Sunday, December 9, 2012

Homemade Yogurt…so easy you’ll thank me later

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Yep, homemade yogurt.  Sounds crazy?  A little too “granola”?  I used to read posts over at The Frugal Girl’s blog and think “Why the heck is this chick making yogurt?”.  I mean the stuff is everywhere and even the generic stuff is pretty good.

Well, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to try a recipe for homemade yogurt in the crockpot.  I just couldn’t be bothered with making something on the stove, so I figured the crockpot method might be a good fit.   Ummm…..let’s just put that in the FAIL category.  I even tried that recipe a second time with the same bad result.  Too sour and soupy.  Garbage. 

After a few months, I stumbled upon The Frugal Girl’s post on homemade yogurt again.  Her recipe uses common kitchen equipment so…One more try?  Sure!

And this time…

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SUCCESS!!!

Yummy, thick and creamy homemade yogurt.  Here is a pic of me trying the DQ Blizzard flip test with my fresh yogurt…

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The only thing that sometimes comes out of the jars when you flip them is a bit of liquid, which is just the whey separating out.  Not a big deal at all.  I just pour it into the sink every time I open up the container.  I’ve heard of some great uses for the whey and might try that in the future. 

For the exact recipe and lots of helpful pictures, check out The Frugal Girl’s post.  Her recipe calls for a whole gallon of milk, which yields four quarts of yogurt.  For my first two batches, I decided to cut it in half (half gallon of milk = two quarts of yogurt).  Recently, I made my first whole gallon recipe. 

I’m happy to report all three times have been a complete success.  Call me crazy, but I get such a great feeling when I make something like this from scratch.  It’s similar to my yeast bread making adventures.  It just feels like magic?  My husband laughs.  I told him, “Ta da!  I made yogurt.  I’m god-like!”  He eye rolls.  Ok.  So I’m not freakin’ Copperfield, but its still a great feeling and you might enjoy it too. 

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The other reason I love making homemade yogurt: I control what goes in it!    Sugar, no sugar, low fat, organic (haven’t tried that), vanilla, maple syrup.  My choice!  Also, with choices come the things I get to exclude: gelatin, pectin, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners and colors, etc.  Now, I’m a lucky gal in that we don’t have any food allergies or food restrictions in our household, however every time I make yogurt I think about how great this recipe would be for a family with those issues.  Totally customizable. 

So far, I’ve only made the sweetened vanilla version because that is mostly what my family eats.  The kids also like berry flavored yogurt so I bought some berry preserves…

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Now, this might seem simple and you might laugh that I took pictures of how I add preserves to my yogurt, but trust me.  This is helpful.

I start with a dollop of preserves in a bowl…

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Then I spread the preserves around the bottom of the bowl.

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Add a few scoops of yogurt…

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Then FOLD the yogurt and preserves together. DO NOT stir like crazy!

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Seems simple enough and I’m sure you’re probably laughing at me even though I asked you nicely not to.  However, if you really like thicker, creamier yogurt you need to fold the preserves into the yogurt.  Stirring breaks down the structure of the yogurt.  The more you stir, the thinner it gets.  Trust me.  I’ve done it.  And of course, thinner yogurt is still totally edible.  I just like the thicker stuff.

Adjustments That I Made and Tips:

  1. Low Fat, 1% milk – I wanted a lower fat yogurt and although I read that low fat milk produces thinner yogurt, I did not have any issues using them.
  2. Adding powdered milk – I used this in my last two batches and it seemed to thicken the yogurt up a bit more without adding fat; I added 1/4 cup per gallon of milk while heating to 185 degrees.
  3. My starter – I used plain name brand first, my own homemade second and then vanilla flavored Activia third.  All worked fine.  Obviously the flavored starter will only work if you’re making vanilla yogurt.
  4. Sterilize your canning jars in the dishwasher – makes life easier and I haven’t had contamination issues.

So, there is my homemade yogurt experience so far.  My kids and I totally love this recipe and I’m making a new batch tomorrow.  D-man isn’t as impressed as we are, but he likes the whipped chocolate version from the store.  Not sure how I could make that at home.  Any ideas are welcome as usual.  Until, then more yogurt for me and the boys!

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