Sunday, January 23, 2011

Seasonal Sunday: Crockpot Yogurt recipe.

I didn't exactly make a New Year's resolution. I do strive to be more green and earth friendly.  I already am on the right path, but there is always room for improvement. There are many things I already do so what could I change? Hmm. Last year we did away with using paper plates and the year before bottled water. Ok, I'll admit I use fun party plates at my kid's birthday parties, but that's it. But you won't find a bottle of water at one. Anyway, I tapped my chin for days. Then as I was scrolling through the blogs that I follow I saw Katie has been making yogurt for a while on the stove (and in a large cooler lol-LUV it!). She explains it's awesomly. Is that a word? I searched the internet too. Since I only wanted to do a small test run I went with Sofya's crockpot recipe with a touch of Katie here and there.

Crockpot Yogurt SofyKat Style (I was so excited to merge their names!!)

Go get it:

1/2 gallon (8 cups) of whole milk
4T plain yogurt (Sofya says 2T, but I went against her wishes and with Katie's instructions....oh geeze.....)
Really there are no more ingredients unless you count yummy mix-ins to flavor it with after all is said and done.
You will want to grab a beach towel, thermometer, and storage containers.

Go make it:

Note: Make sure you start this early in the morn to give yourself enough time. Mine took about 12 hours from start to my mouth. Your first time making something always takes longer too.

1. In your crockpot (I used a 4.5 quart size) add your whole milk. Set on low and let her go until she (are  your kitchen appliances female as well?) reaches between 180 and 190 degrees F. This is to ensure an environment free of bacteria for your cultures to grow. I was under the impression this would take between 2 and 3 hours. Goodness no. Of course not. Does it ever go as planned? Wink wink. 3 and a 1/2 hours later my candy thermometer is stuck around 160. I was using a probe thermometer, but all of a sudden the temp jumped from 155 to 193. I knew something was not right in Fahrenheitland. I did a quick battery then calibration check and yuppers all was awry. I swapped my candy thermometer and turned my crockpot on high for about 30 minutes. This helped. I wouldn't have done this, but I didn't start this until almost lunch time.

2. After the milk reaches your target temperature it needs to cool a bit. Sounds counterproductive, but trust me. Leave crockpot covered and rest for (you have a few options here ladies and gents) a) three hours or so on the counter b) about an hour in a freezing garage c) in a sink filled partially with ice water for about 30 minutes until the temperature drops between 100-110 degrees. Incubation happens between 90-120. That's exactly what we want.  To incubate. Now warmer isn't better in this case. You can't speed up the process by upping the temperature. This is where a probe thermometer that you can set to go off when ready is helpful. Too bad mine all cucku cachoo. Note to self calibrate thermometers more often. Now if you miss your target temp no need to panic. You can just turn your crockpot back on low until you get back up to your desired temp. Sofya prefers 110 degrees and Katie likes her yogurt at 100 degrees. I m not sure what you prefer, but I went with the 100 degree temperature too. I figured next time I can go from there.

3. Next, skim off the skin that forms. Remove about a cup of your warm milk and mix in the starter. Starter? This is the plain yogurt you bought (or once you make a batch you can save some for future use). This is where I became conscious that now we were dealing with more than just warm milk. I was about to grow something and it didn't involve dirt. Yikes! I was unsure if 1T of starter per quart was adequate. That is what Sofya instructs. Katie on the other hand uses 2T. There are others who say even more. What's a girl to do? I thought I'd go in the middle. 2T per quart it is. Next time I will experiment. I was too scared my first time. Add your starter to the crockpot. Gently stir. Cover, wrap it in the towel and place in the oven. I preheated my oven to a little under the lowest setting (170 degrees) before my crockpot went in. About a minute or so. If my probe thermometer was working I could tell you the temperature, but we all know how that went. I turned off the oven and shut the door. I didn't open it until 6 hours later. Sofya notes that leaving your oven light on will aid in keeping the temperature up in the oven.

4. Once 6 hours had passed I rushed over to the oven. I planned on leaving it go longer, but with my late start and thermometer disaster I had to go to bed at some point. I felt like a kid on Christmas morning. I tore off the cover and looked down at my creation. Now I don't think I would normally eat warm, plain, unsweetened yogurt, but this was the day. You can see the pictures below show how nice and thick it got. The picture on the right shows where I dug in. :) It tasted very mild. I wasn't sure what to expect. There hasn't been one plain store bought yogurt I appreciated. This was tasty, although, warm. I then placed the crockpot outside (this was a SUPER cold January night. I want to say it was in the single digits.) It stayed out there for just over an hour. It could have stayed out longer as the bottom of my crock wasn't completely cold. This instantly led me to believe the yogurt wouldn't be either. Sure enough. It was cool, not cold. Oh well. It was pushing 11 o'clock at night and this show needed to end.

Seriously try this. The kids will think it's cool too. Some others may think you are out of your mind, but I don't care. I want to add a few pointers too. If you want a thicker greek style yogurt you can strain it in a coffee filter over a colander. I did this until the thickness was that of sour cream (not the light stuff either). I wanted it thicker as I like flavored yogurt. Someday I might be hardcore and eat straight up plain yogurt, but for now I like it sweet. Anyhoo...My first attempt was to add a teaspoon of honey to yogurt before it was strained strained . My yogurt went from luscious to a slurry. This homemade yogurt is delicate folks. So that's why I wanted a THICK yogurt to add scrumptious mix-ins. I now can confidently add fresh or frozen fruit or more liquidy yummies like honey or homemade jam without worry. I made a batch of kiwi strawberry freezer jam this past summer and it turned out pretty runny. Tasted great. I loved that this jam was next to no sugar, but hated that it turned toast into a soggy mess. Guess what it's sole purpose is now? You betcha.

You can also make this on the stove like Katie does. I might try this sometime when I have some quart jars. I liked the crockpot method for my first time. She also points out that a shorter incubation time produces a more mild yogurt and so does a lower incubation temperature. I have no idea. Maybe next time I will monkey around with the variables.

A thinner yogurt isn't bad here. We were trained to like pectin thickened yogurt like what we buy off store shelves. Many places around the world turn up their noses at our so called yogurt. So thinner isn't bad here. If your end result is too thin for your liking use it in smoothies or soups. In recipes calling for sour cream or in homemade salad dressings.

Here are a few places I looked at before starting:

I am so excited to have started my yogurt journey. I know I will continue to do this monthly, if not weekly. This was very cheap and easy to do. I received the milk for buying certain groceries so it was just the cost of my starter. It was $2.00. Obviously organic milk and yogurt starter will cost more. I'm sure each time I make this I will learn a little more. Have fun with this.  

1 comment:

blueviolet said...

I had no idea you could do that. I don't have the patience at all, but I think it's awesome!