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. It just has nonfat and lowfat 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, unplug it as an extra measure to make sure you turned off the heat source, take off the “skin” that has formed on the top, leave the lid off, and let the yogurt cool for about 1 hour, 15 minutes, 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. Add 2 T of starter yogurt. This is just plain yogurt you have bought from the store or leftover from your previous batch. Stir into the yogurt in the crockpot.
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.
7. 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 if I want to make it during the day and have it ready before dinnertime. 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. You can also save the whey for making lacto-fermented vegetables or for soaking grains overnight if you want to be super economical and a healthy Becky Hom-Ecky!
8. If you want thicker, Greek yogurt then scoop the yogurt into a colander placed into a bowl, lined with a dish towel. Let the whey strain off into the bowl for a few hours. Use a rubber scraper to scrape the thick yogurt off the towel into a container. Wash the dishtowels. Keep the whey in the fridge and use for soaking grains or just for drinking or for smoothies. I usually dump it. One of these days I will use it to lacto-ferment cabbage for sauerkraut.
Here is my shortcut, if you don’t want to stay home to babysit, that is, test, the yogurt. You can just put all the stuff in, plug in the crockpot, and leave the house. When you come back, the yogurt will have formed after 5-6 hours.
That’s it! Enjoy! Top with fruit, stevia, 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.