Home-style Yogurt _lowres

Photo by Beth Colvin -- Make your own Home-style Yogurt in the VitaClay yogurt maker and personal slow cooker.

The yogurt craze has hit the slow cooking market by way of a new product, the VitaClay yogurt maker and personal slow cooker. While I had heard of people using their slow cookers to make yogurt, many of the techniques did not seem food safe.

The new slow cooker/yogurt maker seeks to change that with more temperature regulation and convenience, also allowing for personal choice of fruits and sweeteners.

Co-worker Beth Colvin, the mother of two yogurt-loving children, volunteered to test the 2-quart, 64-ounce product, a temperature-controlled ceramic stoneware with a yogurt setting among others.

Colvin’s test was a time-consuming one due to reading all the instructions, becoming familiar with the appliance, its recipes and, in general, understanding what goes into making home-style yogurt versus store versions.

She found the booklets somewhat confusing and conflicting — “one calling for more milk than would seem to fit in the crock and the other calling for much less milk, but much more starter.”

Turning to the Internet and Facebook, Colvin worked out a combination of the two recipes she thought would work. Once the amount of called-for milk, 64 ounces, hit 180 degrees (Colvin used a candy thermometer to track the temp), she plunged it in a sink of cold water to reach 110 F, the optimal temperature for inoculating milk with the starter. It can also cool down by simply leaving it on the counter, she said.

Directions say that starter yogurt can be used, which is also available freeze dried or in stores. Colvin used Fage yogurt, which has live cultures.

She stirred some of the warm milk into the Fage until it was smooth, then added the rest of the milk. The 64 ounces turned out to be more than the crock could handle.

“My daughter, instead, had a warm cup of milk before bed,” she said.

After cooking the mixture on the yogurt setting for 8 hours, she then moved it to the refrigerator. Several hours later she found a crock full of “tangy yogurt with a natural sweetness missing from even my beloved Fage. I drained off the whey using cheesecloth, gravity and a few hours over a bowl and had a thick, creamy treat that went great with fresh peaches and a drizzle of local honey.”

Other than some initial problems with the included booklets, the appliance itself was a hit. Colvin said she would use it again. The accompanying recipe is Colvin’s adaptation of the included recipes.

The VitaClay product is available online through vitaclaychef.com or through Bed, Bath and Beyond for $39.99.

Julie Kay is a columnist for The Advocate. She can be reached at juliekay6122@gmail.com.