Monday, August 30, 2010

Homemade Yogurt In The Crockpot

When I first heard about making yogurt homemade, I was skeptical. First of all, I do not like plain yogurt. Yucky. Also, I suspected that homemade yogurt would be runny and require lots of temperature measuring (time consuming). And to boot, I do not have a fancy yogurt maker or a dehydrator.

However, thanks to Stephanie and my friend Audrey (who walked me through the process over the phone before I tried it the first time), I have discovered that I can easily make delicious, thick, flavored {read: sweetened!} yogurt at home in my crockpot! Here's how:

You will need:
1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk. I use 1%, but I think it would be divine with whole milk. {Update: It is divine with whole milk!}
1/2 cup plain yogurt starter (I just buy an individual sized cup of plain Publix brand yogurt for $.50)
Sweetener of your choice (I use 1/2 cup of raw honey)
1 TBSP vanilla (optional)

Now, yogurt making is easy, but it does require a time commitment! I start either in the morning on a day I know I will be home or in the late afternoon, if I want to let the crockpot sit overnight.

First, pour the 8 cups of milk into the crockpot. Turn the crockpot on low, put the lid on, and heat the milk for 2 1/2 hours. After that time, turn your crockpot off (unplug it!) and let it sit, covered, for 2 1/2 - 3 hours.

Then, remove 1-2 cups of the yogurt. Add the plain yogurt (your starter) and whisk in. At this point, I also whisk in the 1/2 cup of honey and TBSP of vanilla. Add the yogurt mixture back into the crockpot and whisk to combine. Cover the crockpot and wrap it in a thick towel to insulate it. Now you let the yogurt culture by letting it stand like this for 8+ hours. Most of the time I let it stand overnight.

The next morning, wha-laa! You have yogurt!

Yogurt being strained
Now, you can stop here, or, you can continue to thicken your yogurt further by staining it (which is what I do). To strain it, take a strainer, line it with a coffee filter, and place it over a bowl. Then ladle your yogurt into the strainer and place the bowl/strainer combo into the fridge where your yogurt can cool. After several hours, the whey will strain out of your yogurt, leaving it nice and thick! Scrape the yogurt out of the coffee filter and into a container (pour your whey into a container, too--don't throw it out!!!). This yields approximately 4 1/2 cups of yogurt and 3 1/2 cups of whey.

After the yogurt is thickened, you can add additional sweetener, if you desire.

Now, you're probably wondering, "What the heck do I do with the whey?" Whey is very nutritious, containing vitamins, minerals, and all those fabulous probiotics. If I don't plan on using it right away, I freeze the whey in ice trays (and then store in a freezer bag) for later use.

Here are some options for using your whey:
- Use as a replacement for buttermilk in recipes (it works great as the buttermilk substitue in Banana Pancakes!)
- Use as an acidic medium for soaking grains
- Add the frozen cubes of whey into smoothies for additional nutrition

Some additional notes on yogurt making:
  • When I first started making yogurt, I added a package of unflavored gelatin in along with the starter and sweetener in an attempt to make sure my yogurt thickened. However, I have found that this does not make much of a difference!
  • Some people suggest adding powdered milk to your yogurt to help it thicken. I have never tried this.
Homemade yogurt is now a favorite at our house! Try it for yourself.


Are any of you expert yogurt makers? What works/doesn't work for you?




Linked to Mouthwatering Monday, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Tuesdays At The Table, Tasty Tuesday, and Delicious Dishes.



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80 comments:

  1. I have tried making the yogurt by using a cooler with hot water, it tasted alright but wasn't thick enough for me. Yours looks about right. I will need to try this method.

    Angela

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  2. I wish I had a crockpot! So how long does your yogurt keep? We don't go through a whole lot. And does the fat content of the yogurt starter matter?
    Thanks for the recipe, I am trying this the second I get a crockpot...hopefully soon!!

