One of my most vivid childhood food memories is of the sour tang of homemade yogourt.
My mom used to make it all the time. But this was before probiotics were an ad buzzword and “Greek yogourt” was something only Greeks (and Turks, and Cypriots, and Lebanese, and Pakistani, and Mongols, and basically every culture with a yogourt-making tradition) ate. So I kind of took it for granted. And to be completely honest, I’m not sure I even liked it.
But fast-forward to today, and like most people, yogourt is one of the most common things I eat. And with that comes a whole lot of spent plastic cups in a recycling plant somewhere, the occasional artificial sweetener, and a lot of wasted money. Because the mark-up on what’s essentially funky-ass milk is huge.
But I’m not an environmentalist. Or even all that much of a cheapskate when it comes to food. So it was with nothing more than an embarrassing sense of adventure that I decided to make my own batch of the white stuff. I use the term, ‘adventure’ rather loosely, because making yogourt is just about the most passive and boring thing you can do in a kitchen. But there’s something nerdishly cool about transforming a pot of milk into something completely different. Maybe if I had a greater understanding or appreciation of science it would be less magical, but in this case, ignorance really is bliss. Sour, tangy bliss.
- 8 c Milk (as much or as little fat as you want)
- 1/2 c Dry milk powder (optional – will add a richness to the end product)
- 2 tsp Plain yogourt (must have live active cultures or this science experiment won’t work)
1. Pour milk into a sturdy pot and using a gradual heat bring it to a temperature of around 180ºF. While it is coming to temperature pour in the milk powder and stir. You don’t want lumps and you don’t want to scorch the bottom of the pot. So don’t be an idiot and walk away.
2. When the milk comes to temperature, take it off the heat and let it cool gradually. You need the liquid to drop down to a temperature in the 115-120ºF range. Any hotter and the live active cultures will become dead inactive cultures, and any cooler and they won’t do their thing. When the liquid has reached a suitable temperature (which takes about a half hour, depending on a number of variables) stir in your 2 tsp of room temperature plain yogourt. This inconsequential amount of yogourt is your starter, and with incubation time will yield enough yogourt to last you a week (or less).
3. Place a lid on your pot of milk and wrap it in a bath towel. The aim is to insulate the heat, allowing the cultures to multiply in a dark, quiet place. Put this wrapped package into a cool oven and don’t touch it for 10 or 12 hours.
4. Remove the towel and place the newly created yogourt in the fridge for a couple of hours to set. If you want “Greek-style” strain the works through a cheesecloth removing the whey. Or if you just want to eat it now, pour off a bit of the liquid that may be on the surface.
You can store it in the fridge in sterilized jars, but in my experience, the pot I made it in (with a tight-fitting lid) will suffice. And as long as you didn’t screw it up, it shouldn’t last too long before you need to make another batch.
Obviously it’s good with jam, or honey, or whatever other sweetener you’d like. I’m not sure if it’s ghetto or inventive, but sometimes I pour a dash of Ribena concentrate into a bowl of it for a sweet blackcurrant variation. There are many savory applications as well.
Isabel tried her hand at food styling for the above photo. Hence all the pink. Plain yogourt with blueberry jam, Ribena, honey, granola and strawberries.