Thursday, August 18, 2011

six(teen) impossible things before breakfast

Alice laughed, "There's no use trying," she said. "One can't believe impossible things."  "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
-Alice in Wonderland

I got that feeling this morning. You know, when you wake up in the morning after a great night's sleep, confirm the hubby and little one are still in dreamland, and you think I'm going to take over the world today!!  Yes, that was lucky enough to be me.  It was 5:52 a.m.  Brewed a cup of herbal tea, turned NPR on the radio, and said "let's do this!"

So what did I do?  What any other over-ambitous work-from-home Mom would do - I made sixteen quarts of homemade yogurt.  That's right, sixteen.  (Needless to say, we love our yogurt around here.)  Was it worth it?  You bet your bootie. 

This is Amana's first-ever yogurt face at 7 months.

Not very convincing I know.  But now, a few months later, this little lady just can't get enough of the stuff.   Plain, with fruit, on pancakes, in oatmeal, even lukewarm with soggy Cheerios, or licked off her highchair tray - she'll eat it any which way she can get it.   

The added bonus, of course, is that plain yogurt (naturally sugar-free) is super good for anyone, young or old.  It's loaded with all of the good bacteria that you need for a healthy gut.  And a strong, healthy tummy means better digestion, a stronger immune system, and all-around better health. 

Making yogurt at home saves big on the grocery bill. We get fresh, antibiotic-free milk from a neighbor for $2/gallon.  One gallon of milk gets me 4 quarts of yogurt.  That means I'm making nutritous yogurt at home for about $0.50/quart.  If I bought good organic yogurt in the store, I'd easily pay $4/quart.  Yikes! Even if you can't get milk from your neighbor, it's still worth your time.  OK all you over-ambitous mamas like myself - here you go!  

Grandma B's Homemade Yogurt
--makes 8 quarts of creamy, delectable plain yogurt--

what you'll need:       
       chest cooler
       2 gallon-sized containers
       8 glass quart jars with covers
       double boiler (or rig one up like I did with my canner and stock pot)
       2 gallons milk
       2 cups starter (plain yogurt from the store)
       large liquid measuring cup
       1/2 cup measurer

time required:
     about one hour, start-to-finish

-fill 2 gallon-size containers with very hot water and put in cooler to pre-heat it (your freshly heated milk and starter will soon sit in the cooler for several hours, ideally at a constant temp of 100-105 degrees Farenheit)

-pre-heat 8 glass quart jars by filling them with hot water and letting them sit near your sink

-take yogurt starter out of fridge so that it reaches room temperature

(1) pour 3-1/2 quarts (14 cups) of milk into double boiler and heat on medium high, stirring occassionally

(2) when milk reaches 180 degrees, remove from heat and pour into another bowl.  Let milk cool to 110 degrees.  You can stir it or put the bowl in a sink of cold water to quicken the cooling process.  (Because if you're anything like me, you've got oodles of other things to get done today, too!)

(3) while waiting for milk to cool, empty the glass quart jars and pour 1/4 cup yogurt starter into each

(4) when milk is 110 degrees, pour into jars, filling each one so that the milk line is 1/2" below the jar's neck.  Screw lids on and shake each jar well.

(5) put yogurt jars in chest cooler and do your best to maintain a temp of 100-105 degrees in the cooler for the next 3-4 hours.  You might have to remove the gallon jars of water and/or refill them with newly heated water to keep it at the right temp.  (The higher the temp in the cooler, the more quickly the yogurt will set and the stronger it will taste.)

(6) after about 3 hours, check yogurt by tipping several jars on their sides to see if the yogurt has set.  It should be one, firm mold, with a small amount of liquid moving freely around it.  If it still seems runny, let the jars sit in the cooler longer, all the while maintaining the ideal temp. Continue to check them off-and-on until the yogurt is set.

(7) remove jars from cooler and voila, you're done!! (let cool before refrigerating)

Freeze as much as you want, it tastes great even after thawing.  Just remember to empty a small portion of each jar before freezing to allow room for expansion.  Yogurt (fresh or thawed) generally keeps well in the fridge for 7-10 days.  It'll keep in the freezer for months.  If you turn into a 'yogurt snob' such as myself and only want to eat your own homemade yogurt, you can set aside some in your freezer to use as starter for next time.


There it was, just 7:45 am.  The little one was still sound asleep, the hubby had snuck out to the Smiling Tree woodshop, and I had 16 beautiful jars of soon-to-be yogurt tucked away in coolers in the corner of my kitchen. 

And that, my friends, is this woman's feat of six(teen) impossible things before breakfast.  Hmmm, now what of the rest of my day?  I've always wanted to make cheese....