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This is my first attempt at making yogurt from powdered milk and a dry culture. I decided to do it in my largest Crock-Pot to save on propane during our bug in for COVID-19 and the fact that the Crock-Pot uses relatively low temperatures.
I bought Hoosier Hill because I have used their products in the past and I have always been impressed with the quality they deliver at a very reasonable cost. There was a time when I purchased Peak Whole Milk Powder because it was one of the few brands of actual whole milk powder available. You can use Non-Fat or Low-Fat powdered milk for making yogurt but the results will be thinner yogurt that you may want to thicken with xanthum gum, pectin, or gelatin.
Plenty of the yogurt that you buy in the store uses these thickening agents to deliver the consistency that you are so used to. Peak Whole Powdered milk is very tasty and good quality but it is imported from Holland and costs substantially more than the Hoosier Hill milk produced in the United States. A single 6 lb bag of Hoosier Hill equals about 7.5 gallons of whole milk when reconstituted.
Since there was a gap between when I ran out of yogurt and when I got my milk, I needed to start with a fresh yogurt culture.
The best way to get a culture if you don’t have any plain yogurt in the fridge is to buy some packets of dry culture. I found the NPS brand on Amazon and the price was right. There are some cultures that are much more expensive than they should be. Make sure to compare costs before buying culture.
I did not follow the instructions on the packet for making a starter culture. If you do the starter as instructed, then the bigger batch of yogurt that you do next will likely culture faster.
I just dumped the packet in after my milk was heated and allowed to cool to under 113 F. It is very important to not add culture if milk is hotter. If your milk is too hot it will kill the culture entirely and you may wind up with spoiled milk rather than delicious yogurt.
Here is the complete process I used to make yogurt from powdered milk and then yogurt cheese.
Note: Remember that culture times will vary depending on how good you are at maintaining the optimum temperature. Even if it takes much longer to get the yogurt to set up properly, it will still be good to eat. I have never had anything go bad after I added the culture even when i have allowed a full 24 hours of it setting out on the countertop with a lid on it. Yogurt bacteria outcompetes anything that will spoil it.
- Mix 1.25 quarts of water with 1.5 cups of powdered milk. This makes a 1/3 gallon according to the package. Check the instructions on your own powdered milk for specific instructions. I have a big Crock-Pot and wanted to make a lot so I used about 5 quarts of water and 6 cups of powdered milk. Remember that you can add a little extra or add some heavy cream powder if you want some very rich yogurt. Just don’t add less than recommended.
- Half of the water I added I first heated to boiling in an electric kettle just to hasten the process a little. The rest was just tepid tap water. I was surprised how easily the milk powder mixed into the water. Some brands are harder to reconstitute. I barely had to use a whisk to mix the milk powder in.
At this point, I just set the Crock-Pot to high and waited for the milk to start steaming and left it that way for 10 minutes or so.
The Cool Down
With any cultured product, it is very important to not pitch your culture when it is too hot to do so. You will kill or at least kill off enough that it takes a lot longer to achieve your finished product.
The next step was to turn off the Crock-Pot and allow the milk to cool down to below 113 F as stated on the culture package. Since I didn’t want to leave the lid off and risk anything getting in it, I left the lid on and didn’t take the crockpot out of the heater part so it took hours to cool down to an appropriate temperature. About 9 pm I whisked the culture packet in.
Now comes the part that may be a little cumbersome for some.
My crockpot doesn’t have a temperature setting beyond High, Medium, and Warm. If yours does then just keep it set to around 104F. If not then you are going to have to do what I did and just check it a few times to see what temperature it is staying at.
My big Crock-Pot really gets hot unlike my smaller 4 qt model so I have to be careful to not scorch my culture. I let it get a little cold overnight. I should have let it stay on the warm setting. It appeared the culture was working some so I turned it up and let the yogurt get warm and then turned it off when the outside heater part seemed a little warm.
We had a warm day in the upper 60s and we aired out the house so I just left it on the warm setting for a while. For most people with normal-sized crock pots, the warm setting will probably be fine for most of the incubation period. The longer you let it incubate, the thicker and more set up the yogurt.
The same method used above can be used to make yogurt from powdered goat’s milk too.
