Homemade Yogurt All Summer Long
Returning from Sicily to Philadelphia’s simmering pot of hot weather has thrown me into a jag of yogurt making. Thanks to Cheryl Sternman Rule’s recent book, Yogurt Culture, I’ve made batch after perfect batch — a feat, since I have tried yogurt recipes in the past with mixed results. Cheryl’s instructions are exacting. And her recipe (below) works well for whole milk or 2%. I like to start a batch in the morning, and by mid-afternoon it’s ready to slide into the fridge, good for a snack at sundown.
My Swiss grandmother used to greet us with a large blue salad bowl full of homemade yogurt when we visited her home in Cleveland, back when I was a kid. She’d set it out on her kitchen table (always covered in a thick plastic tablecloth to preserve the wood finish) along with homemade preserves and muesli, and we’d dish ourselves big helpings of yogurt and toppings. So cool, so refreshing after the long drive across the Midwest.
Later, as an exchange student in Munich, my host family liked to gather around their kitchen table on weekend afternoons for a quarkspeise — a dairy-centric ritual involving a buffet of berries, preserves, honey, muesli, and quark or yogurt.
As you can see, my yogurt affiliations run deep.
How I love pattering into my own kitchen now, knowing there is a big blue salad bowl full of homemade yogurt. Out comes the jam, the berries, the buckwheat honey and granola.
And I’ve been playing with other uses, thanks to Yogurt Culture. For a recent stoop party, I made Cheryl’s recipe for Cold Yogurt Soup with Cucumber, Herbs, and Rose Petals (page 144). Before that, I fell hard for Pomegranate Doogh (page 138), a yogurt soda that I maybe spiked with a little Creme de Cassis?
This week, Cheryl has a story in the food section of The Washington Post for yogurt cocktails — full disclosure: she included a yogurt cocktail from my recent book with André Darlington, The New Cocktail Hour.
We’ve bonded, you see, Cheryl and I. Over dairy. It happens, as you well know. When Cheryl and I spoke by phone recently — after discovering each other on Instagram (look for @sternmanrule)– she confessed that since she had written a yogurt book, it had taken over her life. She launched a website, called Team Yogurt, and now all she wants to do is profess the magic of probiotic dairy to everyone she meets.
I told her I understood completely.
This recipe is lightly adapted from Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food, by Cheryl Sternman Rule. Cheryl’s recipe makes a half-gallon of yogurt, but I prefer to make a smaller batch for our two-person household. Check out her book for loads more information on yogurt-making, including how to make Greek-style yogurt and Labneh (yogurt cheese).
- 4 cups milk (whole milk or 2%)
- 1 tablespoon yogurt (the starter)
Step 1: Heat the Milk to 180 degrees F. Rub an ice cube around the inside of a stainless steel pot or saucepan to prevent the milk from sticking to it as it heats. Then affix your candy thermometer to the side of the pot and add the milk. Warm the milk slowly over medium-high heat. This may take up to 20 minutes, so be patient and do some dishes as you wait. When the temperature reaches 180, turn the heat way down but maintain the temperature for 5 minutes (this will create naturally thicker yogurt). Remove the pot from the heat and remove any skin that has formed on top of the milk.
Step 2: Cool the milk to 115 degrees F. Pour the hot milk into a large bowl (I use a big ceramic salad bowl) and let the milk cool, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 115 degrees. This will take another 20 to 30 minutes.
Step 3: Add the starter culture. When the milk has reached 115 degrees, ladle about a cup of it into a mug and whisk a tablespoon of the yogurt starter into it. (This is called tempering.) Then, pour the tempered yogurt back into the large bowl of milk and cover it with a plate.
Step 4: Incubate. Your innocculated milk needs to be kept warm (between 100 and 112 degrees). Find a warm spot in your house, or use the “proofing” setting on your oven — which is what I do. Let the yogurt rest undisturbed for 6 to 12 hours. (I check it at hour six, and if it has set, I put it into the refrigerator. It should wobble a little. If it needs more time, wait another two hours and check it again.)