Thursday, November 3, 2011

Silky Smooth Homemade Yogurt

Song Pairing:
El Farol by Santana
I've argued this song choice in my head for days now.  I've waited and waited for another song to hit me like lightning and say, "NO!  I'm the song for making yogurt!"  Yet it hasn't happened.  All I know is, when I play this song, it makes me feel just how I feel when I'm practicing the art of yogurt-making. 

Is it because there are no lyrics?  Because, truly, there are no words for how smart, confident, and sexy I feel when I'm making up a new batch.  The song is smooth and fluid - and if whole milk being poured into a glass in slow motion had the ability to create its own tune - El Farol would be it.  The word - el farol -is spanish for light, as in a streetlight or hurricane lamp.  It can also be translated to mean bluff - as in  the playing poker kind of bluff.  All I can say is - I'm not bluffing when I say that making yogurt has brought light to my soul.  It's OK if you cringed - I kinda did.  Save judgment, though, until you try it yourself.

This song won a 2000 Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental.  I remember being electrified by the whole album that carried this song, as were over 27 million other people.  If you don't already own the album, Supernatural, you probably should.  I'm just sayin'.

Everyone should have a friend like my friend, Ciel.  She knows how to do and make just about everything.  She's a curious soul, like myself.  If she doesn't know how to do something she is going to be researching it until she does - or finds someone who can teach her.  I love to be around other "knowledge junkies."  I inherited the addiction from my father.  I don't know where she got hers, but I'm glad she has it, too!

Ciel is the one who brought me to the land of yogurt, saying the words, "It's really not that hard."  Ok - I'm not sure that those were her exact words, but something to that effect.  What she did was give me a taste of hers.  True confessions - I was prepared for something too sour and of questionable texture.  I'd tasted other people's homemade yogurt before, mind you, and they all professed theirs to be so yummy.  Liars! 

Well, Ciel was no liar!  Hers was truly, certifiably, silky and delicious.  It wasn't all high notes of tartness.  There were lovely undertones of that "healthy" flavor of perfect cultures balancing out the slightest hint of any sour.  I'm not even sure that sour is the right word here.  I just know that I wanted more!  The questions started to fly!

She explained about how she liked to use a yogurt with several different types of bacteria culture as her starter and greek yogurts usually had the most.  She also told me she uses whole milk.  She said I could try low-fat but that the texture probably wouldn't be as velvety.  (She was right.)  She offered to have me over the next time she made a batch so I could see just how easy it was.

A couple weeks later I got a text saying that it was a yogurt-making morning!  I rearranged my schedule and went on over.  I watched her stir milk as she heated it - it was . . . . fascinating?  And then she did the incredible feat of stirring in a half can of sweetened condensed milk.  When it came to a simmer she stirred for just a bit longer and then . . . . she TURNED OFF THE HEAT!!!  Whoa!  I was amazed!  As we chatted, it cooled down and then she stirred in a couple heaping tablespoons of yogurt!  (She always saves that much from the previous batch so she can start the next one.)  When she announced that that was it, I was a litte let down.  Surely there had to be more to it!  She put the yogurt into her jars, capped them, wrapped them in a towel, and showed me her fancy, schmancy, incubator - a space above the freezer in her pantry.  She said it was the warmest spot in her house and that I should spend a little time finding that perfect spot in my home.  Not too hot, not too cold.

So what next?  She lets it sit for 24 hours.  The next morning she has a fresh batch to enjoy!

I went right out and bought my "supplies."

I couldn't wait until the next morning, not that you can only make yogurt in the mornings.  That's just when I would have the time to dedicate to my new adventure.  Of course, I tried to make some changes and my first couple batches were fails, in my opinion.  The low-fat version was a disappointment because I really wanted that same smooth texture of Ciel's.  I finally gave in and went the full fat, full sugar way, like Ciel, and I haven't been sorry.  I can have less when the quality is so good!

printable recipe

2 qts. whole milk
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk
2 oz. yogurt - one with live cultures

Pour milk into a large pan and turn heat to medium, stirring occasionally.  Stay close as milk likes to suddenly bubble up and out of whatever container is trying to heat it!

When steam starts to rise from the milk, whisk in the sweetened condensed milk, giving it a good stir until it's fully incorporated.  You don't want bits to sink to the bottom and start burning.

Continue to heat until the milk simmers, around 185 degrees.  I do use a thermometer to be certain of my temps.  This is the one I use.  Stir another minute then turn off the heat and let cool.  You will want the liquid to be no higher than 110 degrees so you don't kill the active bacteria cultures.  It should be warmer than 70 degrees, though.  To save time, you can fill a clean sink with ice water and put your pan in, making sure the water doesn't come over the sides of the pan.  Stir and watch as the temperature plummets to within your range.

When the milk mixture is between 110 - 70 degrees, whisk in the yogurt.

Pour into jars that have secure lids.  I like to use smaller jars but Ciel uses a large one.

Wrap in a towel . . .

and place in a warm spot.  In the spring and summer, my garage acts as the perfect spot.  Sometimes, my daugher's windowseat gets the job.

In the winter, I turn on the electric blanket in the guest room and slip it into the covers.
Keep warm 24 hours then refrigerate and enjoy!  I love mine with bananas and Ginger Preserves!


  1. Ahhhh. I am reading a late night post on your blog!!! It is not a common occurrence to read about myself and I have to admit that it has a certain satisfaction connected to it. Well, the post is also about the yogurt that I love and need to make soon.You have gotten all the details perfect. BTW, my dad used to tease me about being so curious and asking tons of questions. Turns out that curious quality has been a good thing in the "figuring out how to do things" category.

  2. Yes, dear friend, it is about YOU! My fellow curious co-hort!