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Culture Club; unplugged

March 23, 2012

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.

Okay, supplies:

  • 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!!!

27 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2012 10:34 am

    Lavender, get out of my head. I hate milk and love cheese tooooo! And I eat yogurt every day! I wonder how to make Greek style yogurt, that’s my favorite.

    • March 23, 2012 12:15 pm

      Just strain the yogurt once it’s done. Greek style is simply yogurt that’s been strained, so there’s less whey :) Of course, there are the “fake” Greek yogurts, where they add binders and such as thickeners. But you don’t want that.

  2. March 23, 2012 10:57 am

    i got all excited for some boy george. but cheese is an excellent consolation prize.

    • March 23, 2012 12:16 pm

      Listen to some Boy George while making cheese…win/win!

      • March 23, 2012 12:52 pm

        I think it’s going to be my mental soundtrack for the afternoon.
        karma karma karma karma karma chameleon… you come and go….

  3. March 23, 2012 11:38 am

    Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeese! Hooray! Enjoy your unplugged day! I will try to participate, although I don’t see myself finishing my homework for tomorrow early enough… :(

    • March 23, 2012 12:18 pm

      Homework is important, and I don’t want to hear “but it was national unplugged day!” Hehe! I admit, I’m much more addicted to my phone/computer than I EVER thought I’d be… maybe I’ll start doing this weekly.

      • March 23, 2012 12:30 pm

        That’s a great idea! It’s crazy how we’ve become totally dependent on devices that we didn’t have just a few years ago! It would be nice to break away from that, even if it’s only one day a week. As usual, you are a trailblazer and a kick-ass lady pioneer!

  4. March 23, 2012 11:55 am

    I’ve never made yogurt but I’ll have to give it a try. I’m a quick type of cook, wanting to make meals in the least amount of time, but something about the time it takes to make this seems cathartic

    • March 23, 2012 12:20 pm

      I vary between liking process and needtoeatnow! Guess it all depends on how hungry I am :) But the yogurt kind of makes itself. With one of those thermometers I linked to, it would be even more painless.

  5. March 23, 2012 12:12 pm

    You are so freaking awesome!! i really wanna try this now… so bad! I go through these weird yogourt phases where I can’t get enough of it for awhile and then suddenly i want nothing to do with it. LOL. I’ll wait til I go into my ‘can’t get enough’ phase and then make a whole pile of it :)

    I’ve been in a total creative slump too lately; slow food is such a lovely remedy isn’t it? :)

    I also downloaded a recipe for mayo and am so gonna try that too!! Homemade garlic aioli, green goddess…. yummers!!

    Yay for unplugging! I love this concept… I usually do that at least partially on the weekends, but it’d be nice to just turn EVERYTHING off for a day :)

    • March 23, 2012 12:23 pm

      I’ve been trying to do partials on the weekend, too. But it’s still tough. Maybe I can incorporate a weekly 24 hour block into my life :) Cooking is such a nice way to let your mind work through different processes.

      Mmmm… aioli! That came next, after mayo, in Mastering the Art… maybe I’ll try that :)

  6. March 23, 2012 12:50 pm

    Very cool, I appreciate the yogurt post. I’ll be trying that at some point, it’s good to hear what worked for you.

    • March 25, 2012 9:17 am

      Good luck! It was super easy, once the correct temps were reached :)

  7. misscrayolacreepy permalink
    March 23, 2012 2:57 pm

    This is part of the reason why you are so awesome! Cheese AND yogurt, yum!

  8. March 23, 2012 7:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing this, a lot of families in South Asia make their own yogurt, butter and paneer (kind of a cottage cheese but not really because there’s no fermentation i.e. no bacteria or rennett). You can make paneer by warming up some whole milk over the stove and squeezing lime juice (lemon will do at a pinch) in it. Then stir and leave it on the heat till most of the liquid has evaporated. Another option is hanging it over the sink in a muslin. The latter decreases the fat content as the lipids strain thorough along with the water.

    • March 25, 2012 9:18 am

      Awesome! I love paneer, and will definitely be trying this!!!

  9. March 24, 2012 3:47 am

    Hehe, well, glad to be one of the two that inquired about the yogurt making, cause this is awesome! I bake bread a lot, but never ventured into yogurt or cheese, however, I love yogurt, especially greek, with just a drizzle of honey or agave. And since I’m a frugal, old lady at heart, this DIY yogurt speaks to me.
    Thanks for posting this!

    • March 25, 2012 9:20 am

      My husband is the baker, and once I discovered the whey could be used in bread for a zero waste endeavor… sold! Good luck :)

  10. March 24, 2012 9:12 pm

    Great tutorial, Lavender! Home make yoghurt is the besssttttt.

    Note for the “I have literally no equipment” crowd: I’ve made yoghurt before, but I didn’t have an oven I trusted or any heating pads or anything. I put the mixture into glass bottles and placed them in one of those insulated re-usable grocery bags with a zip closure, and filled the bag with a spare blanket and newspaper, and left it for about 10 hours. It worked great! I’ve also heard that old thermoses work great – I’ve picked one up out thrifting but haven’t tried it yet.

    • March 25, 2012 9:25 am

      Awesome idea! Anything that retains heat would be a perfect vessel. We rent, and our current oven is electric (BOO!!!), so I was fine leaving a towel-covered pot in there with only the light on. But I totally get your concern, and would be hesitant if we had gas. I think the heating pad helps in a cooler environment, but in the middle of the summer, I’ll def go without. Especially because the pad had turned off, and my yogurt still came out fine – I just left it twice as long.

  11. March 25, 2012 1:28 pm

    thanks for the how-to! we eats tons o’ yogurt at my house and i’d love to try making my own.

    • March 26, 2012 8:29 am

      It’s so freaking easy! The 2% milk worked out really well, too :)

  12. March 26, 2012 8:23 am

    Yay!! Yogurt making is fun – and satisfying. We were big on that a bit ago – but like another commenter said I go through yogurt phases… and this is one of my “off”phases. I think its a warm weather thing for me – you just can’t eat heavy breakfasts when you wake up to 90 degrees! I’m totally intrigued by the cheese though. When I was on my yogurt making kick I was also reading up on how to make mozzarella – it looks pretty easy.

    I just came back from a bit of a long weekend. And the unplugging was necessary – but holy moly ya’ll have been busy!! My bloglovin and google reader are overflowing!! Its a bit overwhelming actually…

    • March 26, 2012 8:29 am

      I hear that! Heavy breakfasts in a hot climate don’t do it for me. Unless I’m hungover and someone is bringing me a plate of migas :) Good news is, the 2% worked out great!

      Uh-oh… now I’m scared to check my reader! I need to try to keep up daily, because if I don’t, I get overwhelmed, too.


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