It seems making yogurt is all the rage these days. I’ve recently come across posts from Tigress, The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter, Attainable Sustainable, and from Marcus Samuelsson. Yogurt is getting expensive – I believe the quart size Chobani in my local grocery store is now upwards of $7. You can buy cheaper yogurt, but a lot of it has pectin in it to change the texture, which I don’t like. I am a pure Greek yogurt girl – I want my ingredients to say “Milk, Live Active Cultures” and that’s IT. To top it all off, my friend Olivia has been making yogurt for a while, who on the scale of difficult cooking projects called this one “so easy it’s stupid.” So I had to give it a try.
Take One: Well, I’m sure you can figure out how this is going to go purely by the fact that its take one. It didn’t go badly – I just wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t start with much milk – in fact I used some lovely Beaver Brook Farm milk leftover from making ice cream. Whole, RAW milk – super rich stuff. I had been buying 2% Chobani. I also tried this in thermoses/travel cups – only about half made it – chalk that up to poor insulation. I probably didn’t care for this small batch because it was so rich. I also had to find a way to up my yield.
Take Two: I went all out on this one. I spent the extra dollar for a half-gallon of Farmer’s Cow 2%. I also bought a Chobani 2% – you have to get the starter cultures from somewhere. Making yogurt is fairly easy from all of the methods above – heat milk to 180° and leave there for a while, depending on how thick you like your yogurt. Then let it cool until it drops below 115° – stir in the cultures and keep it warm for 4-8 hours until it sets. You really do have to babysit it – this is why they have yogurt maker machines that you can buy, but I wasn’t about to spend money on a unitasker. I heated the milk to 180° for 10 minutes, then once it hit 115°. I stirred in the yogurt. While it was cooling, I put 110° water in my crock pot, and turned it on warm to keep it there. I put the yogurt in a metal bowl in the warm water, effectively creating a bain marie. There was only one problem – the warm setting on the crock pot is TOO warm! I had to set an alarm anytime it hit 115° and rush in to put in a couple of ice cubes. Needless to say – the batch did not turn out as yogurt, but more like a ricotta. If you go much over 115°, you kill the cultures – what makes yogurt, yogurt. I am going to try to see if I can salvage it today with some salt and make chicken rollatini and ravioli. But anyway – strike two. I fed the leftover whey to my plants, though – at least they get something good out of it.
Take Three: I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the $7 yogurt in the store, so I knew I had to try it again. Farmers Cow – check. Probe thermometer – check. Olivia offered her method of wrapping the warm milk in towels to keep it warm. I also thought about Sofya’s method of sealing it in the oven overnight, and Kris’ method of using a cooler. But given the past two strikes I wanted to keep an eye on this one, so back to the crock pot. This time, I put 110° water in the crock pot and didn’t turn it on. It gradually cooled – I could monitor the water temperature with a probe thermometer – and when it got below 90°, I added some additional warm water – never going over 110°. It sat for about six hours – and really firmed up. I strained it overnight to get the consistency I wanted. I woke up this morning to the most perfect thick, luscious yogurt. Finally! Breakfast was a small cup with the last bit of a jar of apricot amaretto jam from last summer. Perfection.
One half gallon of milk – your choice
One small individual serving of yogurt – your favorite
Heat milk slowly to 180° on the stove. I find stirring it often helps avoid forming a skin and also avoids burning the bottom of the milk. Leave it between 180-185° for 10 minutes. Let it slowly cool to 110°. While it cools, prepare your slow cooker with 110° water and a metal or otherwise oven-safe bowl (a bain marie). Once the milk has cooled, mix 1/4 cup of it with the individual yogurt, and then milk into the rest of the warm milk. Pour into metal bowl in slow cooker, put probe thermometer in the water in the slow cooker, and monitor. Do not go above 110°, but do not go too low either. Incubate 4-6 hours, until yogurt has firmed. Drain for thicker greek style yogurt. Use the very last bit of this batch to make your next batch. Never buy store-bought yogurt again!