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Thick Crock Pot Yogurt

I've updated this to the basics if you have a little experience, if not this is much more detailed.

A few weeks ago I started fiddling with homemade yogurt. Singer and Sweetie Pea LOVE yogurt. So I thought I'd give it a go - and it is A LOT cheaper.

When looking for yogurt I have always tried to find the ones with a high fat content; my girl is tiny, so we are always looking for healthy fats for her.  This didn't leave us with a whole lot of choices.  Most recently we've been buying Fresh & Easy Greek yogurt - at $1 a pop!  It IS yummy, but that adds up when your kids inhale it.  If I was buying and giving it to them regularly we'd be spending about $20 a month on yogurt.

I also am VERY picky about my yogurt.  Pretty much would only eat one kind growing up - the strawberry custard style.  I have issues when it comes to yogurt, jello, bananas and the like.  So this is saying something!

To my chagrin, my mom introduced them to Danimals about a year ago.  It is a "drinking yogurt".  Only .5g fat and a whopping 14g sugarNot a happy label for this mama to read.  Have you ever noticed how unhealthy the stuff supposedly made for kids is???  I dd discover I could just add some milk to regular yogurt and shake it up and they didn't know the difference.

The day I finally decided to give making my own a go I could NOT find the recipe I wanted to use.  (I had forgotten to Pin It).  So, I searched around facebook and google to come up with a relatively all inclusive recipe.  On my first batch I did a few steps in the wrong order and ended up twice cooking it.  The second batch, for some reason I kept checking on it - MISTAKE.  This is a do the step, put the lid on and leave it alone process.   If not you'll have chalky yogurt and the kids do not take too kindly to it, nor did I or my husband.

Here's all you need for Plain Yogurt.  A Crock Pot (whatever size you have will work, I have a Crock Pot Trio Buffet Cooker, it has 3 - 1 quart pots), Milk (I use whole, but it will work with and dairy milk) - if we had the money for raw I can only image how much better it would be, and a STARTER - with active live cultures (I used plain greek style - it is thicker, filled with lots of good stuff).  After your first batch you can reserve back a portion of this batch to use for the starter for you next one and so on - not to buy your yogurt again!  Cooking classes at online colleges should also be able to teach you how to make an incredibly rich and creamy yogurt without the help of a yogurt maker.

If you start this at between 2p and 4p you should be able to have your first taste by tomorrow afternoon!  About this, a friend said to me, "To be honest, I will never invest 20 hours into a batch of yogurt."  Yes, the whole process is LONG - but that is going to be the case with any cultured product.  Making the yogurt actively took me about 20 minutes, if that.
1. Turn crock pot on low and add your milk.  SET A TIMER for 3 hours.

2. Turn crock pot off.  Set the timer for 3 more hours.  This allows it to cool down so that your cultures won't be eliminated.  At this point you can also add your sweetener - not flavor yet, but just the sweetener.

Since we are on our transition to more REAL food, I am trying to sweeten with real stuff.  So here are my choices; Vanilla,honey and what is left of the agave (not sure I'll be buying more of this) and maple syrup, if I wasn't out.  I also made some vanilla sweetener with real vanilla beans as well as making my own flavors for the yogurt - honestly, this is the hardest part of the whole process (trying to find the right balance).

If you are adding sweetener - I did 3/4 of a tablespoon of double strength vanilla and 3 tablespoons of agave to the one quart of milk (if using honey only use 1 or 2 tablespoons).  This will only give it a slight sweetness, but enough that I would eat it with somethings - and it did taste great on it's own this way.

This is your base yogurt, so your fruit or flavoring is what you taste when you add that it has completely set up.

3. Before you timer goes off, set your oven on the lowest setting (mine starts at 170*, remember milk scalds at 180*) I also put a couple stoneware sheets in the oven to hold some heat.  I store the yogurt in glass jars (don't want the plastic messing with the flavor), so to sanitize them you can toss them in there while the oven is heating up.

4. After your milk has cooled for 3 hours you can add your culture.  Take out some milk whisk in the culture, pour back in the pot and whisk again.  At least 1/2 cup of culture for each 1/2 gal of milk.  I ended up using 8ozs. (cause that is what my container held, for the 3/4 gal. of milk I used.

5. Put the lid on and wrap in a towelTurn the oven off and place in oven.  Let it sit over night (at least 8-10 hours)

6.  When morning comes unwrap, whisk up and move it to the fridge.  This will help it thicken a bit more.  Leave it alone for at least 6 hours.

Now you can check on it!  It will be thin at this point, but if that is what you are used to then have at it.  I prefer a THICK yogurt.  If you are in agreement then keep reading - if not skip to the bottom to follow the flavoring and finishing instructions.

Get a cheese cloth, a colander and a bowl.  You can leave it anywhere from 5 minutes on.  OR cover and put in the fridge to make Greek yogurt, I have left it for 3 hours to another over night process.  If it gets too thick you can always add some of the liquid back in to get it to a pleasing consistency.

I rinsed and reused the same cloth for all my batches.  I am a little wary to try to dry them out and use another day - not really sure if that is safe.  But I am thinking of using the dishwasher to do the job . . .

That liquid that drains off it Whey.  You can save that too and use it to make your homemade mayo last longer.  There are a bunch of other things you can use whey for and it adds some more nutritional value.  Yogurt cheese anyone?  Yogurt cheese is similar to cream cheese, but still contains all those live cultures.

Use 3-4 layers of single Cheese Cloth.  You can see if you have too few because the liquid will either be transparent or cloudy.  If you are planning on using the whey for other things, then do make sure you are keeping the yougurt out of you liquid.  If you re just disposing of the whey, then 2 layers should be fine.

This is another stage to play with and see what you like.  When you are happy with your thickness fill your jars and pop in the fridge to use as is, for cooking or till you are ready to mess with flavoring it. I found that the pint jars only about 2-3 servings - more if you have a thicker yogurt.  But I am investing in some larger Mason Jars so that I can make larger batches and have less jars in the fridge.

I DO recommend you make a small batch for your first time, so you can get the hang of it.  I did two 1qt batches - then after the kids had some I had to immediately make more.  So the 3rd time around I did all 3 quarts!

If you have any variations PLEASE share!  I'd love to hear about some new tricks for Homemade THICK Yogurt.

Click her to Make Yogurt at Home
Check out what I used to flavor our yummy yogurt!  I made some mistakes so you might want to pop over so you don't do the same.

Some of the recipes I looked at were from Stacy Makes Cents, Keeper of the Home, Modern Alternative Mama, and Holy-Spirit Led Homeschooling - and probably a few others I can't remember

Linked with Health 2day WednesdaysMake Your Own Mondays, Fresh Bites Friday, Living WellNatural Living, Fat Tuesday, Make it Yourself Mondays, Monday Mania, Real Foods 101, Homestead Barn Hop and Sweet Indulgences Sunday
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