yogurt, part one

Leading with a success story.

I’m feeling confident these days, chiclets, what with the tremendous success of the Honey-Lime and Brown Sugar-Red Wine Vinegar mustards, and not-terrible almond butter, and the shakshula (poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce from the recipe at Smitten Kitchen, which was yummy AND looked super pretty). Then I made scones and lemon curd last weekend, which were fab. (I’ve been informed that this is the secret to awesome scones: 1. Use buttermilk instead of water. Ok, well, I’d say 1. Use a mix, if you don’t happen to keep all those dry ingredients in your kitchen, which I don’t, and 2. Use buttermilk instead of water.) I made the lemon curd from scratch, which involved squeezing a lot of lemons and cooking it with sugar and eggs and butter, and I did not mess it up! Though I did cut the recipe in half, because it originally called for 12 lemons to make 2 cups of lemon curd, and WTF? am I running a bakery now? Who can eat 2 cups of lemon curd in a week? I only finished 1 cup because I took some to my book club and then the rest to a family breakfast. I got a general thumbs up from those people, however, so it goes in the Win column.

It’s true these were mitigated by the middling successes/general failures, if one needs to use labels, of the marshmallows* (all three of them, which DID taste like marshmallows but with the chewy consistency of, say, octopus) and the Burned Walnut Brandy, which Other Half supportively agreed “tastes like alcohol”, followed by supportively questioning, “what’s that aftertaste? Some kind of nut?”

But there’s some kind of analogy about horses and getting on them again after getting thrown off, not that I would do this literally because I don’t like horses anyway and I don’t think I could be held responsible for what I would do if one actually threw me off, but the point is you shouldn’t be permanently put off by your middling successes/general failures and face your fears. Also, stay away from horses.

To wit: for some time now, I’ve been obsessed with the idea of trying to make yogurt, other than the fact that I’m scared of poisoning myself.

Other Half is adamantly against it. “We can just buy yogurt, and no one has to die or waste milk,” is something along the lines of his argument. People who make their own yogurt, however, are always telling me how it’s so much better than store bought yogurt, and “it’s so easy! Anyone can do this, trust me.” (I’m a little concerned these are the same people who can make apple butter in their sleep, but I’m not going to be put off! See above re: getting back on horses.)

So last Sunday, I pour a quart of milk (and I used whole, because the recipe said whole milk was best) into a saucepan, heating to an almost-boil, then poured it into a bowl and added the candy thermometer so I could monitor the point when it reached 110 degrees. Meanwhile, I turned on the oven for 10 minutes, turned it off, stirred in the starter yogurt when the milk reached the right temperature, covered it with a damp towel, and set in the oven overnight.

The next morning I opened the oven door with an excited flourish! to find: a bowl of cold milk. Yeah, it didn’t work. At all.

I email two of my friends who make their own yogurt all the time. What did I do wrong?

“Oven was too hot,” said one. “You killed the starter yogurt cultures. Next time, leave it on for only a few minutes.”

“Oven was too cold,” said the other. “You need warmer weather in general. Also, make sure you use organic yogurt.”

“You don’t need organic yogurt,” said first friend. “Any kind works. But did you use plastic wrap? Plastic wrap is key.”

I didn’t use plastic wrap, the recipe only mentioned the towel, and I still don’t understand how many minutes I’m supposed to leave the oven on for before I turn it off. In fact, my recipe specifically says, “Don’t get hung up on the temperature of the warm place.” But apparently I DO need to get hung up on it, because it’s VITALLY IMPORTANT. If it requires warm weather, how do people make yogurt in the winter? If it can’t get too hot, does that mean you can’t make yogurt in tropical countries? Why don’t cookbook authors explain these things??

Here’s my compromise: I’m going to wait to try again until this weekend, which is supposed to be warmer. I’ll think about the organic thing. I’ll turn on the oven for exactly 4 minutes and then turn it off. And I’ll break out the plastic wrap. Updates soon.

*(I do have another recipe for marshmallows, but didn’t get around to trying it before spring and now it’s too late. I don’t drink hot chocolate in warm weather. It’s just not right.)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Polly Scott
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 09:39:24

    HA! My father always uses that old horse saying: What’s the first thing you do when a horse bucks you off – you get “write” back on. Oh, my. What’s the first thing you do when you realize you have your father’s terrible sense of humor – therapy?

    Reply

  2. Trackback: yogurt, part deux « angelaperalta

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