Recently, Big Daddy Orange was relaxing on the couch with a blanket. I pulled said blanket off of him and he asked why? My reply: “I’m making yogurt”. Confused? This post will clear it up!
Making my own yogurt was one of the first “real food” transitions I made. Once I learned how thrifty, easy, and delicious it is to make using a crock pot, I was SOLD! There are other ways to make yogurt at home, but this is the most simple and reliable method I have found. I will also explain how this makes Greek yogurt as well by adding one extra simple step of straining at the end, which is how we like it here in the Evans’ household. Plus I love using the whey that drains out of it for other recipes and fermentations! Once a week, we wake up to fresh yogurt which lasts us all week – and all you need to do is save a LITTLE bit of this batch to make the next one…and the next one…and the next one!
Buying little store-bought yogurt are one thing that many people do which they consider healthy, but as with anything, buyer beware. Most are loaded with unnecessary sugar – more than a candy bar would provide! Some do not even have live and active cultures in them, so I’m confused how they can be called “yogurt” actually. Yogurt is a fermented food, which means it contains live probiotic bacteria which promotes digestion and general health. Most people do not get enough good probiotics and then the bad gut flora take over and causes problems. The biggest brands in their terrible plastic containers even often have high fructose corn syrup, which is the devil (well, one of them. The devil takes many forms you know…Monsanto/ GMOs, Red 40, BPA, I could go on for days…). Check out this post by Eat Local Grown for more information about what those ingredient labels mean and why you should make your own yogurt, so that I can stay focused here though!
Now go grab your crock pot, a blanket, some milk…and let’s get started!
Making Yogurt (or Greek Yogurt) Overnight At Home
You will need:
- an electric crock pot (aka slow cooker – whatever you prefer calling it. I call mine Betty…)
- a kitchen thermometer
- half-gallon of milk (starting with whole milk is more fool-proof, creamy, and is generally healthier…but you can use any milk here technically. Skim likely makes a runny yogurt though)
- 1/2 cup of yogurt (a store-bought that has live and active cultures in it, or you can reuse a half cup of the homemade yogurt you make this time to start the next batch.)
- a blanket (or large towel)
- an empty OFF oven with a working oven light
- a refrigerator
- a whisk or spoon
- Optional for Greek Yogurt: a strainer, cheesecloth (or other light cloth like a flour sack towel), and a bowl to catch the whey.
1. Pour half a gallon of milk (8 cups) into crock pot with lid. Turn on low until temperature reaches 180-185 degrees F. This takes about 2.5 hours for mine.
2. Turn off crock pot, remove lid, and allow to cool until 110 degrees F. This takes about an hour for mine. Sometimes I remove the crock from the electric part as well to speed things up, but either way is fine.
3. Once milk has cooled to 110 degrees F, remove a cup or so into a separate bowl. Whisk in the 1/2 cup prepared yogurt and then whisk this mixture into remainder of the crock pot milk.
4. Now here’s the “fun” part! Put the lid on the crock pot (and return inner crock into electrical outside if you removed it to cool) and wrap the entire thing up in the blanket or towel! Make sure the oven is OFF (Please no lawsuits…I warned you!), but turn only the oven light ON. I wrap up the entire slow cooker, cord and all. I also make sure the blanket isn’t touching the light or any oven parts that may have been warmed recently, just in case. Close the oven door and leave in with the light on all night (10-12 hours).
5. In the morning, unwrap your little bundle of yogurt. Remove the inner crock and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours to allow to cool and thicken.
Congratulations! You have made yogurt and can enjoy it this way with some fresh fruit, granola, raw honey, maple syrup, or other fabulous way you can think of. Be sure to check out some yogurt tips below about saving some of this for your next batch.
6. (OPTIONAL) If you like your yogurt a little thicker…place a colander in a bowl or pot and line it with a few layers of cheesecloth or other thin kitchen linen (muslin or thin dish towel?). I use one flour sack towel, which I also used for cloth diapers. Well, not these ones that I keep exclusively separate for kitchen use. These have never touched a bum, I CAN ASSURE YOU! You can get them in packs of 4 in the kitchen section for like a dollar at Wal-Mart, and are a super cheap way to diaper a baby!
