Welcome to Slow Cooker Week, in which The Takeout uses its favorite cold-weather kitchen appliance in the dead of summer.
The InstantPot craze got people curious about making their own yogurt, as the device’s “yogurt” button makes it seem like you could make yogurt at, well, the touch of a button. It’s not quite that simple, but it also doesn’t require an InstantPot. The InstantPot streamlines the process slightly by removing the straining-your-yogurt portion, but even without one, it’s still possible to make yogurt in your own trusty Crock Pot or other slow cooker.
To skeptics, making your own yogurt sounds like some grade-A hippie bullshit. But having done it, I can report that not only is the yogurt fresher-tasting, but you can customize it to your desired thickness level. If you’re sick of chalky, cement-like Greek yogurt, making it yourself is the perfect way to get it to the sweet spot where it’s thick but not gritty. My preferred texture is slightly milky, like the European potted yogurt I remember obsessing over on a trip to France. Your only cost to make one batch is a half-gallon of milk and, the first time around, a single cup of store-bought yogurt.
The below method is a mash-up of the yogurt recipe from Melissa Clark’s Dinner In An Instant cookbook, added to and modified so it works in any slow cooker. (If you’re looking to make dairy-free soy milk yogurt, her book has a recipe for that.) I used whole milk and the recommended heavy cream in mine because 1) full-fat dairy is the shit, and 2) a version I made without the heavy cream was too thin and soupy.
Makes about 4 cups, depending on your desired thickness
- Half-gallon whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tbsp. plain yogurt, with active cultures (check the yogurt’s ingredients label for these)
- Instant-read thermometer
Pour milk and cream into your slow cooker and cover. Turn the heat onto high until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. (This took more than an hour for me; I checked with my thermometer every 20 minutes or so.) Once it’s reached 180 degrees, uncover and keep the heat on high for another five minutes. Then turn off the slow cooker and transfer the inner bowl to a wire rack to cool. When the temperature falls to 115 degrees—another hour-ish for me—give it a quick stir to break up any thin film that’s formed on top. In a small bowl, mix together the plain yogurt and about half a cup of the warm milk-cream mixture. Pour that into the slow cooker and stir gently.
Let that sit for 8-10 hours at room temperature (overnight is good, too), away from drafty windows or cold spots in your house. Wrap the slow-cooker in a bath towel, too, to prevent it from getting too cold. During this time, the whey will begin to separate from the yogurt. After that time has passed, line a colander with a folded cheesecloth—so it’s about three layers thick—and slowly pour the milk mixture in. The yogurt will separate from the whey gradually, so if you like thicker, Greek-style yogurt, let it sit in the cheesecloth for a few hours. When it’s reached your desired thickness, spoon the yogurt into containers and refrigerate.