so I’m always looking to shortcut my effort without sacrificing the end result. I was looking at recipes today for Valentine’s dinner, and one menu plan had a frozen mango yogurt as dessert. That appealed greatly … I like mango, I love frozen yogurt, and it gave me an excuse to shop for a new kitchen toy, namely, an ice cream/frozen yogurt/sorbet maker. Found a couple of models that appealed, reasonably priced, seemed to fill the bill, but more on this another time.
While browsing for an ice cream maker, yogurt makers seemed to be prevalent everywhere I looked. I like plain yogurt a lot, too, with fruit, but also in more savoury applications like tzatziki, raitas, salad dressings, sauces, in place of sour cream, etc., so I looked at the yogurt makers as well. Then I got thinking, and looked on Google at some homemade yogurt recipes.Very straightforward to make, takes about the same amount of time, so who needs a machine? Then, I thought some more. Being lazy, I was unlikely to make it following the recipe. But, but … I now had the bug … I wanted to try homemade yogurt, so … I thought some more.
I concluded that I might have an “easier” way, so I conducted a little mad scientist experiment this afternoon, and sho’ ’nuff, looked very much like I might be right. Time to proceed with a “live fire” test of my concept.
Gathered my ingredients and equipment and went to “work”. First piece of equipment … a 4 cup (in this case) crockpot/slow cooker or however you call them. Second piece of equipment … a thermometer. First step … sterilize/sanitize (I used B-Brite, which I had lying around for wine/beer making purposes … boiling water will work) the crockpot insert, the lid and the probe end of the thermometer. Second step, pour 1 litre/quart milk into the crockpot and heat on high setting until the thermometer reaches 185°F (which dovetails nicely with the high cooking temperature of my little crockpot), then set a timer for 30 minutes and hold the milk at 185°F for that time. After 30 minutes, remove the insert from the crock, and cool to 110°F. Stir into the milk 2-3 tablespoons of plain, active culture yogurt, then return the insert to the crock on the keep warm setting, if you have one (I do). Walk away for 7+ hours. At the end of the warming phase, pop the insert into the refrigerator for another 7+ hours. If all went well … congratulations, it’s plain yogurt!
So, hardest part … sterilize 3 pieces of gear! Then, I poured the milk, flipped a switch, walked away until the crockpot heated the milk to 185°F, at which point my (digital) thermometer beeped to alert me. Set a countdown timer for 30 minutes, walked away, timer beeped to alert me it was time to move on. Removed the insert, reset the thermometer to alert me at 110°F and … walked away. Beep alerts me, “pitched” the active culture yogurt into the milk, returned the insert to the cooled down crock, now on keep warm, and walked away. Timing was such that keep warm coincided with bed, so … left it overnight, put the insert in the refrigerator when I got up in the morning, ignored it all day, had yogurt waiting for me at the end of the day.
This was a first brush at a concept, using ingredients on hand, and it worked well. There are some caveats to be avoided (homogenized milk doesn’t work well … pasteurized, okay, but not homogenized), there are variations of milk used, including dry powdered skim as well as soya, goat’s, sheep’s, quantities of this and that, additives, timing (very flexible), etc., but the basic recipe remains the same. Milk, heat (ironically, to kill bacteria and prepare the stage for introduction of new bacteria), sustain temperature (thicker consistency), cool (the active bacterial culture in the yogurt you introduce won’t die at/below 110°F), “pitch” yogurt culture into milk to introduce good bacteria (after your first batch, you can reserve some to use as your active culture), keep warm (to promote “good” bacterial growth), stir and chill (to stop bacterial growth and “set” the yogurt).
I’m going to test my bigger crockpot to see if it meets the temperature “requirements”, and, if it does, use it to make yogurt(s) in individual sterile Mason jars in a bain marie. This achieves two things … the yogurt’s already in a sterile storage container, and I can make larger batches, but “doctor” them individually according to my taste du jour.
Now, the fun begins!