This post was originally published in November of 2010.

For some reason I feel better when we have yogurt in the house. Probably both physically and mentally. I use it as a quick breakfast with fruit and nuts or a quick lunch for that matter. I eat a bowl of it on most days when we have it in the house, but making it in my crock pot was becoming hit or miss.

Have you tried the crock pot yogurt? It is one of my most visited and commented-on posts here. It is super easy and very hands-off… when it works. When it doesn’t it is disappointing. For some reason my crock pot has not been as reliable the past six months and I have switched to a more even incubation method for the yogurt. Both my husband and I agree: this is the thickest, creamiest yogurt we’ve had.

I have desperately tried to make raw yogurt with no success. It is not that it isn’t possible, I have talked to many women who have done well with the starters from Cultures for Health. It’s just that, well, I always seem to mess it up or forget about it entirely and kill the poor, defenseless starter.

The basic science of yogurt: Start with a store-bought yogurt containing live cultures. Heat your milk up to 180 degrees to kill off any bacteria that would compete with the new cultures. Cool it down to 110-115, the temperature at which the cultures will feast on the lactose and create tangy, cultured yogurt. Keep it at around 110 for at least 12 hours to allow this process to happen.

Homemade Yogurt In The Cooler

Equipment

  • Dutch oven over large pot
  • Thermometer (I have this one)
  • Medium-sized cooler
  • Four quart canning jars + 1 pint jar
  • Ladle
  • Food funnel

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon grass-fed milk
  • 8 tablespoons (1/2 cup) good plain yogurt starter

Directions

  1. Heat the milk: Pour one gallon of milk into a (clean) dutch oven. Heat it over medium heat, stirring a few times, until it reaches 180 degrees.
  2. Cool the milk: Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool back down to about 115 degrees. You can do this by simply letting the milk sit in the pot until it cools down, about an hour. Or if you’re in a hurry, fill your sink up with cool water and place the pot of warm milk in the water. Watch the thermometer closely because the temperature drops rapidly with this method.
  3. Prepare your culture: Use about 2 tablespoons live yogurt for every quart of milk. Mix the yogurt with a little bit of the 115 degree milk to make it viscous and bring it up to temperature.
  4. Prepare your incubator: I use a medium sized cooler for this. Pour in hot water (about 120 degrees straight from my tap), until the water level is high enough to go about half way up the quart jar (about 4-5 inches). Close the lid and let it wait for your yogurt.
  5. Prepare the yogurt: Ladle 115 degree milk into quart jars, leaving 1.5 – 2 inches of head space. Divvy up the culture between the quarts and pint, mix well with a clean fork, and seal jars tightly.
  6. Incubate: Place jars into cooler with water. Cover with a blanket or towel for insulation and let sit, undisturbed for 8-24 hours. You can check on the temperature of the cooler after eight hours and add more hot water if desired. I usually incubate mine for at least 12 hours and don’t reheat the water.

So, that is how I am making our weekly batch of yogurt right now. But let me tell you, I am not finished with raw milk yogurt yet. I got a tip from a savvy home cook last week and will be trying it again.

How are you making yogurt for your family?