yogurt making (shhh, it’s really easy)

Dear Wednesday, thank you for arriving and bringing the total joy of a new washer and dryer (three weeks without laundry is like being in college again) and the promise of more sun-sitting-weekends.

But the best part about midweek is homemade yogurt for breakfasts–making the week feel a little more “fancy.”

After Benoît de Korsak shared a gift of his yogurt with us at Cooking for Solutions, Jesse and I knew we wanted to use his milk too. We wanted to keep the integrity of what Saint Benoît is doing whole; especially, the admittance to seasons, difference, and natural production: “The cows’ milk naturally varies according to the season. For example, at some points of the year the cows’ milk contains more carotene and therefore the cream layer is a buttery yellow color. At other times of the year, the cream is whiter.” Yup, a product that isn’t stable or same-say because it’s real. 

With the slow food movements and whole food movements, I’d hoped to see this acceptance of inconsistencies articulated a bit more. When I make crackers, cheese, ice cream, anything at home, it almost never turns out identical to the last batch and it has a lot to do–not with the recipes–but with the whole ingredients, the weather, and the other variables. Thank goodness my coffee-friends and coffee-husband understand these variables (they make great dinner guests!).

So we picked up Saint Benoît milk to use with our yogurt starter and spent a day listening to music and standing around the stove with a thermometer.

In the past, I’ve used a crockpot method because I like the no fuss of it. At least, I thought it sounded simpler than making it outside of the crockpot (didn’t need to find an incubator since the crockpot served that purpose too). But Vanessa Barrington’s D.I.Y Delicious and Yvette van Bowen’s Home Made use such irreverent voices in their books that I was like, “pshhh, I don’t need a crockpot when I have a stove.”

This is the fun right: don’t use a yogurt machine, don’t use a crockpot, see what you can do with the stuff your grandmother did it with.

Scratch cooking  is something I do because it makes me remember that what seems complicated is usually pretty easy.

More than that, it makes me more capable of creating variations and innovating. Yogurt making isn’t something I’m super proud of doing, it’s something that reminds me I can do all the other things I’m proud of (like that fiction piece I’ve been working on for two years that seems to be staring me in the face daily).

I used the recipe from D.I.Y. Delicious because it was a sunny day and the “incubator” for the proliferating bacteria was my own backyard…like I said, easy. After getting to the right temperature, the milk was put into jars, the starter yogurt was whisked in, and the jars were wrapped in dark plastic bags to sit in the sun. Jesse and I sat in the sun and incubated a bit too.

It’s not the best yogurt, but it’s easy to make, great added to granola, and fun to think about what you can add next time (we were talking about lemon this morning). Jesse was, at breakfast, super proud of his efforts (he measured the temperature like a pro–making sure harmful bacteria is killed must be his calling or something).

Homemade yogurt on the left is perfect with coffee. On the bottom, add in some blueberries and, if you like, some rhubarb / rose simple syrup (I made too much this weekend and it’s amazing how great it tastes in EVERYTHING from soda water to ice cream).

I’m pretty sure this is the lore of yogurt production: milk accidently left out overnight was, appropriately, infiliatred by naturally occurring bacteria and the result tasted good, didn’t make anyone sick, and kept well. Good news for health appreciators, the lactose is easier to digest too. A win / win.

If you want to get fancy, it’s: Streptococcus thermophilus, bacteria that like warmth (which is why milk is heated and incubated) alongside Lactobacillus bulgaricus, bacteria that change lactose to lactic acid.

In the states, we’re pretty behind in yogurt and we don’t haven’t really caught on to including it in sauces, marinades and cheeses. We’ll get there.

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