This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure here.
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?