Thursday, November 3, 2011

Making Edible, Not Drinkable Yogurt in Paraguay

As Peace Corps volunteers we agreed to work "under conditions of hardship." Usually this conjures up ideas of no electricity, pulling water up from a well or a stream, and cooking over fire. Yeah, none of that really applies to me. My condition of hardship?

Drinkable Yogurt.

Maybe I'm a yogurt snob, but I like me some full-fat, super-creamy, carve-able yogurt. In Paraguay they like yogurt that can be drank from a sippy cup. I hate it. I could explore the ways I hate it but I won't waste your time. I'm just glad there's a solution.

I've been wanting to put up tips and tricks for other volunteers, but haven't been cooking my own food until recently. It's not that Paraguayan food is bad, you'd just be surprised how much happiness a little taste of home can give. I've missed yogurt. To those who feel the same, this one's for you. State-siders, this is gonna be boring. 

It's pretty simple to convert drinkable yogurt into thick creamy yogurt. You just drain out the water, a well documented technique that's supposed be part of the yogurt making process. I wonder if they just skip that step here.

You need: A large bowl (I use a pot), a strainer, a very clean cloth to line the strainer, and a liter of Yogurt.
Dairy products are sold in bags here. Weird.
Stack the strainer in the bowl and line with the cloth. In America you would use cheese cloth for this, but when you find cheese cloth in Paraguay you let me know. I like to use a cloth that's tightly woven and with no nap. AKA no terry cloth. Just be really meticulous about cleaning the cloth. Remember this is touching food you plan on eating.

Yogurt shouldn't pour like that.
Fill you cloth-strainer-bowl system with drinkable yogurt. Put the whole thing int the refrigerator and wait 6 to 24 hours depending on the thickness you desire. (That's what she said. BOOM!) The water will slowly drain into the bowl. If the bowl isn't much bigger than the strainer you might have to dump out the liquid half way through to make more space. The water won't drain if it has no where to go. 
Delicious, spoon-worthy yogurt.
This is after about 20 hours in the fridge. Six hours will get you something about the consistency of Dannon back home.  If you look at the side of the cloth in the above photo you'll notice just how far down the yogurt has drained. Since the yogurt here has so much water, you get a really low yield. One liter of yogurt purchased gets me around two servings. As a result I'm working on making my on yogurt. A liter of milk is cheaper, and I can get natural flavored yogurt. Plus less sugar. As we all know, Paraguay LOVES sugar.

Doesn't it look like heaven?
So there you go. A food technique that's not new nor exciting, but really makes my day. I top it off with some dulce de guayaba (guava jam), or some granola and those conditions of hardship get much easier.

I would like to continue to put up food posts, and invite other volunteers to share what they've come up. I can put it up as a guest post, or link to your blog. Ideally all ingredients would be available in Paraguay, but if you've got a stash of Siracha or some other goody, I understand.