Monday, May 16, 2011

Homemade Snowville Creamery Yogurt Using Slow Cooker

I love, love, love Snowville Creamery's delicious milk.  Their tagline is "Milk the way it used to be", and from the first time I tasted it, that is exactly what I thought.  What makes their milk different?  Grass grazed, with a herd switch in winter when the local cows are on maternity leave, it's not homogenized, so the cream stays on top, and it's pasteurized at the lowest legal temperature.  Even the non-fat has body and tastes good, but the 2% tastes even better.  (I believe life is too short to drink cheap wine or fat-free milk).

The only thing I don't love, is that it only comes in half gallon cartons (including the heavy cream, which calls for a party if you are buying a half gallon), and I usually can't finish it before it goes bad.  Solution - make yogurt!

One of my clients regularly makes yogurt, and she has one of the commercial yogurt makers, but honestly I really don't need another unitasker around here.  I'd seen several articles on different ways to incubate yogurt without a maker, using heating pads, leaving in a turned off warm oven overnight, and in a slow cooker.

Then the latest issue of Cuisine at Home (June 2011) arrived, complete with a several page spread with step by step instructions that are a little different from the others I've seen.  Cuisine at Home is a nice magazine with no advertisements, recipes that are geared a little more towards experienced cooks, and most of their recipes are not available on-line, so it is worth subscribing in my opinion.

There is a lot to love about making your own yogurt, including total quality control of the ingredients (no added sugar, gelatin, pectin, cornstarch, artificial flavors and colors), you can control the thickness and tartness, plus you avoid the waste of both spoiled milk and packaging.  Plus it saves money; I calculated my cost equivalent at about 40 cents per 6 ounces.  (I used 8 oz. jars, but commercial cartons are usually 6 oz).

Plus, it is easy.  I probably checked the temperature more times than a new mother with feverish baby, but now that I see how it works, I will likely be less compulsive in the future.

For the full article, grab a copy of the June 2011 issue of Cuisine at Home, but here is what I did:

Sanitized 8 oz jelly jars and plastic lids
I ran 10 eight ounce Ball Deluxe Quilted Jelly Canning Jar 8 Oz., Case of 12 and Ball 36010 Mason Canning Jar Plastic Storage lids, Set of 8 through the dishwasher with a sanitize cycle.  The instructions don't call for sterilizing the jars as for canning, but I like to keep the good bacteria in and the bad out.

Heat Milk in Double Boiler & Have an Ice Bath Ready

I heated a half gallon of 2% Snowville Creamery milk which I whisked in 1/2 c. of nonfat dry milk powder (optional, but I prefer my yogurt thicker, and the milk powder replaces the commercial pectin, cornstarch and gelatin thickeners), over a makeshift double boiler consisting of a medium sized stockpot with a couple of inches of water, with a 4 quart saucepan with inserted inside.  Heat the milk to 185 degrees (so you will need a thermometer, and I dearly love my Splash-Proof Super-Fast Thermapen (Purple) Instant Read Thermometer, Perfect for Barbecue, Home and Professional Cooking, and after ruining untold cheaper thermometers, truly believe it was a worthy investment). You need to stir pretty often, and it takes about a half an hour to come up to temp.

Ice Bath
As soon as it reaches 185 degrees, move the pan over to an ice bath. I used my 7 1/4 quart Le Creuset pot with ice and some water.  Don't put too much water in the pan or you will have water overboard.  Cool to 115 degrees.  I stirred a few times while it was cooling and it didn't take too long.  Remove from the ice at 115.  When it reaches 110 degrees, stir in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt (one that has at least 3 active cultures - I used Stonyfield; it has 6). 

Filled Jars in the Slow Cooker

Ladle into jars - I got nine, but only 8 fit in my 6.5 quart slow cooker, so rather than get out another slow cooker (yes, I have a half dozen...), I dumped the jar that didn't fit.  (If I was smart, I would have checked how many fit before I started, but hey, I didn't) Add warm water half way up the sides of the jar, and put it on the warm setting. 

The optimum temp for the bacteria to feed on the sugars in the milk is 122 degrees.  You don't want going above 130 degrees, which kills it, or below 98 degrees which renders it sluggish, and neither of which will result in yogurt.  The instructions said to check the water every few hours in the cooker and keep it between 115-125 degrees, and to shut it off if it went over 125 and wrap the cooker in a large bath towel. 

Newer cookers seem to get hotter faster, and I have only used this All-Clad 99009 Stainless-Steel 6-1/2-Quart Slow Cooker once.  Speaking of All-Clad, the next factory sale is coming up the first weekend in June. 

I might try an older cooker next time, because this one heated the water over 125 within the first hour.  I preheated it while I was finishing the cooling and filling the jars.  So I shut it off and wrapped in a towel and after an hour or so, it was under 110.  So started the cycle of checking it probably too often.  Lid on, lid off, heat on, heat off, etc. At one point I turned it back on to heat up a bit, forgot for awhile to go back and check, and it was up to 130 and I thought I killed it.  Then I realized the milk temp was lower than the water.  It probably would have been perfectly fine if I'd checked about 10% as often.

I pulled it out around 8 hours, cautiously screwed open a lid,  and was slightly amazed when I was looking a yogurt.  It needs to finish ripening in the refrigerator for 8 hours, so I waited until this morning to taste test.

Fresh Yogurt & Blueberries for Breakfast

There is just a bit of whey on top, which you can either pour out, or I just shook the jar.  It isn't nearly as twangy to me as store-bought plain yogurt.  If you like it twangier, you can increase the incubation time.  The longer the bacteria party, the twangier it gets. It's tart, but pleasantly so.  I just added a sprinkle of organic sugar. 

Looking forward to trying some with a bit of homemade strawberry jam stirred in. 


  1. I did the heating pad set up a couple of times and had delicious yogurt but it was such a pain! The slow cooker I can do though! Thanks for being the guinea pig!

  2. Trying this has been on my list lately, yours looks delish! I have the Cuisine at Home sitting in my unread pile - soon. Thanks for posting!


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