Happy Make-It-Yourself-Monday to you!
You know, this day of the week is quickly becoming a favorite as it gives me a chance to share with you some of the simple and fun things we do around here to make every dollar stretch in our budget!
I get emails and comments often, mostly by my readers asking how they can make more simple things from home to make their paychecks go a little farther. And now, since the beginning of the year and many things changes across the board with taxes and health insurance, it seems like those emails are double what they were before!
We are all in this together, so let’s learn from one another!

Starting on Wednesday I am doing a miniseries on Canning and Preserving the Basics around here. and then show you how we use them in combinations to make many different meals.This is in response to a large number of folks asking for this over on the FACEBOOK PAGE. I hope you will choose to join us for that, as well as a continuation of this post tomorrow as we explore other things that we can make using simple homemade Crockpot yogurt.

January 2013 228
Crockpot yogurt is one of the easiest and frugal things you can do for your family. It takes a small investment, and in a pinch, can even be made using dry milk that you have on hand.
The first time that I made this and then realized the possibilities, and health benefits vs. store bought yogurt (which is chock full of sugar, fillers, and flavor-enhancing chemicals), I was sold. Over time as I experimented I realized plain homemade yogurt could easily substitute for store bought sour cream, and even cream cheese if taken care of properly.
Best of all, homemade yogurt is full of beneficial bacteria that will help boost your body’s health, and is especially important in small children, elderly family members, and your pets. Your initial expense will be a little more as you invest in a high quality small container of plain Greek yogurt, which costs around $2-$3. However, after that, if you keep your yogurt healthy, you will not have another investment other than the gallon of milk needed to make more.
You heard me right, we make a gallon of yogurt at a time.
However, when all is said and done, we end up with three quarts of delicious, thick and creamy yogurt, which then gets turned into mock sour cream, and yogurt cheese for bagels and sandwiches.We eat about 1 1/2 Qts of yogurt each week, sometimes a little more, and sometimes a little less depending on how hard the family hits it during snack time. I have made this same recipe using re-constituted milk from our pantry (we use the NIDO brand for anyone who is curious), and would encourage you—if you are making yogurt from powdered milk, make sure you are using dry milk that has some sort of fat in it, or you may not really like the taste or texture of the yogurt. Of course, that is personal preference, but I have issues with eating yogurt that has the texture of uncooked egg whites, and that is the best success I have had with using non-fat instant dried milk.
When I make it, I always use 1% or 2%  milk depending on what we have on hand, or what is cheaper.  I have made it half and half with non-fat dry milk and whole Dry Milk (the NIDO) and found relatively good success with this. I have not made it with skim milk, although I have heard others doing this and having success. If you make crockpot yogurt using skim milk, would you comment and let us know what the texture and such is? I am sure we have readers who would be interested.
I hope you enjoy this, and try it!
Many Blessings to you and yours,
 Recipe for Crockpot yogurt:
one gallon of milk
one small container of plain yogurt or greek yogurt with healthy bacteria
1/2 cup dry whole milk powder (optional)
wooden spoon or spatula

Pour your lovely gallon of milk straight into a clean and sterilized crockpot. (I pour boiling water in mine after cleaning to sterilize it, straight from the tea pot. Warms the crock up too.) This is the step where you would add in your powdered milk if you are using it. In my opinion, it makes the finished product thicker and creamier than if you didnt add it. I use the NIDO brand found in the Hispanic section of Walmart, although you can also order it online at Amazon.com.

Next, set your crockpot dial to low, put the lid on,
and walk away for two hours.
Simple, easy, fuss free. Yep, gotta love it.
Two hours later you will turn off the crockpot, take off the lid, and set your timer for every 15 minutes. When it goes off, you will stir the crockpot full of milk with your wooden spoon or spatula until it becomes lukewarm….I test it by sticking my pinkie in. When it is just warm to the touch, but not hot, then you move on to the next step. Takes about an hour at my house.

Take a large cup or bowl, and dump in your container (or 1/2 cup) of yogurt. Add about 1 cup of warmed milk from the crockpot and stir well to combine. Then slowly add the cup’s contents back into the crockpot and stir well to combine it through the whole crockpot. Replace the lid.

