Friday, 12 October 2012

Food Waste Friday - Yogurt-making failures

Lots of my favourite bloggers are successful yogurt makers. One thing that every eco, frugal, thrifty, simple-living, or foodie blogger should do, even if it's only once, is make their own yogurt. 

Frugal Girl does.

Katy at The Non-Consumer Advocate does, following Frugal Girl's instructions.

Lili at Creative Savv does.

Sue at the Quince Tree does.

So why can't I do it!? 

Why does my food waste this week consist of two batches of disastrous yogurt? 

I sooo want to be part of the yogurt making gang!

Earlier this year we were sorting out my late Grandmother's kitchen, and amongst the bits that I brought home with me, was a lovely wide-necked flask that had 'yogurt making' written all over it:

I attempted two batches in the flask, that turned out like a very thin pouring yogurt. Although it could hardly be called a success, we ate, or rather, drank it. My own evaluation is that I probably needed a thermometer, rather than guessing when the milk was ready to go into the thermos with the yogurt starter.

Inspired by some of the bloggers above, who have been writing about their yogurt recently, and ever keen to reduce the amount of food packaging that comes into the house, I thought I'd have another go; this time using a slow-cooker recipe, which I remembered reading about in all the yogurt discussions.

I watched a video on Youtube that seems very popular, and is mentioned in other forums. It's a six-minute video so to save you time, and seeing as it didn't work for me anyway, I'll summarise it for you: 

Heat 4 cups of milk up in the slow cooker for 2.5 hours on a low temperature. Turn the slow cooker off and let it cool for 3 hours, then add half a cup of your yogurt starter and a couple of spoonfuls of milk powder. Wrap the slow cooker in a blanket and let it work its yogurty magic for 8 hours or overnight!

I have to admit, the idea of milk heating up and cooling down for 5 hours before the yogurt starter gets anywhere near it, didn't sit comfortably with all I've ever learnt about food safety. However I followed the instructions exactly. On Wednesday morning I undressed the slow cooker and was greeted with a chilly bowl of milk with yogurt in it.

I wasn't going to feed anyone milk that had been heated and cooled and sat around for an evening and a night, so food waste it was.

Not to be beaten, I tried again yesterday, although I heated up the milk in a pan this time to cut down on the amount of time the milk sits around. This time, the result was a pan full of watery whey, and a small amount of curdled, yogurty, cottage cheesy stuff. Nothing like the Mason jars brim full of gorgeous creamy yogurt that I see on other blogs!

I want my yogurt to look like this! (Image swiped from Creative Savv!)

NOT THIS! Is it curdled milk, is it cheese, is it yogurt?

It doesn't taste like yogurt, but I can't bring myself to throw another batch away? How can I turn this into a food save?

And is there any hope for my yogurt making? Have you tried slow-cooker yogurt making? Should I invest in a food thermometer? I don't really want another piece of kitchen equipment, but is your electric yogurt maker something you couldn't live without? Where am I going wrong?

Or should I stick to baking, and accept that yogurt making is not my thing!?

Lastly, don't forget to enter my National Chocolate Week chocolate giveaway! Click HERE!

Food Waste Friday was dreamt up by, to encourage people to use up food instead of waste it. This week you can find Food Waste Friday hosted by 
Simply Being Mum.


  1. Strain your lumpy stuff through a muslin, or kitchen towel or coffee filter.
    Use the whey as liquid for making scones [You can FREEZE it in manageable quantities, and use it whenever you are scone making]
    Use the lumpy bits to make a baked cheesecake type dessert - put into your measuring jug, and for every 200ml of mixture add 1 beaten egg and 1 heaped tbsp sugar [any sort-white, brown, caster...] Mix well - a food processor or liquidiser gives best results - but hard work and a handwhisk is quite acceptable. Preheat oven to 180'C [fan 170']
    Pour your mix into a pastry shell and bake until puffed, risen and turning to golden brown [20 mins or so- keep checking!]
    If feeling extravagant put some jam or fruit or mincemeat in base of pie before baking.

    All of that is just a HUGE thank you - because I have recently acquired a large slo-cooker [long story] and was about to try making yogurt in it. Won't do so now! I make mine in an insulated flask - but [a] I use UHT milk, warmed to 43' [I have a thermometer] and [b] I whisk in 1tbsp dried milk powder per litre.
    My yogurt is usually ok - but occasionally goes wrong - hence recipes above!!

    Many blessings and good wishes for future yogging success!!

    1. Personally I would stick to the flask - especially if the slow cooker is large. I had the feeling that my slow cooker was too large and allowed to much air to circulate which is not a problem in a flask. Thanks for the tips on the baked cheesecake - I will give it a go!

  2. I've been thinking about making yogurt for the first time. However, I'm going to wait until you figure it out. I agree. Everyone else makes it seem so easy.

  3. Hi Sarah,
    Use the not-quite-yogurt in baking, pancakes etc. I tried to make yogurt without a thermometer several times with no success. Heating the milk to the exact temperature (to kill off competing bacteria), cooling it to exact temperature (so as not to kill off yogurt starter) and using a starter that was active seem to be the keys to successful yogurt-making. If you want to ever give it another try, do you have a family member or friend, or neighbor with a candy-making thermometer that you could borrow, to see if that would make a difference? By borrowing a thermometer, you'd spare yourself the need to buy/own one unless and until you discover yogurt-making is for you.

    Also, for what it's worth, I understand slow cooker yogurt is hit or miss, as different slow cookers heat to different temperatures. Not all heat to the recommended temperatures.

    But I also think that making yogurt at home doesn't make or break your frugal lifestyle. It's like making bread at home, it doesn't necessarily mean you're frugal or you're not, if you bake your own bread. You can still consider yourself "green" by looking for eco-friendly packaging, or reusing the packaging. There are so many other ways to be frugal or "green", if making yogurt doesn't work for you, for whatever reason.

    1. Unfortunately my go-to neighbours for borrowing specialised catering equipment moved this summer, but I'm going to invest in a will be useful for jam-making, and do you think I could use it for soap-making too?

  4. I use an Easiyo yogurt maker and somehow still seem to screw it up. My yogurt-making experience has been hit-and-miss, sometimes producing thin, runny yogurt that goes off very quickly. I think it may have been contaminated by something nasty because the last few batches were not good and then I gave up.

    I like my yogurt thick, so I used to use UHT milk (which you don't have to heat up and then cool) and added milk powder to it. When it did work, it was good :)

    1. Thanks for sharing that. It makes me feel much better about my yogurt failures! The one thing I'm learning about yogurt-making from these comments is that it seems to be hard to get a 100% success rate!