I absolutely love Greek yogurt. It is so thick and creamy and makes for a super quick, healthful meal if I am in a rush. It’s also so good for you with its highly digestible protein, good bacteria, and whole fat. I used to get whole fat Greek yogurt at Walmart in Utah before I moved to southern Arizona. It was $4 a quart. After we moved, I found out the Walmart here in my AZ town doesn’t carry whole fat Greek yogurt. I have requested the store to carry it but so far no results. The grocery store down the street has Mountain High whole fat yogurt. It’s not as thick as Greek yogurt but it’s close enough. But at $5.39 a container, last month my food budget couldn’t afford it for the last two weeks of the month. I missed it so much! Our family of 6 left at home can easily go through at least 2 big, 64 oz. containers a week. I have been getting raw milk to drink raw, but it seemed way too expensive to buy enough raw milk to turn into yogurt.
But now, I am doing the happy dance because I figured out that I can make Greek yogurt at home super easily! I was talking to my friend about how to to stretch my food budget, and then I decided to Google “WAPF diet on a budget”. I found this great blog that gave me permission to buy pasteurized milk and turn it into yogurt. The blogger pointed out that the culturing process makes the pasteurization effects not so bad. And as you probably know, pasteurized milk is a LOT cheaper than raw milk.
So I found I can get whole fat milk for $1.89 a gallon if I watch for sales. Walmart has it regularly at $2.39 a gallon, so if miss a sale, that’s only 50 cents more. So I can buy a gallon and turn it into a big container of yogurt for less than half the cost of the 5.39 price. This is definitely making my food budget s-t-r-e-t-c-h. I am so excited! May I never be deprived of Greek yogurt again! It’s close to the end of the month and I already feel ahead of the game! I still have homemade yogurt, and I also have a whole gallon of milk in the fridge to make into more, plus I still have money in the food budget to buy more milk should we run out before April 30th. Yesssss!
OK, here’s the recipe, as well as my “shortcut.” I have made yogurt before, in a saucepan and yogurt maker, and I thought the method I had perfected was foolproof. I have found an even more foolproof way, which uses a crockpot. Of course, I had to hack that method and make it even easier, so that you don’t even need a thermometer, which is how I did it when I used the sauce pan and yogurt maker.
1. Put a gallon of milk in your crockpot. Put the lid on.
2. Turn it on low and heat the yogurt for about 2 1/2 hours. Test the temperature with a kitchen thermometer, it should be at least 180 degrees. It is vital to heat the yogurt to this temperature to break down the proteins so that the yogurt will thicken. If you don’t have a thermometer, that’s OK. If you see steam coming off the top you know it’s hot enough and can turn it off.
3. Turn off the crockpot, take off the “skin” that has formed on the top, leave the lid off, and let the yogurt cool for about 1 hour to 110 degrees.
4. When your time goes off, test the yogurt. Use your thermometer to see if it’s 110 degrees. If you are low tech like I am and don’t have a thermometer, never fear. Just dip your pinky finger in up to the first knuckle. If you can hold your pinky in that position and count to 20 seconds comfortably without feeling that your pinky is getting hot and you have to take it out, you are at the right temp. If it’s still too hot, then set the timer for 5 minutes and check at 5 min. intervals until it is cool enough to keep a finger in for 20 seconds.
5. Take out a cup of the cooled milk, place into a bowl and add 2 T of starter yogurt. Whisk together and then add to the yogurt in the crockpot. Mix it in.
6. Incubate the yogurt at this temperature so that the good bacteria in the starter yogurt will multiply and spread through all the yogurt in the crockpot. Do this by wrapping the crockpot with bath towels. Some bloggers say to put the wrapped up crockpot in an oven that is turned off but I have found that step is unnecessary.
6. Check the yogurt after 6 to 8 hours, basically overnight, 10 hours if you want it more sour. I have found 3 to 4 hours works too. It should be nice and yogurty! You should have a semi-solid yogurt state that has a thin layer of whey when you dip a spoon into it. The whey is very nutritious and useful. You can just mix it in if you don’t mind slightly runny yogurt or strain it off in the next step.
7. If you want thicker, Greek yogurt then scoop the yogurt into a colander placed into a bowl, lined with three layers of plyban cheesecloth (one layer might be too holey), or muslin, or a dish towel, or an old-fashioned, tightly weaved, flat thin cloth diaper that is clean of course. Let the whey strain off into the bowl for a few hours. Keep the whey in the fridge and use for soaking grains or just for drinking or for smoothies.
That’s it! Enjoy! Top with fruit, honey, sucanat, nuts, crumbled up cookies, etc. If your yogurt doesn’t quite turn out, and it’s more drinkable than custard-y, just use it in smoothies for a super probiotic drink.