Last week I wrote about our journey to raw milk and mentioned that with all the milk we are getting I've been able to make lots of things with it I never could before. One week I made a gallon of yogurt and it was so fun to have that much all at once!
I've made yogurt many times in the past, but always with store milk and always in my yogurt maker. This time, since there was so much of it, I finally made good on my desire to try making it in a cooler, something which had been on my to-do list for quite a while. And the result was so rewarding! It turned out much thicker and better than what I'd made previously. Everyone in my family enjoyed it.
In my search for how to make yogurt in a cooler, I found many, many sites, but these were the ones I referred to most:
I also found this cool site, which discusses "more than six ways to incubate yogurt without a yogurt maker":
I really liked the idea of making mine in a cooler, rather than a crockpot or oven with the light on because it doesn't require the use of any more electricity. As long as the temperature stays consistent for several hours, it should work just fine, which is why a cooler works. And after a successful first attempt, I give this green option the green light!
It's really not as complicated as some of the above tutorials make it look. What I did was pasteurize my raw milk first, because I had read that the good bacteria in raw milk competes with the yogurt cultures and so has a harder time thickening--I don't know yet if this is true for the milk I use. If you want to do this (those of you with raw milk), you can either heat the milk to 145 degrees and hold it at that temperature for 30 minutes, or you can heat it to 165 degrees and hold it there for just 15 seconds (link). Then I waited for it to cool down to 115 degrees.
Once the milk was at 115 degrees, I poured a small amount of it into a smaller bowl and whisked the yogurt culture (2 Tb. per quart of milk) into it until well mixed. Then I added this yogurt mixture back into the rest of the warmed milk and mixed it some more.
The last step can be done several ways (refer to above links), but this is what I did:
Line the inside of your cooler with towels (I used a large cooler since I made a gallon of yogurt). Heat a large pot of water to boiling, turn off the heat, leave the lid on, and take the pot off the stove. Immediately put the pot into the towel-lined cooler and shut the lid. Pour the prepared milk mixture into quart and pint jars, then place them next to the pot in the cooler, without touching it, and cover everything with another towel.
Then you just leave it all in there, undisturbed for 8-24 hours. I love how flexible this last part is so that I can check it when I really have the time. I left mine about 12-14 hours (overnight) and it was all finished and a better, thicker consistency than any time I've made it in my yogurt maker.
Yay for fresh, easy, and yummy probiotics!