Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Homemade Non-Dairy Yogurt...Using a Crockpot. It's easier than you think!

I seriously didn't know making homemade yogurt was possible a couple of weeks ago and now I can't imagine not making my own yogurt!

Two weekends ago, Brett and I were at a wedding for a good family friend. Most of my family went to the wedding as well and we all ended up staying at the same hotel together. Along with my family, an old friend from college stayed with us at the hotel, which was so fun! I haven't really spent extended amount of time with her since the summer after my freshman year of college when we were both camp counselors out in Colorado. Now we're both married and she even has a kid! Where has the time gone?

At one point we got to talking about cooking and she told me her goal for the year is to make everything at home that she can, which (if you've been reading this blog lately) you can tell had a big impact on me. Since I got back from that wedding I've been trying to make my own bread, tortillas, granola, almond milk...basically there's been lots of experimenting going on. 

However, one thing I had never considered making at home before talking to my friend was yogurt. "Yeah!" she said, "It's so easy!" Making yogurt. Easy? Turns out she has a yogurt maker which is basically a container that allows your yogurt to incubate at a constant temperature. Since Brett and I are moving to NYC and then overseas, it probably wouldn't be the wisest thing for me to buy another kitchen appliance that I won't be able to keep very long.

So the research began. Because let's face it. Ever since I went vegan I've had yogurt only a handful of times. I probably didn't have yogurt for months when I first cut dairy out of my diet. I'm super frugal, so the thought of spending 2 bucks on an individual yogurt killed me. 

But apparently there are lots of people who make their own yogurt at home! Thank you google. While, it did take me a while to find a process for making non-dairy yogurt that didn't seem overly complicated, I eventually found something I was brave enough to try. Now I can share with you how it's done and what I learned in the process. Let's get started...because seriously. Who doesn't love yogurt topped with freshly cut fruit and granola?

The tools you'll need:
- A large sauce pan
- A candy thermometer 
- A whisk
- A jar and lid that will hold a little more than 1 quart
- A crockpot
- Towels, a couple small ones and a couple big ones

The ingredients you'll need:
- 4 cups of non-dairy milk (1 quart)*
- 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch (or other thickener)
- 1 tablespoon of store-bought non-dairy yogurt OR 2-3 tablespoons of the non-dairy yogurt from your previous batch

* If possible, make your own non-dairy milk! Check out how to make homemade almond milk here. You can always by some from the store too. The first time I made my yogurt I used Blue Diamond Almond Breeze.

The process you'll use:

Step 1: Start by pouring the milk into a large sauce pan over medium heat and whisking in 2 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch. Make sure you whisk well so that no clumps form.

Step 2: Continue whisking and increasing the heat until your milk reaches 180 degrees. Don't let it boil! Just increase the temperature a little at a time.

Step 3: Once the milk has reached 180 degrees, take the saucepan off of the heat and let the milk cool, whisking it often. This can take from 1 to 2 hours. Let the milk cool between 90-100 degrees.

Step 4: While the milk is cooling, place your crockpot in the middle of a large towel and turn it on low. Also at this time remove from the refrigerator either the 1 tablespoon of store-bought yogurt or the 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt from your previous batch of yogurt and let it come to room temperature.

Step 5: Once the milk has cooled to between 90-100 degrees, thoroughly whisk in the 1-3 tablespoons of yogurt. Then pour the entire mixture into your glass jar. Loosely put the lid on top, but don't tighten it. 

Step 6: Turn off the crockpot and unplug it. Then tightly wrap the jar full of milk in smaller towels and place it in the crockpot. Take the larger towel and wrap the entire crockpot tightly.

Step 7: Let the yogurt "incubate" from 12-18 hours. The longer you let it incubate the more bitter/sour and thicker it will get. It really varies on the type of milk you use and the heat of your crockpot. The first time you make it, start by checking your yogurt at 12 hours. Give it a stir and taste it. If it's not too sour, wrap it back up and let it sit longer (you can even turn on your crockpot for a minute or so to re-heat it. 

The first time I made this yogurt I let it incubate for 12 hours before I tasted it and ended up letting it go about 15 hours total, checking it every now and then. It was sweet, but a little runny. 

The second time I made it, I let it sit for 15 hours before looking at it and it was a bit too sour for me, but a lot thicker. In order to get ride of some of the sourness, I just added some sweetener to it and then it was good to go.

Basically you may need to experiment a little before you get your yogurt to be just how you like it. Also, you may find this homemade yogurt to not be as thick as store-bought yogurt, but there are ways to make it thicker.

To get thicker yogurt try 1 or more of the following:
- During step 2 allow your milk to stay heated at 180 degrees for about 20 minutes. This allows some of the moisture in the milk to evaporate, making your yogurt thicker.
- Let it "incubate" longer, but remember this will make it more sour.
- Strain your yogurt from up to 1-2 hour to overnight, depending on how thick you want it. You can use something like cheesecloth on top of a strainer over a bowl.
- Add gelatin or pectin. You'll want to start with a small amount, about 1 teaspoon of thickener per quart of milk. During step 1, whisk 1 teaspoon of thickener into some of the milk in a separate bowl and let it "bloom". Then whisk it into the sauce pan of milk.

I plan to keep experimenting with this and eventually I want to make flavored yogurt. I'll keep you posted on what I learn! 

But for now I'm going to enjoy some homemade yogurt with granola and fruit. Yum!

Eat Consciously,


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