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yogurt1

The following is part of an Organic Journey guest post series, written by Amy a long time helper behind the scenes of Southern Savers.

Writing down what I’m spending each week is opening my eyes to where my money is going.  I spent $91 this week and would have been under budget if not for my husband.  HA!!  My husband has been working in North Georgia and driving right past Jaemor Farms where they sell the most glorious peaches fresh picked.  Not to mention the other beautiful produce and fresh baked apple pies.  So yeah, we went over budget because of the peaches.  Not his fault, I sent him.  Nonetheless we are making forward progress and I am encouraged!

I have been making yogurt in my crockpot for a little over a month now.  When I read a blogpost about how simple it was I decided to give it a try.Not only was it ridiculously simple, it was also super cost effective!  If you want 64 oz of yogurt, use a half gallon of milk.  That means for $6 (the cost of a gallon of organic milk), I can get the equivalent of FOUR big 32 oz cartons of organic yogurt.  There is no point in reinventing the wheel so if you want to know how to make the yogurt A Year of Slow Cooking has a fabulous step by step tutorial.  There are even recipes for dairy-free yogurt (are you getting visions of almond milk yogurt or coconut milk yogurt for a mere fraction of the grocery store price??)

After making my yogurt for a while I had some questions that I wanted answered.  Here they are:

How do I make it thicker?

One of the biggest complaints in making homemade yogurt is that it is runny.  It’s true, the yogurt isn’t as thick as store bought, but there are several ways to solve that.
1.  Use whole milk.  Yep, that fat will thicken the yogurt right up.  I’m not too terribly worried about fat content since my kiddos are the ones gobbling up the yogurt, and I have found that whole milk makes a BIG difference.
2.  One of my girls likes greek yogurt, so she wasn’t excited at ALL about the texture of my crockpot variety.  I used this little gadget and within a few hours we had greek yogurt.  The whey had drained off nicely and it was thick and creamy!  Others have recommended using a coffee filter or cheesecloth to drain.  Any of those methods will work.
3.  There is another method that requires a few more steps, but apparently, it thickens more.
4.  You can also add pectin or powdered milk but I’m a fan of just keeping it simple.

How long can I keep pulling out a ½ cup of yogurt to use as the starter batch of yogurt while still maintaining all of that good bacteria?

My mind started swirling trying to figure this one out.  So much so that I called my college roommate who is both an amazing cook and has a biology degree to help me sort through this.  When you put the starter into the warm milk it will start to populate the milk.

She explained it to me this way:

“If you have five people that head into a Golden Corral at noon and tell them to eat everything in the restaurant before it closes it just can’t be done.  There is too much for the five of them to eat.  They won’t be able to do it.  In the same way,  if you don’t put enough of the bacteria into the warm milk, it won’t be able to populate it all.  The result will be a runnier yogurt. On the flip side, if you put 1,000 people in a Golden Corral and told them to eat everything before it closes, there wouldn’t be enough food, and theoretically, they would starve.  So, if you put too much bacteria into your warm milk, the bacteria will starve and begin to die off.”

Don’t you love it when a friend can break things down into language you understand!  Now I get why you have to put the right amount of bacteria into the warm milk.

My next big question is how long will my starter last?  

I have read and heard all kinds of things.  The bottom line is that it appears that the bacteria in your yogurt begins to die off in about 5-7 days.  Therefore, if you make yogurt once a week, you’re just fine.  Your bacteria is alive and happy and you can keep pulling out a ½ cup indefinitely.  If you are like me though, and only make yogurt every two weeks the bacteria isn’t as fresh and kickin’ as it was a week ago.  After 4-5 batches of yogurt, you need to use a new starter to liven up the bacteria once more.

Is there a benefit in using a powder starter over buying plain yogurt with live active cultures at the store?

There are powder starters that you can use as a starter instead of getting plain, unsweetened yogurt with live active cultures from the grocery store.  It costs about the same from what I can see.  If you are limited by your location as to what type of yogurt your store offers and can’t find a plain yogurt with live active cultures, then a powdered starter is the way to go.  (This starter costs about 74¢ per half gallon of yogurt.)  Another plus to having a powdered starter is that you always have it on hand when you need it.  Store it in the freezer; it will last longer that way.  If you decide just to buy yogurt from the grocery store try to find the yogurt that isn’t expiring soon.  You want the bacteria to be as alive as possible.

How can I sweeten it?

