When the first settlers came to the United States and decided to start leaving the east coast and venture out into the lands further west, a lot of them settled in what is now known as the South. The weather was typically good, with shorter winters and more warm months; the soil was rich and great for farming and most people took a look at the great Mississippi river and decided not to cross it. So, they settled in the South.
One thing the Southern states are known for is whatís called homesteading. Today, homesteading describes living as self-sustainingly as possible: home gardening, canning and preserving, sewing, and generally maintaining a life not dependent upon commercial business. Originally, southerners lived this way out of necessity. Today there is a whole world of reasons why people are returning to this simpler way of life.
I have been canning and preserving for several years and as often as possible, making homemade versions of foods my family likes to eat and either canning, preserving or freezing them when produce is fresh so we can have it throughout the year. It truly makes me feel great to know that I did all the work in growing vegetables and fruits and made the foods that stock my pantry and freezer. I know all the ingredients and feel good knowing itís safe and healthy to eat.
One of my latest adventures has been learning to make my own Greek yogurt in a slow cooker. Itís actually very easy, tastes delicious and is much less expensive than store-bought yogurt.
2 quarts milk (best if itís organic and NOT ultra-pasteurized; can be whole, skim, 1% or 2%)
4 oz. plain Greek yogurt (best if itís organic; once youíve made your own yogurt you can use that as the starter for your next batch, instead of buying it)
Slow cooker (Crock Pot)
2 large bath towels
Pour the 2 quarts of milk into the slow cooker, attach lid, and turn on low for 2 Ĺ hours.
After 2 Ĺ hours, turn the slow cooker off and leave it alone for 2-3 hours to allow the milk to cool slightly. You want the milk to still be warm, but not hot. Itís similar to using yeast in bakingÖyou want the live cultures in the yogurt to propagate, but if the temperature is too hot it will kill the cultures.
After the 2-3 hour waiting time, remove 1 cup of the warm milk to a bowl and whisk in the 4 oz of store-bought yogurt. Add the contents of the bowl back into the slow cooker and whisk to blend. Secure the lid back on the slow cooker.
Wrap the slow cooker in a couple of large bath towels (something heavy which wonít allow light to penetrate. Leave the slow cooker alone for 8-12 hours (overnight) to allow the yogurt to culture.
In the morning, check the consistency of the yogurt. If itís still a little watery, rewrap it and let it sit another couple of hours. When the yogurt has thickened place the strainer over a large bowl and add the cheesecloth.
Strain the yogurt through the cheesecloth. This can take 1-3 hours, so it should be kept in the refrigerator. The liquid that is strained is called whey and can be saved and used for baking and cooking.
Save 4 oz. of your homemade Greek yogurt to use as the starter for your next batch. Store the remaining yogurt in air-tight containers in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.
When serving, add a little honey and almonds to your yogurt. Use fresh, seasonal fruit or thaw frozen fruit and stir into yogurt.
This yogurt is delicious, nutritious and even better because itís homemade. Have you ever tried to make your own yogurt? Do you have other suggestions?