Homemade yogurt is actually very simple to make. And if you ask me the easiest and most dependable way to make yogurt at home is with an electric crock pot.
All you need is crock pot, a thermometer, some fresh milk and a little bit of the proper type bacteria.
Greek yogurt is a favorite of mine and is also very easy to make. Greek yogurt is simply ordinary yogurt that has most of the whey drained from it.
There are many recipes on the internet for homemade yogurt. Some of them actually make what I would consider yogurt – but plenty of them don’t.
Homemade yogurt does not have the same firm consistency as store-bought yogurt. Store bought yogurt is a fake out and is thicken and stiffen with pectin, milk solids and other thickeners.
Homemade yogurt created without added pectin or powdered milk will have a top layer of whey that makes the yogurt thinner.
Whey is the natural liquid by-product of cheese and yogurt making and is easy to strain off.
The important thing to remember about homemade yogurt is that if you want to make it thicker, the whey needs to be strained from the yogurt . The more whey that is removed from the yogurt the firmer the final product. In fact if you strain off most of the whey from yogurt, you’ll end up with a delicious soft cheese known as “yogurt cheese”.
The crock pot method of making yogurt produces very dependable results. It is pretty much foolproof as long as you follow the directions faithfully. If you want success – don’t improvise.
Here’s What You’ll Need
- 1 Gallon of Milk (4 Quarts) – Doesn’t matter what type of milk
- 2 Tablespoons of Starter Yogurt – The bacteria for the yogurt has to come from somewhere. If you don’t already have a starter you’ll need some yogurt. It can be any type of yogurt but must have both of the active and live cultures of lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophilus. Read the label to make sure you have the right starter bacteria.
- Electric Crock Pot
- Some Type of Cooking or Dairy Thermometer
- A Whisk or Fork
- A Colander
- Muslin, Plyban Cheesecloth or Some Type of Woven Cloth
- Bath Towel or Woolen Scarf
- Oven or Other Draft Free Warm Location
Place the gallon of milk into the crock pot and cover. Heat the milk slowly until the milk is between 180°F – 190°F. It is vital to heat the milk to at least 180°F.
The milk must be made sterile and free from all types of bacteria. The only bacteria you want growing in the milk will be the lactobacillus bulgaricus and streptococcus thermophiles that you will purposely add when you inoculate the milk. This is an especially important step with raw milk.
* Note to raw milk people*
You have to get rid of the other bacteria if you want consistent and dependable results when making yogurt. Competing bacteria can be a problem.
Allow the milk to cool naturally and undisturbed to a temperature of 110°F. It takes about 3 ½ to 4 hours to cool to that temperature. It is critical to the success of the yogurt that you catch the milk at 110°F. 110°F is the ideal temperature for inoculating yogurt.
A temperature any higher may kill the added bacteria. And if the temperature is too cool the bacteria will not thrive.
If you are using non-homogenized or raw milk there will be a skin that has formed on the top of the milk.
The skin should be carefully and completely removed. If you don’t remove all of the milk skin you’ll get nasty hard flakes in your yogurt.
Remove about 1 cup of warm milk into a separate cup or small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of starter yogurt to the cup of milk.
Do not add any extra yogurt. 2 tablespoons are all you need.
The bacteria must have adequate room to grow and won’t grow properly if overcrowded. With a fork or a whisk, gently but thoroughly stir the starter yogurt into the cup of milk to inoculate it.
Next pour the inoculated milk back into the crock pot and stir in gently going from side to side. Do not stir in circles – use a careful and slow up and down lifting motion moving across the length of the crock.
Carefully lift the covered crock out of the electric base and place it into a cool oven. Lay a bath towel or woolen shawl snugly around the crock and leave it undisturbed overnight or for about 10 – 12 hours.
You want the milk to stay nice and warm.
An oven with a pilot light or electric light turned on works great. Do not disturb the milk and keep the oven door closed. If you open the oven door you may have a yogurt failure.
After 10 or 12 hours your yogurt should be solid with a layer of whey on the top.
If you like a thicker yogurt you’ll need to drain or carefully pour off the whey.
The way that I do it is by pouring the yogurt into a colander lined with Plyban cheesecloth that has been set on top of a large pot. A rectangular piece of muslin or a clean dish towel can be used. I don’t like to use regular cheesecloth because the weave is too sleazy and open. If I have to use regular cheesecloth I triple the layers.
As the whey drains away from the yogurt it is collected into the pot and can be used later for another food purpose or fed to chickens or pigs.
It takes about 2 hours of draining to make a thick natural yogurt, and about 3 or 4 hours to make Greek style yogurt. Once the yogurt is the thickness that I want, I lift the cheesecloth from the colander and carefully dump the yogurt into a covered dish or large container.
I store my yogurt in a refrigerator or a cooler to keep it sweet tasting. Some people prefer a tart yogurt and do leave it out at room temperature for over 24 hours. The longer yogurt stays at room temperature the more tart it will become.
I try to always remember to save a little bit back so I have starter for the next batch.