I made yogurt!

Since we’ve been trying to eat more healthily, we’ve started going through yogurt at an alarming rate, probably 2-3 quarts a week. The plain, lowfat kind is great for our new carb-conscious eating habits, and I’ve been dressing it up with Splenda and chopped fresh strawberries. It is a thing of awesome.

It’s also a thing of expensive! It’s at least three or four times more expensive than the milk it’s made from, which just makes me cringe. So when I stumbled across a blog post about making one’s own yogurt, it was an epiphany moment.

It’s ridiculously simple: You need milk, and a bit of plain yogurt for the cultures, and a saucepan, and a bowl, and some cling film, and that’s pretty much it. Oh, and several hours. I started a batch early on Sunday afternoon, and it was technically ready to eat Monday morning.

There are a ton of recipes and instructions out there, but here’s what I did, complete with helpful tips I didn’t see anywhere in my admittedly brief searches.

Equipment I used:

  • A heavy-bottomed saucepan (you could also use a double boiler made with a glass bowl set over a simmering saucepan of water, or a slow cooker, although this would take quite a long time.)
  • A spoon
  • A glass bowl
  • A thermometer (the probe kind I poke into turkeys and roasts and things)
  • A heating pad (you could also use your oven’s pilot light, if you have such a thing. My oven’s electric and therefore useless in that regard)
  • Cling film
  • A towel

Ingredients:
5 cups milk*
1/4 cup plain yogurt, with active cultures (read the label)

Process:

  1. In the heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk over medium-low heat until it reaches 180°. You’ll want to stir fairly constantly with this method, especially once the milk starts to steam a bit, because it can totally burn, which is icky. If you’re using the double-boiler method, you can walk away for a bit.
  2. When it reaches 180°, pull it off the heat, pour into the bowl, and cool to 120°
  3. Stir in the yogurt, cover with cling film (into which you’ve poked a couple holes for ventilation), wrap in a kitchen towel and set on your heating pad, or in your warm oven.
  4. Go read a book or watch the Lord of the Rings trilogy or something, because this next stage is … well, sort of unpredictable. I saw time estimates ranging from 4 to 24 hours, but nothing to indicate how you’d know fermentation was done, which was … annoying. I pulled mine off the heating pad after about 8 hours, when it seemed slightly thinner than the yogurt I was used to. This led to a really, really tangy yogurt**. Oh, and it thickened considerably in the fridge over night.
  5. Pop it in the fridge overnight. This stops the fermentation process and thickens it quite a bit.
  6. BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING TO YOUR YOGURT, pull out 1/4 cup for your next batch. I forgot to do that, because I am a doofus.

And that’s it! You could also do what I did, which is to plop it into a cheesecloth-lined colander overnight to drain off the whey, which results in Greek yogurt. I stirred in some Splenda and oh my gods. It was like fucking pudding, you guys.

I’m so looking forward to experimenting with this stuff. This is cheaper and easier than just about anything else I’ve done, and the results are so awesome. Plus it lets my sweetie use that hilarious D&D analogy***, so, y’know, bonus.

 
 

* This will work with literally any kind of milk: whole, 1%, fat-free, goat, you name it. Apparently, though, there are issues with soy and almond milk, though, so if you go that route, do some judicious Googling.
** Tanginess is apparently a function of fermentation time, and possibly the cultures in your starter. I shall continue my investigation and report back!
*** So you know, in the old-skool D&D computer games, you could load your character up with gear, save it, then roll a new character, bring up the old one, offload the cool gear, and repeat until you had a full party with the same awesome gear? This is the concept of re-using a bit of the last batch of yogurt in your new batch of yogurt. See also: sourdough starter. It is also an illustration of how we’re just a little too nerdy for our own good.

a day of many things

First, very many thanks to our veterans. I am grateful to you all. (I wanted to post a picture of the American Military Cemetery in Luxembourg I visited many moons ago, but it hasn’t turned up yet.)

Second, my teeth are finally finished omg. The ordeal that started with a stupid chipped tooth nearly two months ago is finished, and with the exception of a cap and a couple implants that I’ll get when we win the lottery, I have functioning mandibles again. Also, I may actually smile in pictures henceforth. Woo? You betcha.

Last but not least, I got out of the dentist a little earlier than I expected to, and used the time to try again to make the gravy for Thanksgiving. You guys, I think I’ve done it this time. It’s still simmering away, and will do for another half hour or so, but by dint of standing over the stove for a good three times longer than the recipe would lead one to believe, I’ve achieved something that does not remotely smell of carrots. I am quite pleased.

The day’s not over yet, though. Still to come: prepping to try out my new paint sprayer tomorrow night, plus making a start on clearing out the garage, and doing some more work in the office. I shall be one very happy girl when bedtime finally rolls around.

inauspicious start

So I finally managed to remember to stop on my way home from work and grab a couple pounds of unsalted butter (YAY WE HAVE PROPER BUTTER AGAIN), so I could make a start on my Thanksgiving menu with some freezeable non-turkey gravy.

Right from the start, things did not go well. My veg refused to brown, even though they generated huge amounts of fond on the bottom of my dutch oven; the flour refused to brown, too, and I spilled my mise en place of herbs, bay leaves and peppercorns twice, torching a couple bay leaves in the process. Just don’t ask.