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  3. Thanks for posting what to do with the whey. I have heard others say not to throw it out, but I had no idea what to do with it!

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  4. @Crystal: last time I made it I used fat free yogurt as the starter and it turned out fine. So I don't think it matters.

    Although I personally love fat, in general. :D

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  5. Seriously? That easy with ingredients that accessible? I need to try this. I want to try it with honey.

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  6. I am so glad that you posted this! I just made yogurt following this method yesterday. However, I wish I had waited now that I read your post. Mine is not as thick as I like, and I too do NOT like plain yogurt. I'm wondering if it's too late to strain mine. Next time I will be sweetening it during the process. I've been stirring in vanilla and some fruit, but it still isn't as sweet as I like it :)

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  7. You can substitute whey for buttermilk? THANK YOU for this! I rarely have buttermilk on hand, but I'm always trying to figure out what to do with my excess whey. I do use it for soaking grains, but since I've drastically reduced my carbs, I don't use a lot of it, and I love my strained yogurt for dips and things.

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  8. I have yet to try yogurt -- but I'm really excited to give it a try :)

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  9. My youngest son has been wanting to make Yogurt in the slow cooker. THANKS!!! for the recipe, wil be trying it soon.
    Geri

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  10. I've been wanting to try this for quite a while now but have been somewhat intimidated. You make it seem so easy! I may just work myself up enough to try it :-) Thanks for posting!

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  11. So the whey for buttermilk is just a one-for-one substitution? I've never tried that before! I have measured out plain milk and added one or two tablespoons of whey to it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes, which I think kind of gives it a more buttermilk-like taste.

    I love the idea of freezing the whey in ice cube trays. I never seem to be able to use it all before it goes bad in the fridge.

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  12. I LOVE that you have posted this. I usually make yogurt in the microwave- I had never heard of the slow cooker. What a fantabulous idea!!!! I am going to try this this weekend! Thanks again.

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  13. I did not know that you could substitute the whey for buttermilk. That is an awesome tip! Also, I have never had much luck with making my own yogurt and I have never tried the crockpot method. I don't see why it wouldn't work though because it is the same principal as the yogurt makers. Anyway, we just found out yesterday that our cow is definitely bred so we will have milk come January and then I will give this a try! Now, to save this recipe :)

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  14. @StarvingStudentSurvivor: As far as I know, a one to one substitution works! I've used it that way only in pancakes so far, but it worked beautifully.

    @Crystal: I've read that the yogurt will keep for up to 2 weeks. From experience, I know it will keep for at least a week. We've never had any stick around longer than that--we eat it too fast.

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  15. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I will definitely do this with the kids. They love yogurt.

    Thanks again
    ~Dorcas
    http://4sweetangels.blogspot.com/

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  16. I make my yogurt by incubating it for about 8 hrs in a large Thermos jug inside a cooler with several quart jars of hot water nestled around it. It works great for me (MUCH better than a yogurt maker ever did). I usually make 4 cups at a time, not 8. I make the milk up from skim milk powder, then add an extra 1/2 cup of skim milk powder to the reconstituted milk (I do think this gets you a thicker yogurt). I don't go through the straining step you describe, I just carefully drain off the whey that's sitting on top of the yogurt once it's done brewing, and it's thick enough for us :) I would like to try making yogurt with whole milk as I bet it would be extra delicious!

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  17. I've been using practically this same recipe for a while now and we love it! I do mix in the gelatin pack with the starter yogurt and as long as I wisk it really well, it turns out great. And if you keep a cup or two of your homemade yogurt, you can use it as a starter for the next batch and not buy any commercial yogurt!

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  18. Thank you for the yogurt tute. I really never thought to make my own - I remember my aunt having a yogurt maker in the 80's but it was more of a fad type thing.

    I wonder - because you strain the yogurt is it more like a (yummy) greek yogurt?

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  19. I will be honest that I never thought about making my own yogurt. I will have to keep an eye out for the starter.

