Mama, how about Dada and Soleil go to Spain or somewhere.
How come, Luna?
Then you and I can go to Paris. You know, Soleil will be all tired and grumpy and whiny and everything else a 3 and a 1/2 year old is like.
It’s supposed to rain the first time you visit Paris.
I read that somewhere – or someone said that – at some point – somewhere.
It was raining – well, more like a very light summer sprinkle – as my train pulled into Gare de Lyon. The last two weeks of the obligatory European backpacking trip to be spent in the city of light. My first time in Paris – but a return of sorts back to Europe. My first two weeks were spent in a dream, walking the streets of Rome – as only a nineteen year old can. A few more Italian and French cities and towns thrown in between. With a backpack far too big and heavy for my not so large frame (possible culprit to the chronic lower back pain that has plagued me all these years?!) – the bright red Canadian maple leaf sewn nice and tight onto its blue nylon – lest us quiet Canadians be mistaken for our slightly louder neighbors to the south. With no ticket back home – having lost it somewhere between Venice and Nice – back in the days when you traveled with a paper ticket. And without a care in the world. I was in Paris – it was raining – and Billie Holiday was crooning on my walkman – welcoming me to this city we all dream of visiting one day. All was right in this teenager’s world.
Cut to a few days ago – leaning one hip into the stove – giving that lower back a rest – absentmindedly stirring the milk for our weekly batch of homemade yogurt – when this voice came crashing through the speakers, and instantly transported me back to that rainy afternoon in Paris.
I wasn’t planning on writing about homemade yogurt – but after declaring my love and devotion to yogurt here – many friends have asked how they too could make their own yogurt. We are a household that consumes a lot of yogurt on a weekly basis – so it only seemed like the next natural step for us to start making our own. It is more economical (those Greek Style yogurts don’t come cheap) – we are doing our little bit to cut back on making more waste by not purchasing new plastic yogurt containers every week to only hope that the city will actually recycle them – we can be in control of exactly what we are consuming by choosing the highest quality milk we want to use – it is a step in the right direction of revisiting our cooking roots, as Michael Pollan is so convincingly urging us to do in his new book Cooked – and well – it is really easy to make homemade yogurt.
Only 2 ingredients are needed to make great homemade yogurt. 1- Good quality organic whole milk yogurt (you cannot use fat free or 1% – it won’t work!) I use Straus Family Creamery milk. Besides being of great quality, we like that you can return their glass milk bottles for a deposit back, AND they will re-use those bottles. 2- Culture – a small container of store bought yogurt, good quality organic whole milk. That’s it. Then you just allow the natural biology of fermentation do its thing.
No special equipment necessary either – except for a non-reactive CLEAN (we’re fermenting here) heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot, CLEAN glass jars to store the yogurt, and a candy thermometer. To this day my mom refuses to use a thermometer. Instead relying on the time-tested pinky finger temperature control method: “bring the milk to just under a boil, cool milk down, you’ll know it’s at the right temperature by sticking your pinky finger in the milk and be able to hold it there for about 20 seconds.” To spare you from scalding your pinky we will rely on the other trustworthy temperature reader: an actual thermometer.
Sometimes an ordinary moment is transformed into an extraordinary one when you least expect it. Like a typical afternoon spent making yogurt, and the next thing you know a single voice/song reaches so deep within you, grabs you by the waist and hurls you back to a rainy train station. But this time as you relish the sweet memories of the past you don’t linger there too long. You are busy planning your next Parisian trip. And this time you can’t wait to experience the city of light through the eyes of your 6 and a 1/2 year old AND your 3 and a 1/2 year old.
Unless said 3 and a 1/2 year old really wants to go to Spain instead.
Was it raining the first time you visited Paris?
Note: I use 1 gallon of milk which makes about 10-12 cups of yogurt – roughly about 2 to 3 32oz containers. We use a lot of yogurt in our house. Feel free to use as much milk as you like depending on your family’s needs. Also, the consistency of homemade yogurt is slightly different from store bought yogurt. It might be a little thinner. There are many variables when making yogurt (fermenting) so every batch is a little different.
Makes about 6 cups of yogurt
1/2 gallon good quality organic whole milk yogurt
about 4 dollops (tablespoons) of good quality organic store bought whole milk yogurt (this will be your culture)
1- Turn on your oven light. DO NOT TURN ON THE OVEN ITSELF.
2- Pour milk in a large stainless steel pot, place thermometer in pot. Heat milk over medium heat stirring occasionally so you don’t have any milk sticking to the bottom of the pot. Heat milk to 180F degrees.
3- Turn off the heat and allow milk to cool down to 115F degrees. It usually takes my batch about 45 minutes to cool down. Don’t forget about your milk! Keep checking that thermometer. Or give the pinky finger method a try. Just remember how your yogurt turns out is temperature sensitive.
4- Once milk has cooled down to 115F degrees drop in about 4 dollops of store bought yogurt in different corners of the pot. You don’t need to stir. Cover pot with a tight fitting lid. Place pot in the oven with the oven light on. Close oven door. Leave pot in the oven (with oven light on) overnight or about 12 hours.
5- In the morning remove pot from the oven. You should have delicious homemade yogurt. Pour off excess yellowish liquid (whey). Allow yogurt to come to room temperature. Transfer to glass containers and place in fridge. Will keep in fridge for up to 10 days.
STRAINED (GREEK STYLE) YOGURT
1- Place a fine mesh strainer over a tall container to catch liquid from the yogurt. The bottom of the strainer should not come into contact with collected liquid (whey).
2- Line 2 overlapping paper towels or a cheese cloth over strainer. Pour yogurt over paper towels or cheese cloth. Fold over the corners of the paper towels or cheesecloth to completely cover the yogurt. Place a small plate over the yogurt and put a heavy can over the plate for weight.
3- Place everything in the fridge and let stand any where between 1 hour to several hours depending on how thick you like your yogurt. Allow liquid (whey) from the yogurt to drip into the bowl.
4- Place strained yogurt in a glass container. Will keep in the fridge for up to 10 days.
You may discard the whey that collects in the bowl. But we like to keep it in a glass jar in the fridge. We use a couple of spoonfuls of whey in smoothies, soups, sauces, or to soak our grains and oatmeal in overnight. Whey is extremely beneficial and nutritious.
Naz, making yogurt from scratch has been on my to-do list for so long. Thank you for giving me a nudge to try it. Beautiful story, as always.
Thanks Pamela. Your recipes are always an inspiration and have fed our family on numerous occasions!