Category Archives: kitchen projects

Third Time’s the Charm Yogurt

It seems making yogurt is all the rage these days. I’ve recently come across posts from Tigress, The Girl’s Guide to Guns and Butter, Attainable Sustainable, and from Marcus Samuelsson. Yogurt is getting expensive – I believe the quart size Chobani in my local grocery store is now upwards of $7. You can buy cheaper yogurt, but a lot of it has pectin in it to change the texture, which I don’t like. I am a pure Greek yogurt girl – I want my ingredients to say “Milk, Live Active Cultures” and that’s IT. To top it all off, my friend Olivia has been making yogurt for a while, who on the scale of difficult cooking projects called this one “so easy it’s stupid.” So I had to give it a try.

Take One: Well, I’m sure you can figure out how this is going to go purely by the fact that its take one. It didn’t go badly – I just wasn’t satisfied with it. I didn’t start with much milk – in fact I used some lovely Beaver Brook Farm milk leftover from making ice cream. Whole, RAW milk – super rich stuff. I had been buying 2% Chobani. I also tried this in thermoses/travel cups – only about half made it – chalk that up to poor insulation. I probably didn’t care for this small batch because it was so rich. I also had to find a way to up my yield.

Take Two: I went all out on this one. I spent the extra dollar for a half-gallon of Farmer’s Cow 2%. I also bought a Chobani 2% – you have to get the starter cultures from somewhere. Making yogurt is fairly easy from all of the methods above – heat milk to 180° and leave there for a while, depending on how thick you like your yogurt. Then let it cool until it drops below 115° – stir in the cultures and keep it warm for 4-8 hours until it sets. You really do have to babysit it – this is why they have yogurt maker machines that you can buy, but I wasn’t about to spend money on a unitasker. I heated the milk to 180° for 10 minutes, then once it hit 115°. I stirred in the yogurt. While it was cooling, I put 110° water in my crock pot, and turned it on warm to keep it there. I put the yogurt in a metal bowl in the warm water, effectively creating a bain marie. There was only one problem – the warm setting on the crock pot is TOO warm! I had to set an alarm anytime it hit 115° and rush in to put in a couple of ice cubes. Needless to say – the batch did not turn out as yogurt, but more like a ricotta. If you go much over 115°, you kill the cultures – what makes yogurt, yogurt. I am going to try to see if I can salvage it today with some salt and make chicken rollatini and ravioli. But anyway – strike two. I fed the leftover whey to my plants, though – at least they get something good out of it.

Take Three: I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the $7 yogurt in the store, so I knew I had to try it again. Farmers Cow – check. Probe thermometer – check. Olivia offered her method of wrapping the warm milk in towels to keep it warm. I also thought about Sofya’s method of sealing it in the oven overnight, and Kris’ method of using a cooler. But given the past two strikes I wanted to keep an eye on this one, so back to the crock pot. This time, I put 110° water in the crock pot and didn’t turn it on. It gradually cooled – I could monitor the water temperature with a probe thermometer – and when it got below 90°, I added some additional warm water – never going over 110°. It sat for about six hours – and really firmed up. I strained it overnight to get the consistency I wanted. I woke up this morning to the most perfect thick, luscious yogurt. Finally! Breakfast was a small cup with the last bit of a jar of apricot amaretto jam from last summer. Perfection.

Homemade Yogurt
One half gallon of milk – your choice
One small individual serving of yogurt – your favorite

Heat milk slowly to 180° on the stove. I find stirring it often helps avoid forming a skin and also avoids burning the bottom of the milk. Leave it between 180-185° for 10 minutes. Let it slowly cool to 110°. While it cools, prepare your slow cooker with 110° water and a metal or otherwise oven-safe bowl (a bain marie). Once the milk has cooled, mix 1/4 cup of it with the individual yogurt, and then milk into the rest of the warm milk. Pour into metal bowl in slow cooker, put probe thermometer in the water in the slow cooker, and monitor. Do not go above 110°, but do not go too low either. Incubate 4-6 hours, until yogurt has firmed. Drain for thicker greek style yogurt. Use the very last bit of this batch to make your next batch. Never buy store-bought yogurt again!