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  20. @Karen, thanks for sharing your method! Sounds yummy.

    @ktpete1016: Yes, you can use your own yogurt as the starter for next time! I have not actually done this yet, because the yogurt I set aside as the starter keeps getting eaten...uh oh!

    @Shell, I have never actually had Greek yogurt that I can recall. *sheepish*

    @Kristin: When I say "plain yogurt starter" what I really mean is plain yogurt AS your starter. :)

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  21. O My Gosh..That looks so delicious, will try, your blog is such a good resource

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  22. I would love to try this. Have you attempted without sweetening?

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  23. @Sherry: Yes! In that instance I sweetened it at the end, because like I said, I don't like plain yogurt. It was a little harder to get the honey to blend in at the end, since the milk/yogurt is not as warm.

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  24. This is awesome! You did a great job with your directions. I will give this a try sometime! =)

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  25. I've seen this but still have yet to try it. Someday I'm going to, though! And thanks for the whey suggestions. I would love a buttermilk replacer for pancakes! When I don't have to eat dairy free anymore, I'll definitely give this a try. - www.delightfulcountrycookin.com

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  26. I would have never thought of homemade yogurt!! *Sigh* I have so much to learn:)

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  27. Sounds delish!
    Thanks for linking up!
    ~Liz

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  28. This Morning as I was putting my yogurt on my granola, I thought " what would I do if I couldn't buy Yogurt? I need to get a recipe" now low and behold, I find one on my facebook. Thanks so much. I will be trying it.

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  29. thinking i could use a cheesecloth to strain instead of a coffee filter... which, as I've seen, is also how you would make yogurt cheese (just letting it strain even longer - at least a day i think?). Thanks for this - i am SO glad i have 2 crockpots!!

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  30. Kris, yes! A cheesecloth would be great. I've been wanting to buy one!!!

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  31. I'm halfway through making this now and I am very excited. I'll post again about how it comes out!

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  32. I was nervous about trying to make my own yogurt, but I love the homemade yogurt and the process as you explained it was easy! Thanks so much!

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  33. I use this method all the time, although I use raw milk. (So yummy!) You can also use a bit of the Whey to make your own homemade Mayonnaise. It helps it to last longer. Also, I have found that Whey keeps at least 6 months in the refrigerator, and even longer! Plus, you can use Whey to help start, and soak Sourdough starters.

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  34. Oh, thanks for those ideas Cheryl!!

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  35. Alicia, I'm linking your recipe to my blog, my daughter has a severve mold allergy and hasn't been able to have yogurt for the past 6 months or so, but she can eat this because it's fresh. This recipe has worked for me every time!! Thanks

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  36. I forgot to let the milk sit for the 2-3 hours before adding the culture. I added it right away. I hope it still comes out ok. I will update you.

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  37. Thank you for posting!!! This stuff is AMAZING! Just finished my first batch today. The kids helped me make it and LOVE it. Yes, definitely use whole milk. The stuff is ALL cream! Also, we made plain yogurt and add our own honey, berries, oats, etc. to it. That way the baby can have some without honey and we each add how much honey we want at each setting. yummy!

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  38. Kasey, so glad it works for your daughter!

    Diana, how did it go when you skipped that step? *curious*

    Kari--YAY!!! So glad. :D Thanks so much for coming back to comment and tell us. :)

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  39. Hi Alicia,

    I was wondering....
    Can you make ricotta cheese out of the whey?
    I have seen instructions on a website for making mozzarella cheese and then using the whey to make ricotta. Would that be the same whey?

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  40. Hi, I was looking at your blog and saw this post. I have made yogurt several times in my crock pot and have added the powdered milk. It comes out so nice and thick (like greek style)and no straining is needed at all. I add the powdered milk when I mix in the starter with the 1.5 cups of milk. I think I add about 1/2 cup of powdered milk.

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  41. Wow, this is loads easier then the oven method I use! I will definitely be trying this soon.

