This week’s breakfast offerings include homemade yogurt eaten with a spoonful of Plum-Cardamom Jam. Effing tasty. And who knew that homemade yogurt could be so simple to make? You, the human, provide the temperature control, and live yogurt cultures do the rest.
The procedure involves heating three cups of milk to 180 degrees, pouring the hot milk into a storage container, cooling to 110 degrees, then stirring in 2 generous teaspoons of live culture yogurt (I used Nancy’s). The trick is to maintain the mixture right around 110 degrees for the next 10 hours, without touching or jostling the container. Of course, you can buy machines specifically built just to make yogurt — just like you can buy actual yogurt — but I was looking to be a bit more resourceful than that.
I considered using the ‘warm’ setting on the slow cooker, but even that seemed adapted to cook live bacteria. So I went old school and put the container of hot milk in our old 1 gallon Igloo cooler, packed in tightly with two bottles of near-boiling water and a few clean kitchen towels, and left it alone for the day. Voila. The cultures firmed up the milk enough to call it yogurt, though it finished a bit runnier than store-bought, good for breakfast eating or smoothies. With some practice and perhaps a bit more attention to even heat I’m guessing a person could make yogurt firm enough for yogurt cheese.
Adapted loosely from Sandor Katz, whose buttermilk recipe looks even simpler, if you can locate live buttermilk cultures.
UPDATE: A second batch left to ferment overnight by mistake produced noticeably firmer yogurt. For the third and subsequent batches, I packed the cooler with Styrofoam peanuts instead towels, which helped hold in heat; there was still a feeling of warmth upon opening the cooler twelve hours later. These were the best batches of all.