The Culture War? Winning!

I made the big sausage stuffing dinner tonight, but I don’t quite have it in me to write about it right now. I’ll get to it on the morrow when I have a bit more energy. Meantime, here’s something we made yesterday, using entirely homemade ingredients, for a truly special and yet incredibly everyday treat.

I’ve been making a lot of yogurt these days, setting aside a quart or two of our weekly raw milk allotment so it doesn’t get made into cheese with all the rest. Yogurt is absurdly easy to make. All you need is milk, and a little bit of yogurt. A digital thermometer sure helps, but is not mandatory. You begin by scalding your milk to sterilize it; heat it to 180˚ F and hold it there for a few minutes, then cool it down to 116˚. I use an ice bath, because I haven’t got all day. Then stir in a heaping tablespoon or so (per quart, but the amount is not so important; there are zillions of bacteria in every spoonful) and cover the jar. From here, it’s just a question of what temperature control technology you have on hand.

An oven with a pilot light can maintain a nice ambient temp of 110˚ or so, and turning the light on can boost it a few degrees. If you have a thermos, you can pour your hot milk in there, screw on the lid, and leave it sit on the counter overnight. The residual heat will be sufficient to culture your yogurt. You can put your jars on top of a heating pad inside a cooler and set it for whatever level gets you in the zone, then cover it. I, because I am a gigantic nerd, have an immersion circulator, so I put my jars in a cosy water bath at exactly 46.6˚C (116˚F) and let them go until they’re good and set. Overnight seems to work quite well; some people say six hours is enough but it seems to continue to thicken if left longer.

The next day, you eat it. Remember to set aside a couple of spoons worth to culture your next batch, then go to town. If you want Greek yogurt’s custardy thickness, put it into a cheesecloth or jelly bag-lined colander overnight to drain. That’s it. That’s the whole yogurt-making story. For extra credit, though, you can take your strained yogurt, add some homegrown strawberries (half quartered, half muddled in a bowl with the end of your French rolling pin) and a generous pour of the maple syrup you made back in March and let it all chug purposefully in your ice cream maker for 20 or so minutes, then remove it to a container (chilled is good) and firm it up in the freezer for a few minutes. Then scoop it out into homemade bowls and garnish it with a mint sprig from the mint/blackcurrant/horseradish patch next to the garage. Beyond the pleasure of eating something so purely good, there’s not a little joy to be found in each new item we can cross off the list of things we’ll never buy at a store again.

9 comments to The Culture War? Winning!

  • I love homemade yogurt and do make mine in the oven with the pilot light on, and the jar wrapped in a fluffy towel :) Love the immersion circulator!

  • Nice circulator shot. I’m “borrowing” it for my files.

  • You just lost rights to tease me about mucking about with Linux installations.

  • I’m totally winning. After making yogurt in a little Playmate cooler, and a crock pot for a while now, I actually used a yogurt “maker” that I just bought in a thrift shop. It worked! Here’s my yogurt bonus: if you have a lot of milk in the fridge before you go on vacation, use it up to make yogurt and buttermilk and you will be styled when you get home.

  • You and your circulator… I even went to read if I could possibly be eletrically minded enough to build one since everything you put in there seems to be amazing.

    But, I am in love with no-heat strains of yogurt – seriously delicious, and no messing around. I have the viili strain right now, and it’s more “watery” than other strains, but I use it like buttermilk and can strain it to thick consistency. If I ever get in touch with my Nicola Tesla side an build a circulator, I will get another heat strain, I promise. THEN, I will be winning!

  • Peter

    Winnie: Our oven has no pilot.

    David: I’ll look for royalty checks in the mail soon.

    Franklin: Never!

    Jules: I did just that before we went to Boston for the weekend. It’s probably my favorite thing about all these various fermentations: they can’t go bad, because they already are.

    Rebecca: Someone just posted about that strain on the Facebook page. She says it works really well in cream, which might help it be less runny.

  • Greta

    Yep, I’ve caught the homemade yogurt bug too- and here in AZ, we only need to wrap the jar in a towel to keep it warm long enough to set. Easy-peasy.

    Works just fine with pasteurized milk too, fwiw.

  • Carlyn

    We are also winning here in AZ. Love it with a drizzle of honey or with some granola.

  • Peter

    Greta: We can do that in the summer, at least sometimes.

    Carlyn: Yogurt and honey is among the best combinations ever.

Yours Truly



I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

Rage Against The Vitrine

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