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  42. Ive been making yogurt for many years. I've used starters from Europe that can be reused as well as one time use starters. Even make my own creme fraiche for french sauces, trick is to use heavy cream instead of milk. Used crock pot, now I use my dehydrater to have a more controlled temperature at 112-115 plus it takes less time to culture. I use 1/3 to 1/2 cup of organic fat free powdered cow or goats milk per half gallon of your selected milk (fat free,1% 2%, whole milk or half and half.) I use what ever I have on hand. I love to experiment, and even use my yogurt to make frozen yogurt.If it dosn't turn out quite the way I want I curdle it with some lemon juice and make delicious ricotta cheese or use it like buttermilk in baked items. I never throw it away, unless it tastes bad.

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  43. Hi Alicia! Great post. I found you from onceamonthmom.com. Anyways, I am making your yogurt as I type (LOVE that I can do a million OTHER things while doing this!!!) and I found a lovely, easy recipe for ricotta cheese using your whey. And, are you ready for this? I am hearing you can even make it IN THE MICROWAVE!! Loving it! I am going to give it a go tomorrow when I have your whey from the recipe and will post on how it goes!

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  44. This is such a great recipe! I was wondering about nutritional info for my food log - I don't add any sweetener but I do strain it. Any thoughts?
    -- April

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  45. Have you ever tried making ricotta cheese I wonder if you could use the same concept and add vinegar?

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  46. Almond extract in place of vanilla is sooo delicious for a change:)

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  47. I just tried this and it turned out so good! I've made yogurt before, just not in the crockpot. Nor have I made it with sweetener (honey) in it. It was so easy to make in the crockpot. I used half whole milk and half 2% because of what I had left in the fridge.

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  48. Just made my second batch. Best yogurt I've ever had. Love not buying plastic containers and can reuse the ones I have. Always wanted a yogurt maker. Who knew my ancient crockpot had a new purpose? Dug out my old cheesecloth,too. Love your blog.
    I'm an old dog learning new tricks!
    Make sure your yogurt starter doesn't have gelatin!

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  49. Today is the 2nd time I'm making this. It came out good the first time, but not sweet enough for one of my family. Gonna up the honey a bit & see if that sways my Peanut.
    I searched around for what to do with the whey, and saw you can use it in breads. So, that's what I did with mine. Pizza dough and a loaf of white/wheat bread, both came out fine. It doesn't leave a flavor in the bread. Just sub it for the water and instantly up the nutrition!
    love your blog!

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  50. Thank you so much for the wonderful crock-pot yogurt recipe. I have made it twice in the last two days and it is wonderful. I already had some "Greek, honey yogurt" so I used that for starter. I used 2% milk for both batches. The first time it only made about 2 cups of "Greek" yogurt, so the next time I added 1 cup of powdered milk to the original 8 cups of milk and this gave me around 4 cups of "Greek" yogurt. Also, I used some of the whey for waffles and they were great! (I froze the rest of the whey) Again, thank you. My excuse has always been that I did not have a yogurt maker. My excuses are all gone now.

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  51. I don't know what I did wrong. Mine didn't thicken up. I wonder if European crock pots heat differently. Maybe the low setting is more like a warm setting. I think I'll experiment and see if I can warm it again for a few hours and see if it thickens up. I'm not giving up on this recipe. If I have to throw this batch out I'll just do it again tonight/tomorrow.

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  52. Someone asked about nutritional content of homemade yogurt for their food log. The nutritional content of plain homemade yogurt is just the same as milk. The added honey would add 64 calories per cup of yogurt (if you don't strain out the whey).

    Also, I make my yogurt plain and then we stir in different flavors of jam to sweeten and flavor. It is sort of fun because then you can have a huge variety of flavors instead of just vanilla.

