Like everyone who cooks on a regular basis, I have my share of failures in the kitchen. It’s very frustrating when a recipe that seems perfectly easy turns into a disaster. Fortunately, it only happens to me once in a while. One time, I made a beautiful batch of cole slaw. It had a rainbow of colors and the perfect dressing. In my haste to mix it up and get it on my plate, I put the whole batch in a large covered storage container and shook it up. The cover wasn’t on all the way, and on the second or third shake, the top came off and the gorgeous rainbow of colors went flying all over my kitchen. The clean-up was a nightmare with the oil-based dressing.
This recipe brings up my latest story of kitchen failure. Stay with me, though – it has a happy ending. After reading the book, Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should (and Shouldn’t!) Cook from Scratch to Save Time and Money,I was fascinated by the prospect of making my own yogurt. I read several recipes, and they all seemed so easy. Mix a little yogurt with some milk, let it sit for a while, and voila! Fresh, affordable, delicious, homemade yogurt can be yours. Even better, you can strain out some of the whey to turn it into Greek yogurt. And, as if that weren’t enough, you can let it sit a little longer in the strainer, and you’ve got yourself some homemade yogurt cheese.
Now, I have to admit that yogurt isn’t the most practical food item for me to be making. I have a dairy sensitivity, my husband doesn’t eat much yogurt, and the kids will only eat it if it’s sweetened beyond recognition. No matter, though. I really wanted to make it anyway. I’ve been thinking about adding a little yogurt to my diet because many people with dairy issues can tolerate yogurt. This was definitely the most difficult food for me to part with when I gave up dairy. I believe yogurt is such a great food to eat because of its beneficial bacteria, protein, and calcium. And I know that at least one of my children will eat yogurt smoothies, so I decided it was worth learning how to make my own yogurt.
Well, I tried two different recipes, and both failed. Each approach resulted in milk that tasted like yogurt, but it didn’t thicken up at all. The recipes all say that homemade yogurt will be runnier than the store-bought version, but this wasn’t just runny; it was still milky. Both attempts required very little work and a lot of waiting. I left the yogurt to ferment overnight, and I was disappointed on two separate mornings to find a batch of yogurt-tasting milk instead of plain yogurt. After the second failed attempt, I decided to wait a couple weeks and try one more time. If that failed too, I would let it go.
Fortunately, the third time was a charm! The recipe from the Cheapskate Cook seemed to address two problems that the previous versions didn’t: keeping a high enough temperature during fermentation and solidifying the final product.
4 cups whole milk
2 tbs. plain, whole milk yogurt
- Heat the milk to a temperature of 180 degrees, and then let it cool to 110-115 degrees. You can do this by heating it on the stove top and monitoring the temperature with a thermometer, or by using a slow cooker. If you use the slow cooker, heat it on low for 2 hours and then turn it off and leave it covered in the slow cooker for another 3 hours.
- Set up a cooler with a bath towel inside.
- Fill a pot with a few cups of boiling water and place it in the middle of the cooler. Be careful to keep the pot from touching the sides of the cooler (the towel is a buffer). Cover the cooler.
- Pour the milk in a large glass container, and add the yogurt. Stir to combine.
- Place the glass container in the pot of water in the cooler. Place a meat thermometer in the cooler and close the cover. Ideally, the temperature will be between 90 degrees and 120 degrees. Let it sit for 6 hours.
- After 6 hours, replace the water with a fresh pot of boiling water. Let it sit for another six hours.
- After 12 hours, the yogurt should be done. If it doesn’t seem ready, replace the boiling water again and leave it for another 6 hours. There will be liquid on the top (whey) and yogurt at the bottom. When the yogurt is ready, put the yogurt in the freezer for 20 minutes to help it thicken.
- Separate the whey for another use by placing the yogurt in a strainer lined with a cheese cloth. Let the whey drip out until you have the consistency you want. I use this Butter Muslin, which is woven more tightly than some cheese cloth and it’s washable and reusable.
I spent $.96 on the ingredients for this batch of yogurt. I let a lot of the whey drain out to yield a thick, Greek-style yogurt, so the final product was only about two cups of yogurt. If I had left it thinner, it would have been closer to a quart of yogurt. A two-cup container of Chobani plain Greek yogurt has a shelf price of $3.49. Store-bought Greek yogurt would cost almost four times as much as my homemade batch. This recipe is definitely worthwhile for that kind of savings.
Share Your Kitchen Failures
Do you have a kitchen disaster to share? Tell us in the comment section. I think it would make us all feel better to know that we’re not the only ones setting off the smoke detector.
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