I was both excited and skeptical when it came to making yogurt. I've been eating a lot lately and although Ruby doesn't like the tangy taste of the plain she likes smoothie pops (I got Popsicle molds from Ikea that are great!) and will probably eat it sweetened with fruit more often as she gets older.
I read a blog post about a woman making yogurt in her oven quite a while ago but never got around to it because for one our oven was broken and also I liked the store bought stuff OK and just wasn't sure if it was worth the trouble.
It was when I got into my making basics at home kick and mastered tortillas that I got brave enough to try yogurt. That and I found a recipe for it that used a crockpot! I'm going to try another recipe today that doesn't take as long and incubates in the oven - rather like a bun... - you can get the link for that at the bottom of this post.

Skip the next few paragraphs if you don't care to read about my mishaps and want to get right to the recipe and how to.

I messed up the first batch beyond eating. I had read a few places that adding powdered milk makes it thicker but forgot to mix it in when I mixed in the culture (I'll explain later) so I mixed it in about an hour later and it was already starting to set. One key to yogurt making is that you mix in the culture and then leave it. ANY kind of jostling, mixing, etc. messes it up. Trust me. It didn't set up and was not edible. Well, I probably could have used the whey for baking but at that point in my journey I didn't even think of that.
So... round number two turned out perfectly but I didn't know it. Remember, I had never made yogurt before. I didn't have any idea what it was really supposed to look like. I was comparing it to store bought which is like comparing oranges to clementines. They're similar but if you think a clementine is supposed to be as large as a navel then you'll think it's messed up when in fact it's just fine!
So I put that second batch in the fridge and Chuck suggested straining it the next day so I did. I had been straining my store bought yogurt for about a month (and so I'm not sure why I didn't think about straining it before) and it makes it thicker and richer tasting. I, however, didn't taste it after I strained it, I just put it back in the fridge and the next day gave it to my friend, because I was going to try a third batch that day.

Okay... The third batch... Here's where you pay attention if you'd like to try this at home...
Before I get into it I'd like to add that this week I'm going to try another recipe and an alternate incubation method. While the crockpot worked alright it does take a long time and I don't think it needs to sit for 8 hours, I think mine was set after about 5 which agrees with other recipes that I found. So tune in soon for an update on yogurt making. If in the meantime you'd like to whip some up in your crockpot, feel free, it works and is delicious!

I got this recipe from Stephanie over at A Year of Crockpotting but have made a few modifications. First you'll need a crock-pot, 1/2 gallon (8 cups) of milk and 1/2 cups of plain yogurt as a starter
I read that 2% and skim work but I used whole - the higher the milk fat the richer the taste
I used Dannon the second and third time because it doesn't have any extra stuff in it that might have been another factor in my first batch not turning out as I used a different kind that contained preservatives and thickeners and stuff

First you place your milk into the crockpot. Then turn the crockpot on low and let it sit for 2 1/2 hours. In my research I've discovered this is the stage that gets rid of any other bacteria and such in the milk (conditions it if you will). Then you turn it off and let it sit for 3 hours, covered with a heavy bath towel. As best as I can figure this just gets it down to the right temperature. After 3 hours you take out about a 1/2 cup of milk and add your yogurt to that. Mix it really well and then SLOWLY and gently stir it into the rest of the milk. Then you leave it sit. Stephanie left it overnight and her recipe calls to leave it for 8 hours (which I did each time) but I think it would be done sooner.
If you'd like to add powered milk add it when you mix in the yogurt before adding that mixture to the crockpot. I don't think it made much of a difference but then again I strained mine.
When your yogurt is set it will be pretty solid on top but not completely solid throughout. It won't be seperated, but it will be thinner than store bought. Put into containers (I found that store bought yogurt containers work well) and place it into the fridge overnight (or for a few hours) to chill and further solidify. At this point you may eat your yogurt, put it into smoothies, etc. or you can strain it.

To stain yogurt place a clean pillow case or flour sack dish cloth (doubled) into a colander and place the colander over a bowl deep enough so the colander doesn't touch the bottom. Pour half a container at a time into the colander. Draw the fabric up around it and twist to you can squeeze the yogurt without squeezing any out the top. Gently but firmly (is that possible?) squeeze the yogurt until it's about half the size. You can check it as you go to see how it's doing. You'll get about equal parts yogurt to whey (that's the liquid you're squeezing out). Put the yogurt into another container and continue straining. You can save the whey and use it for baking or in smoothies, it's a little tangy and have all the good stuff that the yogurt does (I think...) besides, it's a terrible waste to put it down the drain!

Alright. The last few points. Taste and is it really worth it.

I feel that it tastes much better than store bought. If you're used to eating the sugary flavored yogurt you  may find that it's no better, but add a little honey or some fruit and give it another try. My sister and I tried it side by side with store bought and it was richer, creamier and tangy rather than sour. I really think it's pretty wonderful but I've been eating it straight for months now.

Here's the math - for those of you math shy, skip to the end of this paragraph.

Regular tub of Dannon yogurt between 2.49 and 2.79
Regular tub of Store (Kroger) Brand 2.19
Regular tub of fancy organic brand usually above 3.29

That means that the cheapest you'll get from the store is .54 cents a cup

I got a gallon of store (Kroger) brand milk on sale for 1.99 (usually they're 2.99) and usually the quarts are 1.49
Fancy organic milk is way more expensive and I never buy it so I didn't do that math - let me know if you do!
Adding the price of the 1/2 cup of starter yogurt that means that a cup of my homemade yogurt is .14 cents the first time and only .12 the next few times (because you can use homemade yogurt as your starter!)
If your milk costs say 3.50 it would still only be .24 cents.

Yep, pretty awesome.

Anyway, now that you've suffered through all of that, stay tuned for the next addition to the yogurt saga! I'm going to try another recipe plus sweetening it! Here are a few more links if you're interested...

Alton Brown's recipe plus a simple variation with a good tip on putting it in the oven- I'm going to combine these recipes/methods today so I'll let you know how it goes soon!
Another recipe by another blogger and a good explanation of the process plus more links
Interesting article on Slate about the cost effectiveness of making staple food like yogurt and bagels - yup, I'm going to try bagels next too!