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  53. I have made this recipe several times and I love it. I am having some real problems though and I am hoping for some help. I have been trying to use my homemade yogurt as a starter and each time I have tried that, my batch doesn't turn out right. The first time it smelled very sour, I ate some of it but it wasn't very good then this last batch did not thicken at all. I tried to strain it and it went right through the filter (I ran out of cheescloth). Can anyone help me?

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  54. I just finished my yogurt today and it is amazing! I love how easy it is! Thanks so much. I do have one question though...when I was staining it, it looks like some of the yogurt got through the coffee filters. Is this normal? Should I try restraining to get only the whey? I would like to try some things with the whey. Thanks!

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  55. @odler14: Some specks of yogurt get through when I strain as well. I just use the why with the specks of yogurt in it...haven't ever had a problem doing that.

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  56. Holy yogurt, this actually worked! It seems when I try things from the internet they never work for me like they do other people.

    I used the half gallon of skim milk that was about to go bad and as I can't handle full sugar, tried using an imitation sugar free honey I have. Worked like a charm. I'll get some stevia for now on though :-)

    It's straining away in my fridge and the cup or so that wouldn't fit in my strainer I put in a blender cup with a couple sliced strawberries. Smoothie!

    Now, mine was a little grainy. Could be the malitol in the imitation honey, could be the skim milk, could be totally normal. We'll see how the strained yogurt comes out, but I'm not super sensitive to texture so it's not a biggie.

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  57. Is it ok to use my home-made yogurt with added vanilla and honey as a starter for the next batch? Or do you somehow separate a little bit of plain yogurt out before you mix in vanilla & honey and save it for use as a starter?

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  58. I used a heating pad to keep mine warm, but the crock pot seems like a much easier way to keep a stable temperature! I made my first batch ever last night and it didn't turn out too bad! A little runny but I can always strain it like you suggested :)

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  59. Do you have to wait the two hours fOr it to cool? Or will it still turn out if you skip this step? I started this late an now I'm tired and want to go to bed lol

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    1. Yes, you do! If you add the starter when the milk is too hot, then it will kill the bacteria in the starter and you won't end up with yogurt!

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  60. When we used unflavored gelatin to make frozen yogurt from homemade yogurt (in Microbiology class!), we mixed it in boiling water before using it with the yogurt--I think it has to boil before it can thicken.

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  61. Does altitude make a difference? I live at 5,000 ft in the Rocky Mtns. My yogurt came out runny and went straight through the strainer even with a coffee filter. For the starter I used plain greek yogurt that I'd had in the fridge for a few weeks. Does it need to be "fresh" (just home from the store)? I even added the powdered milk for added nutrition and it was the consistency of slightly thickened milk. Should I have let the crockpot warm the milk longer than just 2-3 hours? It didn't seem very warm after letting it cool for the 2 1/2 hrs.

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  62. Do you think I could use a yogurt starter (refrigerated powder packet you buy for a yogurt maker) rather than actual yogurt for the starter?

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  63. Well, I used the powdered yogurt starter and it didn't work. My yogurt is pure liquid... so I guess milk. Sad.

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    1. Aw, I'm sorry! Well, that's good to know...no powdered yogurt starters for this recipe!

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  64. Is there a maximum time the yogurt should sit for? It says 8+ hours, but say someone forgot about it... would it still be ok after say, 12 hours or more?

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  65. Im so excited! Im trying it now :)

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  66. This yogurt is awesome. I use whole milk and 2 table spoons of honey and strawberries. My family eats this up in 2 days, when store bought yogurt can sit in the frig for days. Mine comes out very thick, maybe it is the whole milk?

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  67. I use basically the same technique, except to save time, I heat the milk to 180 degrees in a pot on the stove, and then let it cool to 115 degrees before adding the starter. Once it's mixed up, I put it in jars, and then put the sealed jars into a crockpot half full of boiled water that has also cooled to 115 degrees). Close the lid, wrap the crock with a towel and wait 8-12 hours. Eight hours has less 'tang' than 12 hours. No straining necessary for our family's purposes.