Now it’s refusing to hold a simmer, and it’s taking roughly twice as long to reduce as the recipe says it should.

I have made this recipe in these exact proportions with these exact ingredients two or three times before; there’s simply no excuse for it being a weak, soupy, vegetal mess. I can only hope that further reduction saves the day.

Cross your fingers, won’t you?

’tis the season

Ah, November: one big run-up to Thanksgiving.

I just looked at the spreadsheet I started a few weeks ago and it turns out I’m supposed to be making compound butters and dinner rolls this weekend, in preparation*. Oops? I’d completely forgotten, and I’ve done no shopping for this mixing-fest. I don’t even have unsalted butter in the house**.

Why am I not more excited about this? This is my holiday, guys — my big love-of-food fest — and I’m sixteen kinds of meh about it just now.

I’m going to go ahead & blame it on the ridiculously non-autumnal weather. It’s going to be 93°F today, which is just silly, and while I tend not to complain too much about the weather, the absurdity of it all merits a comment. How am I supposed to get excited about roasting things when it’s still roasting outside?

Later this week it’s supposed to start cooling down a bit. I’m hoping it brings back my Thanksgiving mojo, ’cause I’ve got a ton of stuff to do and three weeks to do it in.

* Yay for stuff I can do in advance and freeze!
** OH THE TRAGEDY, YOU HAVE NO IDEA, HOW DO PEOPLE LIVE LIKE THIS, etc.

learning curve

So I moved to our new datacenter today, and, anticipating few choices in the way of lunch, I made myself a bento box.

bento! click to embiggen

It was not a resounding success.

Those chopsticks — the reason I got this particular box (“OOH! Wee chopsticks, how CUTE!”) — are too short and too smooth. I dropped more rice in my lap than I ate, until I gave in & got a spoon from the lunch room.

The rice got hard. I packed it last night, so I knew that could happen, but I wasn’t prepared for how unpleasant it was. Clearly I need to do that wrapping-in-cling-film thing.

The snow peas needed badly to be blanched. Raw snow peas are not as awesome as you’d think. The carrots were ok. It’s hard to fuck up carrots. The string cheese was unpleasant at room temperature.

The best thing was the sauce — eel sauce in a tiny bottle that had held a sample of garlic olive oil. It’s actually a wee bit too big for the top layer, but I … didn’t think of putting it in the bottom until just now. Shut up.

The salmon patties were just ok. They dried out badly, too; clearly I need to pay more attention to the moisture levels in things, although you can go too far in the opposite direction: too much moisture will make a bento go off while it sits at room temperature.

So this is something I need to work on, since, while our chefs do bring lunch to the datacenter, it’s prepacked box lunches of whatever meat-stuff is on the menu, and I mainly ate salad at Headquarters.

On the plus side, there are a ton of good bento resources out there. I just need to … get better at it =)

catch-up

When last we left our heroes …

Thanksgiving: Was pretty damn cool. The food was superb (if I do say so myself), the company outstanding, and the wine flowing. I can highly recommend the Blanc de Noirs I found at Trader Joe’s. So delicious! (I went back & bought three more bottles, because apparently my fizzy-wine kick will never end. Also, at $10 a bottle, it’s far cheaper than the Moet & Chandon I was digging before. Win!)

As usual, though, a week’s worth of prep, cleaning and cooking left me wrecked, and I was in bed nursing my aching muscles at 9:30. I’ve got to figure out a way to do Thanksgiving that doesn’t involve half-killing myself in the name of food.

Dogs: They’re doing great. Freya’s fitting in quite well, although she doesn’t really get that Fenris doesn’t always want to play, nor that, alone among the cats, Carrot will play with her. Doesn’t stop her chasing them, although she’ll stop chasing if we bark at her.

House: Things are really coming together, finally. We’re cleaning and purging and organizing and getting things just as we want them. Sometimes I just stop and look around and am amazed that we’ve created this cozy place that I want to come home to. It makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, too, because others don’t have that. Fingers crossed that situation improves.

Everything Else: I’m feeling pretty good. Fairly sleep-deprived, and there’s something horrifically wrong with my back, but overall? Not so bad. It’s kinda nice, and I’m enjoying it.

So what’s new with you?

we shall not flag or fail

I can’t escape the Thanksgiving battle plans checklists … this is the biggest Thanksgiving we’ve ever had & I’d be lost without my lists.

  • Recipes: Printed.
  • Schedule: Triple-checked.
  • Turkeys: Defrosting.
  • Prep: About 75% complete..
  • Cleaning: Nearly there.
  • Mind: More or less intact, yay.
  • Body: Still not completely destroyed, hurrah!

I’ve got tomorrow off work, and I’m hoping I can knock out the last of the prep, and get a good night’s sleep, so I can be ready to kick ass on Thursday.

Oh, and relax with our guests. That’d be nice, too.

I really have to stop thinking of this meal in terms of a battlefield that must be conquered. It’s just dinner, right? No beaches or landing grounds to fight on, just 40 pounds of turkey and enough sides to make the sideboard groan.

Onward to victory!