Saturday, October 30, 2010

Guard Dogs

Faith was driving to a baby-sitting gig last Tuesday when a deer ran across the road. She swerved to miss it (she was successful) and ended up stuck in a ditch beside the road (the truck was fine, thanks). When Melissa and I arrived she was standing beside the truck looking upset. There was a man in a one-ton truck parked beside her on the road. My first impression of the scene was that my daughter had a guard dog taking care of her. He had chains and helped pull her truck out of the ditch and drove away. Small towns in rural America remain a blessing to those who live in them. There are things we don't have because we don't have the population to justify the business investment, but we do have each other and that seems to be more than enough.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Homemade Yogurt

I believe I've posted directions to make yogurt before, but I wanted to update how we do it.  It used to take us a long time because first we heated the yogurt to 180, then cooled it to 110.  I was always taught to never heat milk at higher than medium heat.  So it took a couple hours from start to putting it in containers to begin setting.  This caused me to give it up after a while.  Life is too busy, right?

But I love yogurt and there are a LOT of us.  To go to the store and buy us each a little container of yogurt gets really expensive.  And I want to eat it EVERY DAY.  Plus there are all these extra ingredients that we don't want when we buy our yogurt. 

So we have streamlined our approach to making yogurt.  It now takes me about 15 minutes of "work" followed by a few hours where it sits and I forget about it.  Yesterday I did this with my almost 8 year old daughter.  Soon it will be her job because it is that easy.  I taught her while we waited for something to come out of the oven.

If you make less than 2 gallons, you'll probably be done even faster.

Home Made Yogurt

2 gallons milk (we're using store bought because our cow is dry.  This is really something anyone can do.)
6 oz plain yogurt with live cultures (just check on the package to be sure it contains live cultures.  Next time you make it you can use your own starter from your homemade batch.  Freeze it if it will be a while.  It works great as a starter after thawing.  We didn't have plain though so we used vanilla.  It still works.  But we flavor ours vanilla before we eat it.  If you wanted plain, you probably want to start with plain so there's no subtle vanilla taste in whatever else you use your yogurt for.)
Thermometer (optional)

Pour milk into a pot and heat on high (stirring frequently) until it reaches about 100-120 degrees.  The high heat is not a problem--at least it hasn't been for us and I've probably made it this way 20 times now.  Maybe if I were heating it to a higher temperature, but I don't know.  If you don't have a thermometer, stick a clean finger in there (clean is important!).  If it feels cold, it's not hot enough.  You want it as hot as hot water coming from the faucet, but not so hot that it burns you.  Too hot will kill the cultures.  If you accidentally overheat it, wait until it cools a bit before adding your starter.

When it has reached the desired temperature, add your culture (the yogurt) and stir it really well.

Pour it into whatever containers you want to use.  You can use individual size containers as I've done before or just pour it into larger containers as we do now.  It is faster and we just serve it from there.  Drawback is you can't take it somewhere as a snack or fast food.  I use 3 large bowls with lids.  Lids are important if you want to stack your containers in the next step!

Once it's poured and lidded, put your yogurt/milk mixture somewhere to sit undisturbed for a while.  We have used the oven in the past, but it seemed I was always wanting to bake bread that day or the girls would want to make cookies or whatever.  I finally tried a cooler as had been suggested to me multiple times.  It just happened to be in the kitchen while I was making yogurt.  It worked great!  I now keep a cooler in the garage just for this purpose.  I move my containers out to the cooler, shut the lid, and check back in about 4 hours.  Last time it was done and tart (it starts getting more tart the longer it sits after it's ready) already, but it was a hot day so that might have helped.  This time it wasn't ready yet at 3 hours, then I forgot about it.  I remembered in the middle of the night (12 hours after we started it) and got up and moved it to the fridge.  It was fine although slightly tart.

You can then flavor it with whatever you like.  We add 1/2 c sugar to each third of our 2 gallon total and a blob of vanilla.  We used to flavor it before letting it sit, but I needed 4 cups total.  I guess the culture eats all sugar, not just milk sugar so a lot of it got used up.  Sugar is not the best choice health wise, but that's what we do.  I have a couple of children who won't eat it if I use honey and they aren't otherwise picky eaters so I just deal with it and make one thing everyone will eat.

This morning we ate it with strawberries and homemade granola.  I think this must be my absolute favorite breakfast.  I think strawberries will be eternally in season in heaven. . .