Take every towel you have in your kitchen (just kidding) or a couple of bath towels, and gently wrap the crockpot in the towels to keep the warmth inside.I cover the edges with kitchen towels, and then wrap a bath towel around the crockpot and set it on my counter overnight. More often than not, the yogurt has cultured and set by morning, but if it is very cold (remember I live in MN and my kitchen is on the NW edge of the house, so the coldest part of the home), sometimes it will take up to lunchtime the following morning. SO you are looking at between 8 and 14 hours of culturing time.

Seriously, that is it.
Simple, and one of those things you can do before you head to bed if you start it right after dinner,
then walk away and have a gallon of yogurt
in the morning.

This is how we store it at our house when we take it out:

And that is not showing the bowls that my kids ate before I could get it into a jar.

Now for the best part. Do you like Greek yogurt? then you will find this step super easy. Next time you are tempted to go and purchase a little 6 oz container of Greek yogurt for over $1.00, remember this simple step to make yogurt at home thicker.

Simple plain yogurt with a little homemade strawberry jam swirled in is amazing.

All you need to do to make yogurt thicker is strain it. This slowly but surely, as you strain it, changes it from regular yogurt to Greek-style yogurt, from that to a sour cream consistency with the tang, and finally, into a yogurt cheese with tang that can be used interchangeably with cream cheese. In fact, yogurt cheese makes the best strawberry cream cheese or cheesecakes that you can imagine, and even better, they are simple to make at home with a little time and effort beyond sitting a crockpot in towels over night. Really!

Take a small strainer and line it with one of the following: cheesecloth, cotton cloth, paper napkin, or coffee filter. As you can see, I was using a napkin, and then liked the coffee filter better
(it was unbleached in case you were wondering why I switched).
Pour in about one pint to one quart of fresh yogurt and watch what happens.

Its not a great picture since the yogurt had been draining for some time and the glass was spattered from my glass measuring cup, but as you can see, the whey (yellowish liquid) is coming out of the yogurt and meanwhile leaving a thickened product in the strainer.

For Greek style yogurt, it takes about an hour,
then you pour it into a jar and start the next batch.

For a sour cream replacement, same texture and same taste, it takes about two to three hours of straining. Unless you use cheesecloth and then things go much faster.

For a yogurt cheese, it can take up to ten hours, all depending on how much tangy-ness you want and how thick you want the cheese to be. Many people actually take the sour cream substitute, wrap it in a cotton cloth, and hang it over a bowl using a wooden spoon. I find that much messier, and this works great this way for most of the year for me.

If you have a child with milk-sensitivity, like I do (she is not allergic but has a harder time with it), this is a fantastic way to get dairy into them without a reaction. Since it is cultured, already broken down in other words, their bodies find it easier to digest, and they can get that good calcium into their bodies PLUS the benefits of the good and healthy bacteria into their systems.

I wanted really quick to give you a perspective on this from a mom of a toddler who has tummy troubles with different foods. My littlest Little has had sensitivities to things from birth, and she is one of the reasons that we have worked so hard to cut the crud out of our diets, make cleaners at home, etc. I wanted you to know that after being so terribly ill with the flu a few weeks ago, we were having a hard time with her still having runny diapers for over a week. I made up a batch of this stuff and she got the very first bowl. No kidding, two hours later, this poor kid with a sore tush had the first solid and healthy diaper she had had in more than two weeks.
So don’t tell me it doesn’t work.
That has happened with both children, and I am seeing the bloom coming back on their faces and their diets, and diapers, continue to improve. So good bacteria in the gut is SO important to have, and is something that most people are missing with our processed and unhealthy additive diets that we have here in America.

BEST PART OF ALL THIS IS THAT FROM NOW ON YOU HAVE YOUR OWN STARTER FOR YOGURT! Just remember to save 1/2 or 1 cup from the last batch, and you can continually renew your family’s yogurt supply as long as you have milk on hand. 
Pretty neat, right?

Blessings to you and I hope that you come back tomorrow to see something else you can make using this recipe! Remember the whey that we drained out to make the yogurt thicker? Well, that is a nutritional powerhouse in and of itself, and the recipe I am going to share with you tomorrow shows you how fabulous it can be! See you then!