Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Homemade Greek Yogurt- it's a cinch!

Here in our house we are absolutely crazy about smoothies. Green smoothies, to be more specific. I have been drinking them for years but now my husband literally doesn't go a morning without them (Well, okay, maybe 1 day a week he will skip).

The trick to Sam becoming a huge fan was frozen yogurt and vanilla almond milk. (Recipes to come later on this blog.)

Let's get to the point. We use A LOT of yogurt around these parts. I have gone from brand to brand and finally settled on plain Chobani (18 grams of protein per 6 oz)! They are so good for you. They are also $1.09 (or more) per container and we use anywhere from 2 to 5 of those a day. I wasn't worried about the cost because our health is important. But, when I ran across some recipes for homemade greek yogurt I decided to give it a try! It is sooo easy and so economical.
I made my first batch two nights ago and decided to let you all know that if you use yogurt like us you should try it out!

What's Required?

1 gallon milk with desired fat content (I used 1%, organic) 
1/2 to 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder (optional) (I used 1 cup for more protein)
1/2 cup plain yogurt with live and active cultures (look at the ingredient list to make sure it includes the live and active cultures.) (I used a 6 oz plain Chobani)

slow cooker or pot (I used a slow cooker)
bath towel
cheese cloth/clean t-shirt for straining yogurt (if Greek yogurt is your end goal)
blender (if desired)
clean jars or containers for finished yogurt
food thermometer 
Pour the milk in desired container for the initial heating. I put one gallon of milk (with 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder whisked in) in my crockpot and set it to low. The milk needs to be warmed until it reaches 180 degrees. This takes 2 to 3 hours.
(I have read of people that do not use this slow process. They microwave their milk which takes minutes instead of hours.)

Next, the milk needs to cool and it needs to be between 112 and 120 degrees. When it has reached the correct temperature, remove one cup warm milk, whisk in your choice of yogurt "starter" into that warm milk and put it all back into the crockpot. Use a bath towel and wrap the crockpot (insert only) tightly. Place the package into an oven that has been preheated to 250 degrees and then turned off. The oven will be off, but warm when you put the yogurt mixture in. Leave your oven light on and leave the mixture for 8 to 12 hours. I started my yogurt making process in the early afternoon and at this point just left it over night.

I woke up to... yogurt! If you are doing this during the day you can easily turn the oven on again (then off again) to keep it nice and warm in there. If you choose to do it overnight and wake up to yogurt that is not as firm as you would like you can always rewarm the oven and leave the yogurt in for additional time.
 If plain yogurt is your goal you can stop here. Dump the liquid that has pooled on top of the yogurt out  unless you plan to use it for something else. This is called whey and makes for a less firm yogurt. If you choose to stop now you will have a less firm yogurt.

BUT, if you want thick, firm Greek yogurt you will need a cheesecloth or clean t-shirt to strain the whey out of your yogurt. Many articles I read said to strain for 3 to 6 hours in the fridge. That way all the liquid comes out and it firms up and cools down while this process is taking place.
(Optional step after straining)
If you would like your yogurt a bit smoother you can pulse it in your blender for a VERY SHORT period of time. It can become too runny. Be careful. 
 I did not strain mine so you can see mine is a bit runnier. I have cheesecloths on their way (Thank you, Amazon).
 The process is long, but easy and not complicated. It doesn't require a lot of "doing." I recommend doing it over night so your oven is free during the day. Of everything I have read it seems it is a no fail process. Many people don't even use a food thermometer and the temperatures are supposedly very forgiving.
 I have half of my yogurt in freezer safe containers because these will be going in our smoothies! By the way, I have done some research on whether or not the live and active cultures survive the freezing. It seems that many of the cultures survive but I still have some more learning to do on that.

You can reserve some of your homemade yogurt to use as your next "starter." But, I have also read of people that recommend against that, for whatever reason. I will probably use a fresh yogurt from the store for my next batch!
 Side note: One reason it is fun to live in Germany.... there are bakeries on every corner. Londyn has been a very good girl lately and she has been earning a lot of trips to the bakery. The past two mornings she won't take a bite of anything until she gets her trip to the bakery. She ends up picking out a lot of goods.
(Those donuts are vanilla cream and nutella filled. Not bad at all.)
The kids feasting yesterday!

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