I place the draining colander and bowl in the fridge while letting it strain for maybe an hour. It doesn’t take that long, but that’s just usually how I do it. I’ve also forgotten and left it on the counter to drain as well, and it turned out just fine! Yogurt becomes “Greek”, which is also called “yogurt cheese” by the act of straining the whey out of it. This whey is amazing stuff if you ask me. It is yellowish liquid that is left over from curdled milk. Little Miss Muffet knows what’s up! Whey is packed full of proteins, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals. You can add it to your smoothies, use it to ferment foods like sauerkraut, and even make ricotta cheese with it. Head on over to The Prairie Homestead for 18 Ways to Use Leftover Whey!
Enjoy your delicious homemade yogurt with fresh fruit, granola, raw honey, and or pure maple syrup. Be sure to reserve a half cup or so of it in order to use as the “starter culture” for your next batch of crock pot yogurt!
- If you are used to the thick, sweet, flavored yogurt, you may be a little bummed at first that real, fresh yogurt isn’t quite the same. This plain yogurt is an excellent healthy substitute to use in place of sour cream or cream cheese (Future link to homemade Tzatziki sauce will be here soon!). I am not a fan of eating plain yogurt on its own though either, and do encourage you to play around with adding it to a blender with fresh fruits. A simple spoonful of raw honey makes it perfect for me. Take pride in knowing EXACTLY what you’re putting into your body because YOU MADE IT!
- I was storing my yogurt in a mason jar because I love them, but I find it difficult to scoop out when I want it, so explore nice sealed storage technique for your yogurt to stay fresh in the fridge all week long. I DO keep my 1/2 cup reserved part in a little baby jar in the fridge though.
- You can use a half cup of this fresh yogurt to make your few batches, but after that I recommend starting over with a store-bought starter for your fourth or fifth batch. I notice a less quality yogurt after that and like to start fresh with new yogurt bacteria and cultures.
- You can also buy starter cultures that come freeze-dried from health food stores or online instead of using 1/2 cup prepared yogurt. Six or one half-dozen of the other, if you ask me. It’s just easier this way for me!
- All ovens and crock pots are different of course, so be sure to adapt to what works best for your appliances and lifestyles. If you find your oven light is not keeping the yogurt warm enough all night (it should still be warm to the touch when you unwrap it), you may want to pre-heat your oven to the lowest setting for a few minutes PRIOR to inserting the blanketed crock in the oven. Perhaps do this warming step as your yogurt nears steps 2 and 3 above, but be sure to turn the oven OFF before reaching the blanket stage. You don’t want it hot, just warm enough all night.
- Depending on your crock pot’s design, you may or may not be able to get the entire thing, cord and all, in the oven. If placing just the inner crock in the oven, be sure to wrap it enough to stay warm.
- You want to properly warm the milk to the 180-185 degree temperature because this removes bacteria from the milk. The only bacteria you want thriving in this recipe is the added yogurt later, and you don’t want competing bacteria. This is why I don’t bother using expensive raw milk for this stage – store-bought homogenized milk works fine since you are warming it. I have messed up and allowed my milk to reach 200 degrees before and it did not work. I also have missed that perfect 110 degree cooling temperature stage which flopped too. Yes, I have cried over ruined milk – a half-gallon going to waste is depressing! Once you learn how long your crock pot takes to warm and cool, set a timer.
- You may find you need a few layers of cheesecloth if it’s too thin. One flour sack towel works great for me.
I’d love to hear how your yogurt-making adventures go! Please send me your experiences, questions, or comments below!This is my necessary disclaimer that this blog is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure. I am only a mom with an education background. I must let you know that any essential oils statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. I simply approve for myself and family of such things that I deem safe, effective, and positively life-transformative. I encourage you all to be informed and empowered with your health. Also, some of my posts may contain affiliate links. When you click them, you help me to cover a small portion of the cost of this blog. I appreciate your support so that I can continue to do what I love. Please note that I only ever endorse products that are in alignment with Odds & Evans’ ideals, my personal use, and those I believe would be of value to my readers.