The Taste Test
I was a little suspicious that yogurt from powdered milk would have a different taste. I was wrong and very glad about that. I couldn’t tell the difference between the yogurt that I used to make from fresh milk from the store and the yogurt I made from the Hoosier Hill Whole Powdered Milk.
One thing we love about making yogurt at home is that you can make yogurt cheese using either cheesecloth or a small strainer that can be bought online. If you have a colander then that can be utilized but you will still want to at least line it with a layer or two of cheesecloth depending on how fine the mesh is on your cloth.
The quality and grade of cheesecloth can vary a lot. They also make greek yogurt or almond milk strainer bags. At the moment some things are quite hard to find so you may have to settle for cheesecloth or cheesecloth and colander.
Yogurt cheese is a great substitute for greek yogurt or sour cream. All you have to do is strain your yogurt. The longer you let it strain and the thicker the starting product the thicker the end product will be.
I have made some runny yogurt that resulted in a lot of the yogurt just straining through. If this happens it is not the end of the world. You can use what strains through in baked goods and smoothies or even add to mashed potatoes.
If your yogurt is really thick what drains off will be a yellow color. This is the equivalent of whey. We always reuse this as I previously described. It is cultured so I don’t feel bad about pouring it over dog food either but during times like this, I am going to be using mine in cooking all the time.
It is great to use in baking especially sandwich bread. This ensures that you are getting every penny of food value out of your powdered milk.
If you like creamy dips, add spices or spice mixes to some yogurt cheese. Matt and I buy Spice Hunter Ranch mix because it doesn’t have any added dairy and it has a great flavor. They make a French Onion mix as well.
We use yogurt to make tzatziki sauce using our homemade yogurt. You can also make amazing salad dressings using yogurt. Ranch, french onion, or try adding dill and chives. We play around with all kinds of spices and flavor combinations.
Whey and yogurt can be used in cheese sauces and pasta dishes as well. I bet if you look at a lot of snack foods in your pantry you will find at least one that lists whey as an ingredient if you allow dairy in your house that is.
Powdered milk can be reconstituted and used as you would fresh liquid milk. If you wanted to, you could make other cheeses with powdered milk as well as long as you have the right cultures. Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheesemaking book gives instructions for a variety of cheeses. Most of us, especially considering the current situation are going to want to stick to the softer cheeses that require little to no aging.
Mozzarella is a favorite with many home cheesemakers because there are versions that require as little as 30 minutes of prep time.
There is a difference between cheeses that use cultures and those that use enzymes or citric acid.
Just remember that if you can only eat cultured dairy products, use recipes that only use culture and not just enzymes or citric acids. I have found out the hard way that some of those cheeses are not always cultured. Culturing takes more time but it means that the cheese is easier for me people to digest.
A lot of commercially produced yogurts contain either high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar as well as flavoring agents or fruit. Many people that enjoy making yogurt at home use honey or agave syrup to sweeten or they use jam or jelly. If you are diabetic you could use stevia, malt syrup, or agave nectar depending on your unique dietary needs. Vanilla beans or vanilla extract are often welcome additions to homemade yogurt.
We always just leave the yogurt plain and add whatever we want at the time. This allows us a base that can be used for many other things. Also, plain yogurt that is sealed up without any additional ingredients will last for well over a month. I have used yogurt that I had made 5 weeks in the past and it was just fine. The key to getting long shelf life is to use multiple containers to store it so that you are not opening a single container for an extended period of time.
We buy quart-size plastic storage containers that look for the most part like a yogurt container you would get when you buy commercial yogurt. Some people may want to use some pints or half pints as well. It can be nice to have a variety of sizes so that you have some smaller containers to just pour whole into a smoothie or take with you if you need to pack a lunch or have a snack on the go.
Granola and fruit, jam, or jelly with homemade yogurt make a very good breakfast or a high protein snack.
Closing Note On Probiotics
Remember that by eating cultured foods you are doing your body a favor. The live active cultures in yogurt and yogurt cheese can help with digestion and many say that probiotics are essential to overall good health. Do keep in mind that if you use the yogurt or cheese in foods that are cooked that you are not going to get the good probiotic bacteria that you will if you eat it raw.