Food in Jars’ Tomato Jam & Spoon Oil

These really are two separate projects. One edible, one practical. They have nothing to do with each other, except that they both require a boiling water bath and a mason jar or two. So if you have some free time on a weekend, you can kill the proverbial birds with one stone.

So start your boiling water bath (BWB). You can make do with what you have – make a rack out of tin foil to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot – but it really is worth investing in a canner with a rack. Ball even makes a stainless steel canner, though its not cheap. (Hint: Check eBay or Froogle for deals!) Once I fill it with cold water, cover and turn the heat to high, I start both the spoon oil and the tomato jam/other waterbath canned product of your choice.

First, the spoon oil. Taken from FIJ and 3191 Miles Apart. Add a 1/4 lb of beeswax to a mason jar in your canner so that it begins to melt as the water heats. The jar needs to be above the waterline – so having a rack helps here.

Once the beeswax begins to melt, Marisa and Stephanie suggest heating the mineral oil in another jar before adding it to the beeswax. I did, but looking back on it all it really did was dirty another jar. In the next batch, I might just mix them together from the beginning.

I had the hardest time finding mineral oil, until I went to the local pharmacy. Both Walgreens and CVS have it in the back – just ask someone to help you find it before you spend a ton of time hunting. And don’t ask someone at the grocery store, unless you really feel like sending the employee on a wild goose chase.

This spoon needed a healthy dose of spoon oil AND a sanding.

Anyway, warm the mineral oil alone or with the beeswax, until it forms a lovely clear yellow liquid. Once it cools, you can lay out all of the wooden implements in need of some TLC. As you can see, we had quite a few of them. When its cooled, let a thin coating of spoon oil soak into your wooden stuff for an hour or so (enough time to make and can tomato jam perhaps?) and then rub dry with a kitchen towel.

While the spoon oil is cooling, I start the jam of choice. This time, I wanted to make another batch of tomato jam. Make sure to use a non-reactive pot – I use an enameled dutch oven – whenever you cook tomatoes. I made my first batch with fresh paste tomatoes this summer – tomatoes were crazy here – and then made another batch with frozen heirloom tomatoes from 18th Century Purity Farms purchased at CRFM. In February. Reason #212372191 why I am a farmer’s market junkie.

Tomato Jam
Adapted from Food in Jars’ Tomato Jam
5 pounds tomatoes, finely chopped – seeds, skins and all!
2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup pure cane sugar or turbinado sugar
8 tablespoons lime juice (Bottled – Marisa explains why)
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger – no powder please!
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon red chili flakes
1 tablespoon fresh diced red chile

Combine everything in a non-reactive pot. Cook over low heat – be careful, with all that sugar it will burn! Marisa recommends 1-1 1/2 hours, but I usually end up letting it go around 2 hours. Stir every 10 minutes or so, until it reaches desired consistency. I use equal parts dried and fresh chile – add more if you like more of a kick.

When it is almost ready prepare your jars, lids and rings. When it has cooked down to your liking, remove from heat and fill jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and twist on rings. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes. I always have some leftover, which goes into an unprocessed jar in the fridge for me.

After 20 minutes, remove jars from water bath and allow them to cool. Sometimes, I turn the heat off in the canner and let the jars cool in there. When jars are cool enough to handle, test seals. You should be able to pick up a jar by its lid only. Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to one year – if they last that long…

Options
1. Serve with sharp cheese and crackers. Its great to bring to a party, since its most people don’t equate tomatoes with jam. Remember though – its fairly sweet – so pair accordingly.
2. I think it would be equally delicious or in a grilled cheese sandwich with whole grain bread.
3. I might have future plans for it as the base of a tomato, thyme and gruyere tart.