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Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Thicker homemade yogurt, and my faster slow-cooker homemade yogurt method

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

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.

Yogurt

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! :)

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!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

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)

Comments

How to Cook Dried Beans 3 Ways

I usually just use yogurt for smoothies, so I don't worry too much about yogurt. One other tip I read somewhere was to add powdered milk to make it thicker.

Today I'm posting about 3 ways to cook dried beans:
http://thelocalcook.com/2012/02/14/pantry-essentials-all-about-beans/

Thanks for hosting!

I love your post. I need to

I love your post. I need to get adventurous and try making yogurt or kefir. Maybe this summer. :)

Thanks for your comment on my post. I actually realized I wrote the wrong calorie amount for Aldi sour cream. It is the same as the kind you use. I'm glad you mentioned it, so I noticed the mistake. :) You should just give yogurt a try in a recipe, not as a condiment. Unless your tastebuds are more sensitive than mine, I don't think you would notice the difference. Of course being the cook it's harder to be fooled. :)

Take care!
Heather

Hand Scrub (soothing)

Hey Tammy, I need to give that a try ... thanks for sharing (yet again!)

Today I have a pretty simple, yet nice and effective hand scrub to share:

http://frugalinflorida.blogspot.com/2012/02/easy-in-kitchen-hand-scrub.html

Thanks for sharing!

It's tricky (takes some

It's tricky (takes some babysitting) but I read on a forum and have had a lot better success with getting thick yogurt when I suspend the temperature at 180 for 20 minutes before beginning the cooling down process. Other than that, I just put a lid on the pot after whisking in the yogurt culture, wrap it in a fleece blanket and let it sit on the counter for 6 hours. I'm always amazed at how warm it still is after that long :) I like your tip on setting it in the fridge to cool instead of scooping it out- I'll bet that helps tons!

Quinn

Heart-shape muffins!

Hi Tammi!

Glad you figured out yummy yogurt! :) My Mom makes really thick homemade yogurt too. Sometimes I strained some of the whey and used it in baking, but usually I just mixed it into my yogurt. My two favourite toppings on plain homemade yogurt is maple syrup and homemade apple sauce! Yum!

Here's my kitchen tip for today: How to make Heart-Shape Muffins!
http://annejisca.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/valentines-day-muffins/

Happy Valentines' Day! :)

Breadmaker Jam and Crockpot Yogurt

Great post! I use my crockpot to make yogurt start to finish- same process, heats up to 180, then I cool it down low enough to add starter, and then put the whole crock insert in a cool oven, with a towel on the top, to sit overnight. I add 1/2 of dry milk to help thicken, but it really thickens once it has refrigerated. YUM! I have a post about it here: http://trieditlikedit.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/liked-it-crockpot-vanilla-yogurt-slow-cooker-recipe/

But here is the tip I was going to share today, on making jam in your breadmaker: http://trieditlikedit.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/liked-it-breadmaker-strawberry-jam/

Moving your dishes lower for kids

I am so glad you posted this. I haven't done it in a while and I was thinking of doing it again soon.

My kitchen tip is about how to make it easy for your kids to help put away the dishes:

http://extraordinaryordinarylife.blogspot.com/2012/02/kitchen-tip-tuesday-simplify-move-your.html

Gretchen
Extraordinary Ordinary Life

Citrus zest in baking.

Hi! This is my first time participating, although I always enjoy reading everyone's tips.

http://wholesomehomemaker.com/2012/02/14/citrus-zest-in-baking-tips-and-tricks/

Today I blogged about using citrus zest in baking, and an alternative when you don't have any.

Deb

Rolling Pin Substitute

I am glad that you found a way to make a delicous, thick yogurt! The smallest changes really can make a difference.

I am sharing a tip for using a vase or glass as a rolling pin: http://premeditatedleftovers.com/use-a-vase-or-glass-as-a-rolling-pin/

Alea @ Premeditated Leftovers

Tupperware ;->

Hi Tammy ;-> Hope your hubby is still progressing the right direction!

This week I am hoping to link up my posting about how I store my Tupperware. It does contain a bonus tip about baking ahead and storing things for holidays... o;-p

http://thebzhousethatlovebuilt.blogspot.com/2012/02/how-i-store-my-tupperware-r.html

Cheryl B.
The Bz House That Love Built

Have you tried it without

Have you tried it without heating it to 180F? The reason they suggest that is because of the concerns with raw milk , but since you are using storebought that has been pasteurized there really is no reason to take it to 180. Heat to 115, add starter to bit of milk, add that milk to your jars, shake well and put in crock pt (or in my case I put it in a cooler that has 120F water in it). I leave that cooler in a warm place in our living room for 24 hours and then right into fridge.
I do it with raw milk and I do not want it heated above 120, so I know this works well as I have made as many as 7 gallons each week. :) My husband used to consume 3-4 quarts per day.
Quark is an extremely easy one to make and tastes better than many yogurts with the same "feel" as yogurt but not so tangy. And less work - you just heat to 70-80, add culture, leave at room temp and 24 hours later it is yogurt like. If you want the true QUark flavor and consistency, do another couple days and it will be excellent in dressings, baked goods (substitutes for sour cream or cream cheese REALLY well!).
Whey is great for fertilizing and don't feel bad chucking it.
Are you using yogurt culture, or just store bought yogurt for this? If you have problems with it thickening, many people use some powdered milk in it and it makes it cheaper. I don't use powdered milk because of health concerns, but that is me.
Heather