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  68. Adding a couple of tablespoons of full cream powdered milk gives an excellent texture to the yoghurt - it comes out all thick and creamy - no need for straining.

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  69. I started mind late and thought I would be able to stay up. I missed the second part of where you should be adding the honey and yogurt base... should I just start over? It actually ended up cooling for about 6 hours.

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  70. I just finished this process. It was simple but did take a long time. I live in a very cold climate so when I went to bed last night (it was only incubating for about 6hrs) I removed liner of crockpot wrapped in towel and put in oven w/light on inside. When I got up I think the total incubation was about 12-13 hrs. I expected to find thick greek style yogurt but it was runny like regular yogurt.I used whole milk and added about 1/4 c powdered milk with the starter. And I had a heck of a time straining it.... how long do you strain it? A whole day? The cheesecloth was a mess but allowed me to do more than a small strainer w/coffee filter.... I mixed some with pear preserves/honey/walnuts.... very tasty but needs to be thicker..... anyone have any ideas?

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  71. Has anyone made other flavors? My boys love Stonyfield's Strawberry and their Banilla. It would be great to be able to make those. Stir in some jam? Use Strawberry extract instead of vanilla? What do you think?

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  72. I wonder what would happen if you start with a flavored as opposed to plain yogurt as the starter just curious I suppose

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  73. When I lived in Ecuador I used to buy fresh homemade yogurt from a local health food store. Then the owner of the store suggested I use her yogurt as a starter and make it hat home. I started making it every day since we had raw milk delivered each morning to our doorstep. It was superior to anything I have ever tasted in the US. I was told that the original bacteria was taken from a horses intestine but I'm not sure if its true. Eating that yogurt I became stronger and healthier each week. I felt amazingly good. I wish I could find out what bacteria to use and where to find it in order to produce that same yogurt here in the States.

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  74. I live in a cold climate as well. I did as you did, wrapped it and put in the oven. I had put the oven on warm first, turned it off when I put the crock in. I put it in at 4 pm, and took it out at 7:30 am. It was like regular yogurt, but it strains fine, it just takes time. I'm lining several coffee filters in the bottom of strainers. I am going to look for a larger one today, as it was delish!

    I sweetened my yogurt when I put in the starter, and it worked great. i am going to try adding some skim powder to see if it thickens. I'm also going to take some out sooner, as my youngest prefers a less tart yogurt, and at 10 last night it tasted like Petit Danone. I am thinking this is going to be purfect.

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  75. I made this yesterday, and strained it overnight. Oh my! I am so amazed at how perfect, thick, and delicious our yogurt turned out! Thank you for such a great, easy recipe! I've been wanting to make our own yogurt for awhile, but was too intimidated with the other methods. I used Zaycon Foods non-homogenized whole milk, 1/2 cup raw local honey, and most of a small (5.3 oz)container of Stonyfield Farms Organic plain greek yogurt as my starter. The yogurt was quite thick even before straining out the whey. The kids and I LOVED it with fresh strawberries and blueberries for lunch today =)! Thank you again!

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  76. I use 2% or non-fat milk with powdered milk added (7 tbsp for 5 cups of milk). The yogurt is awesome. It does get thicker as I let it rest/strain longer, and if it turns out a bit too thick, I just stir a little of the whey back in. I make it plain and then add any flavors/fruits as I eat individual portion. And, yes, I did have success with continuing the cooking process a bit longer when one batch still looked a bit thin to be done per cooking guidelines. Turned out perfectly. Good luck.

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  77. I have made yogurt for the last year. How I do is I heat the skim mile in a pot until it reaches a temperature of 180 degrees over medium heat. Then I let cool on the counter until the temperature reaches 112 - 115 degrees. then I wrap the pot in a thick towel and put it in the oven with light over night. when I get up in the morning I have yogurt. I put cheesecloth in a strainer and strain the whey into bowl for several hours. The longer you let strain the thicker it gets.

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