Monday, September 08, 2008

Practicing Yogurt

The challenge -- and the joy -- in any discipline is to push yourself a little further in order to stretch your own limits and reach new viewpoints.

It's certainly true in my yoga routine, as I try to loosen muscles and stretch farther while at the same time finding myself more grounded. And it's true of my kitchen experiments, when a successful new recipe extends my skill base and gives me a sense of pride in learning to do something new for myself.

And with many of those disciplines, it helps to have a friend supporting you along the way, encouraging you as you move beyond your comfort zone.

Take the fair Titania as an example. For a number of years, she has been making her own yogurt at home, both to save money on the pre-packaged stuff and to feel a little more self-sufficient in providing for herself. She's incredibly fortunate in that her CSA includes locally-produced milk, so she knows the quality of her yogurt will be exceptional.

I've been meaning to follow in her footsteps for a while, but I just never made the time before now. This past week, though, I had an abundance of local whole milk in the refrigerator, as well as a good quality cream-top yogurt, and I thought it was time to learn.

I don't own a yogurt maker, and though I know the Renaissance Man would loan me his, I wanted to try my first round Titania's way: simmering the milk on the stove, adding it with a yogurt start to canning jars, mixing well, and then sealing and insulating the jars so that the yogurt can incubate at the appropriate temperature.

The fair Titania likes to pack her yogurt jars in her cooler, wrapped in towels, but I was too lazy to walk down to the basement for mine. Instead, I pulled out my ever-trusty canner.

I poured hot water into the bottom of the canner before adding the jar rack. Then, wrapping up a quart jar and a pint jar (both widemouth), I settled them carefully into the rack and covered them with the canner lid.

I set the entire canner on top of a thick fleece blanket draped on a chair, and I wrapped the blanket around the canner, letting it sit until morning (about 12 hours).

By morning it was still a little thin, so I added more water to the canner and wrapped it all up once more. By afternoon, though, the yogurt had thickened -- not as thick as commercial brands, but sufficiently -- so I was pleased with the results!

Though this photo is a little blurry, you can see that the yogurt started to separate after refrigeration, but stirring the yogurt just once brought up plenty of thick and creamy yogurt to enjoy.

I ended up using the pint in both a watermelon lassi and then pancakes, but that still leaves me with a quart for breakfasts. What a treat!

I'll have to keep practicing this new skill, but Titania is right -- it's easy and so satisfying to make!

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