A lot of people I know are eager to cut out processed foods and limit the sugar their families consume. When our family started the journey of cutting out processed foods and eating more whole foods, one thing that I began to realize was how much sugar was added into almost everything we ate. If you look at the ingredient lists on most processed foods in the grocery store, (from salad dressings to bread to pickles and more), sugar will be listed in one form or another. Now, I am not one to say that we cannot or will not eat any sugar, but I would like to be able to have a little bit more of a choice in when and how much sugar we eat.
If you are trying to cut back on processed foods and limit sugar in your family’s diet, then I would suggest that learning to make yogurt at home is a good step to consider. The little containers of yogurt in the store are certainly enticing with their endless varieties of flavors. Even so, fresh creamy yogurt drizzled with honey and topped with granola and seasonal fruit is incredibly delicious. In fact, yogurt with fresh peaches is one of my favorite parts of summer.
Need some more reasons to take the plunge and try making yogurt for yourself at home?
- It’s easy. Truly, making yogurt at home in your crockpot is very easy to do. While the process itself does take about 24 hours total, the actual hands-on time is very minimal– no more than 15 minutes altogether.
- It’s frugal. One gallon of milk costs less than $4. From just one gallon of milk, I can get about 9 cups of thick yogurt and about 5 cups of whey (more on what whey is later).
- It’s adjustable. You can control the consistency you prefer when you make yogurt. If you like thinner yogurt, then don’t strain it for long or at all. If you like thicker yogurt, strain it until it reaches the right consistency.
- It’s healthy. You can choose the milk you prefer– regular, organic, hormone free, etc. You control how much (if any) sweetener you use. You control the added ingredients and toppings. Another bonus is it’s a good opportunity to use local honey which is very healthy and beneficial.
- It’s multipurpose. I use our yogurt in our smoothies and for breakfasts and snacks. I also use yogurt as a substitute for sour cream, often for cream cheese, and in creamy salad dressings. I use the whey as a substitute for buttermilk and milk when I bake.
- It’s delicious. I think I already mentioned this.
So, have I convinced you that it’s worth a try? I hope so.
Making Yogurt in the Crockpot
Step 1: Gather your ingredients: You will need 1 gallon of milk (I use whole milk), and 1 small container of plain yogurt with live active cultures. These live cultures are an important part of what makes yogurt good for your body. I have found Stoneyfield yogurt to have the most cultures so that’s what we use.
Gather your “equipment”: You will need a large oval crockpot, and a quick read thermometer (I use my regular meat thermometer).
Step 2: Pour a gallon of milk into a the crockpot. Heat the milk on low for 3 to 3.5 hours, or until it reaches a temperature of 180°. The first few times you make the yogurt, you will need to check the milk’s temperature with a thermometer. After you have made it a few times and have determined how long it takes the milk to reach 180° in your crockpot, you can just remember the time it takes the milk to heat.
Step 3: Turn off your crockpot and let the milk cool. The milk needs to be about 110° when you add in the yogurt. Again, pay attention to the amount of time it takes it your crockpot, as it can vary how well each type of crockpot retains heat. In my crockpot, this step takes about 3 hours. You’ll need to measure the temperature with a thermometer each time you make the yogurt. It is important that the milk is not too hot (and won’t kill the live cultures). It is also important that the milk is warm enough for it to become yogurt.
Step 4: When your milk has dropped it’s temperature to about 110°, stir in the entire small container of plain yogurt with a whisk. Return the lid to the crockpot and wrap the entire crockpot with a large towel. Let your crockpot sit wrapped in a towel for about 8 hours or overnight.
Step 5: Now you have yogurt but it may be too runny for your preferences. We like our yogurt to be thick like Greek yogurt so we let it strain for about 4 hours. I use a large stockpot, a colander, and a tea towel to strain the yogurt. Set the colander in the pot and line with a clean tea towel (or cheesecloth). Pour the yogurt from the crockpot into the colander set in the pot. Place in the refrigerator and let strain for as long as you like.
Step 6: Take the yogurt out of the refrigerator and transfer to containers. Pour the whey that has drained into the bottom of the pot into separate containers. Refrigerate the yogurt and whey.
Save 1 cup of yogurt for the next time. When you need to make another batch, you won’t need to purchase a small container again. However, over time if you notice your yogurt is looking thinner after you make a batch, it may be time to use a new starter from the store.
What to do with the whey:
Whey is a milk protein that separates from the yogurt when you strain it. It is good for you and can be used for a variety of purposes in your kitchen. I use whey as a substitute for buttermilk or milk in baking recipes. I also use whey every morning in our green smoothies. The whey can be stored in a container in the refrigerator, or frozen in ice cube trays to keep longer and use for smoothies. For more ideas on what to do with your leftover whey, you can check out the Prairie Homestead’s post on 16 Ways to Use Whey.
My Favorite Homemade Ranch Dressing
At some point during my pregnancy with my second son, I became a ranch lover. For months it was my salad dressing of choice and a favorite dip for certain foods. Not all ranch dressings are created equal and most ranch lovers have a brand that they are very loyal to. My preferred brand was Kraft.
I figured, though, that if I was going to be consuming so much of this yummy condiment I should try to find a way to make it at home. I went through several different recipes trying to find the right one. Some recipes were too tedious. Some just didn’t have the right appeal. I wanted a ranch dressing that I could easily make whenever the craving or meal required. It had to be delicious and it had to be simple.
Finally I found a winner. This has been my go-to recipe for ranch dressings and dips for a couple of years now. The recipe is adapted from a recipe out of Mandi Ehman’s book, Easy. Homemade.
- 1 C Greek-style (thick) yogurt
- *1/4- 1/3 C whey (can use buttermilk if you don’t have whey)
- 2 tsp dried parsley
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp dill
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- Mix together the spices in a small dish.
- Stir into the yogurt and mix well.
- Add whey and mix again.
*You can adjust the amount of whey depending on if you want a thicker dressing or dip, or if you like a thinner dressing.
What has been one of your best changes you’ve made in the kitchen to benefit your family’s health?