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Week 40 – It’s in the Dairy Air

The Green Bay Packers just beat the Chicago Bears and are heading for the Super-duper Bowl. It’s getting pretty exciting here in Wisconsin. Oh yea, and I made some cheese and yogurt. Talk about excitement!

I have to say I’ve been way excited all week, long before this football craze came along. I’ve been hoping to try my hand at a few other types of cheese besides the mozzarella I made a week or so ago, perhaps something quicker and easier to build up my confidence a bit. And yogurt – well I really never considered making it at home since it’s a product well within the limits of my rules – however everyone was saying it’s just so darn easy and economical – so I had to try my hand at it.

When I was in college back in… well it doesn’t matter what year it was… when I was in college I had a yogurt maker. Making yogurt was one of my first ventures into natural foods and hey, everyone was doing it. All I knew of making yogurt were the instructions that came with the yogurt maker. Heat some milk, add some plain yogurt as the culture, pour into the small glass jars and snap on the lids, then turn on the machine. There it sat quietly on the counter of my apartment, doing its yogurt magic overnight while I slept snugly in the next room. The following morning I would find something in those jars that was perhaps slightly runny, but pretty much looked and tasted like yogurt.

Fast forward to this past week. I no longer have that yogurt maker of my college days, and while a friend offered to lend one to me I had already been reading enough online about making yogurt in a Crockpot, and decided that would be my yogurt maker of choice. Okay I’m really trying to curb my enthusiasm here. Making yogurt in a Crockpot is totally awesome! In fact I’m trying my best to eat what I made quickly enough so I can make another batch this week. What’s so great about this method is that I know a lot more about food than I did when I was 20, and understanding what it takes to get the consistency I wanted takes nothing more than a bowl, a colander and some cheesecloth. I now have yogurt, Greek yogurt, and something that resembles sour cream in my refrigerator – all from one batch of Crockpot yogurt.

Before I get to the yogurt recipe I also made some cheese this week in preparation for a photo shoot and video that’s happening this coming Tuesday. Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier? Yea, it’s funny what happens when your communications director at work sends out a press release on your blog project. Seems like I got myself involved in an upcoming story and online video for our local paper, as well as a spot on a morning show this coming Friday. I’m excited and a bit nervous. And yeah, I’ve been cooking and cleaning all weekend in preparation. So the cheese recipe, “queso blanco”, will complete the meal I’m making, which is my pork carnitas on homemade corn tortillas, topped off with some homemade queso blanco and homemade yogurt “sour cream.”

Okay, here are the really easy steps to making Crockpot yogurt. My Crockpot, which I’m guessing is about 20 years old, didn’t quite get the milk to temp in the time the recipe said it would, so I think I have a shortcut for the next time I make it that I’ll include in the steps to follow. I honestly don’t believe you really need a Crockpot, and I’m going to try it without the next time I make it.

What you’ll need to make the yogurt is:

½ gallon of milk

2 packets of yogurt starter, or 2 tablespoons plain yogurt

1 Crockpot or slow cooker of your choice

1 kitchen thermometer (this is science baby, make sure you have one and use it)

1 large and warm bath towel (yes, for making yogurt)

So first, you need to get your milk up to temperature. All signs point to using milk that isn’t ultra pasteurized, just like in making cheese. I used skim milk and it didn’t affect the texture or taste of the yogurt, at least not to the point I expected it would.

The recipe I used said to set your Crockpot on low for 2 ½ hours to get the milk between 180 – 190° mainly for the purpose of creating a sterile environment for inoculating the milk with yogurt culture. My 20-year old Crockpot took 4 hours, so next time I’m just going to bring it to temp in a pot on the stove.

Next, once it reaches 180° you need to let the milk cool down to 110° which is the magic temperature for inoculating the milk. It took about 2 hours for the milk to cool down to that temperature so don’t wander off too far, you’ll want to keep checking.

Once the milk is at 110° you’ll notice it has formed a skin on the top while cooling. Remove the skin and discard. Take about 1 cup of milk out of the pot and using a whisk, mix it with the yogurt culture. Now add that back to the pot of milk and whisk that mixture.

Grab your bath towel and take your Crockpot of inoculated milk to a warm part of the house. With the cover on the Crockpot, wrap the whole baby up in the bath towel and let it sit in that warm spot for about 8 hours. That’s right, 8 hours. You need to plan your day out around yogurt, both the heating and cooling, as well as allowing yourself the full 8 hours for it to create yogurt magic.

