When I was growing up, yogurt was a rather mysterious food. My dad liked to eat the ones with the fruit on the bottom, but we kids were never fed it regularly, and I didn’t know a single person that bought the plain kind. After all who could willingly consume such stuff? (Ah, the ignorance of youth!)
But then I married a man from a culture that uses yogurt like ketchup–they slop it on nearly everything. My mother-in-law actually makes her all her own yogurt. She offered to show me how to do it, but I didn’t really eat much of it at the time, and the directions were a little…vague. As a scientist, I need exact temperatures and times, or my poor brain just can’t handle it.
When I was pregnant with my first (aka the Princess Pregnancy, or the one where you are not responsible for any other small human other than the one you are gestating), I needed to increase the amount of protein and calcium in my diet, which is tough because I don’t eat meat or drink milk and there was only so much beans and cheese I could choke down. I ate some yogurt, but it was only…OK. And one day, my husband brought home some Greek yogurt. And I fell in love with plain(!) yogurt. Greek yogurt is just plain yogurt that has been strained, so it’s thicker than regular yogurt, which somehow magically makes it much, much better.
It’s also much more expensive. But I still wasn’t quite sold on the idea of making my own. Then I found this recipe for doing yogurt in the Crock Pot.
A quick aside–I love my Crock Pot. I will try just about any recipe if it involves the Crock Pot, even if it’s not something I’m particularly fond of. If marriage equality ever passes here in California and we are free to marry the appliances of our choice, Crock Pot and I will be first in line at City Hall.
Back to the yogurt: the recipe I found had it all–a Crock Pot and very specific temperatures to hit. Somehow, the idea of using a Crock Pot and a thermometer changed the concept for me from yogurt making, which sounds artisanal, to that of bacterial culture, which is science. And I have a lot of experience with bacterial culture.
For details, you should definitely check out the linked recipe–it’s also got some great troubleshooting tips. Basically, I fill the Crock Pot with milk and turn it to high, until it reaches 180 degrees F. Then I take out the pot and let it cool to 110 degrees, add a tablespoon of yogurt, then stick in the oven with the light on overnight. If it’s cold out, I might put a big pot of hot water in as well to help hold the temperature. The next day, I pour the whole thing into a cloth lined colander to strain. I like mine very thick, so I let it drain for a while. I don’t mind the yogurt cheese she warns about at all–it’s delicious to me.
And with that, I’ve made about 40 ounces of Greek yogurt for the price of about a half a gallon of milk. It’s lazy and cheap–two of my favorite things.