I know I said I was giving up on making homemade yogurt after all my tries had produced less-than-stellar results... but a friend shared a jar of her really perfect homemade yogurt with me a few months ago, and I was inspired to try again.
I'm still using the same basic method I outlined in my post: heat milk to ~180 degrees, cool milk to ~115 degrees, add starter, and keep warm for ~8 hours.
But now, my yogurt has been turning out great! I know, that's crazy. How could something go from difficult to magical without even changing the recipe? Here is what I've been doing, with a few tips:
1. Heat milk on the stove on medium-low heat, with a candy thermometer stuck to the side of the pan. Don't stir, don't bother with it -- just get the milk to 180 degrees or higher. I try to do this when I'm already going to be working in the kitchen so I don't accidentally boil the milk for an hour and have a big mess on the stove to clean up. ;)
Tip: If the milk does boil, it will still make good yogurt.
2. Let milk cool in pan to 115 degrees. When it's getting close to 115, I check on it every 10-15 minutes.
3. I like to culture the yogurt in my crock pot. It's big, heavy/thick, and can be done on the counter top.
(I prefer to warm the milk on the stove rather than in the crock pot, though, because the crock pot takes so long [and hence a lot of "babysitting"] to heat up and cool down.)
Tip: To culture the yogurt in my crock pot, I first "preheat" the crock pot. Pour some boiling water (at least a cup or two) in the crock pot, turn on high, and get nice and hot. Turn off, and when you're ready to incubate the yogurt, dump out the hot water and pour in the warm milk.
4. Stir in the yogurt starter. I just gently stir it in... no whisking. Then, I put the lid on the crock pot, cover with thick towels (I get clean ones from the bathroom!), and let "grow" for 8+ hours.
5. When yogurt is done culturing, DO NOT DISTURB. This seems to be the key (for me) to really thick yogurt. I've been setting the crock (with lid on) outside to chill when it's finished culturing. Chill for 6-8 hours and yogurt should be firm!
Using these tips, my homemade yogurt has been thicker than plain yogurt from the store (but not quite as thick as Greek yogurt), without straining.
Why does it matter how thick my yogurt is? I can just strain off some of the whey to make it thicker, right? Well, yes... but here is why I want yogurt that is thick without straining:
1. Straining the yogurt is an extra step and extra dishes.
2. The end result (yogurt) is more expensive per volume when strained (you end up with less of the "yogurt" part).
3. I don't really enjoy having lots of whey on hand that I need to find uses for.
Frozen blueberries have been a favorite kid-snack at our house for years now... :)
And lastly, a Plain Yogurt Eating Tip:
Frozen blueberries are our favorite fruit to add to plain yogurt! They're so sweet, and their flavor makes the yogurt irresistible! I like to add the frozen blueberries to our yogurt as we serve it.
I also love fresh or canned pineapple with plain yogurt. Pineapple is another sweet fruit that goes great in yogurt! :)
How to make homemade yogurt cheese (or kefir cheese)
Next week, Kitchen Tip Tuesdays will be hosted by Willa at Armstrong Family Fare! Willa's stepping in to make my load a little lighter as Joshua will be recovering from another surgery at that time.
I am planning to be back at the computer blogging a little more this week... last week got away from me and I've been wearing myself out doing "life stuff"! :)
To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:
Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!
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1. Removing labels from jars (April at I Think I Can)
2. Cooking dried beans (Keri at Growing in His Glory)
3. Sour cream and yogurt tips (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. 3 ways to cook dried beans (The Local Cook)
5. Softer hands scrub (Frugal in Florida)
6. How to make heart-shaped muffins (Anne Jisca's Healthy Pursuits)
7. Using breadmaker for jam (Tried It, Liked It)
8. Dishes within kids' reach (Gretchen at Extraordinary Ordinary Life)
9. Citrus zest in baking (Deb at Wholesome Homemaker)
10. Rolling pin substitute (Alea at Premeditated Leftovers)
11. Tupperware/storage tips (Cheryl at The Bz House that Love Built)