Friday, February 17, 2012

Fermentation and Overnight Yogurt

Yogurt has an uncertain but long and widespread history as a delicious and healthy food.

Possibly from central Asia, but more notably, and recently, recorded by the Turkish, somewhere between 10,000-5,000 years ago, it was probably discovered by accident. It has since been touted as adding years to your life and curing a variety of ills, digestive and otherwise.

Most women know yogurt as a Necessity if taking antibiotics, and some have even heard claims by Activa about "regularity." But how much do you know about yogurt? I bet if you knew more, you'd eat as much as I do!

For protein, calcium, iodine, potassium, zinc, B vitamins, etc., etc., yogurt is a powerhouse. It has all of the good qualities of milk Plus More because of the fermentation (my new favorite thing). It also lacks much of the problem causing lactose of regular milk as it was eaten during fermentation by the wonderful little happy bacteria (the good kind) Lactobacillus.

This fermenting process also adds to the Probiotic health benefits. It is basically the healthy opposite of antibiotics. By consuming fermented products containing healthy, good for you, active bacteria (it isn't a bad, dirty word, I promise) you are introducing these organisms into your body to combat the bad bacteria. They can overcome an infection, of the digestive or yeasty variety, kick up your whole immune system, repair previous damage and also assist in breaking down and metabolizing the other foods you eat. It heals and repairs from head to...bottom. Especially important if you have a disorder, disease, allergy or any issue that may have disrupted your natural balance and function. When your digestive tract is working well your whole body feels it.

These, among others, are the reasons that cultures across the world eat yogurt, and other fermented foods, with almost every meal. I have tried this and have to say I feel much better overall, and very specifically, after a big meal, now that I eat this way.

And it's Delicious!!!

Enough of that, onto making and, more importantly, eating it.

The yogurt you will make is plain, loose, regular yogurt. I prefer Greek-style straining (which I'll get into) with a bit of flavor, but those things are done later. You can only make plain yogurt and work from there.

Also, keep in mind the time this takes. 2 hours to heat, 2-3 to cool, 8-12 to incubate. I start at about 5-6pm and let sit overnight, strain in the morning. You could also do this through the day if you are an early riser or late nighter. 

Crock-Pot Overnight Yogurt


1 gallon (or 1/2 gallon if you're nervous) Whole Milk (I always use organic)

      I use whole often because it sets better, and I like the thick creamy texture. You could also use low fat, with thinner results, and less nutrients. You could ad gelatin, or possibly Agar if you prefer, to thicken it. 
     Raw milk is another option, with a different heating process, unfortunately for me, though, raw milk is ILLEGAL in the state of New Jersey. I'll get some this spring, I'm sure. Cross your fingers that i don't go to jail for crossing state lines with contraband. (update, I Only drink raw milk in my house now, we'll get to that later)

A few tablespoons of your favorite yogurt - unflavored and organic

1 Crock Pot a temperature probe or candy thermometer are helpful)
Large Bath or Beach towel
Containers for the finished product
A strainer and cheese cloth - if straining

(seriously, that's it)



Pour your milk into the crock pot, cover and cook on high for about 2 hours, or until 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 

My crock pot happens to have a temperature setting and probe. Helpful, but by no means necessary. A candy thermometer works just as well.

This heating will sterilize the milk and denature the fats so they form together nicely.


Cool the milk down to just about 110 degrees. Any higher will kill the yogurt cultures. Any cooler and they wont incubate (well), and you will have runny or no yogurt.

This will take another few hours. Stir occasionally to mix the skin that forms back in.


When the yogurt is just about cool, take out a cup and mix the 2-3 tablespoons of yogurt into it. Mix it well or even whisk it.

Combine that back into the large batch and combine well.


Wrap the crock pot with the towel to keep it warm. You are attempting to maintain a temp of about 100 degrees for 8-12 hours. Put in in a warm and not drafty place, I like a warmed up oven (but turned off) on cold winter nights.


You should now have something that looks like this ----->


A fairly solid white mass with yellowish liquid surrounding it. That would be the yogurt and the whey. Whatever you do, save that whey.
<--- You will use it, I promise you!
(Stay tuned for uses.)

For regular yogurt, simply pour off the whey, carefully, and scoop the yogurt into containers.

For a thicker, Greek-style product, set a large strainer over a larger pot with a few layers of cheese cloth in it. Pour your yogurt in that and stir occasionally to strain more whey. It will take as long as you want to be as thick as you desire. It will thicken more when it cools. Work in batches if you need to.

Cheese Cloth Lined Strainer
Pour in Yogurt
Let Sit

Strained Whey

If you want a bit of yogurt cheese, like cultured cream cheese, leave the last bit straining for a few hours. You may even want to tie up the cloth and tie to a spoon over a pitcher. You can refrigerate if you want while straining.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate when finished.


Once your yogurt is the proper thickness and chilled, dig in! My absolute favorite is to add fresh raspberries to it and devour. Sometimes I'll swirl in a bit of raw honey or maple syrup. My boyfriend loves it with lemon curd, and my mother enjoys apple butter.

It is also great for cooking. There are many sauces, condiments and dressings that use yogurt, as well as smoothies, in baked goods, in place of sour cream and so on. Just this evening I added a few table spoons to my celeriac and potato mash and it was smashing.

How ever you eat it, love it. Savor how delicious eating well can be!


Worlds Healthiest Foods
More History

If you must buy, I adore personally Stonyfield Organics

They are a great company with heartfelt values. They seem do everything they can to make this a better planet for us all. I use their Oikos Greek when I run out and as a starter.

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