09 May 2013

Crossing the line

The line I'm thinking of is the one that divides behaviour that is considered quite normal, and behaviour which is viewed as eccentric. The location of the line varies from person to person, of course, and I'm fairly sure that a lot of things I consider perfectly reasonable activities would definitely be on the other side of the eccentricity line for other people. Growing my own food, raising chickens, baking all my own bread, making granola, refusing to buy processed food - that sort of thing. But I crossed my own version of that line in recent months when I started making my own yog(h)urt. I don't know why that seems more eccentric than baking bread (and the two activities are now closely linked, as I'll explain in a minute), but it does. Somehow making yoghurt seems such a 1970s thing to do.

But it's so easy that I've become completely addicted to the process and always have a batch of home-made yoghurt in the fridge. I've delayed blogging about it because of my reservations about it being an odd sort of thing to do.

The initial stimulus for the activity involves another confession (you can see why I delayed writing this post). I'm really bad at throwing out man-made containers like jam jars and yoghurt pots. I have cupboards full of them and they do come in very handy at times, but I really don't need any more. When I read Mimi Spencer's book 101 Things To Do Before You Diet back in February and she explained how simple it was, I was inspired to give it a go. And now I've been re-using the same yoghurt pot for the last three months. Win!

I started out by ordering a sachet of yoghurt culture online. You can just buy a jar of plain active yoghurt as your starter culture and don't need to do this, but I didn't have any to hand at the time. Then you heat some milk to boiling point (I use 2% fat milk) and let it cool down to about 45°C/115°F (if you don't have a thermometer, I read somewhere that at this temperature you should be able to keep your finger in the milk for 20 seconds). Stir three tablespoons of the yoghurt into the warm milk and then pour it into a vacuum flask (at the start of the process I just fill the flask with milk to measure the quantity - hence the lack of precision in these instructions! [I've now measured the quantity and my flask holds a litre/quart of milk]). After a couple of hours the milk will have curdled and you can strain the yoghurt to remove the liquid whey and thicken it up. I use a sieve lined with a coffee filter paper or kitchen paper for this.

Here's the view from the side. You can see the whey underneath the sieve.

I use the whey as part of the liquid I add to my bread - which means that a yoghurt-making day is usually also a bread-making day. But I've also read that tomato plants really like the calcium in whey, so I might use it for that in the summer.

Tonight I'm planning to use the yoghurt to make naan bread and raita to accompany the curry we're having for supper. My stomach is already growling at the thought.

So, do you do anything that you feel crosses your personal eccentricity line? Or is it just me that worries about these things?


Susie said...

I have made my own yogurt for a few years, I like knowing what is in it, instead of the long list of ingredients in some commercial yogurt. I very much admire your lifestyle which is not dissimilar to my own (grow veggies, bake some bread, but not ALL of it). And I'm proud, almost to the point of arrogance, that I am not like many of my friends and colleagues who blindly buy store-bought items without a second thought to the quality. It was your blog that inspired me to start my own!

"Cold Hand Warm Earth" blogger

Amanda said...

Good to hear from you, Susie! And I'm really pleased to see your blog (and proud to have been part of its conception!). Adding it to my list of blogs to read right now...