Last year we got a crock pot for $12 and it has been a great investment! I make yogurt once or twice a week so I can eat it every morning for breakfast. To begin, you need to buy 2 liters of milk and a yogurt that already contains live cultures– this yogurt will be your starter (you won’t need to buy this part again because you can use your own yogurt as your next batch’s starter). The first thing that you need to to do is pour the milk into the crock pot. Cook it on high for 2 hours.
Then turn it off. It should look something like this-> At this stage, you should take your starter out of the fridge so that the temperature of the starter and the heated milk won’t be quite so different when it’s time to mix them together. You don’t need to open the crock pot unless you want it to cool extra quickly (but this may lead to a runnier texture). It will need about 3 or 4 hours to cool. You can test by dipping a finger into the milk. When you can hold your finger in it for 7 seconds, your milk is ready!
To add the starter (1/2 cup of starter yogurt for 2 liters of milk), you can pour it straight into the crock pot. A more official method is to take about a cup of the hot milk in a separate bowl and mix the starter into it first before mixing it all together. This allows the starter to warm more gradually and allows you to mix it very thoroughly. This is definitely a good idea if your milk is actually too hot or too cold (according to the finger test) or if you forgot to take the starter out of the fridge. The next thing you need to do is create an incubator for your crockpot concoction. We usually wrap ours in a towel and then put the whole bundle into a metal trunk. You can also use your oven as an incubator– basically you need something that will insulate the bundle and keep the warmth from escaping too quickly while the live culture is multiplying. Your yogurt needs to stay in the incubator for about 5 hours. We sometimes leave ours overnight.
In the morning, you can strain your yogurt because it will be pretty liquid-y. This way you can give it a nice yogurt texture. At this point you are separating the curds (your yogurt) from the whey (a yellow liquid by-product that can actually be used to make other things, like ginger ale). We use the pot from our rice cooker, a T-shirt (though cheese cloth would be preferable), and a big elastic-y band. We leave it like this in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. If you leave it too long, the yogurt’s texture will be a little more solid. If this happens and you wish it hadn’t, you can add some of the whey back in and mix. If it is too liquid-y, it needs to drain longer.
When you are happy with the consistency, you can scoop your yogurt into a jar to keep it fresh and clean in the fridge. Hooray!
Now on to flavoring! I like to add honey and vanilla to mine. Fruit is also nice. You can add chunks of fruit or blend your yogurt with fruit for a smooth consistency. It’s also good in smoothies or unsweetened it can be good as a side to meat or veggies (they like to do this in Turkey and India). I like to eat my yogurt with granola or raw oatmeal and flax seed meal, ideally with chunks of sliced fruit too when we have fruit in the fridge! Can’t wait for strawberry season!! When you are nearing the bottom of your jar, make sure you save about 1/2 a cup to be the starter for your next batch! Bon appetit!