Yogurt, Kid-made in the Slow Cooker

July 4, 2013   |   20 Comments
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“Mommy, how do they make yogurt?”

Tap, tap, click.  A speedy Google search reveals the miracle that heat, bacteria and time perform on milk.  I find recipes where the milk is heated on the stove top and others where it goes in the oven… both such unfriendly tools for children.  William spies my hesitation and asks, “What about my cooker?”

“Oh, that’s a good idea.  All we need is milk and a little yogurt.  Do you want to make it… now?”

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I assist him into his beloved chef’s outfit.  Right arm, left arm, button, button, done.  William fetches the milk and gets us started by opening the carton.  There’s fumbling, and he mildly complains, “Why do they make it so hard to open?” Then, as the seal pops, he eyes it hungrily.  ”May I drink some out of the bottle?”  Keen for a response, he spots my grimace and adds, “I want to make sure it doesn’t have any bad bacteria.”  He knows that a little show of science acumen might bend the rules.  Still, I don’t want to risk the yogurt project, so I deliver William a glass.

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Glug, slurp, lick.  Child plus milk moustache.  I would hardly know him without it.  When he became sort-of-vegetarian two weeks ago, he calmed my concerns about protein consumption, ”I could have protein for breakfast… afternoon… dinner… goodnight.  All day.”

“How is that?”

“Milk!”

Oh, right.  He loves the stuff.

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Sated, William turns his attention back to… yogurt.  He stands on his desk, examines the slow cooker buttons and clicks “boil“.  He doesn’t quite read yet, but memory serves him well.   He pours the remaining milk inside the pot.  Meanwhile, I tie our instant read thermometer to the slow cooker’s handle so we can keep tabs on the milk’s rising temperature.  I’d rather the thermometer does not slip inside.  With the heating milk in front of us, we take turns stirring and we chat.

“Mommy, why do the chefs wear hats?”  I ponder an answer and explain something about cleanliness, Grade A sanitary conditions and the hair net alternative.

He inquires innocently, “So, the person’s hair actually falls into the net, and the net catches it?”

“Yes,” I say.  Then appealing to the boy in him, I lean closer and perpetuate an urban myth (that I really think to be true):  “A person loses about two hundred hairs a day,” and explain, ”No one wants to find those hairs in their food.”

William’s look agrees.

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When the thermometer reads 200 degrees – just shy of boiling - William clicks off the slow cooker.  The milk is transformed.  I’ve read that milk proteins are altered at this temperature; the light foamy liquid in front of us confirms it.   This heating process is entirely necessary for the yogurt to solidify, once cooled.

As we then wait for the milk to drop down to 112 degrees, William takes a potty break.  He comes back – no pants and with his boxers on backwards.  This is not a 5-star kitchen.  He’s scrubbed his hands, and that’s good enough in our house.  He’s still 3, after all.

“Good job getting your boxers back on.”  DSCF2694 650pw

At 112 degrees – milk that is warm to the touch – he scoops a cup into a medium-sized bowl.  Then, he adds half a cup of store-bought yogurt, remarking without prompt, “This is the good bacteria.”  He muddles the warm milk and yogurt together.

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Don’t let that placid face fool you.  William’s hands wiggle in excitement as his imagination conjures a happy  shimmy, shimmy, shake of bacteria released from cold stasis.  He pours the mixture back into the slow cooker and whisks again.

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“Now, William, the bacteria need to replicate in there.  We have to give them time.”

They can divide once every twenty minutes.  It takes at least four hours for them to grow enough bacteria to turn the milk into yogurt.

“Shall we go get some blankets to keep the milk warm inside the slow cooker?”

After a pause, William replies, “No, I think we should use towels.  They’re washable.”

I concur.

As the hours pass, Andy wakes.  I sneak a few peaks at the thermometer under all those towels and, even with the heat turned off,  the readout still reports 112, 111, 110 degrees.  Old technology is vastly under-rated.

As the boys hover eagerly in the kitchen, hunger arrives.  And there is a waiting snack: summer strawberries.

DSCF2801 650pw bw The boys don their sous chef personas and set to work cutting the berries with egg slicers.  Andy rejoices each time the wires cut a fruit, spilling red all over.  He eats many, and collects more.

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The berry bowl is empty, and with his stomach temporarily full, his mind starts thinking of what to do with his pile of berries.  I’m eyeing them jealously, but who appropriates food from their child?

“Mommy, do you want these?”

“I do!” And explain, “Let’s make a compote.”

We load the slices into a glass, sprinkle some sugar on top and microwave the concoction for a minute.

Andy approves of the result, so much so that – spring forward two hours – he slinks away from his dinner on the pretense, “I need to pee!”, to gorge on warm strawberry yogurt yum yum.

DSCF2850 650pw bw Ever the milk advocate, William dispassionately reflects, “It’s amazing that milk can be turned into yogurt.”

By the time morning comes around, the yogurt is cold from a night in the fridge.  Although it is familiar, this yogurt is not exactly like anything we have been able to buy at the store.  It is sweet and elastic.  We load cup-fulls with all the toppings of summer.  And gorge again.

