Monday, January 24, 2011

A post about homemade yogurt

A few people asked me, and so last week I mentioned I would blog about this - so, here goes nothing (well, not nothing, although I feared it would be about a failed attempt at yogurt making - alas, all turned out alright despite my own folly the other night)

I've been making my own yogurt for around 9 months or so - ever since I figured out how much money I could save doing so. Now, if your household doesn't go through much yogurt, this might be irrelevant to you, but we go through the stuff like we do, say, water. So, making my own yogurt is on par with making my own bananas*

*we go through twenty, Yes 20 bananas, weekly. Shame we don't live in a tropical place, or I WOULD figure out a way to grow my own.

Around 9 months ago, I started with the basic recipe a friend told me about, and after some tweaking, and taking a few tips and tricks under consideration, I came up with a recipe/method I feel a) reasonably compares to/is better than store bought yogurt, b) is simple and efficient, and c) saves money. So, on with the my recipe. (note: you may want to refer to that basic recipe eventually, you'll notice mine is a little more complex as per my own tweaking)

  • 1/2 gallon milk (usually whole, this batch was 2% because it was cheaper. No noticeable difference. Oh, and previously frozen is A-OK, as long as it's fully thawed. And I mean fully.)
  • 1/2 C store-bought yogurt with "live, active, cultures"
  • 1 packet Knox unflavored gelatin
  • 3/4 C sugar, optional (I don't like the taste of plain yogurt. Neither does my toddler. So sue us.)

  • Pour the milk (and sugar, if you're using it) into your crock pot.
  • Turn your crock pot to low.
  • Set your cell phone (or other alarm) for 2.5 hours
  • After 2.5 hours has elapsed, UNPLUG YOUR CROCKPOT
  • set your cell phone (or other alarm) for 3 hours.
Run a load of laundry - heck, run three loads of laundry. Read, do whatever - but DON'T mess with the milk in your crockpot

  • After 3 hours has elapsed, grab a medium sized bowl. Pour into it your half cup (4oz) of store bought yogurt.
  • pour on top of it 2 cups of the warm-ish milk from your crockpot
  • evenly sprinkle the packet of gelatin granuals over the warmish milk - wait 5 seconds.
  • Whisk all to combine (yogurt, warm-ish milk, gelatin)
  • recombine mixture with milk in crockpot
  • Wrap your crockpot in bath towels - sides and top
  • Now leave it, for 8 hours. Because I let mine sit overnight, and because our kitchen is quite drafty, I leave mine in our oven (OFF of course) with the oven light on. maintains the "warm-ish-ness" a little better. And, afterall, "warm-ish-ness" is what yogurt cultures need to thrive"
  • Open crockpot, and TA-DA! you've made a half gallon of yogurt! Also known as 64oz. Also known as nearly 11 of the little 6oz yogurts you get at your local grocer. Also known as 16 of the 4oz "yo-baby" whole milk yogurts. whew!

This is what mine looks like straight out of the - er - bathtowels. It's moderately thick on top, and a little runnier underneat the creamy top.

Because we're an "on the go" type of family (and because my hard-working husband takes one MONSTER of a lunch to work each day) I immediately portion or yogurt into Ten 6-7oz servings. Sure, they may look a little messy, and a little runny right now, but once they sit in the refer. for a few hours that gelatin does its work and it firms up quite nicely.


I would be remiss if I didn't add a few caveats to my yogurt-making tale. First, if you make yogurt a good number of times, eventually you'll end up making nothing but runny warm milk. In other words, you'll eventually have a failed batch. If you happen to use gelatin like I do, it will quickly turn into "milk jello" - which, I know from experience, is completely useless for EVERY imaginable application. It was upon such a failure that I discovered the aforementioned tips and tricks website. I discovered that there are specific temperatures yogurt cultures need to thrive, and others at which it they are unequivocally killed.

Don't heat the milk enough initially = fail
Add your culture when milk is still too hot = fail
You get the picture.

The only other thing I want to add is my price comparison. Because this is high fat yogurt - which I feed my toddler - I'll compare it to its equal in fat, calories, and calcium: Stoneyfield farms YoBaby brand.

Around these parts I can get a half gallon of milk (when it goes on SUPER sale) for$0 .99. (Needless to say, when they go on sale, I FILL my chest freezer with them) That comes out to $0.06 per 4oz toddler serving.

Around here, one four-pack of 4oz yo-baby yogurt cups runs $2.49 which comes out to $0.62 per 4oz toddler serving.

For comparison, Danonino (which are not organic as stoneyfield are, but which come in much, much smaller serving sizes, making them look decievingly cheap) cost $1.88/6 1.76oz cups. (Yeah, 1.76oz per itty bitty cup.) So they work out to $0.71/4oz toddler serving.

Alternately, the 6oz yogurt cups I used to purchase for my husband's lunch (generic brand) run an average of $0.42 each. For an equal amount of yogurt, my homemade version costs $0.09. Wowza.

So, there you go. My recipe, my process, and my reasoning for going cheap (and as some would say, ahem, "hippy" - that was the term you used, yes Rachael? :)

Do you make your own yogurt? Do you make something else at home to save on store prices? What is it? How do you do it? I wanna know! Oh, and if you have any successes/ failures with this recipe here, I want to know that too. Always looking to make improvements after all!


Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting your method! I'm curious why your yogurt wouldn't have worked if you didn't heat it enough. I've finally decided that my own system works best if I heat initially to only ~130F. Perhaps coincidentally, the time my prep failed (sadly), I heated up to what most people normally heat theirs to, around 170F.

Julie said...

Awesome! We are taking a break from yogurt since Brian is tired of it and J prefers cottage cheese but some day it will come back. Either way we are off the processed stuff. Glad you are enjoying it, though! Happy cooking to you.

Scherbarths said...

Thanks for sharing. I might have to try my hand at yogurt making.

neflood said...

You have inspired me Melissa...I am gearing up to make my own homemade yogurt! I have to say though, I'm jealous of your milk and yogurt prices in the midwest. I think the only way I could find a 1/2 gallon of milk for $.99 in Seattle is if it expired a week ago!

Melissa K. said...

Nicole, I'm so glad you're going to give it a try - let me know how it works out! As time passes I change my recipe here and there, it looks similar to this one I posted, but I add the sugar later now (makes for a less syrupy texture) and I incubate in a big old roaster on the countertop. Anyhow, I'm not surprised you can't find .99 milk in Seattle, I think I'd even be surprised to find it in Pullman these days. The Midwest is THE place to be for families on a budget :)