This is my second post in a row about the Instant Pot. I realize that may seem a bit…obsessive. And it kinda is, but in a healthy way. This thing does all the things: pressure cook, slow cook, saute, steam, sterilize…
And it makes yogurt….delicious yogurt! And I don’t even like yogurt! My children, however, love it. And I love for them to have it because it’s a healthy snack, full of calcium, vitamin A, protein, and healthy fats and calories. But I end up spending a boatload on it each week because most yogurts you find on the shelves at the grocery store are full of sugar or other artificial sweeteners. They’re also full of GMO’s, artificial colors, artificial flavoring, thickeners, and preservatives….which honestly? Meh, I don’t care all that much about these things. Do I love them in our foods? No, but I do see some of their benefits. However, if you put two products in front of me, all else being equal, I’m going to choose the one with the least amount of anything artificial. But if I’m shopping on a budget (and I am!), I’m going to choose the most cost-efficient one, artificial crap aside.
Except for artificial sweeteners. I’ll choose real sugar any day over artificial sweeteners, even if I have to pay more. But have you seen the amount of sugars and sweeteners in most yogurts? I hate when a product is promoted as healthy, but is actually packed full of unnecessary sugars. My kids get plenty of sugary sweets; they don’t need it in their healthy snacks too. So when I’m shopping for yogurt, I usually have to buy one of the more expensive brands in order to get some level of health benefits that outweigh all the extra fillers. And that means paying top dollar.
But not anymore! I get so much pleasure out of preparing anything from scratch. There is satisfaction in realizing that I can do something. There is pride in being self-sufficient (okay, kinda self-sufficient). And there is peace in feeding my kids foods that I’ve prepared myself, in knowing exactly what they’re putting in their growing bodies. I’m far from being a “health nut,” but I do love it when I can make the healthier choice for my family, enjoy the process of getting there, and reap financial benefits from it.
To make your own yogurt, you need very little hands-on time and very few products. You can even make it in the oven if you choose to, so an Instant Pot is not a necessity. However, there are some products that make it easier, so before I dive into the how-to, these are the tools I prefer:
Luxury: An Instant Pot with the capability to cook yogurt. Some models do not have this capability, so if you’re buying a new one, look for that feature. These are a little pricey, but they do frequently go on sale. And like I said before, they do so many things. I’ve found that it was worth the investment.
Necessity: A yogurt starter culture, which is a blend of healthy bacteria that consumes lactose. When it’s added to milk, it converts lactose to lactic acid. You can purchase starter cultures at health food stores or online, but you can also just use 1-2 tablespoons of high quality store-bought yogurt. The good thing about using an heirloom variety of a starter culture is that it can be reused over and over, simply by mixing some of your last batch of yogurt into the milk for your next batch of yogurt, as long as the yogurt is less than 7 days old.
So far, I’ve just used plain, non-flavored, Fage brand yogurt. I bought the smallest cup possible, scooped out a tablespoon for my starter, then froze the rest of it in tablespoon increments. It’s worked just fine, for the most part (more on that later). If you use store-bought yogurt as a starter, look for one that is high in live and active cultures. The packaging should say that it contains live and active cultures. Made with live and active cultures is not the same thing, and it will not work. Also make sure it has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving. If it has too much sugar, it can prevent the yogurt from culturing. The starter yogurt must come from a freshly opened container as, once it’s opened, the live cultures begin to die.
Necessity: A digital thermometer. Cooking temperatures are important and need to be as accurate as possible, so invest in an inexpensive digital thermometer.
Luxury: A Greek Yogurt Maker. This is far from being a necessity, but I finally broke down and ordered one because it’s just easier and I’ve been making a ton of yogurt here lately. You don’t even have to strain your yogurt, but I choose to do so because I like to make mine thicker and creamier. So if you choose to strain yours, you can use this yogurt strainer or follow the directions I’m going to show you later for a method that a friend of mine showed me.
Luxury: Yogurt jars. Again, certainly not a necessity. I like to flavor mine individually, and I wanted something for my oldest son to take to school in his lunches, so I found a good deal on these.
