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Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Making yogurt is easy, affordable, and (if you’re a kitchen nerd like me) fun. It can also give you a much better product than you’ll find in stores. The process is simple: heat milk to get rid of existing bacteria and denature the proteins, cool it, then add good bacteria and give it some time to work. That’s it.

I like writing, so this recipe will be wordier than strictly necessary. Don’t let that make the process feel daunting! It isn’t.

The tricky bits, and there aren’t many, are in the details. It helps to have a thermometer. It helps to have an oversized heavy-bottomed pot, a few things like a canning funnel and conveniently-sized jars, kitchen towels to help keep the yogurt warm as it cultures, and a Post-it to keep you from hitting the oven’s on button with your yogurt inside (ask me how I know!).

None of those things are necessary, however.

Search for information on yogurt-making and you’ll find a variety of alternate recipes and methods, from counter-top to Crockpot. We’ve distilled that information and found a way that makes thick, tangy lactose-free yogurt and works for us. Tweak at will!

 

Yogurt, Plain but not Boring

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon/4 Liters milk, whole or 2%
  • ½ C. plain yogurt with live and active cultures (~2 T. per quart)

1. Scald the milk: add milk to a large pot over low to medium-low heat. Cover and heat to 195℉, or until just simmering with bubbles forming around the edges.
2. Denature the protein: reduce heat to the lowest setting and hold the milk at 190-195℉ for 15 minutes.
3. Cool: remove from heat, uncover and cool to 115℉, or pleasantly warm to the skin.
4. Inoculate: Preheat the oven to 115℉, then turn off. Add a half cup of the milk to your yogurt starter, whisk together, then add the mixture to the milk and whisk until smooth. Leave in pot or move milk to containers. Fill one jar with ½ C. to use as starter for your next batch.
5. Culture: If using jars, place on a cookie sheet. Insulate containers with kitchen towels. Place in oven or other warm spot. Let sit for 6 to 20 hours, then store in the refrigerator.

Transfer the starter to the refrigerator after ~6 hours to keep bacteria healthy. Longer cultures produce thicker and tangier yogurt. If you’re lactose-intolerant, culture for 18 to 20 hours to give the bacteria time to digest the lactose for you. No pills necessary!

Bacteria at work. Yum.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Those are the basics. For a distillation of the tips and tricks we’ve learned over the years, read on!

Notes:

  • You can make yogurt with lower-fat milks but the resulting taste tends to be chalky and not as nice. We use 2% because Mr. Man is reasonable. I prefer whole milk myself;)
  • We bump this up to 5+ liters of milk (that’s four bags if you’re in Canada) but keep the amount of starter the same; it works fine.
  • For your starter, you want a plain yogurt with minimal additives and no sweeteners. We’ve had the best luck with more industrial-strength brands like Dannon or Stonyfield or (in Canada) Astro or Western than with some of the boutique varieties. There are other culture sources (like chili peppers!) but the grocery store is the easiest way to get started. Whatever you choose, you want bacterial cultures that are tough and ready to work. Rawr!
  • The heating and cooling cycles are somewhat time-consuming. I don’t recommend rushing the heating part of this process as that way lies hard-to-clean pans and nasty flavors, but you can speed cooling by sitting the pot in a sink of cold water. Be careful not to splash or otherwise contaminate the milk.
  • There are ways to make mesophilic yogurt at room temperature without the heating and cooling cycle but this thermophilic method works for us.
  • Precise measurements aren’t required. You need enough starter for the bacteria to get off on the right foot, but as long as you have live cultures and eliminate any competitors by heating the milk, the good bacteria will have room to work. If the yogurt isn’t thickening as fast as you like, feel free to start your next batch with an extra tablespoon or so of starter, or give it another hour or two to set up.
  • The longevity of your starter will depend on the strength of the original bacterial strain and how you treat it. We often go six or more months before buying replacement starter, and we make yogurt about once a week. If your finished product isn’t as thick as before, takes longer to set up or (heaven forfend) smells off, it’s time for new starter. We keep the starter in its own container to avoid contamination, try not to let it culture longer than ~6-8 hours, and whisper encouragements. Your mileage may vary.
  • The jars we use (see below) are perfectly sized for our needs (Mr. Man strains one for breakfast, I now use two per smoothie) but you can use any option you like so long as it’s clean and non-reactive. You could re-use quart-sized yogurt containers or, if plastic isn’t your thing, mason jars, jam jars or the pot you used to make it.
  • If you like additives, add them just before serving. Jam, honey, fruit or other flavors are great additions.
  • Straining the yogurt to make a Greek-style thick version is also easy. Use a yogurt strainer, a bag of cheesecloth in a strainer over a bowl or with a filter in your drip coffee maker.
  • Strained yogurt is a great base for dip too. I like to add grated cucumber, lemon, minced garlic, salt, pepper and herbed Boursin with a sprinkling of bourbon-smoked paprika.

Optional: for your information only, here is the list of the tools we use to make yogurt:

  • 8-quart stainless pot
  • remote thermometer
  • stainless whisk
  • stainless cup measure
  • canning funnel
  • glass jars with lids
  • cookie sheet
  • kitchen towels
  • yogurt strainer
  • one yellow Post-it

We didn’t get all of these things at once, but as we realized we needed them and that we were in it for the yogurt long haul. I’ve found the remote thermometer to be the most useful tool for this, as it lets us be precise and to do other things while the milk is coming to temperature. We use an older version of this one, but there are a lot of options out there. Your needs may vary!

