In an internet world of TasteSpotting and Pinterest, it can feel a little redundant to create a post on how to make yogurt at home. However! Homemade yogurt is (can be) awesome and delicious and oh so easy and money-saving, not to mention that you can decide what kind of milk goes into your yogurt and make sure there's nothing else in there you may not want (high fructose corn syrup, pectin, etc.). The method that I now use to make this wonderful yogurt is a hybrid of the traditional stove top method, which you can read about here, and the crock pot method - here.
To make yogurt:
1. Heat milk in a large pot to 180 degrees. However much yogurt you want at the end is how much you should heat - we make at least 1/2 gallon at a time and that almost lasts us a week (we eats lots of yogurt!)
2. At the same time, fill a crock pot with water 3/4 full and turn heat to low. This step is to pre-heat the pot.
3. For thicker yogurt, hold the milk at 170 - 180 degrees for 10 minutes or so.
4. Turn off and empty the crock pot, checking to ensure that the water temperature did not exceed 110 degrees (or if it does, let it cool to that temp). Cool milk to 110 degrees. Putting the pot of milk in a sink filled with cold water seems to be the quickest way to do this.
5. Remove 1/4 to 1/2 cup of warm milk to a small bowl and mix in 1/4 cup of starter yogurt *see note below* per quart.
6. Pour the remaining warm milk into the now empty and warm crock pot then stir in your yogurt/milk mix. Cover the crock pot with thick towels and put in a warm, draft-free place (if possible).
7. Let the milk sit for 8 hours, during which time it will become tasty yogurt!
Heating the milk to 180 degrees. We use pasteurized, non-homogenized milk so the yellow is melting butter fat which makes a lovely cream-top yogurt.
Preheating the crock pot.
Maintaining temperature near 180 for 10 minutes (this is optional but it really does make a texture difference at the end).
Cooling milk to 110 degrees in the sink.
Mixing yogurt starter with warm milk. *Yogurt starter can be saved from a previous batch or you can use plain yogurt from the store so long as it says 'Live Active Cultures' on the label. We experimented with a number of options and found the Brown Cow cream-top yogurt gave us the thickest yogurt. You can also order special cultures from Cultures For Health.
Checking that the crock pot water didn't heat above 110.
Pouring the yogurt/milk mix into the warm yogurt.
8 hours of incubation under thick towels.
The final product! Thick, delicious yogurt.
We enjoy our yogurt sweetened a bit with honey and topped with seasonal or frozen berries. You can also add a few drops of vanilla for flavor. It's also better to refrigerate the yogurt for at least a few hours before dipping into it so that it has time to set properly and thicken a bit more.
Truly, making yogurt can be easy! ... and oh so tasty and healthy ...