I was obsessed last year with a crockpot website. Stephanie O'Dea, in true Julie Julia style, decided to create a dish a day, all in her crockpot. It didn't matter what it was...drink, dip, dessert, main meal. One a day. And gluten free on top of that! She ended up publishing a cookbook last year and i bought it on amazon.com.
recipe for yogurt and shared it with Kala'i, my daughter, who proceeded to make it right away so she could have yogurt readily available for our little Hulali who absolutely LOVES yogurt. With a little fruit mixed in. Yum. Well since Kala'i was making it, I didn't have to. Until now. I guess being in a cheese making class put me in a dairy state of mind.
So I went back to crockpot365.blogspot.com and looked for the recipe, read all the comments and proceeded w/ no caution. Click on the link to get the directions. What follows here are my comments and the little quirks and lessons learned.
I used whole milk. I bought a gallon of it at Walmart for about $4.50. You can use lowfat. I don't think I would use nonfat milk for this. Why bother? If you're going to eat yogurt, your main concern is portion control :-) Just make sure it is not ultra pasteurized. That won't work at all. I also bought one container of plain yogurt, probably the cheapest one there at Walmart. I read the ingredients and it just happened to say, much to my delight, that it contained active cultures. You need that because the active cultures is what helps produce a new batch of yogurt (and when this first batch is done you can reserve some of your new homemade yogurt to start up a brand new batch!). Just what I was looking for. Just don't buy vanilla or other flavored/fruit yogurts. You are going to add your own flavorings later. That's really all you need to get started.
Stephanie (crockpot365) used a 4 quart crockpot. Mine is a 6 qt I think. I use what I have.
I started in the early evening, around 5:30 pm which meant that I would have to stay up until 11 pm. That is way past my bedtime but I wanted it done.
The website used a half gallon but I bought a gallon (ambitious). It also called for 1/2 cup of live/active culture plain yogurt and I had a 6 oz. container (I figured 6 oz = 1/2 cup). So I improvised. In the crockpot I poured in about 3/4 of the gallon and let it heat up on low for 2 1/2 hours. Then I unplugged it (being sure NOT to open the lid) for 3 hours. After that, I dumped out the yogurt into a medium bowl, I used the yogurt container to scoop out two containers full of milk from the crockpot into a bowl and I mixed it all together with a whisk. Then I whisked all of THAT into the crockpot. And then I covered it with a towel and then a blanket. The website says to just use a towel but since our house is cold I wanted it to have extra warmth.
Eight hours later, in the morning I unwrapped my present and was presented with a beautiful white yogurt. If the color looks anything different blame it on my rudimentary photography skills.
I scooped some into a bowl, added some honey and granola and had my first bowl of warm wholesome homemade yogurt.
Now for thickening. I wanted to be able to relish the taste of a more "greek style" yogurt. Nice and thick. And then to also use it as a substitute for sour cream. Thus the thickening process. I lined a colander with cheesecloth but you could easily use paper towels or coffee filters. I set the colander in a big bowl (my giant stainless steele salad mixing bowl). I poured in all the yogurt, covered it, and set it in the fridge all day since I would be gone for the day. On the Crockpot 365 website some commenters said that they used lowfat milk/nonfat and then used unflavored gelatin to thicken the yogurt. I didn't want to go there. The less ingredients the better. This draining way seemed way more "natural". And worked fabulously well.
When I came home I couldn't believe how thick it turned out. I had at least two pints of liquid in the bottom of the bowl. And the yogurt was literally ice cream scoopable.
You might be a bit disappointed that out of an almost full gallon of milk you don't get nearly as much yogurt but it will truly be worth the effort. This is all of it.
From here (or straight from the crockpot) you can add your own honey, vanilla flavoring, fresh fruit, jams or fruit preserves. And if you do go on this yogurt making adventure, please take a moment to blog your experience. Good or bad.
Good luck, my friends. I look forward to hearing from you!