For even more information on the technique and science of making yogurt, I recommend these sources:

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A friend with a shared love for Harry Potter sent me a link the other day. Some creative and determined person decided to make a Weasley clock.*
The magical ‘Harry Potter’ location clock exists in DIY form

For those who may have missed this detail from the HP book and/or movie, the Weasley clock is a magical JK Rowling invention that tracks each Weasley family member’s location and displays it on an antique clock face.

Rowling thought it up, and a Muggle made it real. How cool is that?

So with thanks to my friend, today’s installment of #ThingsILike is the real-world power of fiction.

*

“If you just focus on what you know, you’re blinding yourself to new opportunities.”
— Tyler Jacks, MIT

There are a lot of discussions of this topic out there, both contemporary and historical, but it’s a point I like to touch on periodically. A writer imagines a thing and someone else finds a way to make it real.

That’s magic right there.

This applies to specific items like the clock but also to everything from emotional states to broader goals. Want to generate ideas, stir up communal interest, and apply creativity to complex problems like living in space long-term? Tap the power of fiction:
The White House Wants To Use Science Fiction To Settle The Solar System

How to get into space? Excite the minds of young (and not so young) people with stirring tales of adventures in space. This applies to stories from Asimov, Clarke and other Golden Age of Science Fiction authors, but also to more recent blockbusters like Andy Weir’s The Martian.

The latter was particularly good at building future versions of current technologies, and NASA was happy to help Weir build his fictional (for now) world from the Popular Science article on the support NASA gave Ridley Scott as he turned the book into a blockbuster movie:

If you want to understand why it is that NASA loves The Martian and is so gung ho for this movie, you have to realize that this movie more or less presents exactly their future vision, minus all the drama.

*

I’ve cited this quote before but it’s so fitting I’ll use it again:

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

That’s the power of fiction.

———

* There may be other such clocks out there (in fact, I hope there are) but this is the version that caught my attention. Feel free to build more!

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I’m in the mood for something positive. In that vein, here’s the start of what will probably be an irregular series of Things I Like. No sponsors, no kickbacks, just a sampling of things that I find useful or fun or funny or sweet.

As I’m writing this just after lunch, today’s Thing I Like is full-fat lemon yogurt from Riviera Petit Pots. I stumbled across this product at the grocery store while searching for a dessert that would nevertheless let me recover from a not-so-minor bout of holiday gluttony, and I’m glad I did.

This fine yogurt comes in the cutest glass bottles* (they even link recipes for foods to refill them with), and they sell reasonably-priced reusable lids to boot. The Laiterie Chalifoux company was established in 1920 and is based in Quebec (sorry, non-Canadians, I think they are a northern delight only, at least for now**). While they also make cheese and butters and creams, I’ve only found the yogurt so far. Eyes, stay on the lookout!

* I’ve liked glass bottles since the day my mother took us on a bottle hunting trip and I found a green glass medicine flask from the 1800s, miraculously still whole and wedged between the roots of a tree.

** Don’t have access to this or another really good yogurt? Don’t despair, make your own. It’s easy and more affordable than buying it from the store, and so much better. For the lactose-intolerant among us (yeah, that’s me), making your own lets you “cook” the lactose out of the final product. I find 18 hours or so does the trick.

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“To succeed in life, you need two things: ignorance and confidence.”

— Mark Twain

We spent the weekend refinishing the deck. The wood was a mess, half covered with multiple layers of thick, splintering stain and half exposed to the elements. It was time. The only problem was that I’d never refinished a deck before.

Did I let that stop me? Nope. It helps that Mr Man is ridiculously handy but still. I took Mark Twain’s quote to heart and jumped in, and now, days later, the splinters and uneven steps and flaking are no more. I learned how to use an industrial sander, tons of power tools, and now know that Onion Goggles are perfect for jobs that result in large clouds of airborne particulates. The wood is now smooth, the finish even.

Is it perfect? Well, no. But it’s done. And that’s much better than not doing anything at all.

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The Asian grocery down the street can have some amazing  deals. This past week it was daikon (aka white radish) for nine whole cents a pound, and lemons, nine for $1. Now, I picked up some daikon because, well, why not?, but I also bought as many bags of lemons as I could carry. I love lemons, their color and acid taste, the way their juice brightens almost any dish, and the fact that they don’t even need to be fresh to be good. In fact, sometimes they are better when they’ve been preserved. On the off-chance that you too have been blessed with citrusy goodness, I include my recipe.

MOROCCAN PRESERVED LEMONS
One of the best chicken dishes I’ve ever tasted involved these savory morsels of salty sour goodness. The Restaurant Marrakech in Fez serves poulet citrone with chicken stewed to the tenderest perfection in a bright yellow potion of salty preserved lemons and olives and onions. I haven’t reconstructed the recipe but I’m working on it.

2 lemons
½ cup fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup coarse salt

1. Wash the lemons well. Cut them into 8 sections each and place them in a glass jar. Add the remaining ingredients, cover tightly and shake to combine ingredients.
2. Leave the lemons at room temperature, shaking the jar every day, for 2 weeks. Rinse lemons before using.

Note: From The Dean & DeLuca Cookbook. Recipe scales well, and once ready, lemons will keep in the refrigerator for ~6 months.

Doubled recipe in a 750ml jar. Trust me, you want to pack these in something water-tight.

/zomg delicious!

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