Homemade Yogurt

I never really liked plain yogurt, opting instead for yummy store-bought varieties like black cherry, strawberry banana, coffee, caramel, key lime pie, anything that sounded yummy and un-yogurty.  When I  had Gwendolyn, I knew I wanted to make homemade baby food, and got excited when I discovered you can actually make your own yogurt

Of course there are many resources out there on the world wide web, but the few recipes I  bookmarked mentioned sterilizing your equipment, heating the milk to a certain temperature (making sure it doesn’t burn in the process), cooling it to a certain temperature, adding your starter, and then maintaining a specific temperature in order to incubate the active cultures.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too thrilled with all these steps – but decided to undergo them nonetheless.  Having to babysit the yogurt and add more hot water so it maintained the optimum temperature was my undoing, and I finally decided to purchase a yogurt maker.

Following the steps that came with the yogurt maker was a no-brainer, and the little glass jars provided the perfect portions, especially for feeding the little ones.  I still bought my own flavored yogurt. 

When making some healthy changes last year, I decided to eliminate milk and milk products from my family’s diet (except for cheese, of course, which is its own essential food group).  Each step along the way has been a learning process, and when I learned about the benefits of cultured dairy products – specifically from reading Nourishing Traditions –  I slowly started adding some of these items back in.  We still don’t drink plain milk or use it in recipes, opting instead of almond or coconut milk, but I buy whole milk for making yogurt (and buttermilk!). 

Rachel over at Clean. recently posted a recipe for homemade yogurt, and I implemented her suggestion for using a small amount of starter (either from a store-bought carton or some left over from a previous batch) for the best results.  I always added a carton of yogurt, and was pleasantly surprised when the smaller amount yielded a better yogurt.

As much as I enjoy the ease of making yogurt in my yogurt maker, I’m limited by the amount I get – especially since one of the glass containers broke and I haven’t bought any replacements.  Now that both the kiddos and I often have yogurt for breakfast, use it in smoothies and baked goods, I go through yogurt much more quickly these days.  I was really excited when I came across another recipe for yogurt, and in discussing the directions with the author and some of her readers, learned that maintaining a temperature isn’t key to keeping the cultures alive.  I was all set to get out my canning jars and try a batch, when someone mentioned that her favorite way of making yogurt was in her crock pot.  Yogurt in a crock pot?  I have a crock pot!       

I already had a half gallon of milk and some yogurt in the fridge to use for a starter, so I decided to whip up my first batch of crock pot yogurt.  I was a bit nervous because I started it earlier in the day, which meant it sat on the counter for half a day and overnight… but in the morning when I removed the towel wrapped around the crock pot, opened the lid and peeked inside… it was filled with yogurt! 

I filled a couple containers, and strained the remainder to ake Greek yogurt/cream cheese.  

When you strain yogurt, the liquid that comes out is called whey.  I’ve used it in pancakes and baked goods for part of the liquid, for soaking beans and grains, but I’ve learned there are lots of different uses for this precious liquid which is packed with vitamins and minerals.  I would love to try making Ricotta cheese.   Don’t throw it out!  Just the other day I used some of it in the cooking water for pasta and again for cooking rice.       

Our favorite way of eating yogurt for breakfast is topped with frozen blueberries, ground flaxseed, walnuts, and honey.  And let’s not forget smoothies!  This morning, Gwendolyn comes out of her room and says, “My tummy’s sick because it’s hungry.  I want blueberries in my smoothie and blueberry pancakes and blueberries in yogurt.”  I reply, “So you want blueberries?”

I’ve got another batch of crock pot yogurt brewing right now.