Thursday, March 20, 2014

Honey Mama's Homemade Yogurt

Culinary arts is the process of breaking prepared food down to its most basic components, down to the science of food, in order to learn how to master the preparation of a dish from the core ingredients up.  

I was drawn to culinary arts as a profession while sitting under a canopy of birch trees at our family cabin, nestled in a tiny “home” between the roots of the old birch tree tire swing that still stands, swing in tact, at our family cabin. I had a kitchen and prepared meals for my invisible restaurant patrons.  Drawn outside and drawn within, surrounded by the protected land of Denali State Park, learning how to be outside.  

Maya Summer 2013: The Cabin Tire Swing 

An only child wandering and exploring in nature I approached the woods as though they were my culinary canvas.  I used to create “food” masterpieces using a small hibachi grill my dad would fill with hot coals from the fire and my mishmash mess kit: a coffee can to boil water, an old cast iron skillet to fry things in, and a small sauce pot.  My mom would save random things, left over breadcrumbs, old flour, etc. and she gave them to me, to use outside in my culinary creations.  The rest of the ingredients came from the land.  Local. Organic. Wild. Simple. Nature.

February 2007: Denali from The Cabin
Being here has given me time to slow down and appreciate the simple in life.  Lured by the promises of simplicity I set out to learn how to make my own yogurt at home which I thought had to be more complicated than it seemed with a high risk of failure, otherwise why wouldn’t everyone make yogurt at home?

I set about researching the numerous ways one can go about preparing homemade yogurt.  Hot pad. Wood stove. Gas oven, left with the light on.  An $89 cuisinart automatic yogurt maker.  A $40 insulated cooler peddled as a yogurt maker.  Skeptical, I continued with my research and tested various appliances (oven and hot pad) for warmth and regularity. In the end the solution turned out to be a picnic sized ice chest which didn’t cost a penny, and the jars actually came with the house.  Win.

Supply list - Check:

  • Three quart sized canning jars with lids
  • Ice Chest
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Instaread Thermometer
  • Pot
  • Water
  • Milk, whole or 2% 
  • Yogurt Starter or Yogurt  
The convenience of food in our modern age makes us forget the simple process of fermentation and the impact it has on a wide variety of foods we enjoy and the digestion process.  Slow food.  Good food takes time and cannot be hurried along. Making homemade yogurt reminds you of this and rewards you in the end.  

Using a spoon or spatula mix yogurt and milk, then:

From start to finish the process took 27 hours, plus an additional 6 hours to chill the yogurt; about a day and a half of minimal supervision and low-effort (the ability to use and read a thermometer and change water over).  

The method I followed was in line with the “Specific Carbohydrate Diet” recipe for homemade yogurt which takes 24 hours of fermentation vs. 6 hours and reduces the amount of remaining lactose in the yogurt making it easier for digestion.  Anything beyond 6 hours is a matter of personal preference.  

My homemade yogurt turned out thick, rich, and creamy.  I made two separated batches (6 quarts) over the course of a week experimenting with 2% and whole milk, and Mountain High plain yogurt and Nancy’s honey whole milk yogurt as starters while I wait for my SCD “legal” cultures to arrive in the mail from Cultures for Health.  

The whole milk yogurt would be perfect for making homemade frozen yogurt and as a substitute for sour cream and could be turned into a yogurt cheese.  The 2% is a good eating yogurt and can be used in smoothies.  I strain off the excess liquid when I open a container of liquid and reserve it to be blended later into my (new) favorite recovery smoothie:

Honey Mama’s Tropical Recovery Smoothie

Combine the following in a blender:

1/2 C  yogurt liquid and/or yogurt
1/2 C  coconut water 
1/2 C  fresh squeezed orange juice (cara cara)
1 ea    banana 
Dash  Redmond Real Salt 

Blend until smooth.  I like to serve it over a few frozen yogurt cubes I make in ice cube trays in the freezer. I use plain yogurt and as the drink thaws it becomes a soft-serve like cream blended with the sweetness of the smoothie it creates the perfect balance of sweet and tart, naturally.


July 2013: Under a canopy of birch trees at The Cabin.
 "Real culture is here to be found. First of all, we can begin by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange programs, by endorsing worthwhile projects, by advocating historical food culture and by
 defending old-fashioned food traditions." - Excerpt Slow Food Manifesto 

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