Dining at a friends home recently, the hostess inspired me as she began heating milk to make yogurt. As we visited, she told me she had been doing this for quite some time. Me, I had never tried. However, with a family of nine consuming a minimum of 3 quarts of yogurt a week, I was empowered to give the process a try. My friend shared her yogurt making wisdom--explaining the cooler method she found by trial and error to be easiest.
When I returned home, I began my first yogurt making attempt by placing "homemade cooler yogurt" into a search engine. I read. I compared. I gathered needed equipment, most of which I had. My first attempt was successful, very successful, and I realized this process was yet another example of how learning and life collide. I wanted to involve my children in the process.
The first attempt, a successful walk through for me, I decided I understood the process enough to involve my children for my second yogurt making event. I retrieved the candy thermometer (left over from our yummy lollipop making experiments) from safe storage and gave the children a quick review about the care, use, and purpose of a thermometer. They were, once again, intrigued. We attached the thermometer to the side of the pot, poured in the milk, and turned the burner on medium. Each took a turn stirring. We periodically checked the temperature of the milk, giving us repeated practice reading a thermometer. One of the children drew a thermometer with the current temperature of the milk. A great way to incorporate multiple learning modalities.
As the milk heated we prepared the canning jars and discussed the difference between pints and quarts. The oldest helpers reviewed how many pints and quarts were in a gallon. One of the children suggested we pour pints of water into our empty milk jug to see if our calculations were indeed accurate; an excellent visual for our younger learners to have a concrete experience in measurements. We followed the remaining instructions and placed our yogurt into a cooler to "culture". After eight hours of "culturing" in the cooler, we placed our fresh yogurt in the refrigerator. We were all very excited about what we had accomplished together. In fact, we were all so enthused we decided to calculate how much money we had saved by making our own yogurt. What a learning experience!
My third attempt produced yogurt which was just a tad thicker than milk. Still yummy, just runny. Trying to figure out what went wrong. However, with fresh fruit, it made great breakfast smoothies.
There are several recipes, some using milk, others using soy or powdered milk. Experiment and choose what works best for your family.
Helpful links for yogurt making:
This crockpot version has become my favorite, though my ancient crockpot takes six hours on high to reach 180 degrees! Still beats having to worry about stirring in between family needs. I simply put the milk in the crockpot at 9 AM and never open the lid until 3 PM when I check the temperature and begin the cooling process. When the milk lowers to 110degrees, I add the starter, wrap in a towel and place in a cooler overnight. BEST yogurt ever! It was worth the tweaking to figure out what process worked best for our family.