Monday, February 17, 2014

Easy Homemade Yogurt

So last year at this time I was expecting my little one to gleefully pop out of my belly at any moment and because I was feeling so cocky good I thought I would spend a weekend filling my freezer with some meals for after his arrival. 

One of the items that I decided to make that weekend was yogurt. I had been wanting to make yogurt for so long.  I didn't have high hopes for it but really I just want to check it off my cooking bucket list.    I saw yogurt making as kind of silly.  WHY would you go through the trouble of making it when you can just go buy the stuff at the store?  It's like making your own ice cream, ricotta, or heck, brownies from scratch. 

Then I made it. 

Let me tell you people.  Yogurt making was LIFE CHANGING.

Not only is homemade yogurt delicious and easy,  it is cheaper (and I’ll argue healthier) than the store bought stuff.  I’ve read a lot of online tutorials about making your own yogurt   All of them promising the process is super easy but then they go on and on about all these steps you need to take and the threat of bacteria taking over your home.  I’m exaggerating a bit, but seriously, have you ever read some the message boards out there?  Crazy wack-a-doodles  are everywhere!

In fact, these crazy wack-a-doodles scared me enough that I put off trying to make my own yogurt for a good year.  I put it off until Mel (my favorite food blogger) wrote her own post about yogurt making that made the process seem do-able.  Her “DIY Homemade Yogurt”  post is thorough and includes a great step by step picture tutorial.  Heck, you can stop reading my post here and just go to her blog.  Please don’t leave.  Please? 

I’ll bribe you with cute pictures of my babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! 

And my older son!

And kitties!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And doggy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Besides, you’ll miss out on my snarckiness if you leave.  

Ok, for real, let's get back at this.  Yogurt making is really really simple, hence all the silly distractions above.

You will need:
1 gallon of 1% milk
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup of plain yogurt

You take a 5 quart (or larger) crock pot and fill it with about 2 cups of 1% milk (don't measure, just dump some in).  You can use whole milk as well, but this family doesn't need the extra fat.

Add in 1/2 cup of dry powdered milk (the envelops are usually measured to 1/2 cup).  You can skip the powdered milk, but the powdered milk makes the yogurt a thicker consistency and I like really thick yogurt.  I've read that if you use whole milk you can skip this step (the fat in the whole milk makes it thick enough, I've never tried it).  I've skipped it all together one time even with my 1% milk and it still turned out fine (just a little thinner consistency that's all).


Pour in the rest of that gallon of milk

Turn the crock pot on high

Heat to 180 degrees.  This takes exactly 3.5 hours with my crock pot.  I've let it get too hot, no worries, it still turned out.

Remove crock from the heated pot.  Uncover and stir.  Let the temperature reduce to 110 to 120 degrees.  Yes, I've missed this before too.  I just heated it back up to 110 degrees and it worked just fine.  This usually takes about 1 hour.  While this is cooling, preheat your oven to the lowest temp it will let you, mine is 175 degrees.  Once it is pre-heated, turn off the oven.  You want the oven to be warm, not hot (it will kill the cultures if too hot).

Once the temperature is between 110 and 120 degrees, you are going to add in 1/2 cup of yogurt.  Now, I always use a yogurt from my previous batch but you can go out to the store and just purchase a container of yogurt.  I'd suggest an unflavored greek style variety.  Just make sure it has "live active cultures" in it, because after all, we're growing cultures here.  Wisk it in.

Now recover your milk and wrap it up in a nice big towel and place it in your oven for 8-12 hours.  I usually time this step to occur overnight and put it in my oven around 9pm and take it out around 7am.  Remember, your oven is turned OFF.  

When you pull it out you are going to have something that looks like this:

When you put a spoon into it, it will feel and look like a nice soft yogurt.  Now, if it is too soft for you, you can put it back in the oven for a few hours, just don't mix it all up.  The cultures do not like to be disturbed. Once it is mixed, the "magic" stops and the cultures stop multiplying.  

All that yellow "stuff" is whey.  If you want nice thick yogurt, you want to strain the whey away. (whey away...haha).  I do this with a cheesecloth set in a colander over a bowl (with a tiny bowl inside to elevate it).

Let this sit in the refrigerator.  You can let it strain for as little time as you like. It just depends on how thick you like your yogurt.  Most tutorials recommend 4-8 hours.  Dump the whey every once in while (I usually dump it a couple times).  You don't have to throw this whey away.  It tastes great in bread (instead of water).  I usually just end up throwing mine away though because I'm not usually that ambitious.

 I let my yogurt strain for 24 hours.  Yes, 24 hours.  Remember, I like my yogurt thick.  It will look dry and have the consistency of peanut butter BUT after just a few seconds in the food processor (or blender) you will have a heavenly delicious yogurt.

I love to add honey to the blending step, HOWEVER, I have a baby in the house so we've been skipping this step and keeping it plain so that it is baby friendly.

 That's it.  You're done.  You will end up with about 5-6 cups of yogurt from 1 gallon of milk.  It will last for about 1-2 weeks (use the milk expiration date as your guide), however, it only lasts in this house for about 1 week before it is completely eaten.

I'm telling you people, this stuff is so delicious.  You will NEVER buy store bought again once you try this.  My favorite way to eat it is with honey, coconut, chocolate chips, and fruit.  Sometimes I can fool myself into thinking this is ice cream.  Sometimes.

Babies like it too (no honey!).

I hope I've encouraged you to go home and try this.  It is snowing like a dickens here in Wisconsin so it is a great night to stay in and snuggle up to a big bowl of yogurt.


  1. Ericka's right...the homemade is much better. If I could just get her to bring it to work more often as I haven't had a chance to try and make it myself. It has excellent flavor and texture. Ericka thanks for writing the instructions down.

  2. Hey Lady! I have my milk in the crock and I was studying your version vs Mel's. She says crock on low and you say it faster? Can I leave my oven on (Mine will go down to 100 deg)?

  3. High is faster on my crockpot but it is really up to you! You can leave your oven on, you are trying to get the yogurt to maintain the temp of 110-120 f, however, I have always left my oven off, I wouldn't want to pay for the energy to have the oven running for that long!

    1. Thanks Dear! (Turning cp up!) I'm at 160 and it's been 3 hrs! Ugh!

  4. On my second batch tonight! Missed both heat (went to 186) and cool (108) and had to hopefully it turns out ok. My first batch was amazing! I drained the whey for roughly 7 hrs and it was thick Greek yogurt consistency. I saved the whey and made 4 loaves of "no knead bread"...and still had a few cups to spare. I read on another blog that you need to buy new yogurt after 3 batches of saving a 1/2 cup of your own starter...have you heard anything like this? Thanks Lady! Hope you are well! ~Anne

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  6. I did think my last batch was a tad sour so I ended up using a new starter yogurt and it was much better so there may be some truth behind a new starter after a few batches! I've missed the temps before and still had it turn out ok so you will probably be fine!