One day while out and about I picked up a copy of a book called "211 Things A Bright Girl Can Do" by Bunty Cutler. The book caught my eye for the wrong reason. I am half blind even with my contact lenses in so I mused aloud "Why are there only 21 things a clever girl can do? Surely there are more!" before a kind soul pointed out that the title said 211. Oops! I'm like your confused half blind friend-embarrassing!
I took it down and flicked through it and started chuckling straight away. There was "How to escape a vicious swarm of bees", "How To Hide a File in a Cake" and "How to survive a plane crash" with tongue in cheek advice like "Survivors are the ones who don't stop for family or friends. Just walk over all the other people, screaming loudly" along with actual sound advice. Then there is more practical advice such as "How to manage an umbrella in the wind" and "How to forecast the weather like your grandmother used to."
In this book there are recipes and one in particular caught my eye. It was how to make yogurt using a thermos. I quickly read through it and saw that it only needed a few ingredients and no special equipment and would let me feed my yogurt addicted Mr NQN yogurt every day. Doing my sums, I figured I could make fresh yogurt for at least half the price of regular yogurt and even make it organic to boot!
All yogurts need a starter and instead of buying a special starter, all you need is a small 200g pot of natural yogurt as your starter (just make sure that it says that it has "live cultures" in it). You can continue to take one and a half tablespoons from this pot and can get at least 6-7 lots of yogurt from the one pot. Then, all you need is some milk, milk powder, a thermos or some jars and some time to create it. Once you mix and heat the three ingredients together you leave it for 7-12 hours and you end up with yogurt! The powdered milk is to give the yogurt a bit of body to it and I used an organic full cream milk (low fat milk is also ok but non fat is a challenge) and you can also use organic yogurt as your starter.
With my first lot I made an organic blueberry yogurt and I made about a half dozen batches straight afterwards and haven't stopped since. It's actually quite exciting waking up and seeing your yogurt ready made for you. For those who want a mild flavoured almost cheesecake type yogurt, you can make one by placing a lidded jar of the milk and yogurt in the oven so that it sets quickly within about three hours without developing the tangy yogurt taste.
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite yogurt flavour? I love thick Greek yogurt with honey. And do you like making things from scratch?
Made From Scratch: Yogurt in a Thermos!
Preparation: 15 minutes
Method: overnight, but with no attention at all
The quantity below makes enough to fill a 500ml/1 pint thermos
- 1.5 cups of milk (best results with fresh)
- 1/3 cup powdered milk
- 1.5 tablespoons natural yogurt with live cultures (this is your starter) I used a five:am organic vanilla yogurt which I adore
- You will also need a thermos or glass jars with lids and several tea towels or bath hand towels if the weather is cold where you are. The recipe for blueberry sauce follows below.
Step 1 - Place the milk and powdered milk in a saucepan and use a small whisk to dissolve the powdered milk. Place a sugar thermometer in the saucepan and heat it to 82°C/180°F and then let it cool down to 46°C/115°F (it takes about 10 minutes, whisking and blowing on it helps and don't let it go below that temperature).
Step 2 - Meanwhile, preheat the thermos to give the milk a nice warm environment and to sterilise the thermos. To do this, put a kettleful of water onto boil and then pour the boiled water into the thermos and screw the lid on.
Step 3 - When the milk has reached the right temperature, whisk the yogurt into the milky mixture. Then empty out the water from the thermos (you can make a jug of iced tea with the water as it will still be very hot) and then add the milk and yogurt mixture to the thermos.
Step 4 - Screw on the lid tightly and then place in an area where it won't be knocked or disturbed. Wrap it in two or three tea towels or bath hand towels to keep it warm and leave overnight (although during summer the ambient temperature keeps it warm). Sometimes it may even be ready as quickly as in 7 hours but in cold weather it can take up to 16 hours to reach a good consistency. To store, place in the fridge and eat plain or with honey or with your favourite fruit topping.
Yogurt In The Oven
Step 5 - If you can't wait and want a quicker, cheesecake type of yogurt, make the milk and yogurt mix exactly as detailed above. Then instead of placing it in a thermos, preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F. While the oven is reaching temperature, preheat some 400ml (or thereabouts) glass jars with lids with the boiling water method above and then pour the water out and place the milk mixture inside and screw the lid on tightly. Turn the oven off and leave the jar/s in the warm but now turned off oven for 3-4 hours. The tart yogurt flavour won't have fully developed (and you can leave it longer to fully develop) so it will be very mild and creamy but it will have set quite nicely and you can top it with the blueberry sauce for a delicious, less calorific dessert (also add some vanilla and some crushed cookie crumbs if you want, for the cheesecake experience).
- 125g/4ozs blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup sugar or to taste (depends on how sweet you want it and how tart the bluberries are)
Step 1 - Place ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer until the blueberries become soft and sweet, about 3-4 minutes. This will thicken naturally upon chilling. The fruit looks best on the bottom of the container underneath the yogurt as the whey rises to the top and tends to makes it look split.
Things to remember:
- Make sure all of your jars and thermos are very clean and sterilised (instructions below).
- Best results are obtained with fresh milk, not UHT
- You need to use fresh yogurt with live cultures-natural yogurt with live culture should be easy enough to find, just read the label, most contain them. Make sure that the yogurt hasn't expired as it may not work if the live cultures have died.
- You need it to reach 82°C/180°F to kill of any other bacteria that may compete with the bacteria we are using to create the yogurt.
- The longer the waiting process the more tart the yogurt will be. I found that the best results were after waiting 22-24 hours for the yogurt to set and that was lovely and tart and tasted exactly like the yogurt you get at the shops.
- If you get the clear yellow liquid, this is whey and is really good for your skin in a bath! It gives you very soft skin :) We should add that to things that clever girls can do.
- The yogurt should last about 1-2 weeks in the fridge.
- You can also use some yogurt from the batch that you made to make another batch of yogurt. However, use it within 5 days and be aware that there is a point where you can't use it anymore, after about 4-5 times as the live cultures will also expire.
- If you don't own a thermos you can put it in a sterilised jar or glass with a screw top lid-I baked a cake and while the oven was cooling, I placed the yogurt in a glass jars in the oven once it reached 150°C/300°F and let it set in the oven as it cooled down. It only took a few hours for it to set (but keep it in there longer if you want a tarter, more traditional yogurty flavour) and it was absolutely delicious. The tight lid is important and this really works best with jam jar sized quantities rather than large pyrex casserole dish quantities (also the lid doesn't screw on tight and that seems to really help speed up the process).