Even before we moved to the Santa Cruz area — epicenter of the local food and do-it-yourself movements — I started to experiment with making stuff from scratch that I was used to buying at the store. I enjoyed the notion that, instead of paying a mega-corporation to make a particular foodstuff for me, I could make it at home — and it would be tastier, more nutritious, cost less, and use less plastic to package.
It’s my small way of sticking it to The Man (said with a sneer and single-finger salute, well out of sight of Little Bird).
Granted, I am a stay-at-home mom, so I have a little more time to futz around in the kitchen than moms and dads who also work outside the home. But yogurt is one those things that, if you have a smidgeon of energy left in the evening, it’s easy to put together. All it takes is milk, some yogurt from the store to act as a starter, and some dry milk powder. In terms of equipment, you need a pot, a food thermometer, and a heating pad.
For God’s sake, don’t go out and buy a yogurt machine! A waste of money and cabinet space.
I found my yogurt recipe and method in The Complete Tightwad Gazette, a compilation of a newsletter published from 1990 to 1996 by Amy Dacyczyn. It’s the Bible for scrooges and tightwads, a 950-or-so page tome filled with tons of tips on ultra-frugal living. I honestly use it more for inspiration than actual ideas, but I do regularly turn to page 751, where you can find her thoroughly-researched method for making homemade yogurt. It is so reliable that I have never found the need to look elsewhere.
Here it is:
- Put two tablespoons of “starter” — plain store-bought yogurt with the words “live cultures” on the label — in a small bowl and let it warm up to room temperature. If you do this around dinner-time, it should be ready to go by the time the kiddos are in bed.
- When the starter has come to room temperature, put a quart of milk in a large saucepan. Whisk in 1/2 cup of dry milk powder. Heat the milk to 180 degrees. (Note: this is not the time to multi-task! In a flash, the milk will boil over and make a huge mess on your stove.)
- Turn off the heat and let the milk cool to 115 degrees. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of the warm milk to the starter. Add the starter-and-milk mixture back to the saucepan of milk and whisk well.
- You can then pour this either into a large bowl (cover with plastic wrap) or a quart jar (screw on the lid). Place the bowl or jar on a heating pad set on “low,” cover with a towel, and cover all that with a large soup pot. Incubate for eight hours.
That’s it! If you get this going at night before you go to bed, you can wake up in the morning to fresh yogurt. Pretty awesome.