Thursday, December 6, 2012

Individual yogurt cups

Yogurt cups
I found myself in another breakfast funk this week. I need variety but I also need make-ahead simplicity, given that I am most decidedly not a morning person.

There are only so many different baked goods you can eat for breakfast before it really just seems like you do nothing but eat cake.

So I decided to try DIY yogurt. Again.

A few years ago of my friends and I got on a big yogurt-making kick because we found a recipe for overnight crockpot yogurt. While the recipe was easy, it did take a bit of time and advanced planning, so I just stopped making it after a while.

This time around, I found another recipe for "crockpot yogurt" at Punk Domestics from One Tomato, Two Tomato. The thing that intrigued me was that you don't actually make the whole deal in the crockpot; it simply winds up being used like a water-bath canner.

This I had to try.

The recipe is very simple: bring some milk to a simmer on the stove, add a little plain yogurt (as a starter, to get all the cultures going), cool it, pour it into canning jars, add the jars to the crockpot with some hot water and let it sit for a few hours.

The only thing I didn't think through when I started the project at 3:30 in the afternoon was how long the milk would take to cool from simmering (185 degrees) to 115 degrees (the target temp you want so that you don't kill off the good bacteria). It took an HOUR, and that included my putting the bowl into our freezing-ass garage to try to hurry the process along, so I wouldn't be waiting on the yogurt to firm up when I should be sleeping. So just remember to factor that time in if you decide to give this a try.

The other thing I realized at the end of the process was that the crockpot isn't really even necessary (which is why I didn't entitle this post "crockpot yogurt cups"). I had done a test and knew my crockpot would only hold six half-pint jars and two little quarter-pint jars. But my yogurt yield filled all those jars plus two extra quarter-pints. I took another plain pot with a lid and used it as a second water bath, right next to the crockpot, just to see what would happen. Both batches turned out exactly the same; next time I will just use a large pot that might even allow me to double the recipe.

Remember, too, that what you will end up with is plain yogurt, so if you like to add "fixings" to sweeten it up (I add whatever jam I have open in the fridge, plus a little granola -- yum!), leave room at the top of your jars for that.

All in all, yogurt-making is a fun project -- with the added benefit of having an edible result.

Do you have a favorite way of making yogurt? The Ninj wants to hear about it.

Yogurt Cups (adapted from One Tomato, Two Tomato)

1/2 gallon 2 percent milk
1/4 cup plain yogurt (for the starter)

In a large saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer (185 degrees). Cool the milk to about 115 degrees (just be sure it's not more than 120 degrees and not less than 110 degrees) -- this should take nearly an hour, so go read a book or something while you wait.  Stir the yogurt into the warm milk. Pour the mixture into clean glass canning jars, seal and add to a large pot. (The jars may be stacked on top of each other.)

Add enough warm tap water (shoot for about 110 degrees) to fill the pot and cover all the jars completely. Put a lid on the pot and wrap the whole thing snugly in a large towel or two (to retain the heat as much as possible). Let the pot sit for 4-6 hours (I went with 5), remove the jars and refrigerate for another few hours before eating.


  1. I use a camping "cooler" instead of the crockpot. And I don't heat the milk up to 185 first, just straight to 115, mix, and then I just go for quart jars. They sit in the "cooler" full of 110-degree water all night, and they're ready in the morning. Works for me!

    1. I love the cooler idea, Anne! And I might try it your way (no 185), as it would save a lot of time. Thanks for your feedback!

  2. I have been using this recipe for months because I love the taste and consistency of this yogurt. A few weeks ago, I decided to put one jar in my warming drawer on the "bread proof" setting, while putting the rest in the water bath for 5 hours (I didn't want to waste a whole batch if the warming drawer didn't work!) Well--it did work and the yogurt from the drawer came out exactly the same as the ones I had put in the water bath. Now I just stick the jars straight in the drawer, no water, close it and pull out perfect yogurt 5 hours later. Same amount of time but a huge effort-saver (if you happen to have a warming drawer)!

    1. Holy crap, Amanda, that is FANTASTIC!! And I just so happen to have an oven with the bread proofing setting as well -- thanks for the brilliant idea!

  3. Water conducts heat away much more efficiently than air does. If you put your pan of hot milk in a sink full of cold water and stir, it will be cool in just a few minutes. This works for soups and homemade stocks too.

    I make my yogurt in a cooler, but instead of filling it with water I put in a couple of large jars full of hot tap water to preheat it while I warm the milk, then I refill them with fresh hot water when I put in the yogurt and pack in towels to fill the empty space at the top. This usually keeps everything at the right temperature through the whole process.

    If you want vanilla yogurt instead of plain, you can add vanilla and a bit of sugar with your starter. Just be sure to reserve a small jar of plain first to use as starter for the next batch!