Ardent Eden

Ardent Eden is a place to explore my thoughts about the interdependence of life - humanity and nature - and to engage with others for collective problem-solving.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

State of the Yogurt

So I admit that I just couldn't bear to watch the State of the Union last night. I actually have a visceral, angry reaction to listening to Bush speak. I'm not exaggerating: I think it's bad for my health! The Democratic response usually isn't much better. So last night I decided to treat myself to something much better than listening to Bush trumpet about Iraq. I went to bed. Yep, I decided that crawling into bed at 9:00 pm was a much better use of my time. From this, it seems like it was business as usual and I didn't miss much. I was, however, glad to hear that Cindy Sheehan shook things up a bit.

Now moving on to the important stuff. Namely, my foray into yogurt making. When I read about Norene's excellent results with home yogurt making, a light bulb went off. This is another one of those skills that I should work on for multiple reasons: yogurt cups are hard to recycle, yogurt is so good for you, and making your own saves money. Once I start thinking about everyday decisions through the lens of interconnection, it usually seems so obvious to me that I should take some sort of action. If it seems like I take these kinds of decisions seriously, it's because I do spend time analyzing the costs and benefits beforehand. I'm a working mother who, like the rest of us, needs to make her time and money count in the most effective way. I also don't like to buy a new kitchen appliance without being sure that I'm going to use it.

Anyway, my yogurt maker arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago and I set out to find yogurt starter at a local store. After calling every health food store in the greater Boston area, it became pretty obvious that I wasn't going to find starter. Time to move on to Plan B, which would mean abandoning Norene's reliable recipe. I was feeling a bit intimidated, but I dove in after referencing the instruction manual and reading recipes online.

The end result is a thick, creamy and yummy plain yogurt. I want to work on flavored yogurts next for some variety. In the meantime, I've been taking a jar of this stuff to work with me and mixing it with a jar of my homemade granola for a mid-morning snack each day. I also want to drain it for some yogurt cheese, serve it in lieu of sour cream on the black bean soup on tonight's menu and the enchiladas verdes scheduled for tomorrow night, and concoct some savory dips with it. I definitely think that the yogurt maker purchase was worth the $30 as long as I can keep the habit going. By the way, the Super Baby Foods book that I've been reading is all about making whole foods for babies to eat. There's a whole section on making yogurt, and the author gives some ideas on how to incubate yogurt without having a yogurt maker. If anyone is interested in trying those, let me know and I'll post about them.

Yogurt 101

Step One: Heat 4 cups of milk in saucepan until it boils and starts to climb the sides of the pan. I used Organic Valley skim milk. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the milk to cool to between 95 - 105 degrees. I pulled out my new thermometer for this step because it's important that the milk not be so hot that it kills the beneficial bacteria you add in Step Three.

Step Two: Pour cooled milk into a pitcher and add 5 tablespoons of dry milk. I used Organic Valley nonfat dried milk. Stir until dissolved. The yogurt maker instructions say that you need to strain the milk as you're pouring it into the pitcher. I didn't find that necessary but it was nice to have the yogurt in a pitcher for pouring into the jars. You could save a step and keep it in the saucepan though.

Step Three: In a small bowl, mix together already-made yogurt with a small amount of the cooled milk until you have a smooth mixture. I used a container of Trader Joe's organic plain yogurt, but I'll be using a little of my own yogurt going forward. The idea is just to get some of those live cultures into your batch where they can work their magic.

Step Four: Mix the smooth mixture into the pitcher of milk.

Step Five: Pour the mixture into the glass jars, put them in the yogurt maker without their lids, put the cover on, and flip the switch on. Don't bump the yogurt maker! Let the jars incubate for eight hours for thick creamy yogurt. If you like a runnier texture, reduce the amount of dry milk and/or the time incubating. When done, put the lids on and refrigerate for three hours before eating.

Step Six: Enjoy plain, with fresh or frozen fruit stirred in, or with nuts or granola for some crunch!


  • At 8:38 AM, Blogger breadchick said…

    I SO agree about having a violent physical reaction to listen to the #1 MO-ron of State speak. I had to forgo my normal morning routine of listening to All Things Considered while showering, etc this morning because I KNEW my BP would skyrocket and didn't need the extra stress. Listened to some nice Chopin indeed. I also had a mental fantasy of if I was a Senator from across the ailse I would have protested by standing up with my back facing the Preznit the entire SOTU!! Made me feel a bit better...but not much. Ok, need to turn Chopin back on now, feel my head starting to POP off my shoulders...

  • At 11:10 AM, Blogger Melissa said…

    Lauren - I guess you weren't the only one to go to bed a bit early!

    I fixed your corn chowder last night - yum! And I can't wait to try homemade yogurt. In the meantime, I need to look up your granola recipe. I keep forgetting!

  • At 11:14 AM, Blogger Norene said…

    aha! i think the ingredient i'd been missing when using yogurt as a starter was the dry milk. everything else is familiar. thanks for letting me in on the secret.

    i didn't listen to the state of the union last night either. i have a similar visceral reaction to the president in general--when i see his face or hear his voice, i frequently change the station. i do pay him some attention (as is necessary and wise), but i rely on print media for that most of the time. it's not the same as listening to a whole speech end to end, but the extra degree of separation is sanity saving...

  • At 11:36 AM, Blogger SockknittingMama said…

    I cannot even imgaine why you would want to listen to B, but there you go, our B is not that much better.
    The yoghurt sounds a success. I make yoghurt on the range over night. The dried milk makes it goes a lot thicker so you can experiment with the thickness you like.

    If you strain yoghurt and then mix it with chives, spring onion and radishes, it makes a nice spread on that lovely no fail bread. Quish snack.

  • At 12:01 AM, Blogger Norene said…

    oooh. that bread spread sounds yummy, sockknittingmama. i'm going to try that.

  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Harmonia said…

    Ditto on the first two sentences!

  • At 11:15 AM, Blogger Laurie said…

    It is amazing how many people have this reaction. I would actually like to hear what the man has to say (forewarned is forearmed, you know) but after two or three words I have to turn it off. If I'm somewhere other than home, I desparately look for escape.

    That being said, I am very, very interested in your yogurt making, and will try to remember to come back to this post at a less busy time!


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