Homemade Yogurt Experiment #1

I eat yogurt. Seems like a lot of it. In Europe, it wasn’t such a big deal because you could buy a decent sized container pretty inexpensively – 1kg (a little more than a 32oz US container) for about 1.50€. Here though, yogurt is $4.00 and up for a 32oz container. I’m too cheap to buy that for long.

So I thought I’d experiment with making my own yogurt. Yvonne has done it before, pretty successfully, and her sister living in The Netherlands makes it regularly; it’s pretty good, and her recipe is really simple. The yogurt I’ve really come to like though is a non-fat Greek yogurt; Oikos. Smooth, creamy, rich… You’d hardly guess there’s no fat in it. And the vanilla flavor is my fave. That’s what I’d like to make.

I did some digging around online a couple of nights ago, and found a bunch of recipes that might work, and focused in on two in particular. This one appealed to me because once it’s done setting up, it’s ready to eat; no fussing around straining the whey out of it. One of the ingredients is powdered milk, which I suppose helps it to firm up. But the whole business of using a heat source to keep it warm overnight is a bit much. This one also appealed to me; it uses a Crock Pot for cooking the yogurt. The post-processing, straining out the whey with cheesecloth and all, was a bit too much. So, I took the positive features of both for my first experiment.

I mixed together the following ingredients:

  1. 1 gallon of Vitamin D milk,
  2. 4 tablespoons of sugar,
  3. 6 cups of dry powdered milk,
  4. 1 cup of Dannon Plain Yogurt

I poured the gallon of milk into the Crock Pot, added the sugar & dry powdered milk, stirred it up well, then turned it on high until the mixture reached 180 degrees F. That took a couple of hours; using the slow cooker is genius for that because there’s no fussing over it and no worries that it’ll scald. Once it reached 180, I unplugged the cooker and waited for the temp to drop to 110 degrees F. That took a while; I waited up until 1 am for it to get there! Once it got to the proper temp, I stirred in the cup of yogurt (the culture that gets the whole batch going) then wrapped the crock in towels, and left it on the counter overnight.

The instructions say it should sit for for 14-15 hours. For best flavor they say to wait 14 hours, and 15 is best, but when I checked it at about 8 am (after just ~7 hours), it was thick and firm, and had a good taste to it. I decided to hold back though and waited until about 4 in the afternoon before really digging in, and I’m not sure if there was a lot of difference between that and what I tasted in the morning. The instructions also said the best flavor comes after chilling it for 2-4 days; I think it might be gone before then!

The consistency is a lot like what I’d expect from a Greek yogurt; thick, almost gel-like. Very smooth texture. I used whole milk, so it’s not the fat-free yogurt that is my ultimate goal. Yvonne says that the body needs some fat, but it seems like I don’t have a problem getting fat from other sources through the day, so I think it’s less important to have it in the yogurt. One of these next times I’ll try using some 2% or skim milk to get a low-fat/fat-free variant.

This first experiment was a success, but I’m not sure if it was a big cost savings. My investment into it is as follows:

  • Milk – $2.15 (gotta love Costco!)
  • Powdered Milk – $8.00 (used nearly an entire container from HyVee)
  • Sugar – pennies; nbd.
  • Yogurt – $1.00 (the container cost $3.99, but I used only a portion of it.)
  • So the total is $11 and some change, which isn’t bad considering I yielded about a gallon of yogurt from it. The killer, cost-wise, was the powdered milk; next time I’m going to try one that doesn’t use the powdered milk and see how that goes. Stay tuned!

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