#2 Milk in the slow-cooker: When making homemade yogurt, the first task is to empty the half gallon of milk into your crock-pot, put the lid on, put in on the low setting, and let it "cook" for two and a half hours. That's it!
#3 - The next step couldn't be easier. Just unplug your slow-cooker and allow the milk to sit undisturbed for three hours. At the end of that three hour period, take the lid off the slow-cooker and scoop two cups of the warmish milk out into a mixing bowl. Add one-half cup of the plain yogurt (you need those live cultures in there!) and whisk it into the two cups of milk. Pour this mixture back into the slow-cooker.
#4 - All bundled up! Wrap your slow-cooker in a thick bath or beach towel and allow it to sit for the next eight hours undisturbed.
#5 - I stuck my hands under the bath towel to see if my slow-cooker was holding its heat, and it wasn't. This is a chemical reaction taking place, so if the heat falls too low, the reaction will stop and the milk will spoil. If you get it too hot, however, the temperature will kill the live cultures. The solution to this, I found, was to heat up my handy microwave heating bag (I imagine you could also judiciously apply an electric heating pad set on low) and put it on the glass lid. I heated up the microwave heating bag three times during this incubation process.
#6 - At the end of the eight hours, voilà! It's yogurt! If what you have in the slow-cooker is unthickened, something went wrong, but if you come out with an end product that is thickish and slightly lumpy, you had success. You can stir this up and eat it immediately, although it will be runny. We prefer our yogurt to have a more pudding-like consistency, so I elected to strain ours overnight.
#7 - To strain the yogurt, I lined my colander with doubled coffee filters and then balanced the colander carefully inside a large mixing bowl. This allows the whey to run off and how long you strain the yogurt depends on how thick you want it to be. For a consistency similar to store-bought yogurt, you can strain it for around two hours.
#8 - Since I wanted this yogurt to be very thick, I put it in the fridge so that it could strain overnight. In the morning, approximately five cups of whey had drained off and we were left with the most beautiful, smooth, pure white yogurt in the world. And the smell? Heavenly! Creamy, tart and luscious.
#9 - I know this looks like cottage cheese, so I wish I'd given it a stir before I took the picture. This does not have curds; this was just the initial lumpiness that resulted when I scooped the yogurt out of the colander into the bowl. But one stir was all it took and we had velvety smoothness.
I added Splenda to mine; the girls added half Splenda, half sugar. We put berries in some servings, vanilla in others. I found that I greatly like a combination of pure vanilla extract, Splenda and sliced bananas. Plain, this yogurt could easily substitute as sour cream; just add a pinch of sugar to the amount you'd like to add to your baked potato. I've read that the Greek people like their thick yogurt with honey drizzled over it. Whatever way you choose to eat it, I think you'll find it very delicious.