Meditations

The Eternal Yogurt


My favorite way to eat my homemade honey vanilla yogurt--with fresh blueberries and baby bananas.

My favorite way to eat homemade honey vanilla yogurt--with fresh blueberries and baby bananas.

When I found out how to make my own yogurt, I got excited. Not so much about the making of the yogurt, but more about the idea that my first batch will continue to breed more and more yogurt indefinitely, and that the yogurt I will make years from now will still contain a little tiny part of my original one.

It’s been about six months since my last store bought yogurt, and I’ve had yogurt in my fridge every single day since then. Crazy it maybe, but I’ve developed a bond with it—kind of like keeping a pet—cute little bacteria pets. After the first few months of yogurt making, I felt a strange sense of responsibility for the survival of their clan, I mean, if I eat it all without saving any to breed more yogurt…that would be it. I would’ve killed them all…forever.

Now, if bonding with your food isn’t enough to convince you to make your own yogurt, consider this: It’s cheaper. Volume per volume, milk is much cheaper than yogurt.

So here’s how to get started:

Firstly, you need to buy the last tub of plain yogurt you’ll ever buy as your starter culture, so go all out: natural, organic, sustainably raised, free range, the whole package. Next, enjoy your tub of yogurt all you want—all but 2 tablespoons of it. These two tablespoons contain the originators of your bacteria colony. Put it into a sealable container, in fact if you bought the large yogurt tub you can even use the container it came in.

Bring a quart of milk (I prefer full fat) just almost to a boil or to 185 F, stirring while heating to prevent scorching. What you’re doing now is killing off other bacteria that might contaminate and interfere with your culture. These bacteria die at 185 F, which is when milk starts to steam and froth. You can also just let it boil so you don’t have to use a thermometer, just be careful because when milk boils…it boils over, so don’t walk away from it (speaking from experience…)

All the starter culture you need to make a whole quart of yugurt.
All the starter culture you need to make a whole quart of yugurt.

Let it cool down to 95-110 F. I recommend using a thermometer to be sure, although I’ve heard Jamie Oliver say that you can just stick your finger in, and if it feels like you’re touching nothing (i.e. the milk is at body temperature) then you’re good to go.  The most important thing is not to have the milk be too hot or you’ll kill all your single-celled friends, ending up with nothing more than a milky bacterial cemetery.

As it cools I like to add a splash f vanilla and/or a little bit of honey to make a flavored yogurt. Sometimes I take out some of this warm honey vanilla milk and drink it just like that. The best bedtime drink I know of!

Pour a little of this milk into the starter culture and stir to dissolve the yogurt, then add the rest of the milk and stir. Close the container, and keep it still in a warm area. My apartment is unfortunately freezing and we’re too frugal to turn the heat on, making warm areas rather difficult to come by. So what I do is I turn on my oven for two minutes just until it’s nice and warm then turn it off, then I put my yogurt in the oven, wrapped in thick towels, and leave it in the oven over night. Turn the oven light on if you can, sadly my oven is from the far past and has a light that only turns on if the door is open. The warmer the environment, the faster your yogurt will set. The longer you leave your yogurt out, the firmer your yogurt will be. Refrigerate when set.

There you have it, your eternal yogurt.  Now you can even give your friends your culture so they can start their own, even though it’s really yours. I would recommend only giving it to serious foodist friends just to make sure they continue to raise it with as much love and care as you.

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