I just couldn't let the dairy thing go.
Because for all of my cheesemaking attempts, I always had that nagging knowledge at the back of my head that I wasn't actually going to make cheese. Not when there's so much good cheese available right here in Vermont.
But I've been wanting to make yogurt for a long time. This seemed like a good time to do it, because the yogurt I like recently went back up to full price at the Co-op, after having been on sale for $2.60 for months.
When it went back up to $3.50, I launched into a state of despair because there was nowhere else that I could get really good quality plain yogurt so cheap.
No longer, though. With a little help from my slow cooker, I'm well on my way to yogurt independence.
The recipe for Crockpot yogurt is phenomenally easy, and you can find it here. It was so easy, in fact, that my subconscious was convinced that I'd missed a step, and while the yogurt was thickening overnight, I kept dreaming that I'd utterly failed.
Fortunately, when I stuck a spoon into the mixture this morning, it came back up with a rounded spoonful of yogurt and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I'm probably kind of unusual in that I like my plain yogurt to be as sour as possible, so this batch wasn't ideal. It has a definite tang to it, but it also still has a certain sweetness held over from the milk. That's a good thing for adding fruits for flavoring, but ideally I'd like to figure out how to give it more tang.
One exciting thing about this recipe, though, is that there are so many possibilities for experimentation. When I go home tonight, I'm going to strain the yogurt through a cheesecloth to filter out some of the whey for a thicker consistency. And next time, I'll try something besides whole milk.
But the most exciting part by far is the price. I eat yogurt for breakfast most days, with cereal or wheat germ, mixed with fruit jelly or fresh fruit, or with honey and raisins. Estimating that I go through about a quart of yogurt a week, that's $2.50 a week at the bare minimum, but let's say $3 because plain yogurt isn't always on sale. That adds up to $156 per year on yogurt alone.
To make my own, I spent about 31 cents for the half-cup of yogurt I used for the starter, and about $2.50 on the half-gallon of milk. That gave me a little more than a half-gallon of yogurt — two weeks worth for $2.81. And since I can use the last of this batch for my next starter, my only other cost for the next batch will be the milk. So that's $65.31 per year. And while saving 90.69 each year isn't a whole lot in the grand scheme of things, it's money that I can spend on things like my savings account… or cheese.
Shockingly easy slow-cooker yogurt
Adapted from Stephanie O'Dea, crockpot365.blogspot.com
1/2 gallon milk (not ultra-pasteurized)
1/2 cup live-culture plain yogurt for a starter
Heavy bath towel
Put the milk into the slow-cooker and heat on low for 2 1/2 hours.
Unplug the slow-cooker and let the milk cool with the lid on for another 3 hours.
At the end of the cooling time, take out 2 cups of milk and whisk in the starter. Pour it back into the yogurt, then whisk all together.
Wrap the whole pot in a heavy duty beach towel, and let sit for 8 hours, or overnight.
Store in a sealed container.