Saturday, April 02, 2011

JOT #11: Yogurt

Growing up Indian, my mother used to make yogurt every week. She poured milk from the can, stirred it patiently on the stove, and waited until it cooled just enough to put her pinky in without scalding. Then she stirred in a tablespoon of the old yogurt culture, and let it sit on the counter (on warm days) or in the oven overnight. In the morning - thick yogurt, "hard curds" we called it, literally translated. It was rich and perfect for mixing into warm rice for dinner, one of our favorite meals back then.

My mother's yogurt culture (really a bacterial culture that grows in your milk and is what helps you digest your food in your stomach!) was so developed over the years, probably an ancient mix of strains of Lactobacillus that may have once consorted with dinosaurs. It never failed to magically transform milk, even skim milk, into yogurt.

After the development of my yuppie, get-anything-from-the-store lifestyle, making yogurt went by the wayside. I had forgotten that it was easy, and it seemed such a breeze to pick up yet another plastic tub of plain yogurt at the store. Until the tubs (see my pack-rat tendencies) started to pile up. Oh yeah, and I turned vegan.

Being vegan and craving yogurt is not a good combination, so I glommed onto my cherished Wildwood Yogurt. The perfect taste for yogurt rice, but full of things I do not have at home, and yes, it comes in plastic tubs. I've finally gone back to making my own, and I haven't seen a store-bought variety that is quite as nice as homemade, to my taste. It's also a great way to use up milk that is about to spoil and to get live cultures when your stomach is feeling a little blah.

So, here's my simple recipe for making yogurt at home. You can use a yogurt-maker at home if you like, but it should be fairly simple, especially now that the weather is warming up (at least around here).

Homemade Yogurt

milk, soymilk, or other non-dairy milk (any fat content is ok)
1-2tbsp yogurt culture from purchased or other yogurt containing "live, active cultures"
scarf or thick cloth
pot to heat milk (thick bottom)
glass, ceramic, or stainless steel container with lid that covers well or fits tightly (a casserole works)
can of food/soup or rock (optional)

Clean the container well - sterilize in dishwasher or pour boiling water over it.

Heat milk on the stove in pot or in ceramic or glass container in the microwave (ie a saucepan leaving room at the top or a ceramic container to 1 inch of the top). Heat to just boiling (milk will froth up - make sure it doesn't boil over. In my microwave, this is 12 minutes for a large bowl and 5 for a cereal bowl, longer on the stove). On the stove, stir continuously to prevent scalding.

Remove milk from heat and if in pot, transfer to container. let cool until warm but not hot (pinky inside will not burn, or you can measure to once it drops below 50oC/122oF). If in microwave, leave in container, otherwise transfer to container. Allow skin to form on top of yogurt.

Mix 1-2 tbsp yogurt with 2 tablespoons of unboiled milk until smooth and creamy. With a spoon, gently pull skin away from edge of container and pour yogurt culture into the space. Close container with lid tightly.  You may wish to weight it with something (a can of food, a rock, etc) to form a tighter seal.

Leave your yogurt on the counter overnight if it's warm, or in the oven (warm the oven briefly if it's cold) or any place warm. Wrap with a scarf or cloth to help keep it warm in colder temperatures. If not fully set by morning, remove from oven, set oven to lowest setting and leave until it reaches temperature. Open oven and replace container covered with scarf for a few more hours (up to the evening). Refrigeration can also convert a slightly runny yogurt into a thick, set curd.

If desired, pour off any liquid (it makes a good liquid for kneading dough) if desired. To make greek yogurt, place this yogurt into a cheesecloth and strain into another container. What remains is extra-thick, creamy yogurt. Sweeten as desired.

1 comment:

ricekernel said...

I made it! Love it. Didn't know it was so easy to prepare at home. Thanks for the little "nudge." =)