Crockpot {Greek} Yogurt

A few years ago my oldest sister went on a yogurt-making kick.  She called me and convinced me of the deliciousness of homemade yogurt.  I wanted to jump on her bandwagon so I could make homemade plain yogurt for my baby, so I went to Williams-Sonoma.  I was so convinced, in fact, that I not only bought a yogurt maker, but I also bought extra glass jars to fit in the maker.  
I’ve been making amazing yogurt twice a week since!  Right??  Wrong.  I never could get that darn machine to produce good yogurt.  
My yogurt maker has been collecting dust since 2008.  It’s actually a bit of a joke between my husband and me.  Sometimes I get excited about some new gadget and he’ll ask “Kinda like the yogurt maker?”
Then I came across a few recipes for yogurt made in a crockpot.  I figured it was worth a try, because it’s kinda hard to ruin anything in a crockpot.  I thought I’d give it a few days and attempt a few versions to see which version worked out best.
I got as far as one attempt and JACKPOT!  This yogurt is positively dreamy.  Thick and silky and rich and amazing.  And really easy to make.  The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for it to be ready to eat!  It takes about 14 hours to make, but only a few minutes of that are actually hands-on.  The rest is just letting time pass while it does its thing.
Crockpot {Greek} Yogurt
1/2 gallon milk*
1/2 cup plain yogurt*
I know it sounds weird that you need yogurt to make yogurt, but what you really need is the live cultures in the starter yogurt.  What you’re doing is basically “growing” more yogurt.**
Pour the milk into a crockpot, cover and cook on low for 2.5 hours.  After the time has passed turn the crockpot off, but DO NOT OPEN IT.  Allow the milk to cool down for 3 hours.  Ladle out about 2 cups of milk from the crockpot into a separate bowl and whisk the 1/2 cup of yogurt into it.  Then, pour the mixture back into the crockpot.  Replace the lid and cover the crockpot with a few heavy bath towels or blankets and allow it to sit at room temperature for 8 hours (I did this overnight). 

*Edit, the last time I made yogurt I put the whole crockpot in the oven overnight (turned off) and completely forgot about it for nearly 24 hours.  It was the BEST batch yet!  So, from this point on, I’d say 8-24 hours works.  It was so much thicker than it normally is, so I didn’t even strain it.  Yum!)
After 8 hours have passed you have yogurt!  At that point you have regular yogurt and you can simply chill it as-is and eat it that way.  
Or, to make Greek style yogurt:
Place a strainer over a large bowl, line with a coffee filter or cheese cloth.  Ladle yogurt into the strainer and allow it to drain undisturbed.  All the whey will separate from the yogurt, producing a much thicker yogurt with much more protein per serving.  You’ll have to do this step in a few batches.

Believe me when I tell you this yogurt will make you want to never buy yogurt again.  We eat a LOT of Greek yogurt around here and we’ve tried a lot of brands.  This version is slightly sweet, creamy and lacks the sharpness of plain yogurt that makes me want to sweeten it.  No need for honey on this.  My 3 year old ate THREE bowls of this for breakfast today!

*Any kind of milk can be used for this recipe as long as it contains live cultures.  Same goes for the yogurt.  If you’re hoping to use non-dairy milk/yogurt 1/4 teaspoon of powdered probiotics can be substituted for the starter yogurt.

**You will be able to reserve and reuse some of this yogurt to make the next batch.  After 3-4 batches from the original batch you’ll likely find the need to use store-bought starter yogurt since the original live cultures become “diluted”.

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