After 8 hours you have yogurt. You can put your Crockpot insert into the refrigerator if it’s time for bed, or portion out the yogurt into glass or plastic containers. I lined a colander with cheesecloth, set the colander over a bowl, and took some of the yogurt out, putting it into the cheesecloth to make ‘sour cream’. I covered the colander with plastic wrap and set it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning I had a very thick yogurt I’m going to use as sour cream –  to top off the pork carnitas!

The next day I also took some more of the yogurt and placed it into the cheesecloth lined colander to thicken it up a bit to the consistency of Greek yogurt. That took about 3 hours in the refrigerator.

So it’s true, I’m a yogurt-making convert and this house is going to be filled with the dairy air for at least the next 12 weeks to come. I only have twelve weeks left in my year – I can hardly believe it.


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20 responses »

  1. No you don’t need a crock pot – and I never use mine anymore. However, for the milk to hold its own temp up without the addition of towels and other inconvenient things, I found that it needs to be at least 3 quarts of milk in the pot. I now use a stainless steel pot.

    Are you in my town? You look really familiar.

  2. Yep, I am aware. I think your idea is really awesome (a year of inconvenience).

  3. Ooooh, I covet your yogurt pots! Nice work on the crock yogurt- and you totally inspire me to get into cheese making! I’ve only made cultured cheese like ricotta and mascarpone, but really have to get into mozzarella and cheddar, and the quesos too.

    What time and channel for your Friday piece? I’ll have to set my DVR…..

  4. I love making yogurt! When I first started I used a heating pad to keep it warm for up to 12 hours. Just shy of one quart in a mason jar, heat for 3 minutes in the microwave, let cool, use 1/3 cup starter yogart from your refrigerator yogart (guess you need to get new starter ever now and then), I like thicker yogart so I add about 2 tablespoons of dried milk, mix and wrap in a heating pad for up to 12 hours on low. If the yogart separates, it is too hot! Wrap a tea cloth with the heating pad. My son bought me a yogart maker, but I don’t like plastic, so I put the mason jar in the maker with one inch of water. When it is cooled in the frig, flavor with juice or honey. Its so good. Helps my hubbs with Gert!! or acid reflux.

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  6. Looks like I really need to embark upon a year of inconvenience in order to get to all of these projects (like yogurt). Have been meaning to make up a batch of yogurt forever, but I keep putting it off! Did you buy yogurt cultures or just use yogurt? If so, what kind did you choose?

    • @Lo – I bought Yogomet starter, available at Outpost in the dairy department. I might try it next time with some plain Sugar River yogurt, which is my all-time favorite brand. Seriously, we’ve been eating it quickly so I can make a new batch. It’s not inconvenient, it’s fun.

  7. My yogurt making years were 30 -35 years ago. With 4 young children we went through a lot of yogurt. I got a little Salton yogurt maker which was a joke — 4 jars, each less than a pint. I switched over to using a canning kettle with quart Mason jars in it. The jars sat in water heated to temp, wrapped in towels, kept in a turned off oven… It worked. Then for a while I was getting raw goat’s milk but it didn’t set — so I added agar agar… If you can get good quality milk it’s worth making your own.
    Question: when you transfer it from the Crockpot, you break the “set.” How does that work out?
    In winter, in Wisconsin, I wouldn’t worry about refrigeration overnight. Here in NH, my entry is a 2nd refrigerator during the winter. The condiment king here leaves no room in the fridge.

    • @Susan G. I had no problem in breaking the “set” by moving it to smaller containers. Used a whisk to blend before moving it. Also strained some of it to thicker yogurt – which BTW I am really happy with. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  10. Just read your article in the Journal. Awesome. Going to do your pork and granola. I just started the yogurt making about 3 weeks ago and I’m hooked. Greek yogurt was way to expensive to buy. Hense the making. Best way I’ve found to keep it warm all night. Big gallon pickle jar and 120 water bath in a cooler wrapped in a blanket. It was still toasty warm in the morning. So much easier than the oven light thing.

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  13. Just out of curiosity, what is the difference between the sour cream and the thickened yogurt? Is it the addition of the plastic wrap?
    Thanks! 🙂


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