Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Adventures in Cooking -- Making Crock Pot Yogurt

For a while now, I've seen those quart sized canning jars at Walmart and kept meaning to pick them up. Last week, I got Joey to pick me up an extra gallon of milk and some organic Stoneyfield Farms lowfat plain yogurt so I could make yogurt. Then I remembered I don't have any canning jars. So yesterday I went to Walmart to pick up some canning jars and of course they had sold out. Its not one of those things that they keep in stock, so they didn't have any in the back, but the lady who worked there told me they might have some at Kroger or Home Depot. So I called Joey and got him to call around. No one had any. So I went back to the housewares section and found some glass jars that were 2 quart sized that I decided to get. I got 3 because yogurt is just the begenning. I've decided to try lacto-fermented salsa and pickles, too, but they both call for whey, which is a by-product of making yogurt, so yogurt came first.

I got the recipe for yogurt from the blog Under 1000 per Month. If you haven't read it, you should. It has something for every mom. Or at least, I think it does. Anyways, I got the basic recipe from there, but true to my nature, I didn't follow it exactly. I researched it a lot and must have looked at 20 different sites, but this is the recipe I started with and the one that made me want to make yogurt in the first place. Since I bought the yogurt last week and there is NO WAY anyone in my family is going to eat plain yogurt, I used the 4 cups of yogurt with 1 gallon of milk. And I fell asleep when it was cooking, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out. Anyways, here's the recipe I used.

1 gallon Walmart brand milk (Not GMO free -- rbGH free, but may have been fed GM grain; however, Walmart brand milk is $1.88 whereas the only organic milk at walmart was $5.88 so I bought Walmart brand)
1 32 ounce container of plain stoneyfield farms lowfat yogurt (I don't remember how much this was)

1. Pour milk into crock pot. I have a 6 quart crock pot and the milk pretty much filled it up, which is actually not what you're supposed to do. Ideally (as I discovered while continuing to research after I had already poured the whole gallon into the crockpot), you should only fill the crock pot 1/2 to 3/4 full. Plus, if the milk fills the crock pot, there really isn't room left for the yogurt to be added, is there? So next time, I will be using 1/2 gallon of milk to make yogurt and will see if I can find a smaller container of starter yogurt to buy (I did save 16 ounces of the yogurt I made to use as a starter; however its good for eating for up to 2 weeks, but to use as a starter it can only be 5-7 days old and I don't know how long it will take us to eat this batch so we may end up eating the starter yogurt if its too old to use as a starter)
2. Cook on low for 3 hours. The yogurt should reach at least 180 degrees farenheit to kill off any non-beneficial bacteria and if you don't have a thermometer, this is the temp where it should begin to froth. My first crock pot didn't have a "low" setting, just tempratures on a dial, so I got a new crock pot for yogurt. I spent $20 at Walmart and got a Hamilton Beach 6 quart crock pot that had "low", "high", "warm" and "off" settings. I think this will make my life lots easier since most of the crock pot recipes I have read and wanted to try tell you which settings to put the crock pot on but not the temps, so I see myself making a lot more crock pot meals and I see that helping me to save a lot of money. Now, I messed up this step, too. I started making yogurt and then got a migraine and thought I could take percogesic and not fall asleep, then I thought I could take a short nap and not miss the oven's beep. Yes, it only beeps once. Did I mention I had a migraine and that makes me less than logical at times?
3. Let cool for 3 hours. Now, I researched different cooling methods with different cooling times and one method said you could simply remove the crock from the base and let it sit and cool and it would take 1 hour to cool instead of 3. I did not find this to be true. I removed the crock and it still took 3 hours to cool. I wonder if it took longer to cool because I cooked it for too long and how long it would have taken to cool if I'd left it in the base. . . Yogurt is supposed to cool to 110 degrees farenheit. If there is a skin on the yogurt (as there was on mine, likely because I fell asleep and cooked it too long), just skim it off. While it is cooling, take starter yogurt out of the fridge and let it warm slowly so the warm milk doesn't shock the yogurt.
4. Remove some of the 110 degree milk and add the slightly warmed yogurt to it. Wisk it until smoothe and pour back into the crock pot. This is where it got fun for me as my crock pot was FULL. I had to take some out and put it in a 2 quart glass jar so I could continue.
5. Incubation. You are supposed to keep yogurt warm (as close to 100 degrees farenheit as possible) and still. So the yogurt in the crock went back in the pot and warmed the pot then turned it off and wrapped it with a thick wool blanket to insulate and left it overnight. The 2 quart jar was about 3/4 full and tightly sealed. This, I put in the oven. I turned the oven to 170 degrees (the lowest it will go) and stuck the jar in. I left the oven on until it got preheated, then turned the oven off, wrapped the jar in a towel and put it back in the oven overnight. Let incubate untouched for 8-12 hours. Since I started it incubating at 5 am, I was unable to touch it until at least 1 pm, but I wanted to let it incubate as long as possible. I almost made it to 12 hours, but I was nervous and ended up checking the yogurt at 4 pm, so it incubated for 11 hours. It was about the consistency of yogurt smoothies, just as I'd expected.
6. Put yogurt into containers to put in the fridge. The yogurt in the glass container stayed in the glass container, but the yogurt in the crock pot had to go in tupperware containers. They both look to be about the same consistency.
7. My research indicates you are supposed to let the yogurt chill for at least 8 hours for optimum taste. It also indicates you can strain it while its refridgerating to get it to thicken up. This also produces whey, a clear to yellowish to greenish liquid that contains lactose, vitamins, protein and traces of fat. Whey can be used in place of buttermilk, milk or water in recipes and can used in place of some of the salt in lacto-fermenting recipes. So I got a glass bowl to collect the weigh, put a pillowcase around my strainer and set it on top of the glass bowl (the bottom of the strainer fit perfectly on the top of the bowl) and left it to strain. I had to strain it in 3 batches. Batch 1 strained for 3 hours, batch 2 strained overnight (over 12 hours) and batch 3 strained 6 hours. Batch 1 was about the consistency of storebought yogurt (although not as smoothe as I think storebought yogurt says blended on the label and I believe that means they blend it after its made but before its packaged, which I could do if I wanted to, but it was fine the way it was). Batch 2 and 3 were about the same consitency, that of sour cream. All the yogurt I got from 1 gallon of milk fit into my 2 quart jar with room to spare with the exception of the starter yogurt that's in the Stoneyfield farms container in the fridge. It would all fit in the 2 quart jar if I chose not to reserve some starter yogurt. Saving a starter batch just makes sense, though. I mean, not buying starter yogurt cuts down on the cost of making yogurt a lot.

I do NOT like the taste of the plain yogurt. I tried it with 1 tbsp molasses mixed in, but I didn't like that and neither did my kids. Then I added 1 tbsp honey to 4 heaping tbsps of yogurt and it was fantastic. Then I added blueberries to the honey yogurt and it was even better. In fact, I am barely restraining myself from going back for seconds. . .

I am realising that eliminating GMOs from our household is going to involve more cooking on my part, so I anticipate many adventures in cooking. Today, I found a blueberry muffin recipe that includes liquid whey that I'm excited to try and I'm also looking foreward to making my own bagels from a recipe I found on Choosing Joy and trying a couple more recpies from the Under 1000 per Month. So look foreward to many more adventures in cooking. . . I know I am.

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