This yogurt definitely needs some help in becoming more palatable…at least if you live in my house it does!  We use homemade freezer jam to sweeten ours.  I have friends that use honey.  My kiddos also like to sprinkle some homemade granola on the top.

Overall, I have found that this is a super easy way to save money on the good stuff!

What tricks have you learned in making your own yogurt?  And what is your favorite way to spice it up?

    • Annadgali

      I have been making homemade yogurt for years now. Its very simple and cost effective. I simply boil my milk and cool it to a little warmer than lukewarm temperature. Then add a 1tsp- 2tsp yogurt for setting, cover it and leave it inside my oven with the oven light turned on. Then I leave it for 7 hrs undisturbed, and it is set. I promptly refrigerate it thereafter. For sweetened yogurt, sweeten your milk with sugar prior to adding yogurt.
       

    • GigiM

      I’ve been making my yogurt for years, too.  When my daughter (now 40) was weaned, she wanted no part of milk.  My pediatrian said to feed her yogurt, which she loved.  She had a weight problem (at 12 months!) so he said no sweetener, but luckily she liked plain yogurt.  I made yogurt every day, to have enough.  Then I had a Salton yogurt maker, which made several individual jars of yogurt.  As the years passed, I made yogurt in my over-the-stove microwave, using the light as the sole source of heat.  It worked perfectly.   (To be continued) 

      I only

    • Peg

      I’ve also made yogurt for years, usually every 2-3 weeks.  I haven’t had any problems using a couple of teaspoons of my last batch of yogurt for starter.  I like to microwave a couple of hot/cold gel packs that you can find near the ace bandages at Walmart and place them with my yogurt in a small cooler.  The trick is to keep the mixture around 100 – 105 degrees.  Along with my starter, I stir in a couple of small scoops of powdered milk in my 1% milk to thicken it up.  It’s always thicker after it cools overnight in the fridge.  Just stir it up to make it creamier.

    • GigiM

      Now I have a 1 quart Salton yogurt maker, which makes it easier – I don’t have to be home to babysit it.  Some pointers – scald the milk.  Add non-fat dry milk to thicken it and for nutrition.  (I use 1/2 c per qt)  Only use 1 Tb of yogurt for starter, or it may get ropey.   If the temperature of the yogurt and milk gets above 115, the starter will die.  Add more and start again.  If it gets much below 100, it just won’t set.  Increase the temperature.  It takes about 4 hours for it to set.  It doesn’t like to be moved while it’s setting.  After it’s refrigerated, it’ll get thicker.  When you serve up the first serving, dig down one side of the container.  Within a few minutes, that hole will be filled with whey, and the yogurt will be thicker.  Keep doing that and it’ll get thicker – it’s easier than straining, unless you want real yogurt cheese. (You can use the whey to add nutrition to soups, etc.)  Yogurt needs to be aged 3 days to get the familiar acidic taste.  But it never lasts that long around here – fresh yogurt tastes like thick, heavy cream – without the fat!

      The best way to spice it up is to serve it with homemade granola – oats, nuts, fruits, etc. 

      I made yogurt yesterday, I’m making granola tonight, and need to make more yogurt tomorrow!

    • deb

      I have a question about the starter.  How long will it last and what’s the best way to store it?  Thanks in advance

    • deb

      I have a question about the starter.  How long will it last and what’s the best way to store it?  Thanks in advance

      • amysanders

        are you talking about the powdered starter?

        • deb

          In the tutorial link it said, ‘Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch’

          • amysanders

            so that 1/2 cup of yogurt needs to stay in your fridge.  then read above where i write about how long it lasts.  i had the same question too!  :)

    • katkoupon

      I am totally inspired to try and make some homemade yogurt! Thank you so much!

    • TheChapLeigh

      Great topic!!

      I would like to add that using raw milk is a different process, with much lower temps than pasteurized milk. Since this is the case, the crockpots that I’ve tried have been too high even at the “warm” setting (mine run 140) Instead, I heat my milk in an enamel cast iron pot to 105-110, fill quart mason jars with the warm milk & then add in starter yogurt culture (I use stoneyfield), then cover with lids & place into a stockpot of water heated to 105. I wrap the pot with towels & check the temps occassionally, reheating if needed. I’ve found that if I heat too high, I end up with rubbery yogurt & too much whey (Yogurt resembling mozzarella); if I don’t heat enough then the end result is a heavier/creamier milk.

