So, a friend introduced me to this crockpot blog earlier this week and I wish I had known about this site long before now. After all, the more pregnant I become, the more I use my crockpot. :)
Anyway, I saw on the aforementioned site that you can make yogurt - that's right yogurt - in your crockpot. As I'm always interested in a new kitchen experiment, I gave the recipe a shot the day after I found it.
Before you begin: Be sure to allow plenty of time - using the crockpot to make yogurt is super easy and does not require much attention, but you should allow 14-18 hours from start to finish - the first 5 hours you'll need to check the yogurt twice at timed intervals. You will also need a large, heavy bath towel or beach towel to use as insulation for the final phase.
You only need 2 ingredients to make yogurt:
milk (whole milk is suggested in the original recipe)
all-natural plain yogurt (I used Dannon*)
Note: Homemade yogurt is thinner than store-bought yogurt. You can thicken it using unflavored gelatin.
*You only need to purchase yogurt to use for your first batch. For following batches, as long as you reserve 1/2 C of your homemade yogurt to use as starter, there is no need to purchase new yogurt.
If you are using a reduced-fat milk, you might consider adding some gelatin or milk powder. Also, using pasteurized milk is fine, but (per the crockpot blogger) do not use ultra-pasteurized milk.
The original recipe and instructions to the following recipe were originally found here.
That all having been said, here is what I did...
8 C 2% milk (I used plain old Kroger brand milk)
1/2C all-natural yogurt
1/2 packet (about 1.5t?) unflavored gelatin
1 - Take 8C milk and add to your crockpot. Add lid and turn on low (my crockpot only has timed settings, so I put it on 8 hours). Let "cook" for 2.5 hours.
2 - Once the 2 1/2 hours are up, turn crockpot off and leave lid on. Let sit a further 3 hours.
3 - At the end of the 3 hour "cooling period", take 1-2C of the semi-warm (and now somewhat sour) milk from the crock pot and put in a large bowl. Add 1/2C yogurt and whisk together. If using gelatin, add it to the yogurt-milk mix and stir well.
4 - Pour the yogurt-milk-gelatin mix back to the milk in your crockpot, place lid on top and wrap towel securely around the top and sides of the crockpot. Let sit at least 8 hours or overnight.
I started my yogurt around 2:30pm yesterday, added the yogurt and gelatin to the mix around 7:30pm and let it sit in the towel-wrapped crockpot until about 8am this morning. I was thrilled when I came down to check on my concoction and, sure enough, the smell of yogurt greeted me when I took the lid off! The mixture had thickened and it worked! Homemade yogurt is thinner than store-bought yogurt, but the flavor is the same. :) As the homemade yogurt cools, it will thicken a little more. I actually prefer a thinner yogurt, so this is an added bonus to the homemade variety!
Admittedly, I'm not a huge plain yogurt fan, but there is a lot you can do to make this more enjoyable. For the record, adding anything will change the consistency/thickness of the yogurt.
Today, Daniel and I have eaten a lot of the homemade yogurt and have tried a few different things to flavor it up a bit. We think all of them have worked well.
1 - add 1T jam to ~1C yogurt and mix well
2 - add 1/4 C (drained) crushed pineapple to 1C yogurt
3 - add 1T jam and a few drops flavored liquid stevia to 1C yogurt
My favorite is probably the jam/stevia combination. Liquid stevia mixes well with the yogurt and adds an even, mild sweetness to the yogurt without adding unnecessary sugar/calories.
You can puree frozen or fresh fruit into the yogurt, but I have not yet tried this.
Now that you've read my book on crockpot yogurt-making, you may be wondering, "Is it worth it?" In short, YES! It is easy, delicious and very cost efficient. It cost about$2 for the 8C batch of yogurt.