Thursday, February 14, 2008

homemade yogurt

About a year and a half ago my life was in the midst of a long, drawn-out move. months and months of everything in a box in a pile in the corner. no circular saw, no sewing machine, just some clothes and a mattress and my frantic, anxiety-ridden fingers tapping the table, desperate to get into something.

it's these most desperate times, the times when you can do nothing but take a few deep breaths and let your eyes sink back in your head, that i nuzzle up to my consistent companion, the warmest place in the house, the place the knows my deepest desires, the kitchen. i had been wanting for a while to learn how to ferment my own wine, and what better time to learn the more stable side of patient anticipation, then a time when i felt so wholly ungrounded.

i started with Sandor Ellix Katz's book, Wild Fermentation, which i would highly reccommend to anyone, whether you're just getting started or you're already a fermetnation enthusiast. i started with red wine vinegar (which, to this day, i still have going with the same 'mother'), and since have made plum honey mead, maple honey mead, white wine vinegar, sourdough starter, dairy yogurt, soy yogurt, saurkraut, ginger ale, sweet potato soda, hard apple cider, kombucha, and probably a few others that i'm forgetting. i still have my eye on some spicy kimchi, miso, pickles and beer.

i most consistently make yogurt (aside from the few things like kombucha and vinegar that are always quietly chugging along in various jars in various corners of the kitchen), and i've made it in a good handful of different ways. sometimes i sweeten it with honey or maple syrup or homemade jam, and sometimes i don't sweeten it at all and i eat it with lentils and cucumbers. sometimes i strain it for a thick greek style yogurt and sometimes it turns out runny and i stir it into smoothies or drink it out of the jar like kefir. i've tried soy, rice, cow and coconut milk. it's an experiment each time, a micro/macro collaboration, a guessing game, with varied but consistently yummy results. this week i made soy coconut with maple and honey yogurt to go with a new granola recipe i got from orangette.

here's my recipe adapted from the yogurt making instructions in Wild Fermentation. My measurements are guesses and you could substitute almost any kind of milk or sweetener. the result might be thinner/thicker, sweeter/sour, but if you continue to experiment, you'll most definitely find your favorites. this is my favorite sweet non-dairy concoction.

1 carton soy milk (the standard tetra-pak kind, whatever brand you like)

1 can coconut milk (you know i like the fatty kind, but you could use the "lite" if you want, however more fat seems to result
in thicker yogurt)

1 heaping tbs honey

1 heaping tbs maple syrup (it's best to start slow with the sweeteners, then stir and taste your mixture while it's heating up. it will be about the same sweetness when it's finished, unlike other ferments that eat up all the sweetness during the fermentation)

1 tbs pre-existing yogurt with live and active cultures, set out for a bit to get it to around room temp (can be homemade, store-bought etc. you can also use different milks and the cultures will still work, although you might not want to contaminate your soy yogurt with milk cultures if you're sharing it with your vegan friends)

mix the milks and the sweeteners in a saucepan on med-med/hi heat stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't burn. if you have a candy or deep fry thermometer, pop it in, you're trying to get it to around 180 degrees, or until small bubbles start to form. you don't really want it to boil, but if you space out and it does, just keep trucking, it'll still work. at around 180, take it off the heat, put a lid on it and let it sit until it cools to about 110 degrees, or as katz describes, til you can comfortably dunk a (clean) finger in. i find this takes about an hour. at 110, you mix in your spoonful of live yogurt and stir it well because you want to be sure the cultures distribute and all your milk gets yog-y. then you pour it into jars and put the jars into a cooler. if there's room i like to put some towels in there around the jars and sometimes i put other jars that just have hot water in there as well because you want it to stay warm for about 12 hours. then you leave the cooler be and let the microorganisms work their magic (yogurt doesn't like to be jostled or moved around while it's fermenting). after 12 hours, pull it out of the cooler and eat it, strain it, mix in some fruit or veggies, and stick it in the fridge. when you're about out, you can use the last spoonful to make your next batch!


chantal said...

wow. i never knew i could make yogurt. maybe one of these days i'll try.