Just for fun: Reusable silicone sleeves. Not necessary, but the kids love them! And they’re freezer-friendly, so you can use them for popsicles too.
So once you have all your tools, necessary and not, let’s get started! The first thing you’re going to do is make sure you’re starting this process at the right time of the day to fit your schedule. The incubation period is 8 hours, so make sure it’s not mid-day when you start. Some people start in the evening and let it incubate overnight. I choose to start in the morning, then set it to strain in the refrigerator overnight.
To start, pour 8 cups of whole milk into your Instant Pot. Use a plate or a glass lid to cover it, or just use the regular IP lid. You do not have to use the sealing feature though.
On the Duo Plus model, press the Yogurt button until the display says “boil.”
Mine takes about 27 minutes to complete the cycle. When it’s finished it will beep 3 times and display “yogt.”
Use a digital thermometer to make sure your milk has reached 180 degrees or higher. If it has not reached that temperature, use your sauté setting on low to bring the temp up. Make sure to whisk it continuously, but do not scrape the bottom (it has cooked on yucky milk chunks, and you don’t want those floating around in your yogurt).
Once you’ve reached your high temp, you need to decrease it to 110 degrees. To do this, you can set it out at room temperature for about 30-45 minutes, but you have to make sure it doesn’t go below 90 degrees. I like a more controlled environment, so I set mine in a sink of ice cold water, just enough to cover the bottom of the bowl.
Stir it while it’s cooling to prevent hot spots, but again, don’t scrape the bottom. It takes me about 3 minutes to get the temp to 110 using this method. Watch it closely because, remember, you don’t want your temp dropping below 90 degrees.
After it’s cooled, use a ladle to remove about 1/2 cup of milk to a separate bowl. Using a whisk, mix in your starter of choice.
I used 1 tablespoon of Fage the first time I made yogurt and it turned out perfectly. I froze the remaining Fage in tablespoon increments and, the next time I made yogurt, I used 1 tablespoon of frozen yogurt. I set it out to thaw while the milk was boiling, then mixed it in. However, with this method, my yogurt didn’t turn out as nicely; it was a little runny for my preference, even after being strained. The next time I attempted to use frozen yogurt, I used 2 tablespoons and it turned out perfectly again. Coincidence or not, I don’t know, but my recommendation is to use 1 tablespoon of fresh yogurt or 2 tablespoons of frozen (thawed) yogurt.
After you’ve mixed your starter with a small portion of the cooled milk, add it back to your big batch of milk. Again, mix it well, remembering not to scrape the bottom.
If you placed it in a sink of water to cool, wipe off any residual water from the outside of your liner before placing it back in the IP. Press the Yogurt button until it reads normal and set your incubation time to 8 hours (more if you like a more tart flavor–I don’t).
Once the yogurt has finished incubating, you can be done if you want. As I mentioned before, I prefer to strain mine so that it has a thicker consistency. To do this, you can use a yogurt strainer, or you can make your own using kitchen tools you probably already own. Before I bought my strainer, I stacked the steamer rack that came with my IP in a large mixing bowl. On top of that, I stacked a regular mesh strainer lined with a flour sack dish towel (you can also use cheesecloth).
Then just pour the yogurt in and let it drain in the refrigerator overnight.
That’s it, you’re done! You now have plain, simple, homemade yogurt. You can use this as a base for mayonnaise, salad dressings, or smoothies. Or you can use sugar, maple syrup, fruits, jams, or other sweeteners of choice to flavor the whole batch. Or divide the batch and make several different flavors.
Also, make sure to save the liquid you drained off your yogurt. This is whey and it can be used in protein shakes or as a buttermilk substitute in baking.
And if for some reason your yogurt turns out too thin, don’t dump it! Sweeten it and pour it into popsicle molds and make yogurt pops!
In my next post I’ll give you some ideas on how to flavor your homemade yogurt. But it’s really up to you and your personal taste. The possibilities are endless, and the experimentation is fun!
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