The other morning as I opened the milk to pour over our oatmeal, I noticed that faintly sour smell that occurs when your milk is about to go bad. You know, it's not there yet, but if you let the milk sit much longer it will all have to be thrown out. Well, we still had about half a gallon left so I didn't want to waste it. I hopped online to look up recipes that use lots of milk, and saw that someone suggested making it into yogurt. I've had my eye on a particular yogurt recipe that uses the crock pot (how cool is that?!), but hadn't gotten around to it yet. This was my chance - that milk needed to be used!
I found the recipe on A Year of CrockPotting.
8 cups milk - she suggests using whole milk, but we had a combination of 2% and skim so I just used what I had
1/2 cup natural, live/active culture, plain yogurt to use as starter
Plug in crock pot (4 quart or larger) and turn to low. Add an entire half gallon of milk. Cover and cook on low for 2 1/2 hours.
Unplug your crock pot. Leave the cover on, and let it sit for 3 hours.
When 3 hours have passed, scoop out 2 cups of the warmish milk and put it in a bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of store-bought live/active culture yogurt (if you've used low fat milk, add 2 tbsp. dry milk powder as well to help it thicken better). Then dump the bowl contents back into the crock pot. Stir to combine.
Put the lid back on your crock pot. Keep it unplugged, and wrap a heavy bath towel all the way around the crock for insulation.
Go to bed, or let it sit for 8 hours.
In the morning, the yogurt will have thickened---it's not as thick as store-bought yogurt, but has the consistency of low-fat plain yogurt.
Chill in a plastic container(s) in the refrigerator. Your fresh yogurt will last 7-10 days. Save 1/2 cup as a starter to make a new batch.
She suggests blending the yogurt in batches with your favorite fruit, such as mango, strawberry, and blueberry. I chose to leave it plain until serving. I went to try it the morning it was done - and go figure, Jeff had finished off the granola for breakfast before leaving for work. Phooey. So the kids and I ate it with some sugar and cut up fruit.
My yogurt did turn out quite a bit thinner than I expected. Part of that is just the result of it being homemade, I think. But I also think I should have insulated my crock pot better. I wrapped it in two towels - but only on the top and sides. Next time I think I would wrap it on the bottom as well. Or instead of towels, I could insulate it with our electric blanket, turned to low. Or just move it into our room for the night, because it's warmer there at night than in the kitchen. Lots of options available.
One quick note - if you make yogurt and it doesn't set up - DON'T THROW IT AWAY!! There's no sense wasting an entire half gallon of milk just because it isn't thickened. There are several fun ways to use over-thin yogurt. Mix it with jam and freeze as popsicles. Or just mix it with jam and drink it down like those amazingly overpriced drinkable yogurts. Use it in smoothies. Add to soup in place of milk or cream. I'll be doing some of these with my thinner-than-usual yogurt, as well as just eating it. And I think I need to make some more granola.