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Yogurt, Kid-made in the Slow Cooker
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is a recipe for the only kind of yogurt you can’t buy in the store – naturally sweet, elastic and runny. It’s totally drinkable and can even go into a thermos. It’s cultured just the bare minimum amount of time – 4 hours. We mix it with a fruit compote and there you have it – breakfast:)
Ingredients
  • ½ Gallon Whole Organic Milk
  • ½ Cup Plain Yogurt
Instructions
  1. A half gallon of milk goes into your slow cooker.
  2. Insert a cooking thermometer into the cooker and tie it up, so it doesn’t slip inside.
  3. Click “boil” on the slow cooker and stir the milk to prevent it from scalding as the liquid heats.
  4. Watch the temperature. When it reaches 200 degrees, turn the slow cooker off.
  5. Then scoop an unmeasured cup of the milk from the slow cooker and pour it into a medium sized mixing bowl. As a half cup of pre-made plain yogurt and stir the two together.
  6. Wait until the milk returns to 112 degrees. Then pour the milk/yogurt mixture back into the slow cooker and whisk it all until well combined.
  7. Cover the slow cooker, pile on some blankets and wait.
  8. Four hours later, your yogurt is ready to transfer to the refrigerator. You can pour it into a jar and place in the cold. As it chills, it will set.
Notes
Tip: you can tweak the yogurt just to your liking. If you enjoy it a bit thicker and prefer a tarter taste, let the bacteria culture longer – wait 5 or 6 hours before putting it into the refrigerator.

 

 

20 Comments

  • Erin | The Law Student's Wife
    July 11, 2013 at 10:39 am

    This is pretty much the coolest idea ever, and your pictures are GORGEOUS! Can I come over for breakfast? :-)

    • Laura Clark
      July 13, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Next time you’re in NYC, lol!

  • Kelly - Two Kids Cooking & More
    July 12, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    We’ve always wanted to try making yogurt, but haven’t ever. This looks pretty simple and fun, we’ll definitely be using this recipe when we do try it :D

  • Joanne
    July 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

    This is possibly the most adorable post ever!! Plus I’ve been meaning to make my own yogurt…it must save so much money!

    • Laura Clark
      July 13, 2013 at 11:47 am

      It saves a bit of money upfront and none ever gets wasted, it’s so delicious.

  • Bridget
    July 14, 2013 at 2:15 am

    I may be coming into a slow cooker soon. Will definitely have to try this!

  • Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella
    July 14, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    They look like they had so much fun! I love making yogurt and actually need to make a batch today! :D

  • Elizabeth
    July 15, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    This looks heavenly! And kid-made too? Incredible. I’m adding this yogurt to the growing list of reasons why I need a slow cooker.

  • Pam
    July 15, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    What a fun day! The kids look adorable.

  • Kate | Food Babbles
    July 17, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I’ve never made yogurt from scratch. What a wonderful and very kid-friendly recipe! Loved reading about William making it and that chef’s outfit is too adorable. New to your blog and I can’t wait to look around some more!

  • Amrita @ Asian SlowCooking
    July 18, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    This is an easiest and foolproof way to make curd. Thank you very much for this idea, and if kids can make it nothing like it. Very good recipe by a cute little chef!

  • kristy @ the wicked noodle
    July 24, 2013 at 10:33 am

    What a fun – and tasty – project for the kiddos! Gorgeous photos :)

  • Janice
    March 9, 2014 at 2:46 pm

    None of my slow cookers have a “boil” setting. Can you do this on the “high” setting?

  • jennifer
    March 9, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    I think it is very awesome you are involving your children in kitchen. Teaching them how to cook and making them understand it is a reward to eat something so healthy and delicious. I see a little future Chef!

  • Linda
    March 9, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    What if you don’t have a fancy slow cooker with a ‘boil’ setting?

    • Laura Clark
      March 9, 2014 at 9:14 pm

      The high setting will work just fine, just watch the temperature as it rises:)

      • Linda
        March 9, 2014 at 9:36 pm

        Thank:-)

  • Paula
    March 10, 2014 at 9:52 pm

    I tried to make yogurt in a slow cooker, but it took a really long time for the milk to get to 200 degrees. It looks like the cooker used here has a boil setting that most slow cookers don’t have. I had better success cooking the milk on the stove in a large pot.
    I loved the pictures of your little helper.

    • Laura Clark
      March 13, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Thanks for letting me know!

  • Linn
    March 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I have done this many times and have also found recipes that call for adding dried milk powder (increasing the protein content) into the mix once you have added the “good” bacteria. You can wrap the slow-cooker in a thick warm towel and leave over night which affects the tart flavor of the yogurt. Also, by using unflavored gelatin you can actually produce a thicker yogurt. Using the original recipe drain the yogurt in a sieve (using a coffee filter to line) and let it drain overnight and you have a cream cheese version. Using the additions above and draining you can produce a thicker cream cheese and or Greek yogurt for a HUGE cost savings. Remember this recipe can be used for recipes calling for sour cream or cream cheese. You can experiment with any milk product that is not shelf stable even using dried milk as your milk in the recipe. Enjoy!


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