Yogurt for the simple folk...

Yogurt.We eat it all the time.  Chances are you walk in the store and buy what is on sale.  Chances are if you read the back of the label for that "yogurt" you would realize there is very little "yogurt" in there and way more corn syrup and chemical additives you can't even begin to prounounce, let alone know what they are. My question to you is why are you feeding this to yourself and your family?  It has zero benefit and is actually falling into the unhealthy side of things.  Unless of course you are being a good consumer and reading that label and making sure you are getting a great organic, non-GMO brand.  Most will not be doing this and will quickly shy away from the almost $2 price tag for those brands.

This was the category I fell into.  I knew that "real yogurt" has many health benefits that those cheap brands will NEVER have...but no way can we afford $2 for a half a cup of yogurt.    I knew why they are priced that way...I simply can't afford that for my hungry crew.  They can devour 2 quarts in a day if I let them.  Ok maybe I help with that a bit ;-) Just like the butter making years ago I knew that perhaps yogurt making wasn't as hard as we think? After all it has been around a crazy long time...well before electric and all the fancy kitchen utensils we have these days!

So I ventured into the world of making my own yogurt. At first I thought I needed a fancy yogurt maker and I did find a small one at a yard sale for $5 bucks.  It worked great but those little jars were to much work for the amount we devour. I ended up just enjoying making it with  big old quart jars and a Rubbermaid cooler.

Many folks opt to use raw milk in their yogurt making but I feel like that is a waste of my milk share. Why?  Because I am heating it to 180 degrees F which basically pasterizes it anyway so I just opt to save my expensive raw milk share to be drank as raw milk or ice cream  ;-) I do however buy the Grass Fed organic/non-gmo brands for my yogurt and butter making.

I am going to write this out to make it as simple as possible because really...this is sooooo easy!

Start with 1 half gallon of quality milk (if you are going to make your own yogurt at least splurge for the good milk!) Let it sit on the counter to room temperature. Then pour it into a big old sauce pan with a thermometer on the side.

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Keep stirring while it gets to 180F degrees. While it is on the stove I typically run a sink full of cold water and drop ice cubes into it as well. Once the milk reaches the 180 I pick it up and place it in the sink to cool to 110F degrees.  The sink of cold water just makes this happen a bit faster. When it reaches 110F I add in the most expensive, Organic, GMO free, lots of live probiotic cultured yogurt I can find. Yep it typically costs about $2 bucks.

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Now this part you can also use a yogurt starter if you prefer but this is just the easiest method for me so far.  I am going to try it with a jar starter one day soon...but until then...this method is my route.

Time to stir it into the 110 degree milk.  I stir and stir and stir some more until it is all blended nicely. This is also the point that if you like your yogurt sweet...like we do...you add in the "extra". I typically add in honey and vanilla but you can use sugar if you must. I chose to add in the fruit later (more on that in a few minutes).

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Once it is all mixed in I pour the milk into 2- quart mason jars, put the lids on them and put them in my little Rubbermaid cooler. I then add in HOT tap water.

Put the lid on and put it in a corner for about 10 hours. If I find it isn't quite thick enough I pour in fresh hot water and leave it for another 2 hours.

While the yogurt is "cooking" in the cooler I typically take that time to make the fruit we will add. Unfortunately this clan of mine has never developed the taste buds for straight plain yogurt.  We like it sweet. I opt to use honey as our base sweetener. I always have berries in our freezer and for this batch I used blueberries from a local farm. I add in a good batch of berries in a sauce pan, then add in about 2 cups of water, and then the honey (or sugar if you prefer).

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I cook it to a boil for a few minutes and then put the fruit sauce in a jar and straight onto the fridge. Then when we want yogurt later we simply put the plain yogurt in a bowl and then add the berries and often granola as well. The great thing about this yogurt is you do not have to just eat it as regular old yogurt... I normally take every other batch and mix the half gallon of yogurt in with the fruit and then freeze it.  Home made FroYo! Hello, yummy!

That is if you don't eat it all before it makes it to the freezer. This batch I made last night is down to about a pint left. I had a nice bowl for my lunch...and Adam saw me photographing this bowl and hovered until I was finished then promptly ran away to eat it.  Gotta  love a teenager who knows a good bowl of real food when he sees it.

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By the way...that granola there! That is some good stuff that my friend Hope makes and it is now being carried in my local Whole Foods! I was beyond excited since my crew LOVES this stuff!  Gotta love it when big stores carry local products!  They got some major brownie points from me for doing that and well, it is really yummy in the yogurt ;-) Now go and make some yogurt!  No fear!  You can do it!