Culture Club; unplugged
I’m still catching up with my blog reading, but I did notice a recurrent them of late: lots of people were feeling overwhelmed or not just feeling the sewing/blogging mojo. Peeps be a little backed up of late. Well, let’s get things moving along. And what better to facilitate than some homemade yogurt? *By popular demand, here’s how I made my yogurt and farmer’s cheese. Please note that I’ve only begun my yogurt and cheese making, and don’t claim to be an expert. I’m just going to lay out my method, which is a combo of other methods I saw on the web. It worked for me, my altitude and kitchen. And I’m pretty psyched, because I eat yogurt practically every morning, and I’m also a cheeseaholic. But I hate milk, so purchasing a half gallon of milk was kind of weird. Like, just ring me up already so I can toss my canvas bag over that carton.
- Milk. I bought a half gallon carton of organic whole milk, so that means I have organic whole fat yogurt. I never buy whole fat yogurt, always organic fat free. So this week I might experiment by using fat free milk. I’m not anti-fat, as long as it’s good fat. So, you know, whatever. But because I eat yogurt regularly, I still want to experiment. Good news: my whole fat homemade goodness filled me up in a much smaller portion than usual. ***UPDATE*** I used 2% milk and it worked great. A little less thick, which I don’t mind, but if that’s an issue for you, grab your muslin & colander.
- Yogurt. This is where your culture comes from. I decided to buy whole fat for this experiment, but if the fat free yogurt works, I’ll just use that as starters from here on out. Again, mine was organic, plain, and just yogurt. No fillers, binders, etc.
- Pot. Crock pot, regular pot, whatevs. Make sure it’s heavy and retains heat well.
- Thermometer. I used an instant read pen-type, but discovered in the process that this kind would be handy. You just pop it in, set the alarm for your required temp, and don’t have to check every 10 freaking minutes.
- A warm place. Like the inside of your oven. Possibly a heating pad. And a thick towel.
- Time. Patience. Go sew something, read a book, sleep.
Yield: One half gallon of milk turned into approximately 64 oz/4 lb of yogurt. Which is two of the big store-bought tubs. I say approximately because we each ate a serving, then I put it into my biggest Pyrex (1.75 qt/1.65 l) for storage, and it filled it perfectly. The milk cost ˜$4 at Whole Foods. One tub of yogurt typically runs me $3. So, yeah, the savings is about $2, but then I factor in all of those plastic yogurt tubs, even if they’re recycled, and the fact that it’s kind of effortless, and I’m sold.
- Heat milk to 180-185° F (82-85° C). Keep it there for 15-20 min. My first attempt was in my crock pot. It took forever, because my crock pot is pretty big, and the half gallon of milk didn’t fill it. By the time it got to temp, I was so jazzed that I added my yogurt starter immediately. And immediately swore to myself, realizing my mistake. This batch was turned into cheese, but more on that later. I started over using a heavy pot on the stove. I chose a size that didn’t leave lots of left over room, and the milk heated much more quickly. Just don’t let it scald. Heat it on a mid-low temp.
- Let milk cool to 110° F (43° C).
- Remove a cup or two of milk. Whisk in 2 tbsp of room temp yogurt. Don’t whisk in circles, but side to side, up and down. Return yogurt/milk mix back to pot or crock pot or whatever vessel you’re using, and incorporate thoroughly. ***UPDATE*** I forgot to mention that I skim off the top layer. I’ve read it isn’t necessary, but I didn’t want that layer in my yogurt.
- Keep this mixture at 110° for ˜7 hours. If your oven is warm enough, you can cover with a lid & wrap in a warm towel, flick on the light, shut the door. I did that for the botched batch. For the batch in the pot, I set it on a heating pad on the low setting, covered with a warm towel.
- Do not disturb. Let the culture club party on. Go experiment with hair gel and eyeliner.
I noticed at midnight that my heating pad had automatically turned off. Doh! Seven hours was going to be up at 1 am, but at that point I didn’t know how long the pad had been off. So I just went to bed, and the yogurt was warm and ready in the morning. It’s fine to let it sit out a few extra hours. And the longer it’s out, the more tangy it will become. It also becomes more tangy in the fridge, but at a slower rate, as the cultures are working more slowly. In the morning, the pot on the heating pad was filled with thick, yummy, warm yogurt, with just a little whey on top. Feel free to strain in a muslin-lined colander for a thicker Greek style. I like my yogurt plain, unsweetened. I eat it with Ry’s homemade granola, Bob’s Red Mill muesli, or blended up in a smoothie. Berries or a banana are sweet enough for me, but honey is delish, too. *** I froze an ice cube tray with starters for future batches. Two tbsp fit into each section. Basically, if I never let the yogurt spoil, I can simply keep buying milk and making new batches.
The pot in the oven was filled with thinner warm yogurt, which I could have eaten. But I wanted to experiment. So I poured it into a glass 9 x 12 pan and baked it for an hour at 400° F (204° C). The whey and curds separated, and I let it cool. Then strained, saving the whey for baking (added protein, nice texture). The result was a really mild cheese, not quite cottage cheese, almost like ricotta. So I’m calling it farmer’s cheese. I don’t think we’ll be able to eat it all, but so far it’s great with chestnut honey, jam, a polenta/kale/red sauce dish. I bet it would be great with some herbs mixed in. I’d love to try some aged cheese at some point, but that’s a whole other world.
*If popular demand equals two inquiries, then this completely fits the bill.
In other news, my hits have been nutters the last couple of days. Looks like my lapped zip tutorial has shown up in a few spots. Cool! I’m going to try to finish catching up with everyone, then unplug for 24 hours. From sundown today to sundown Saturday, it’s National Day of Unplugging. I’m all for that. I’m meeting up with a friend tomorrow at a place I’ve never been. So I’ll have to write down directions now. And trust them. And if traffic makes one of us late, just wait. You know, like you had to in the not-so-distant past. Enjoy looking up, instead of down at a little magic box in my hand. Novel idea, huh?
Have a fantastic weekend, everyone!!!