Sunday, 2 June 2013

You can become a yogurt proselytizer, too!

I find myself, over the last year or so, having this conversation a lot:

Neighbor/friend: I just love Greek yogurt! We eat a ton of it. I feed it to my kid. But it's so expensive! Other neighbor/friend: It's not too bad at Trader Joe's. We go through tons of it, too. Me (biting my lip trying SO hard not to sound like a cultist): I started making my own, and it's way cheaper and really good, and not hard or time-consuming at all.

Here's the deal. Elsewhere on the web, there are lots of recipes for homemade yogurt. One uses a Crock pot, which sounds easy, but my Crock pot is a newer model that gets too hot, and I didn't like the yogurt I made that way AT ALL. Others use powdered milk as an additive to make the yogurt thicker, and I thought it made the yogurt have a weird texture. Some recipes use the oven light to keep the yogurt warm, but my oven has a short, and it makes lightbulbs explode (I realize I should probably address that).

Anyway, it took some trial and error (lots of error) to find an easy, consistent way to make great yogurt, but now that I've done it, you can take advantage of it. And it's basically no harder than heat, cool, mix, pour, wait.

Ingredients: 1/2 gallon milk (I use organic 2%) 1/2 cup yogurt with live cultures (I use Fage to start*)

You will also need a large saucepan, a thermometer, two quart-sized containers (I use glass jars, but Tupperware or whatever you have works), an insulated bag, and one more unlikely-to-melt container. Plus spoons and junk. A funnel is nice, but not necessary.

First, pour the milk into the saucepan and heat it over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 180 degrees. Take it off the burner.

Second, wait.** Boil some water while you're waiting. For real.

Third, when it has cooled down to about 110 degrees, pour some of the warm milk into a bowl with the 1/2 yogurt and mix them together. Then pour that mixture into the pan of warm milk. Now, pour all that milk-with-yogurt-mixed-in into your jars or Tupperware and close them up. Put them in the insulated bag.

Fourth, pour the boiling water in the non-melty container, seal it up, and add it to the insulated bag, too.

Fifth, wait some more. Between 7 and 10 hours, I'd say. Overnight is probably fine. The deal is, it's not so sour and yogurt-y at seven hours, but it's thin. At ten hours, it's thick and Greek-y, but it's pretty sour, too. I prefer thick and sour, so I usually let it go ten. You can always check yours and see.

When it's ready, just throw the jars in the fridge. I've seen it recommended that you whisk them rapidly before doing so, but in my experience, it doesn't make a damn bit of difference.

Now here's how it rolls out financially: I spent $3.89 on milk and got two quarts of yogurt. (See the notes below for why I'm not including the price of the Fage.) That's approximately the same as 3 1/2 500 gram containers of Fage, which costs about $5. So that's a steal if you're buying bulk containers of yogurt, and the single-serving yogurts are about the same (18 bucks).

Sure, I put a little work in, but the truth is, even with washing the dishes, my total time contribution was less than ten minutes (pour, stir, mix, pour, put in bag, take out of bag).

Now if you're really into your yogurt being thick, Greek-style yogurt that you can cut into like custard, this is probably not quite it (it's almost it), but you can drain it (in a clean cloth dish towel over a bowl) to make it thicker if you really want.

And now for my serving suggestions! Add some honey, maple syrup, or jam. Add some granola or Kashi cereal. Add cucumber, salt, garlic and dill for tzaziki! Use in place of sour cream on taco night. Throw in fresh or canned fruit. I eat yogurt as my snack almost every single day (two quarts lasts about two weeks for me), and I never get bored, because one day, I'll throw in raspberry jam, and the next it'll be maple syrup and Kashi, the third day I'll put in a diced canned pear, and they'll taste like completely different snacks.

If I've convinced you and you try it, just beware of social gatherings, because you're going to want to spread this news like the clap.

*I use Fage the first time I make a batch, then the next three or four batches, I just use my own leftover yogurt to start the new batch. (That's what you're seeing in the pictures.) Then I'll start with Fage again, just to make sure the cultures are still, you know, live and active.

