So far – at least for our family – the 2020’s have been a weird time. With the cost of living on a steady uptick and the stability of our economy at a tipping point it’s easy to live in fear of the future. Rather than panic and stockpile food and supplies I have really focused on honing my sufficiency skills: cooking, baking, canning, and just overall cutting costs and practicing frugality wherever I can. One of the things I’ve been able to cut out of our grocery bill completely is baked goods (I am ridiculously proud to say that we haven’t bought bread from the supermarket in almost a year!) but what we still spend a ridiculous amount of money on each month is dairy products.
I’ve recently transitioned our family to locally sourced raw milk, an investment in our health and our community that I’m very proud of. However, when you’re looking at the cost of this type of high quality produce, it can be quite a shock initially. We pay nearly twice as much for the milk and cream we get from a local farm. However, I am completely willing to pay the price for this product and its superior quality. Another way that I’m able to offset this cost is to make good use of this produce and that includes making more of my own dairy products at home. What’s most surprising is how easy it is to get started!
As a whole, we consume an almost unacceptable amount of yogurt. My husband will usually have one to two store bought cups of yogurt a day; my son has one to himself each morning; and I will also have a healthy amount with granola for my breakfast. Altogether that totals up to $100 a month JUST on yogurt. Now that I’ve just put that on the internet for everyone to see, it’s a tad embarrassing….
But now that I’ve started making my own yogurt at home I have cut our overall dairy cost by over half, even though I’m paying twice as much for milk – and in my mind that’s an investment worth making. A two week supply of yogurt now costs us $7 instead of $50 and it requires minimal work on my part! And can you really put a price on the quality of homemade food? I sure can’t.
All you need to effortlessly make your own yogurt at home is a cup of plain yogurt to start your culture, a gallon of milk, and an InstantPot.
Yogurt is made by culturing specific bacteria in the ideal environment to the desired taste and texture. It is very similar to other popular fermenting projects, such as kombucha or sourdough; the longer it cultures, the more sour it becomes. Based on my research the minimum cook time for most cultures is 8 hours, all the way up to 24. I prefer to ferment our yogurt for 16 hours, a perfect amount of time to prep the night before I want to prepare a batch for weekly use. This produces a texture much like Greek yogurt after it has been strained.
Now, a strainer is an optional investment but they are very affordable and well worth the effort in my opinion. The first batch I made I had attempted to strain through a muslin cheesecloth and it was very inconvenient as well as messy. I have had a Graham Kerr yogurt strainer for a couple of years even before I started making my own yogurt and it has been absolutely necessary to achieve a high quality finished product.
Flavorings are optional and up to personal discretion. So far I have put just a dab of homemade jam in the bottom of each jar and have had fabulous results. It’s very affordable to forage for berries and fruit and turn them into flavorings to try in your homemade yogurt. We have also tried honey vanilla and maple syrup, both of which have also been well-received.
When your yogurt has finished, whether you strain the whey out or not, you can store it in individual containers for portable snacking or in a large tub in the fridge for easy access. I use yogurt in some of my favorite recipes as well so it never goes to waste in our house. I have read over and over of the health benefits of whey, but I don’t make breakfast smoothies, which is its most popular use; mostly we just give it to the chickens who absolutely love it. You can leave it in a container for your livestock to drink or add it to something like grain or cereal for a quick, high-energy snack (especially good during the winter months!).
See my recipe below for specific instructions on how to start making your own yogurt. I promise it will be well worth the small effort it takes to make such a wonderful product!
Instant Pot Plain Yogurt
InstantPot Plain Yogurt
This plain yogurt recipe can be flavored in any way you like! Choose the fermentation time which best suits your taste: less time being more like traditional yogurt – thinner and milder – with longer fermentation times producing something more like Greek yogurt.
To begin, pour the gallon of milk into the InstantPot. Press the yogurt button three times until the readout displays BOIL. Place the lid on the pot and allow to finish the cycle.
Once the boil cycle has finished, remove the lid and cover with a cloth until the temperature of the milk comes back down to about 110 degrees. Add the plain yogurt and whisk in very well. Place the lid back on the pot.
Press the yogurt button again and enter the desired culturing time. A minimum of 8 hours is recommended all the way up to 24 hours. 12 hours is a good place to start if this is your first time making yogurt.
Allow the yogurt cycle to finish; optionally you may strain the whey from the finished product or add flavoring. Store in a container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. Don't forget to reserve about a cup for cooking your next batch!