Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I did a post on straining yogurt a week ago.  While a huge improvement over the semen-esque sludge they try to pass for yogurt here, there were some drawbacks: Natural flavor was unavailable, high sugar content, low yield, and higher than necessary price. The solution, make yogurt from scratch.

Working with dairy frightens me a bit. Milk is temperamental, and if it scalds, generally there is no saving it. Yogurt, however, was pretty simple. I'm gonna give all the credit to Micheal Ruhlman, who had a great post on yogurt making, that guided me through the process. I couldn't do it step by step, but he gave enough reason behind the process so that I could improvise. I'm essentially reblogging his post, but translated for a less than ideal kitchen.

What you'll need:

A liter or more of milk
A small scrap of left-over yogurt for your "starter."
      -You can also buy the smallest cheapest yogurt available at the super that has live culture. Most of the yogurt in Paraguay does have live culture. It says "Probiotico" on it.  I would not use the one's with fruit in it. Go for the vanilla or maybe the coconut. It won't really have the flavor of the original yogurt since it'll be diluted so much.
A big pot.
A strainer and a cloth to line the strainer. (Maybe you have these from back when we were just draining yogurt.)

Bring the milk to a simmer. My gas stove only has two temperatures, Chernoble and surface of the sun. I have to elevated my pot over the burner using bricks to get a low enough tempurature to simmer. You DO NOT want to scald or boil the milk. When you see bubbles along the side of the pot, it's ready. This preps the milk protein for the bacteria.

Take the pot off the stove. Let it cool a little bit. You want the milk about jacuzzi temperature. You can still put your finger in without being burned, but you don't want to keep it there too long. Remove any milk skin. Add your yogurt scrap. This is how you introduce the bacteria to the milk. Stir until yogurt is completely dissolved. If the milk is too hot it will kill your bacteria, and you won't get yogurt.

This should be enough.
This is where Mister Ruhlman likes to let his yogurt ferment for 24 hours in his immersion circulator at 104 degrees. That's cute. We ain't all big fancy chef's Mikey. Some of us got what they call "conditions of hardship."

I took my metal pot and put it in the sun all day. First time I did it for about 6 hours. This time I did it for closer to 10. The more you keep the mixture warm the longer the bacteria will eat, and the tangier more flavorful the yogurt will be.
Super Sophisticated

Check the weather before you do this. If it's a 104 degree day in Paraguay then maybe you don't need the pot in the sun. If it's raining, you can do this process in the oven. Put a bowl or pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Put your pot in the cold oven. Heat up the oven for a bit then turn it off. The water will keep the oven warm longer. After an hour or so turn the oven back on to re heat. To "measure" the temperature put your hand in the oven. It should be warm but not overly so.  I know, these are really specific directions. (Put the italicized part in sarcastic font.) Again, try to let the bacteria ferment for about 6 -10 hours. I suppose up to 24 hours is ideal according to Mike, but I like to sleep.

Now you have Yogurt!

You can totally eat this as is. It'll be tangy and delicious. Plus, it should already be thicker than what you get at the grocer. If you are like me and want it thicker still, use the draining technique we went over previously. Line a strainer with your cloth, and let the yogurt drain just a few hours.

So maybe it took you 24 hours to make. So maybe I'm crazy to go through all the effort, but ain't that a damn good looking breakfast? And what is Peace Corps life is not a little crazy.

Hope you all enjoyed. As always, I'd love to hear cooking successes from y'all. There is a lot of collective wisdom amongst volunteers lets try to get it in one place.