I finally made my own yogurt!

Here's a salad for dinner, picked out of a tub in my little green house.

Here’s a salad for dinner, picked out of a plastic tub.

The lettuce I planted in my old plastic tubs has been doing pretty well.  I get a family size salad out of it every day, with a side for lunch tomorrow.

We grew the lettuce but these tomatoes came from our friend Mark.

I bought the carrots at the store – maybe next year!

Luckily we didn’t plant it in the ground, because this wind is playing havoc with everything outside. We were lucky enough to get this ginchee little green house, which we never would have thought to buy ourselves. A friend of ours had bought it, complete, in a box. I was astounded – you can buy just about anything online these days. He lost interest when he pulled out the instructions, and there it sat, in his shed, for a year or so. One day my husband brought it home.  I didn’t believe it until he had assembled it in our side yard a few days later.   I don’t know anything about green house gardening, but I was excited to have somewhere to put my porch plants in the winter, and I thought I might move my rocking chair in there and sit on cold days. When we decided to plant our lettuce in tubs, we put it in the corner of the little plastic house, perched on bricks. Wow, did it ever take off.

I just got a good lecture from my dentist about eating whole foods. Most of us know what’s good for us, but we are so busy and distracted all the time we just forget. Growing your own food is a good way to keep your diet healthy. Making food from scratch is another.  When a friend of mine got ahold of a yogurt maker, he didn’t have time to figure it out, so loaned it to me to “vet” it.  Wow, good bye store-bought yogurt!

Here's my latest batch of fresh yogurt.

Here’s my latest batch of fresh yogurt.

The machine is from Yogourmet. It’s an “incubator” – it keeps the milk and culture at a constant temperature.  It does need supervision – there’s no timer.  But it’s incredible – you boil the milk to about 82 C, then cool it to about 44 C, then add the culture. The culture comes as a freeze-dried powder in little packets, one of which is good for a quart of milk/yogurt. After you stir in the culture, you put it into the incubator. Four hours later I had yogurt.

You can manipulate the thickness of your yogurt by incubating it longer, adding different cultures, adding dried milk powder to your milk - there's a lot of options.

You can manipulate the thickness of your yogurt by incubating it longer, adding different cultures, adding dried milk powder to your milk – there’s a lot of options.

The incubator was great, but not mine. Luckily I had a recipe that explained how to do it the old fashioned way. I found it in a book by Ralph Nader’s mother, Rose – “It Happened In the Kitchen,” still in print and available at Nader’s website.   It was really simple – she said, heat the milk until it boils up to the top of the pan, then cool it to the temperature that you’d give a baby it’s bottle. She also suggested using a large pot of warm water wrapped in towels to keep the mixture warm for four to six hours, or setting in an oven with a pilot light over night. 

 I used my trusty cooking thermometer to be sure, using the temperatures suggested in the Yogourmet instructions.  I found out, warm tap water is about 40 – 44 degrees. I used an old Nancy’s yogurt container to hold the culture mixure, with lid set on tight, set it into the the pot, and filled the pot with hot tap water until it reached about a half inch under the rim of the smaller container. This I wrapped in towels and placed in a warm corner next to the stove.  I set my timer for an hour to check the water, removing cold water and adding hot tap water until the water in the pot was back to 44. I only had to do this about twice over a four hour period, and I had yogurt! 

For the next batch, I also took Mrs. Nader’s suggestion to use a couple of tablespoons of the last batch to start it – wow, it’s that easy!  I had bought a little box of six starter packs from Lucky Vitamin, for only about $5.  I kept one for emergency start-ups, and gave the rest to my friend with the machine. 

Once you eat your own yogurt, I’m guessing you won’t be back to the store bought stuff! 

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