Wednesday, September 16, 2009

from scratch

There are a lot of things to love about the Farmhouse kitchen/dining room: many windows, the continually-replenished (thanks, Erynn!) vase of Double Delight roses from the backyard on the table, the proliferation of fruits and veggies on the counter from friends and our own soil...

And then there are the things made in this kitchen - under the influence of favorite cookbooks, mothers consulted by phone, and the exigencies of having a whole row of arugula ready to harvest a month before our CSA boxes are ready to go. One theme of our culinary endeavors has been eliminating a few items from our grocery list by learning how to make them ourselves. We’ve been enjoying a steady supply of homemade hummus, bread, salsa, soup stock, and corn tortillas.

It is in this spirit that I write this blog post on the kitchen counter next to a pot of milk heating on the stove. The latest addition to our homemade repertoire is yogurt. I’ve made my own a few times before, but it always turned out runny (European style). Before we purchased a fancy yogurt maker to achieve a thicker yogurt, I poked around on the internet to see if we couldn’t figure it out without buying another appliance.

Friends, it is do-able. Here’s how:

I start with a quart of 2% milk and a few tablespoons of plain yogurt left out for a few hours to reach room temperature. My secret to thicker yogurt is adding about ¾s of a cup of nonfat dry milk powder to the 2%. Next comes the step I’m on now – heating the milk over medium/low heat without stirring and watching it so I can catch it just before it boils (looking for bubbles around the edges and steam rising). In a minute I’ll take it off the burner and pour the milk into a non-metal container for it to cool to a bacteria-friendly temperature. Most recipes say you need a thermometer at this point…you don’t. You can tell the milk has cooled sufficiently when you can keep your index finger in it for 20 seconds. Don’t forget to remove the skin that forms on top of the milk. I then mix a few spoonfuls of the warm milk with the yogurt and add this mixture slowly to the rest of the warm milk and stir a bit.

Then it’s time to incubate. You can search the internet for the method that best suits your kitchen. What I did last week that worked quite well was heated the oven up for a few minutes and then turned it off and popped in a pan full of boiling water (and the bowl of yogurt-to-be, of course) and left it overnight. The idea is to keep the bowl at about 115 degrees for about eight hours. If your milk hasn’t become yogurt after 8-10 hours, it’s not going to – it just gets more and more sour.

Finally, refrigerate the yogurt for a few hours before eating!

Next items: granola, applesauce, cheese…!


  1. Thanks, Sarah. Who would have thought it, but I feel like I could try to make yogurt now!

  2. A word of advice for instruction-dependent novices (like me, who just now messed up my milk mix): Don't mix in yoghurt with the milk and milk powder before boiling. That kills the good bacteria in the yoghurt. Wait til the milk boils and cools slightly, then add in yoghurt (as you will realize if you read the above directions carefully).