I have had a couple people ask me lately about how to make yogurt at home. I know not all Paleo people do dairy, but for those that do making your own yogurt is so much better for you than buying it, even the organic options. If you start out with farm fresh milk, from local organically produced milk, you are guaranteed the purest, unprocessed yogurt.
I personally do not do dairy on a daily basis, maybe once a week or so, buy my children do. Several people have asked me why I give them dairy, and my answer is this. While it is very true that one can get all of the needed nutrients from vegetables and meat sources, the fact still remains that children will not always eat them. I offer fresh vegetables at every meal, and my children do well eating them. However, there are times when they do not eat them. Yes I know, ‘They won’t starve’. Neither of them react adversely to quality dairy products, so if I can mix a ton of vegetable in some pure organic yogurt and them eat a ton of it, I’m happy!
In addition, the process of making yogurt produces the byproduct of pure whey protein. I would much rather my husband be consuming pure whey protein from organic, local sources than the powder shakes with added garbage that he used to. The whey makes easy protein rich spinach smoothies for both him and the kids, and I know exactly where it came from. Use it in smoothies, sub it for the liquid in recipes and baked goods.
So with all that said, I will walk you through the steps I take to make yogurt. I make yogurt once a week, one gallon of milk at a time. One gallon makes about 7 Cups of yogurt, and 2 of the glass bottles (pictured below) of whey. You can easily adjust the process to make less, but I would not make more in one batch as it would be difficult to maintain heat consistently throughout the milk.
Pour 1 gallon milk into large Crockpot set to low for 4 hours. (to your specifications, ie Organic, local, raw, goat, etc)The key is to get the milk to 180 degrees but not over. The first couple times you make it be sure to use a thermometer to monitor your milk. This will give you the thickest yogurt possible.
After 4 hours turn the crockpot off and allow it to cool for 3 hours. Leave it in the insert so it does not cool too fast or too cold.
After 3 hours stir in ½ Cup of yogurt. The initial time you will need to buy this, but subsequent times you will be able to use a ½ cup of your homemade yogurt. Make sure the yogurt you start with is a good quality, organic yogurt.
Wrap the crockpot insert (or if your insert does not remove, the whole crockpot) in a large beach towel or blanket. Place in a low draft area for about 8 hours. I place mine inside the oven (OFF) overnight. I find that if I start my yogurt at 1 or 2 in the afternoon, by the time I do the process it is time for bed, and when I wake up my yogurt is complete.
Strain yogurt through cheesecloth or a very clean kitchen towel inside a colander. I have 2 specific 'yogurt towels' that I only use for this process, as I find it works better than cheese cloth, for me. This will remove some of the whey protein and give you a thicker yogurt product. The all natural yogurt making process will never produce a thick yogurt as you would need additives to achieve that. The straining process will give you that thicker product without adding unnecessary junk.
The thickness you want is completely up to you. For us, I know it is the right thickness when it begins to pull away from the towel. The yogurt will literally pull off the towel and roll right into the bowl, if that makes any sense.