The great homemade yogurt experiment - round one
Back in the day when I was young and married and filled with adoration of making everything from scratch, we made yogurt often. The father of my children had purchased one of those Salton makers when he was a teenager and yeah, it worked OK. My memories are hazy but I do recall that the yogurt was usually very dry and sour to the taste, and I always had to flavor it heavily to get the kids to eat it. Then, we got divorced, I got custody of the kids and he got custody of the yogurt maker.
Even though I was reduced to buying yogurt at the store, I'm pretty sure I got the better end of the deal.
A couple of years ago, I came across an article from my friend Angie, How to Make Raw Milk Yogurt . I've lived in this area my entire life. I'll admit to not being involved in the local farmers market scene until about five years ago, but those raw milk people are very, very secretive. I was interested in getting my hands on some to make a sourdough starter. NO ONE would talk to me. The one person who admitted to knowing someone who might be able to get some raw milk wouldn't help me out - I guess he was afraid I would follow him.
So, I was stuck buying my milk at Kroger because I didn't have time to go to the Hill's Market to get some low-temp pasteurized milk.
I found a post via Pinterest (are you addicted yet? shoot me an e-mail at debbieandharryskitchen at gmail dot com and I'll send you an invitation) from Emily at Keeper of the Home explaining the slow cooker method of making homemade yogurt. Emily was making 8-cup batches in a round slow cooker. But, I had read a few other yogurt-making blog posts that indicated my huge, oval slow cooker might not work well with a small amount. So, I'm starting with a half-gallon of organic whole milk that, unfortunately, is ultra-pasteurized but at least it's not UHT.
For my yogurt starter, I bought (mistakenly, because I meant to get full-fat) an organic fat-free plain Greek yogurt. In reading through comments from other homemade yogurt-makers, I found that I should try to get a yogurt that has at least five active cultures.
Time to start - by the way, the actual working time about 20 minutes.
Plug in your slow cooker and turn it on to heat up while you are heating the milk. I put mine on the "High - 4 Hour" setting. I poured the milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and heated it over medium until it was 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the milk every once in awhile so it doesn't stick to the bottom and scorch.
For my first try, I'm very happy. The full texture, once I poured it out of the slow cooker into a container, is a little less thick than your standard Greek yogurt. But, one of my teenage memories of yogurt is staying with a family near Barneveld, Holland and pouring the yogurt out of a carton like milk, then adding a spoonful of this wonderful woman's homemade strawberry preserves. The taste of this yogurt is actually very mild. I was trying to explain it to Harry last yesterday - think about a mildly dry wine, it doesn't suck your cheeks into each other when you taste it and there's just a bit of sour tang.
The yogurt experiment will be ongoing. I'd like to make smaller batches more often just so I don't risk letting any go bad. I need to know how many times I can "inbreed" my starter before it stops working. I'm sure if I were to use this to start a salad dressing, I would definitely drain it for awhile to thicken it. I'm also thinking about trying a yogurt cheese.