By Sheri Iodice RDN
Have you pushed that yogurt function button on your Instant Pot ® yet? Did I hear a resounding, 'No, way!' Well, before you add on to your list of why you don't see yourself making yogurt, I must admit, I used to think the same way. I got my Instant Pot over 5 years ago and only took the plunge into making yogurt recently.
I do love my kitchen gadgets. But about a year and a half ago, I switched out of collecting mode and I started decluttering which is another whole story. Anyway, decluttering required revisiting what I wanted and needed in the kitchen, then letting go of the excess that was draining my mental and physical space. The Instant Pot ® was an easy choice to keep for its multi-function capabilities and small footprint. Oddly, around the same time, I started meeting people who were making yogurt from scratch. I love when the universe sends me messages like this to redirect and refocus my attention and curiosity. Ah ha, if people in my small part of the world are making yogurt, I've got to give it a try. Plus, I don't have to buy a yogurt maker!
With the help of my go-to household fit-it resource, aka YouTube ™ - I quickly learned the steps for making yogurt using several different methods. And that's how I got started.
If I remember right the first batch was pretty good and then the next was a disappointment, of course. Following batches kept getting better with practice. Now, I'm just as hooked as the people I ran into who told me I should try it because if they could make yogurt, anyone can do it.
Which brings me to my 6 reasons to make yogurt in your Instant Pot ®.
Control of the ingredients - Yogurt is a pretty simple food. The list of ingredients doesn't have to be any longer than milk and active cultures. As it is, 1 cup of plain low or non-fat yogurt usually has around 100 calories, 8 grams of lean protein and 12 grams of natural sugars. Most Americans are not used to the traditional tartness of yogurt and like to add sugar or honey. However, the manufactured pre-sweetened yogurts can go overboard with added sugar and reading the labels is strongly recommended. Some options have more grams of added sugar than desserts like a brownie or scoop of ice cream.
Expand Milk (& non-dairy) Choices - Making yogurt also puts you in control of the source of milk product you use. Specialty yogurts like those made with local organic milk or non-dairy alternatives can be pricy and may have limited varieties and/or seasonal availability. However, DIY recipes open possibilities for more personalized selections and perfecting the flavoring based on fermentation time.
There's the cost savings - Typically, I can make just over two quarts of Greek yogurt (meaning most of the liquid whey has been strained out) for the cost of a gallon of milk and four tablespoons of Greek yogurt for active cultures. That's roughly $4.25, equal to the average cost of one quart of store-bought yogurt.
Probiotics? Yes, please - The active cultures that cause the milk to ferment into yogurt late act as supplemental bacteria in our digestive tract. Research into the health benefits from fermented foods is big right now and you can look forward to hearing more about it in the years to come. In the meantime, consuming freshly made bacteria-rich foods like yogurt is an essential tool we give our immune system allowing it to build a strong microbiome colony with important functions such as preventing illness and treatment against several diseases and disorders.
An edible chemistry experiment on your counter is just cool - Okay, it's a challenge and it's going to seem like too much time to be worth it. But you don't know until you try. Anyway, the reactions you get when you say, 'I make my own yogurt and it's easy' are priceless!
No More Plastic Containers - I don't want to haul home individual serving size yogurts for hubby and 1 quart for me anymore! I was spending $10 a week on yogurt and not even getting the best choices. Then a few days later, throwing back into the trash system, barely used containers I had not use or room for. I don't need to think about any of that now.
If you're close to my age you probably remember when the yogurt section in the grocery store was small enough to pass by in one and half shopping cart lengths. Yogurt? Wasn't that a Hippie food? There were about 2 sizes, 5 brands and 4 flavors. Well maybe only 3 flavors - vanilla, strawberry and blueberry.
Then with the 80's fitness and diet craze, new yogurt varieties started moving into the dairy case. Yogurt with fancy packaging, low calories, artificial sweeteners, syrup on the bottom and mock-dessert flavors; not to mention the section just for kids. Madison Ave and dairy farmers were tapping into our demand for a 'new and healthy' dairy option. They created convenient, ready-to-serve, over-processed, high cost, cheap to produce products that are unrecognizable compared to traditional tart and tangy plain yogurt.
I promise, over time you'll get used to the tangy plain, especially if it comes out for you with the consistency of cream cheese. You can sweeten with fresh or dried berries and other fruits. Or you can add a drizzle of honey, maple syrup or another sweetener. I wager dollars to donuts what you choose is less than the amount of added sugar the food manufacturers decided was going to be right for you.
Here is my recipe for Instant Pot ® yogurt:
Lightly coat liner pot with cooking spray and place into heating unit.
Fill pot with one gallon of your milk of choice (I used 2% milk) and 1 cup of half and half for extra body (optional).
Set thermometer to 184° and place probe into milk. Then cover with glass lid (or a plate). Press Yogurt button and then to the left press Adjust until the display changes to boil.
When milk is up to 184° (Use Sauté to raise temp further, if need be), carefully remove inner liner and place in ice bath for about 15 minutes or until milk temp reaches 115°.
Lift milk from the bath, dry the outside of the pot and return it to the inside of the heating unit. Combine 4 tablespoons of cultured plain yogurt with warm milk in a small bowl until smooth and then it back to the inner pot. Stir until smooth. If you feel any milk stuck to the bottom of the pot don't disturb it.
Now cover with lid and engage to tightly close. (Note, I have replacement my inside clear seal with a red one. I only use the red one for yogurt so the milk will not pick up any previous flavor residue on the clear seal.)
Push the Yogurt button and then to the left use the Adjust buttons to set the fermentation time. Start at 8 hours. I let mine go for 9.5 hours.
At 9.5 hours, slowly open and set the lid aside to prevent condensation from falling back into the pot. The yogurt will appear solid, but it is at the loose consistency of conventional yogurt. You can keep it this way or continue to the next step and strain it to make Greek-style yogurt. For conventional yogurt, cover and place the whole inner pot into the refrigerator to cool for about 2 hours or overnight and transfer to storage containers of your choices.
To make Greek-style yogurt, set up a straining system. I stretch a muslin/cheese cloth bag over a strainer set inside the Instant Pot ® liner or another bowl/pan that holds the strainer at least 4 inches from its bottom. The space below the strainer is going to catch all the liquid whey protein - about 1 quart.
Pour the loose yogurt into the muslin-bag. Cover and strain in the fridge overnight.
The next morning, the yogurt will be thick enough to come out of the bag cleanly and nearly in one piece when inverted slowly into a large storage container.
Enjoy!! One of my faves is with a splash of vanilla, fruit and granola in my favorite mug.