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(The front of my crockpot is more disgusting than I realized.… 
19th-May-2009 07:33 am

(The front of my crockpot is more disgusting than I realized. The inside is fine.)

I love yogurt, and I can go through yogurt like water, but I end up feeling guilty over the plastic containers. We tend to buy it in the big containers and reuse them (they make great containers for buying stuff from the bulk bins at the co-op) but they're still going to end up in a landfill eventually (Greensboro is weird about plastic recycling). Also, my favorites are Brown Cow cream top and a yogurt style goat cheese, neither of which are terribly cheap, even on sale.

So I'd been thinking about a yogurt maker, but further poking around the internets yesterday showed that you don't necessarily have to have a yogurt maker, but it gets complicated. I am unlazy enough to contemplate making my own yogurt, but lazy enough that breaking out our non-existent candy thermometers yesterday was not appealing (let's save that for when I actually try making my mom's peanut brittle this holiday season. Best peanut brittle ever.)

So I did some more looking, and you can make yogurt in your crockpot. Now that's more my speed.

It was, in fact, as easy as it sounds. I boiled some water in the teakettle to rinse out the measuring cup (the co-op only had whole milk in gallons, so the rest went in the freezer) and the crock pot, just in case, dumped the milk into the crock on low and left it for 2.5 hours. I turned it off and let it sit for three. Then I mixed in my starter (the only plain yogurt the co-op had), wrapped the crock up in towels, and we went to bed.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect this morning when I got up, but ... "I'll be dipped" (one of Jeff's expressions) "this is yogurt." It's loose, and it's tart, but it's yogurt. It's in the fridge to see if it'll set up a bit, and I was aiming for tart - I'd rather start with tart and sweeten, then start with commercial sweet. If it doesn't set up to commercial thickness, I can try adding some milk powder next time.

I normally pay between $3.50 and $4.50 for 32 ounces of Brown Cow cream top (depending on if it's on sale, plus my discount for being on the board). Instead, for half of a gallon of local milk (about $2, I can't find my receipt right now) and half a cup of commercial organic yogurt (50 cents) and a little of my time and electricity (we're going to hook up the Kill-A-Watt and see just how much electricity the crockpot uses) I got 80 ounces of yogurt. I'm impressed.

We'll see how it tastes after it sets up.

[eta]: 3 hours later: it's definitely thicker, though not what I'd call set. Set enough for me, but if you like your yogurt thick, do the gelatin or dried milk thing (and I probably will next time just to see how it turns out.) Tart like Greek yogurt, perfect with a little granola (something I need to start homemaking again after we're done with this last bit of store bought.) A+++++++, will make again. After we eat all this. Which may be awhile. :)
19th-May-2009 11:58 am (UTC)
homemade yogurt sounds GOOD. in fact, i was looking at a yogurt maker yesterday. nice to know there's other routes.
19th-May-2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
It is really good. And dead easy. Break out your crockpot. :)
19th-May-2009 01:57 pm (UTC)
All you're doing is keeping the culture warm enough to grow... a big Thermos bottle does it for me--I fill it up with hot water so the bottle doesn't cool off the milk, warm up the milk to about 115°F, spill out the water, fill the bottle, and pitch in the culture. Next day I've got yogurt waiting.

Of course, I tend to only make about a quart at a time. When I've had cause to make significantly more, I've used the 'oven light' method--typically leaving the light on in the oven and the door closed keeps the temperature up around 110-120°F, which is about right too--though that also uses electricity.

A good organic yogurt makes a fine starter culture... though if you'll forgive the shameless plug for my brew shop, I've had a lot of luck with these, too--at least the sweet and the tangy, which come in a handful of little packets; the Bulgarian I haven't made 'cause it comes in one great big packet for $6 :/ ... sweet, tangy, and a blend of the two all come out pretty well. the tangy culture tastes a bit like Stonyfield's commercial offering. the sweet is different--I wouldn't even say it's terribly sweet, but it's another flavor.

... You may have better luck with Stonyfield or one of these packets than with Erivan, btw: from their webpage it looks like it's organic milk with a plain L. acidophilus culture (I could be wrong, but that's what it seems like?). Stonyfield, the tangy culture, and the sweet culture all have more interesting things in them which give them a little more depth of flavor, in my opinion. (Also, I have it on good if anecdotal authority that this stuff is much better for your digestion than at least the plain, cheap L. acidophilus stuff if e.g. you end up on medication that messes up your stomach/kills off the regular intestinal microflora.)

anyways, glad the crock pot thing worked well for you. :) I haven't tried that method myself.



PS: Few if any municipalities around here accept non-bottle plastic... injection-molded tubs are hardened differently than blow-molded bottles, and from what I hear, there's just not a market to make that plastic into something else.
19th-May-2009 02:03 pm (UTC)
How many packets do you get for your $5.95? :)

I wanted a plain starter, and like I said, that was all the co-op had in plain (unless I wanted a huge container of the Brown Cow, and that would have defeated the purpose. :) ) Maybe next time I'll punt and check Harris Teeter for plain Stonyfield. Meantime, I'm happy with how this batch turned out.

And the thermos idea is intriguing (though I think the crockpot method will be easiest for making in quantity, and I didn't have to heat the milk at all, which was nice.) How much milk, how much starter?
19th-May-2009 02:30 pm (UTC)
umm. 5 packets or so? it's something like a dollarish apiece. They're tasty, and I think definitely worth trying.

HT has plain Stonyfield, though for reasons that boggle the mind, all I've seen there in small containers is plain low-fat. Not that it matters much; in a quart or a half gallon, the fat content of that little half-cup isn't going to amount to much.

You can also re-pitch previous batches of yogurt--keep a half cup of the last batch and use it to start the next. It seems like it benefits from starting 'from scratch' every few batches, but you can definitely go for a while on just one.

The Thermos method is the same as anything else. I have a quart Thermos bottle, so I use that plus one packet... or if I spill out / drink just a little of the milk, one quart plus one single-serving container of yogurt from the store will work. But it's really just a handful of kinds of little microbes doing their jobs--and they multiply and fill up whatever's there. So as long as you give 'em enough to get started, they'll convert a lot of milk for you... whether they're in a crock pot, a Thermos bottle, or a jar in the oven.

And PS: Forgot to mention this part... I use UHT milk in making yogurt, 'cause it's already been heated to very hot. In general, to make good yogurt it helps to heat it to 180 and then cool it back down to 115. If you're not using UHT/"ultra-pasteurized" milk, you should do the extra cooking step too so it will set properly... In the crock pot you do it by leaving it on for 2 hours and letting it cool for 3. If you try the stove-and-Thermos thing (or microwave and Thermos thing? maybe that's less energy), be aware of the extra step. (I believe it breaks down an enzyme that keeps the yogurt from setting properly... was something like that. I tried without it a couple times and wondered why the yogurt didn't set... it apparently is significant.)


19th-May-2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
That's unfortunate about the recycling. :/

I'm spoiled; I live somewhere that'll recycle just about anything. Basically any plastic (codes 1-7), including containers. They also recycle waxboard cartons (that orange juice and the like tend to come in), which I understand is pretty rare. Corrugated cardboard, plastic bags...

They're also piloting a green bin (organics) program here, which unfortunately I'm not in. They also give away free compost containers and blue boxes. The Region is serious about waste reduction. Also, they subsidize rain barrels once a year, but I missed out on that. The line was ridiculous.

Edited at 2009-05-19 02:56 pm (UTC)
19th-May-2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
Good Eats had a yogurt making episode. It didn't look too bad, just time consuming. Good luck!
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