**If you have limited time and don't want to wait (depending on how hot your house is, it seems like this takes most of an hour), you can speed it up. Stop up the sink with a drain-pluggy-thing. Dump a bunch of ice in. Run the water so it's three or four inches deep. Put the saucepan in the water bath, stir it, and watch the temperature closely, because it has a tendency to drop really fast. When it gets to 110 degrees, proceed with the next step in the recipe.

Edamame and sweet rice with salty seeds

If you've read this blog before (and I know I haven't posted anything in a year -- oops!), you know that if anything, I'm thrifty. With money, obviously, but also with time and effort. I like to make cool stuff, but not for a bunch of money or if it takes a long time or dirties every dish in the house (my husband would argue that everything I make dirties every dish in the house, but he is wrong).

But, you know, then other times you just fall in love with the sound of a recipe and throw caution to the wind. This was one of those times. I saw the words "edamame" and "sweet rice" and "salty seeds" and I was like, "YES. Put that in my face!"

And then I looked at the ingredients and went, "ugh, okay." And the resulting dish was delicious and everything, but you know when someone builds a Rube Goldberg device to remove the stuffing from an Oreo and you're like... cool, but I just scrape it off with the other half of the chocolate cookie? This recipe was like that.

First, let's look at the cost.

It happened that I already had almost half the ingredients, and I substituted some of the others (onion instead of shallot, an actual pickled plum instead of plum vinegar, brown sesame seeds for white), but I still had to purchase...

...cumin, fennel, coriander, chia, sticky rice, brown rice miso, pumpkin seeds, kosher salt (normally I would have this, but I was out), shelled edamame and ginger.

So I thought the smart choice was to go to the co-op, where many of those seeds are available in bulk bins, where they are a few cents each, rather than $4 per jar.  Plus, I know they have miso and chia and some of that other hippie crap.

The seeds were mostly not that much money, but the chia seeds were only available in a big bag which was (drumroll please) $10! Holy ass! I asked an employee for help, because I was like, seriously, what?!

The sticky rice was $5 for a bag that would make one recipe.

The miso was about $7.

The salt was a couple bucks... no big.

I actually went to another store for the edamame and ginger.

In total, I spent over $30, and I started with a fairly well-stocked pantry. The thing is, the dish was delicious. I'd be happy to have it like twice a week. It's just that I'd be in the poorhouse before long if I did.

If I had it to do over again with what I had in my pantry, I'd use the white miso I tend to keep around.

The chia seeds were nice, but if you want a crunchy, nutty little seed, go for poppy. They can be had in bulk, too, and pretty much would not change the nature of the dish.

I'd use table salt instead of kosher.

If I didn't have miso at all, I'd buy a small amount of miso from a bulk bin.

And there's a $25 reduction.

Furthermore, I think this would be lovely with short-grain brown rice instead of the sweet rice. If you are really devoted to the sweet rice thing, go to the Asian food store nearest you.

Finally, I don't know why the hell you'd microwave the rice. I have a rice cooker. It works very well, and I don't have to tend it every two minutes. Also, rice can be cooked in a pan on the stove with little trouble. It can even be baked. Basically, find a method that does not involve you taking something out of the microwave and stirring it every two minutes.

Oh, and if you looked at the recipe and saw "salad" and then were confused about the eating it hot part, so was I. I think you could make this ahead and eat it cold, but we ate it hot and it was very tasty.

So if you want to make that stuff, print the original link and make these changes:

Cross out chia and write poppy
Cross out sticky rice and write short-grain brown rice
Cross out kosher salt and write table salt
Cross out umeboshi plum vinegar (unless you happen to have that)
Cross out brown rice miso and write miso.
Cross out "white" in front of sesame seeds.

Put an asterisk next to #3 in the instructions that means "optional."

For #5 and #6, cross the whole thing out and write "cook the rice." That way, you can do whatever the hell you want.

As Thoreau says, "simplify, simplify, simplify."

This was some bomb-ass rice, and I'm planning to make it again soon (I might as well; I have like 3 pounds of chia seeds left), but sometimes we just need to make our lives easier, you know?

Now go and cook and enjoy.