I am currently on a big yogurt kick, primarily fueled by having bought an Instantpot®. Yes, I’ve joined that cult. No, I don’t cook everything in it, but when it comes to beans or yogurt, I’m a believer.
My daughter bought me a lovely yogurt maker that I used for years, but it used 7 little jars, which I always ended up combining. I often wished there was a way to make a BIG batch of yogurt at one time, but keeping the temperature correct, which is the key, seemed too iffy. The yogurt making feature of the Instantpot was half the reason I bought it, with it’s 8 quart capacity. IF you say to me, “why make it when you can buy it”, I reply, it is cheaper, and I get a great deal of satisfaction, and I get the whey. More about that later.
So what I do is heat the milk first in the microwave, using a very large bowl. I am not certain about the reason for this, my understanding is that it eliminates foreign bacteria that could spoil it, or possibly it changes the nature of the protein, making the yogurt thicker. In any case, I do it and it has always worked. I have never worried too much about the temperature, I get it good and hot, over 160 F on my thermometer. I used to do one qt. at 11 minutes, I do 2 qts. at 15 minutes on high and all seems well.
Next I let it cool to 120 F. I made two batches this week, one using frozen whey, the other fresh, and the first I added the frozen whey when it was at 140 F, hoping the fact the whey was frozen would prevent it from killing the bacteria, the second it was cooler than 120 F, as I had forgotten it, and they both turned out fine.
A note on the whey. I have gone from feeding it to my dogs, plants, compost, etc., to hoarding it for myself. Using a half cup or so to start the next batch is about all I’ll spare from eating it myself. It does make for a more liquid yogurt to use it for the starter, but I strain my yogurt anyway, so I get it back.
Next you add the starter to the warm milk, either in the pot you heated in, or the Instantpot. The starter can be whey from a previous batch, yogurt from the store, as long as it is plain and says live cultures, or yogurt from your previous batch. If you don’t plan on straining your yogurt, don’t start it with whey.
The next step is to throw it in the instant pot on the yogurt setting for 12 hours. You can do 8-10, but I like to give the little critters all the time they might need. I have no idea if there is such a thing as too long. Put the lid on, go to sleep and wake up to yogurt the next day. When you take the lid off, take a peek and see if it is jelly like with chartreuse liquid about. Don’t worry if you don’t see any liquid, sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.
Now I pour it in a strainer lined with paper towels set over a LARGE bowl. I set it in the fridge until I remember to look at it again. Seriously. I always forget about it at this stage. It can get too thick for my liking, so I get aggravated at myself if I forget it too long. It has to be a large bowl. You will be shocked at how much whey is in there. Cleaning whey off of the fridge shelf is not my idea of fun. I left it for 6 hours yesterday and that was pretty good. I usually do it for 4-8 hours.
Don’t panic if the paper towel sticks when you go to dump the yogurt
out to it’s final home. For whatever reason, yogurt sticks better to itself than to the towel. I’ve never had a big problem with separating the two.
Here is the final product in all it’s glory, ready to eat. I don’t know if you can see in the picture, but more whey continues to come up even after all that straining.
Now, about all that whey. I tried soaking my everyday loaded oatmeal in it overnight and now I’m hooked. I try to keep sugar to a minimum, and somehow the whey makes the oatmeal taste sweeter, and makes the texture creamier. If that idea does not appeal to you, you can still use it for your pets or plants, or even as the liquid in baking bread, it’ll give the yeast a boost and condition the dough.