Yogurt is an excellent way to promote proper functioning of your digestive system. As long as you’re eating yogurt that has live active cultures, it contains probiotics (aka beneficial bacteria) that help to balance the microflora in your gut. This makes digestion easier and helps keep your system moving regularly.
Making your own yogurt ensures that you know where your milk came from, and also reduces your reliance on continually buying hundreds of little yogurt containers. By knowing where your milk comes from, you can be sure to choose milk from grass-fed cows. Not only are grass-fed cows generally living a higher-quality, free-ranging life where they are eating what they should be naturally (i.e. grass and not corn or soy which also increases your exposure to GMOs), but grass-fed cows also produce milk that is more nutritionally dense. For example, most grass-fed cow milk contains nearly 5x more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an unsaturated fat that may help with heart health and assist with weight loss.
To me, the trickiest part about making my own yogurt is making sure that I have ample time. There have been a few times I went to bed later than I wanted because I was waiting for the milk to cool down (it generally takes at least an hour to heat up and to cool down), but there is nothing difficult about the process. In fact, there are just four easy steps:
1) Add 1/2 gallon of milk to a Crockpot, turn heat on to “High”, and heat the milk to 180-185 degrees F.
2) Once the milk has reached 180 degrees, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let milk cool to 110-120 degrees F.
3) Add 1/2 cup of yogurt with live active cultures. You can buy a small cup of store-bought organic yogurt for this and then use the yogurt you make for the next batch. Stir the yogurt into the milk, but not too aggressively – swirling might be a better word to use!
4) Keep the yogurt warm for 8 hours by covering the whole Crockpot with towels and keeping it away from drafts.
Currently, I’m usually eating my yogurt with homemade granola, but I found this photo from last June – it’s making me very excited for the return of strawberries!!
- You can strain additional whey out to make a Greek-style yogurt.
- After a few re-uses of your yogurt as a starter, it begins to get less thick. Get a new starter. You can buy another cup of organic yogurt from the store, or order starter online (Yogurt Starter).
- Transferring to the fridge after the 8 hour setting time can help with thickness.
- Avoid milk that has been ultra-high temperature pasteurized. I also find that non-homogenized milk works better.
- Although all milk will make yogurt, higher fat content milk will thicken better (and help you step away from the 9o’s belief that all fat is bad!).