In The Kitchen

I actually can’t remember the last time I had a conversation over the phone with my mother that didn’t include her reminding me of the health benefits of Greek yoghurt (along with the proper nutritional variations of other dairy products).  I am not completely sure why, but the yoghurt section is the one place in the grocery store where I repeatedly find myself staring at the shelf in total indecisiveness.  I stand there trying to decide if buying this yoghurt will actually inspire me to wake up early enough to eat breakfast before heading off to work, or if it will just sit in the back corner of my fridge for a month (or two…).  I squint at all the labels and consume all the nutritional information as quickly as possible, so as to find “the one” that is actually healthy, has all the good bacterial stuff that has “well-regulated-and-well-trimmed” people belly-dancing on T.V., and isn’t full of all those “extra, yucky-for-you” filler ingredients (all while coolly and casually blocking the well-informed customer from making their quick container grab).  Then I walk away. I look for other items on my list, trying not to think about whether or not I should go back and buy the yoghurt  Then I find myself in front of the dairy section once again. When it comes down to it, I just can’t justify spending $3.99 on a little container of yoghurt.  So, in a sudden frustrated move, I grab two $2.99 tubes of Pillsbury chocolate chunk cookie dough from the left, and walk (okay, run) to the checkout before I can change my mind.

Having more time off work now, I have had the opportunity to be at home more often to cook healthy meals, and to actually sit down and “plan” a week’s worth of groceries.  I use the word “plan” lightly at this point, as yes, plans are made, but no, they are not usually brought to fruition.  Most nights that I do work, I begin my walk home feeling stressed and in a snacking mood.  “Conveniently” there is a big, beautiful grocery store blocking my path home.  On Monday, I just did it.  Trying to stay health-conscious whilst fighting the craving, I just ran in and grabbed a container of honey-flavoured Greek yoghurt and went home.  It was delicious.  But how was I going to financially feed my new-found love of yoghurt? Where do you turn during these difficult lifestyle dilemmas  Yes, that’s right- Pinterest.  The recipe seemed easy enough, and there is always enough time with the crock pot working its magic overnight. I was so disappointed to find the next morning that my yoghurt was still in a very liquid state.  Was it because I had used Greek yoghurt as my starter, rather than regular? Was my crock pot even working any more  (It is a rather old, but beautifully big one, passed on through the family.) I searched again on-line  this time to see if there were many differences from one recipe to the next.  Maybe there was one ‘key’ step that had accidently been left out of the one that I had followed?  I ended up finding one that sounded promising from the blog Eating From the Ground Up.  This recipe shares much easier to follow temperature guidelines than the first.  The first time I made the yoghurt using the “low” setting for the same amount of time, so obviously the milk had not been heated enough.  I usually “wing it” when it comes to cooking, but this time I really wanted to get it right, and pulled out my cooking thermometer that was sitting in the drawer, package still intact.

Everything ran smoothly. I wrapped my crock pot up in the warmest blanket I could find.  I could smell the subtle smell of warm milk as I filled the following hours with housework and cleaning.  When it came time to lift the blanket and peek at my beautiful creation, I was absolutely shocked to find those smells had not been wafts of warming milk, but of melting plastic!  It had gotten so warm under that blanket that the handles and dial of my crock pot had melted down the sides, and were starting to turn brown.  While I thought I was doomed without yoghurt once again, the contents inside the pot actually turned out perfectly! Overall, learning to make yoghurt in the crock pot was an exciting experience. I learned that delicious, healthy yoghurt can be made affordable at home –and that I definitely need a new crock pot!

Here is the recipe for making your own homemade crockpot yogurt:
Pour 1/2 gallon (or 8 cups) of raw or pasteurised (but not ultra-pasteurised!) milk into your crockpot.  Cover and turn to “high”.  Let sit until the liquid’s temperature reaches 185 degrees, or until hot, steamy, and just below boiling. This takes approx. 2 1/2 hours.

When the milk reaches 185 degrees, remove the lid and turn the crockpot off. Let it cool until the temperature is 110 degrees. This takes approx. 1 1/2 hours.

Stir 1/2 cup of plain yogurt into the milk. Replace the crockpot lid, and wrap the entire pot in a warm blanket.  Let it sit, undisturbed, for 5 to 6 hours (or overnight!), but here is no harm in leaving it longer!

Open the lid, and take a peek- you have yogurt!  Pour yogurt into containers (I use Mason jars!) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before eating. Enjoy!

(Before it’s all gone, don’t forget to save a 1/2 cup to start your next batch!)

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