Consistent temp and long culture time

I make about two gallons of yogurt a week and it takes very little effort, though it has required trial and error to figure out our perfect process. I found the keys for me were keeping it consistently warm and having a longer culture time. I used our crockpot wrapped in couple of bath towels with good results but last summer my husband purchased an excalibur dehydrator so we have an easy way to keep consistent temperature. I also found that the best product is when I let it culture at least 18 hours and preferably 24 hours. It has to be refrigerated before the thickness is really evident but we have perfectly smooth, thick yogurt with a great taste!

crockpot question

I keep reading about women using their crockpot but it's still confusing to me if the crockpot is actually turned ON. If so, I'm assuming it would be a the low setting...still 18 hours? That seems like a very long time! Just trying to figure it out here before wasting a lot of milk and effort.
I use the individual jars right now with an electric yogurt maker...takes 8 hours and the small jars seem to work well for our purposes (smoothies). I bring the milk to 185 (have an automatic thermometer...they are wonderful!), then it find it takes just about 25 minutes off heat to get down to the 112 degree level. Meanwhile, I've taken the last small jar of yogurt to use as the starter for the new batch, added a couple teaspoons of Baker's dry milk to add thickness to it and before incorporating it into the scalded milk, I add a little of that milk to the starter mix. Put it into the individual jars, set the timer for 8 hours and it couldn't be easier.
It would, however, be nice to have a good method to prepare larger batches on occasion in the crockpot.

Me too!

I have been wondering the same thing! Please answer! :)

crock pot

Here's my post on our fav crock pot meals! :)

http://onelittlewordsheknew.blogspot.com/2012/02/favorite-crock-pot-uses.html

Kefir Grains

Hello Tammy,
Have you tried water kefir grains? I have trouble with milk, so I thought water kefir grains would be a good alternative. Can you share anything about them?

Homemade yogurt

Last summer I devised a way to make homemade yogurt. I heat about 4 cups milk to 185, cool to 105, add 3 T plain yogurt and 1/2 cup dry milk, pour into quart mason jar, and place in a small beverage cooler ( the one with the valve on top) filled with warm water. I place the cooler out in the sun for 8 hours. The sun keeps the water bath nice and warm. It IS key to not stir or shake the milk while it is incubating. It is nice and thick, but it will thicken up a little more in the fridge.

As an aside, I love your blog Tammy!

crock pot yogurt

Funny I saw this post today, right now I am making some in my crock pot. I found the recipe on another blog and this is my first attempt ever at making my own. So....i will let you know how it works. So far it has been very easy.

I make my homemade yogurt in

I make my homemade yogurt in a very similar fashion. I do heat the milk in a double boiler though and it prevents burning and spillovers. I have a 3 quart capacity double boiler so I can make 1/2 gallon (2 quarts) at a time. When it cools down to 110 degrees or so, I add my starter and then pour it into either glass jars or a large covered Pyrex dish. Then I place them on a heating pad, covered with a towel, on low for about 8 hours. The longer you incubate, the firmer the yogurt. I have never had a failed batch with this method. Refrigerate overnight for the most luscious plain yogurt ever!!!1

HOMEMADE yogurt

after reading about the crockpot method for yogurt, I tried it with the powdered milk, it was horrible, it didn't get thick and tasted like powdered milk. When I was reading through blogs I found someone else that said they used a different method "Frugal Girl's" method...I found hers and it worked so much better for me. I also like keeping it in the mason jars rather than a big pot/crock. I also let mine incubate for 18/24 hours also, the shorter times didn't let it get as thick for me.
A few weeks ago I made some with a gallon of Whole cream line milk...I have no idea what happened, it turned out almost like ricotta, then when I tried to strain it, it wouldn't strain, I put it back in the jar and then a few days later the whey was at the BOTTOM, which has never happened before. I don't know if it is because I should have had it at 180 degrees for 10 minutes (I haven't done that before with the regular organic milk I buy) or what happened but I had to throw $7 worth of milk down the drain. NOT HAPPY.

I use whey to make bread in place of water. It boosts the protein content and doesn't change the flavor. I have also poured some in soup and used it in place of butter milk with no problems. I agree about the straining and feeling like I am loosing yogurt though. I don't always strain it. I do use/keep the whey from ricotta....

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