“Well, it’s like this,” she shouted: “MY YOUNGER SISTERS MAKE YOGURT.”
My sisters show up at family gatherings with homemade yogurt, sometimes in artistic glass jars, and say things like, “Oh it’s easy, you should try it.”
I know that peer pressure is not a good incentive to do things. But, I do eat copious amounts of nonfat Greek yogurt because it’s free on the WW plan, and I love it with a little stevia and frozen blueberries. So it would be cost effective too.
So, last week, as I was rushing off to an appointment, I called my sister and took her instructions over the phone while driving. (First mistake? Okay, probably.)
Heat to 180 degrees. Maintain heat for 30 minutes. Cool to 110 degrees. Add yogurt. Let sit for 8 hours. Strain. Add vanilla and stevia. Cool and indulge.
When I return home, I confidently pour a gallon of skim milk into a kettle, and have my first setback. It turns out that this particular kettle holds exactly one gallon.
I consider switching it to a larger kettle that would have more than 0.5 mm of kettle showing above the milk, but I decide that having it on the verge of overflowing is preferable to the mess I would make by the transfer. I put the kettle on the stove and turn the burner on. Not on high, because I certainly don’t want it to burn.
I am at my computer awhile later when I begin to smell something burning. By the time the milk gets to 180 degrees (which takes much longer than I expected), it smells strongly of charcoal. Again I consider pouring it into another kettle, but again I choose to stick with the misfortune I already have. I doggedly cool it, mix in the yogurt, and hope for the best.
The entire process has now taken much longer than I thought it would, and the 8 hours won’t be up until close to midnight. But, my sister has assured me, it doesn’t have to be exactly 8 hours. I put the kettle in the oven gingerly. One small bump and a huge wave of milk will spill over the side.
I go to a baby shower and come home and peek into the oven. I nudge the kettle. The consistency is close to that of water, but a slight gel has developed, so I decide to strain it. I select a lingerie bag (that has never been used of course!) and pour in the yogurt.
My plan is that the thin stuff that I don’t want will pour out and go down the drain, and the good yogurt will stay in the bag.
Instead, the yogurt begins to pour through the bag in streams.
Somehow, Marnell chooses this exact moment to come out to the kitchen sink to talk to me about something. He finds me there, dumping my all day yogurt project down the drain.
“You need to put a bowl under it,” Marnell said.
Even though my husband DOES NOT COOK, he’s full of unsolicited culinary advice. What kills me is that half the time he’s right, such as in this case.
I definitely need a bowl.
After half the yogurt has disappeared down the drain, I catch the rest in a bowl and switch strategies. I will let it drain in the refrigerator over night, through a cotton towel. I pour all of the yogurt out of the kettle and into the towel.
I now inspect the bottom of the kettle. A thick charcoal hide had grown on it as if it were a beast. Using a plastic tool, I skin the hide off in huge leathery strips.
When I check the yogurt in in the morning, a little more whey has drained off. But alas, the smell of charcoal meets me when I open the fridge door. The yogurt (is it yogurt if you can pour it?) is still nearly the consistency of water, only a lot more slimy.
Perhaps adding a little vanilla will make it taste good, I think.
I stick a spoon into the slime, and tasted it.
It is AWFUL.
Would a year’s crop of Haitian vanilla be equal to the task of making this yogurt better? I don’t think so.
I think of throwing it away, but I am getting low on Greek yogurt and I decide there is no reason I can’t eat it. I add stevia and vanilla, and I pour it on top of frozen fruit, and the resulting slushy is tolerable. I can eat this stuff, oh yes I can.
Until Saturday afternoon when I’m prostrate on the couch.
On Saturday morning, I gulp some of this frozen fruit-charcoal yogurt mash down before going to work. On the way to work I think, I don’t feel so well. I arrive, get out of my car, and vomit charcoal flavored yogurt blueberry slime in the fresh snow.
In all fairness, it probably isn’t the fault of the yogurt, because I end up leaving work early and vomiting on the way home while driving.
I get horizontal on the couch and feel much better. But I can’t convince my stomach that it wasn’t the fault of the yogurt.
I may try again someday, maybe soon. Maybe one of these days, I will arrive at a family gathering with homemade yogurt and tell people how easy it is to make it.
But that charcoal-flavored slime in the fridge? That is getting PITCHED.
Leave me a comment about your own yogurt-making experiences, good or bad. I would love to hear both kinds!
And to clarify, my sister does truly know how to make yogurt. If my instructions are wrong, it’s because I took them down wrong.