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At times we have to choose between the path that is conventional and the path that is not. In today's world that once worn path that our great grandparents traveled is so overgrown and forgotten that it barely exists. Our goal is to reforge that forgotten path and make it new again.

The Family Eggers

The Family Eggers

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Greek Yogurt for Geeks (that's me)

Making yogurt was something I drug my feet on for a long time before I actually did it.  I knew it would save money since I bought the Greek style (aka the expensive kind).  Another pro for homemade was the prospect of yogurt without gelatin; important to me as a vegetarian, and difficult to find.  The next time you are in the dairy section of your grocery store flip the labels on some yogurt containers to see how many have gelatin.  Most do.  So why did I hesitate?  It seems like a no-brainer, right?  Well, taste.  I like thick flavorful but not too-tart yogurt.  I have had some plain "organic" yogurts that just didn't taste good to me.  I was afraid that was what my homemade yogurt would be like.  But as the empty plastic yogurt containers started piling up at almost $4 a quart, I decided it was time to do it anyway.

After searching online I found several sites with instructions on how to make yogurt in a crock pot.  A friend told me she made it in a crock pot and it worked well.  It seemed the easiest way so I bought a gallon of milk, a small yogurt and followed the instructions to the letter.  My first batch of yogurt turned out pretty much how I expected.  It was very tart and had small chunks that I thought were horrible.  It was fine in smoothies but not with jam or muesli.  I was disappointed but decided to try again.  The next few times it turned out much better in taste and texture.  I saved some of my first batch in the freezer so I didn't have to buy new yogurt as a culture.  My yogurt was still too runny for me though; I wanted the thick Greek style.  I read some suggestions to strain the whey with coffee filters or cheesecloth.  Cheesecloth didn't work; no matter how many times I folded it over the yogurt leaked through without straining.  Coffee filters worked but I had several little bowls with filter-lined funnels setting in cups all over the kitchen counter.  The stirring and refilling yogurt while pouring out whey was labor intensive and messy.  After many batches of yogurt, all except the first being great tasting, I had the aha moment and it all came together for me.  I used a pillow case to strain the yogurt.  I had gotten this tip in reference to soft cheese but since they are similar I gave it a try.  Not only was it successful, it was easy and much less messy.  Now my homemade yogurt is wonderful and I don't even think about buying it anymore. 

yogurt straining in pillowcase
Here's how I make yogurt:

1 gallon of whole milk into a crock pot, on high until it reaches 180 degrees F.
Turn off heat and allow milk to cool to 115 degrees F.
Stir with whisk as the milk cools to remove "scum" on top.
Add 1 cup of yogurt (reserved from previous homemade batch or small store-bought carton).
Place crock pot (assembled but obviously unplugged) into non-heated oven (OVEN IS OFF).
Wrap a few towels around crock pot.
Leave it for a long time, overnight, all day - over 8 hours.
Remove crock pot from oven and unwrap it.  It should be thick with watery whey visible.
Put a pillowcase in a huge bowl, scrunched to allow yogurt to be poured into it.
Stir yogurt with a whisk.
Pour yogurt into the pillowcase, or use a ladle.
Tie pillowcase closed with a shoestring and hang it suspended over the huge bowl.
Whey will drip out into the bowl.
Let hang until the yogurt is as thick as you like, I leave mine a few hours.
Use whey as liquid in bread or other baking. Or sauer kraut.