Down the Rabbit Hole: Home-made yogurt

Do you ever find yourself doing one thing, and the next thing you know you've embarked on an adventure you hadn't entirely planned? That happened to be this week. 

I decided that I'd like to make my own yogurt. It's not cheaper to make my own sour cream, but yogurt! That I can make for cheaper than I can buy. I also decided that with my recent difficulty buying reasonably priced sandwich bread without sugar that tastes good to me, I'd like to try making my own. So I made a sourdough starter (but that's a topic for a different day). 

How did I make my yogurt?
I didn't like the fussiness and on-my-feet time required with some of the recipes I found for homemade yogurt. So I added "crockpot" to my recipe search, and right on top was a link to one of my favorite blogs. Oh wait, you mean the one I was reading a week ago when I decided I wanted to make my own yogurt? Oops. Thanks Google for the reminder!

So I started by putting my milk into the crockpot on low for 2 hours. Problem was I don't have a calibrated thermometer in the house (all 4 of mine have gone missing), so I had to trust my chef-trained fingers. Tested at 2 hours, and it was warm but not HOT--and 180 degrees is hot to the touch. So I went back half an hour later and was very surprised that it made such a difference. Hot to the touch, so I pulled it out. 

Problem is, by then it was after midnight and I wanted to go to bed. I didn't have an hour to wait for it to cool. Figuring that I was using 2% milk and you can make yogurt with skim (which is more watery), I figured it would be safe to put in some ice. Cooled it down within 5 minutes to the "just warm to the touch" point, so about 110 degrees. Tempered in the starter yogurt (that's where you add the warm stuff to the cool stuff to slowly raise the temp of the cool stuff, so you don't curdle eggs/milk or in this case, shock the cultures into dying). Wrapped the crock in a towel and put in the oven with the light on over night, complete with a note over the light button/oven controls that said, 

"I'm very busy right now, please do not disturb. The stovetop is free though!"

Gotta make sure no one else messes up my stuff, and that we don't burn down the house by lighting towels on fire. 

When we came back the next morning (10 hours later), the yogurt was a little watery yet, definitely yogurt but still very creamy tasting instead of soured. We put it back in for another hour and a half or so. When we pulled it out again, it looked like this! 
A nice solid mass of cultured dairy, floating in a lake of whey. It was pretty tasty too!

So I set up a station for straining it, to make thicker stuff: 
I can't find my cheesecloth, so I used one of the flour sack towels that I reserve for food prep. Laid that in a strainer for support, and put THAT in a roasting pan to catch the liquid as it drains. 

Pouring the yogurt into the system...

But then I needed to put it in the fridge for a few hours, so it could drain without continuing to culture. And I wanted it covered so nothing fell into it. And I was afraid that since the towel was wicking up whey to the corners that it would drip off the sides while left unattended. That's how I ended up with this contraption:
Pulled the corners to the top and rubber banded them together. Stuck a chopstick through the holes underneath the rubber band so it couldn't tip over. Pulled the excess towel up over the chopstick and pinned there so the yogurt couldn't seep out the sides. Hey, laugh all you want (we did!) but it worked!

6 hours later...
VERY thick yogurt, about 16 oz of it from one half-gallon of milk, and about 16 oz of whey. This was way too thick, so we actually ended up mixing some of the whey back into it, but having it this dry to scrape off the towel made it really easy!
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Now I need to figure out what to do with the whey. I saved some of the yogurt (about 1/3 cup or so) for starting the next batch, and set it aside in a different dish labeled as yogurt starter so that I can't end up without having starter for the next batch. I intend to use some of the whey as liquid in my bread/waffles/whatever, and maybe I'll add a little to the apple crisp this afternoon to give it a little tangy-ness.

Next up, sourdough starter, which you can read about tomorrow. And I'd like to start sprouting beans and soaking grains. I'm working on re-organizing the pantries that Mr. Moon and I use, seen here behind the red curtain and the one next to it with doors, though I removed that curtain because it was in my way. I'd like to get all our food into the pantry with doors so that I can use the open shelves for soaking, sprouting, and souring. Although I will leave the nice matching kitchen canisters out, since they actually look nice (in my opinion, anyway).

Oh darn, that means getting through some of my back stock of oatmeal, pinto beans, and baking supplies.

And now we see how this adventure has started to throw me down the rabbit hole into a more exciting adventure than I ever expected!
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Any fun food projects you're working on?

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