      I’ve also heated my jars next to the woodstove during the winter (again, 105-110) , and have also tried keeping the warm milk in the cast iron pot in the oven… The best method is by the wood stove:)

      keep that whey–use it to add to your dogfood (probiotic qualities!), freeze it in ice cube trays for smoothies, use it to soak grains (steel cut oats) or dry beans… You can even pour it around the base of fruit trees!! Who knew??!??

      • amysanders

        thanks for the info!  we are discussing moving towards raw milk, and i have wondered how it would work.  i had thought that if you heated it in the crockpot, you would wind up killing all of the goodness that you just paid extra for.  :)  thanks for the tips!!!

    • As the years passed, I made yogurt in my over-the-stove microwave, using the light as the sole source of heat.  It worked perfectly...NewsUsaVote.blogspot.com

    • As the years passed, I made yogurt in my over-the-stove microwave, using the light as the sole source of heat.  It worked perfectly...NewsUsaVote.blogspot.com

    • Suzann

      You can make your own ricotta cheese-great to use clearance milk.
      There are many recipes on the web–uses about 4 ingredients-strain through
      cheesecloth and voila ricotta. Reduces down by 50%- gallon will yield 64 oz.

      • GigiM

        That’s a lotta ricotta!

    • Kathy L.

      I’ve been making my yogurt for over a year now and I love it.  I do like the thick “greek” style though and I achieve that by simply placing lining mesh strainer with coffee filters. Most of the whey drains into a bowl. Then I add back if it’s too thick!  My granddaughter eats it plain!

    • lkk

      I have been making yogurt since I started cooking and my mother has been making since she started cooking. That’s how people in my country have been making for ages. Back then no stores ever carried yogurt there. But these days all the groceries stores carry them but people still make them on a daily basis.
      I had to try different methods of setting the yogurt when I came to usa.
      Sometimes keeping the oven light on, sometimes wrapping it in towel, and sometimes adding a few seeds of red pepper flakes in the yogurt itself(acts as heat). I had to do some trial and error for my perfect setting.
      Yogurt and its whey is good for oily skin and oily hair especially. Other skins can use it too. I use any of those to lighten suntan off my body sometimes.

    • Ohernandez23

      Love Love Love. These types of posts. I have been trying to go organic but its sooo expensive. Being able to make some things at home would def. help me cut down the cost of going organic. Thank you soooo much !!!

      • amysanders

        it is expensive!  but i’m learning that the more i can make myself, the more realistic this lifestyle is.  :)

    • Sasha

      I have been making yogurt for a few years by boiling it then putting it in jars in a “yogurt maker” that keeps it at the right temperature. I used to add powdered milk (about 2 Tb. per 1 quart milk) but now I use whole milk so that’s not necessary. I add vanilla extract and about 2 Tb turbinado after the quart of milk has boiled. I whisk my milk while it’s heating and it makes the top like whipped yogurt. Thanks for the info about the starter and how long you can keep using the same yogurt. I’ve been thinking about that for a while now.

      • Frances

         About how much vanilla extract do you use?

      • amysanders

        no problem!  glad getting my questions answered can help someone else!

    • Couponnana

      EXCELLENT!!!    THANK YOU very, very much!

      • amysanders

        you are most welcome.  :)

    • Couponnana

      EXCELLENT!!!    THANK YOU very, very much!

    • Ohernandez23

      I made my own yogurt for the first time this weekend and it turned out GREAT ! My daughter loves it. Word of advice though…. dont use a berry mix to put in your yogurt because it has balckberries and they have seeds. Next time around I will be making it with banana’s or mango.. YUMMY … Thanks again for this post !!!! Would you happen to have any good recipes for home madebread ?!?!?!?

      • amysanders

        i’m a big fan of bread becker’s bread recipes.  they have a basic dough that morphs into everything from dinner rolls to cinnamon rolls (and great FREE video tutorials to boot!)

    • tori729

      This sounds like a great idea however my kids don’t like fruit chunks in their yogurt. I suppose I can just make plain yogurt and add vanilla and honey to make it sweeter but is there a way to make fruit flavored w/out the chunks?

      • GigiM

        Why don’t you puree some fruit in the food processor? Use bananas for sweetness, and maybe some peaches? Be careful of seeds, though – you might want to strain them out.

      • amysanders

        we use homemade jam to get the fruit flavor (which i make without chunks because my kids don’t like chunks either!)