We eat a ton of yogurt. Really. Long ago I stopped buying it in those cute little containers, then I stopped getting it in quart containers, even, and moved to the big 1/2 gallon Nancy's Yogurt tubs of plain yogurt. And then my friend Jennifer encouraged me to give it a try, since I already make so much of our food from scratch. And it is easy! And cheap (I'm big on cheap!). And way yummier than store bought.
I have a Rival Crockpot Stoneware Cooker Smartpot, which I think is officially a 6 qt crock, but perfectly fits a gallon of milk. On yogurt day I dump a gallon of whole milk in the crock, turn it on high, covered, for 4 hours, til it's at 180degrees, then keep it covered but unplugged for 4 hours, til it's 110 degrees. While it's cooling I mix 1 c. of leftover yogurt, 1 c. of honey, and 1 T. of vanilla in a bowl, and let it sit out to room temp. When the milk is cool enough I whisk the yogurt mixture in, cover the crockpot again, and wrap the whole thing in a blanket for at least 8 hours. Yogurt! It thickens up more in the fridge.
Sometimes I just make plain yogurt, and then I don't add sweetener or vanilla. Occasionally I've made plain yogurt and added honey and flavoring in after, and that works just fine, and allows you to make a bunch of different flavors out of one gallon batch. My kids mostly just like vanilla yogurt, though, so that's mostly what I make. My Mom has started making yogurt too, but she makes it with 1% milk, and the cooler method that Jennifer uses, and it's really delicious and creamy- WAY nicer than store bought low fat yogurt. Here's what we do with the yogurt:
Make Greek Yogurt so much less expensive than store bought, and more nutritionally dense, perfect for little boys who'd rather run off calories than eat them... I just strain fresh yogurt for a couple hours through a dishcloth or cheesecloth lined mesh strainer, on the counter.
Make Cream Cheese This is just strained longer, several hours, and I suppose is technically yogurt cheese, but that sounds unappealing and my boys are clear about wanting "Cream Cheese". So we have cream cheese, and they eat a lot of it. It's tangy and yummy.
Make Dip With Greek Yogurt or cream cheese as a base, depending. Chopped fresh herbs, dried herbs, minced veggies, or sweet dips, like caramel-cream cheese, or tropical, with food processor chopped dried pineapple, coconut, and dried papaya.
Make Sauce Sweet sauces, for pancakes and fruit salad, with honey or maple syrup, and savory sauces like raita, with chopped veggies and appropriate spices and herbs.
Make Smoothies Yogurt, frozen fruit (I put peeled older bananas and other fruits in the freezer just for smoothies), honey, whatever else is hanging around in reach of the blender. Leftover oatmeal is a good thickener and fiber adder. We're partial to banana-peanut butter-carob, and frozen orange juice concentrate-coconut milk-frozen mango.
Make other stuff I haven't made pancakes without yogurt in years. It's my favorite pancake trick- I just substitute yogurt (sometimes a little bit thinned out) for the buttermilk in any recipe- bundt cake, pancakes, biscuits. I make whole wheat bread by soaking the whole wheat flour in yogurt overnight- the bread is soft and smooth and tangy almost like sourdough. Leftover smoothies turn into popsicles, popsicles are eaten in the bathtub and so the boys get a homemade orgainc yogurt bath. Which has to be good for their skin, don't you think?