It was with great trepidation that I took the crock pot full of what I hoped would be perfect Greek yogurt out of the fridge this morning! I even stalled a bit hoping to delay the disappointment if it was another dismal failure. Imagine my elation when the final result was even better than my wildest dreams! It’s divine and I will never buy store bought yogurt again (except for the occasional starter culture boost). To get this result I cobbled together some ideas and recipes from all of the blogs and posts I read after my first questionable attempt. A lot of the information I found was on Chowhound so if you want to try some other recipes just type in Greek Yogurt Recipes and you’ll find lots of other great methods people swear by. Here’s what I did and it really couldn’t be easier! First, pour 3 quarts of milk into your crock pot–I used 1% for this batch. Add 4 1/2 cups of nonfat dry milk and whisk until fully blended. (I know this sounds like a lot and I was tempted to use less but one of the ratios I read that said you get the best consistency this way and I decided to trust it. Go with it–it works!) Whisk in about a tablespoon of sugar to help the cultures along. Set the crock pot on high until it reaches 185 degrees. This will take a few hours probably. Once you have reached 185 (or higher but don’t go too high or it may scald) lift out the covered crock pot and put into a clean sink with ice water about half the depth of the pot. It should take about 10 minutes or so for the milk to cool to 105-110 degrees. Don’t cool below 105 or you’ll have to reheat again. Ladle out about a cup of the warm milk into a bowl and add 1 cup of your starter yogurt to it and stir until smooth. (Several sources recommended Stonyfield brand as having the most active cultures and said it gave a better result than Fage, Chobani or others. I found a local yogurt in my store which listed even more cultures and I used that. Once you have made your yogurt you can use your own as a starter. It’s recommended that you purchase a new starter every 4th or 5th batch to revive your cultures.) Add the yogurt/milk mix back into your crock pot and stir until well blended then replace the lid. Heat the oven on warm to about 110 degrees and then turn off. Put the oven light on and place the crock pot into the oven. (There are many ways to incubate yogurt and people have strong opinions about what works best–heating pads, coolers with hot water bottles, special appliances, warming drawers, even heat lamps in a large kitchen drawer or box. You can research what works best for you but for me this was the easiest and what gave me the result I was looking for.) I left my yogurt in the oven overnight and into the afternoon the next day. One Chowhound post I read (the same one that gave me the ratio of milk to dry milk) said that 12 hours is good but 15 is best. I went with the 15 and the yogurt was very firm and very tangy–both seem to increase the longer you leave it warming for the cultures to take over.
Now the next step was what really made the difference for me from last time. When I removed the yogurt from the oven yesterday afternoon, I let it cool a bit on the counter and then put it right into the refrigerator without touching it until the next morning. It was in the refrigerator for about 16 hours. It may have been fine with less time, but until I experiment I couldn’t say for sure–this worked for me.
When I took it out of the fridge I spooned out the whey that was on top and it amounted to about 1/4 cup – which was a big difference from the 3 pints I got out of the last batch. This seems to be a direct result of the dry milk added and I’m a fan of it.
So while this post is rather lengthy and detailed, the process of making this yogurt is ridiculously simple. You just have to start your next batch a couple of days before you run out to keep a continuous supply in your fridge. The best part about this whole thing–besides the satisfaction (and ok a little bit of bragging rights) is the cost. This recipe yielded almost 3 quarts of yogurt for under $4 which included my starter. The next 3 batches in which I use my own as the starter will only cost me $3. Now THAT is awesome! Try it and you’ll never look back!
As a side note, if you don’t have access to a crock pot don’t let that inhibit you from trying it. You can heat the milk in a pan or the microwave and then transfer it into glass jars before incubating. This is much quicker than heating in the crock pot but can be harder to get an even temp or could scald the milk. There is more information about this and other methods on Chowhound. Now go forth and make yogurt!!!!