato plants. 

If it's winter, I like to just freeze the whey to use when summer rolls back around. I usually can get one pint of whey out of each batch of yogurt. Whey is also wonderful to add to dry  beans as they soak. Just add one tablespoon of whey per pound of beans when soaking to help with the gassiness the comes along with bean territory. 

Now it's time to enjoy your yogurt. Top with a fruit sauce (recipe below), granola, fresh fruit or berries. Store yogurt in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 




How to Make Yogurt in a Slow Cooker 

1/2 gallon milk (8 cups) whole or low fat 
1/2 - cup raw sugar
1 - tablespoon vanilla extract (I use Mexican vanilla)
1/2 - cup plain yogurt (with live active cultures)
1/2 - cup powdered milk (optional but it makes the yogurt thicker)
slow cooker
coffee filters 
colander

Turn you slow cooker to low and add 1/2 gallon milk. Heat the milk for 2 - 2 1/2 hours or until the temperature reaches 185 degrees (you just want to scald the milk). 

Turn slow cooker off and unplug it. Add the sugar and vanilla extract. Cool the milk in the slow cooker with the lid on for 3 hours until it reaches 110 degrees. 

After 3 hours, remove 2 cups warm milk into a bowl. Add the 1/2 cup plain yogurt (starter) and the powdered milk, mix using whisk. 

Pour the milk and starter mixture back into the slow cooker with the rest of the milk and mix thoroughly with a whisk. 

Place the lid on the slow cooker (I recommend placing a paper towel between the lid and the slow cooker insert to collect steam). 

Place the entire slow cooker into the oven, but DO NOT turn the oven on. 

Now the yogurt needs to culture for 8-10 hours at 110 degrees. Turn the light on in your oven. This will keep the milk and the slow cooker nice and warm so the milk can transform into yogurt. 

After 8-10 hours remove the slow cooker from the oven. Spoon the yogurt out into an air tight container and chill for 4 hours. 

If you're fine with the consistency then you're finished, but if you want a firmer yogurt you will need to strain off the whey a bit.  

To strain the  yogurt place a colander over a large bowl and line the bottom and the sides with coffee filters. Add some of the yogurt and allow the whey to strain out. This takes about 1 -2 hours. 

I don't use a cheesecloth because the yogurt still goes through the cheesecloth along with the whey. Once strained store the yogurt into an air tight container and store in the refrigerator.

We like to eat our yogurt with a simple fruit sauce (see recipe below).  

yields about: 4 cups 
source: Martha Stewart



Simple Fruit Sauce

2 - cups berries, blackberries, strawberries  or peaches
1 - teaspoon cornstarch
2 - tablespoon water 
1/2 - cup raw sugar

Add the berries or fruit to a small pot over medium heat. Mix the water and the cornstarch together and pour over the fruit. 

Cook until the fruit softens and the mixture starts to thicken up. Cool fruit sauce and serve. Store leftovers in a covered container in the refrigerator. 






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