Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What I'm loving right now!

Lately I've been really busy and haven't had as much crafting time as I'd like. Don't get me wrong, there's always  SOME crafting going on, just not as much as I'm used to. Part of that is that I went on vacation. With my girl friends. With no children. For an entire weekend. To MAUI! It was spectacular! It was my 40th and I really wanted to celebrate in style. Even though I brought along my knitting and did knit on the plane, I think I only knit two rows the entire weekend we were on the island. There was much more of this going on, and rightfully so!

But I digress, what I meant to write about today, is the thing I seem to do EVERY SINGLE WEEK, regardless of time or energy. Although it's not technically crafting, it is a hand made thing that I can't seem to live without. That, my friends, is homemade crock pot yogurt! It is my new best friend.

If you've never made yogurt before, it might seem intimidating, but really it's quite easy. We are a yogurt family and the cost of good yogurt not full of weird additives or tons of sugar was getting out of control. I searched the web for a few tutorials and ended up mashing a few together to get my recipe. Here goes:


Crock pot
1/2 gallon of your favorite milk
1/4 cup plain store bought yogurt (this is your starter and once you've made your own you won't need to buy this again)
dutch oven or stock pot
sweetener of choice (honey or sugar or maple syrup, you decide)
beach towels

First: turn your empty crock pot on low. Then pour your milk into your dutch oven or stock pot and heat it on the stove on medium heat until it reaches 185 degrees. Best to do this slowly, so as not to scorch it. I stir a lot and test the temp about 500 times. Then when it reaches 185 place the whole pot in a sink of cold water. The water should reach about 1/2 way up the sides of the pot. DO NOT GET WATER IN THE MILK! Then let it hang out in the water bath for about 10 min or until the temp is around 100 degrees. You need it warm so set a timer so it doesn't get colder than 100 degrees.

At this point, take 1 cup of your warm milk and mix it with your 1/4 cup of starter yogurt. If you want plain yogurt skip the next step.  We like our yogurt with a little sweetener so at this point I add about 1/2 cup of vanilla sugar or a 1/2 cup of honey and about a 1/2 tablespoon of vanilla extract. Add this mixture and the balance of your warm milk into your crock pot. Mix well with a whisk and cover. TURN OFF THE CROCK POT! Now wrap the entire crock pot in a couple of beach towels and walk away.

I usually leave the whole thing on the counter for about 8 hours. I think it sets up a touch faster than this but I like to leave it for 8 hours on the counter, and then take the covered crock pot insert and stick it in the fridge overnight.

The next morning this is what you have:

For my family the thickness right out of the crock pot is perfect! I don't strain it, especially  since one of the reasons I LOVE me some yogurt is for all the amazing probiotic benefits. When you strain off the whey a lot of the probiotic friends get strained off too so I leave it alone. 

To make it easy for my 7 year old son to eat without assistance, I spoon it into 8 ounce canning jars. Some are glass and some are the nice plastic freezer jam ones. I usually add a spoon of strawberry preserves to the bottom and then spoon the yogurt over top. He loves them just like this, but I usually doctor mine up a bit.

I add blueberries (often frozen ones) and other berries and a big handful of granola and WHAM! Easiest healthy breakfast ever. 

It makes me so happy to see this stack of yogurt in my refrigerator! It's even better to know that for the cost of a 1/2 gallon of milk and a little bit of jam, I can make close to 12 containers for the week. Considering that to buy Stonyfield or Brown Cow I was paying over $1 per 8oz. container this seems almost  miraculous! 

I hope you'll give homemade yogurt a shot. It's not hard at all and the results are pretty spectacular!