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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.
OK, so I’ve been holding back on two of the best things I learned about on our recent trip to New England. First is that my lovely sister-in-law Michele is pregnant, and closely related is that she and her husband have come upon a local food so addictive that they call it “crack” behind closed doors.
I’m glad to report that the link here is chocolate milk, not crack babies. And not just any chocolate milk, but the stuff distributed by Thatcher Farm in Milton, Mass., which originates from Hatchland Dairy just across the N.H. border. Thatcher makes a weekly delivery of milk and cream to back porch iceboxes in the south Boston area, and we had an opportunity to sample some of the goods.
The recap: one jug of chocolate milk, five thirsty inlaws, and the velvety stuff was gone in two minutes flat. We’d subscribe to the weekly delivery too, if we were any closer. And happily, this is one drink Michele won’t have to give up during her pregnancy — I’m thinking with all that high-quality protein and fat she’d probably even be justified in claiming it as nourishment for the baby.
After reviving our supply of refrigerated bread dough last month, we’re back on a pizza-making jag. This week’s toppings include tomato sauce and chopped sweet peppers from the garden, fresh basil from a greenhouse in Duvall, and mozzarella from Greenbank Farm on Whidbey Island, which we get at the co-op. On a good day we can get one of these puppies into the oven in less than ten minutes. Bake at 450 degrees until the cheese is browned and you’ve got yourself some solid local eats.
Check out a prior recipe for pizza with caramelized onions, rosemary, and goat cheese, an equally delicious if slightly more labor-intensive pizza that’s great as an appetizer or for a meal.
Farmers markets are re-opening all over the city right now. My personal favorite, Columbia City, started up again today, so I headed south after work to get in on the action. When I arrived there was a terrific crowd on hand and plenty of foot traffic from the neighborhood. That friendly feel is just one of the many things I love about this market, though you would also have to count the unbelievable corn, peaches, and plums we found there last summer. And Columbia City just feels closer to the earth to me. A number of farmers were selling plant starts today, including giant tomato seedlings. No fewer than four different Hmong farmers were tying up big bouquets of their flowers at reasonable prices.
I circled the joint a couple of times getting the old feel back and taking gleeful note of the asparagus and snap peas on offer everywhere. Port Madison had already run out of their luscious Sea Stack cheese, a runny, creamy Camebert-like round that is just to die for. “We had no idea it would be so busy,” the nice young woman said. “This being opening day and all.” Personally I was thrilled for the variety, for the kale and raab and broccoli and cauliflower. One farmer even had big bins of peanuts. Who knew?
It was all so exciting that I couldn’t help adding a bunch of young, gorgeous chard leaves to my purchases. Riding the bus home I reminded myself how I couldn’t give away enough chard last summer, we had so much of it. How in February I’d pulled up the overwintered chard stumps for just that reason. I could be picking my own had I only practiced a little restraint back then, I realized. But I got over it. Because there’s just something so wonderful about the first of the season.
People say cheese isn’t hard to make. And being fanatical about cheese, making my own seemed like the obvious thing to do.
I had asked for (and received) cheesemaking books and supplies for Christmas. So I hit the farmers market early on Saturday and bought the best milk available, planning to make mozzarella. I hustled home, scanned the quick instructions, combined ingredients — and nothing happened. But patience is a virtue, one I could use more of, and eventually the curds and whey began to separate. After the suggested interval elapsed I heated everything and a ton of whey appeared. I squished curds, poured out whey, heated curds again, squished, poured, heated, etc. Amazingly, it became a ball of mozzarella.
The taste was quite good. The texture? Not so, and every bite squeaked. Hmm.