First, I want to thank everybody for the wonderful information in this week’s comments. I have a busy weekend ahead but I hope to make my first batch of soap next week. I am also planning to clean out the rest of the first aid cabinet and I feel a lot better about those outdated meds.

Now on to the cheap food. Today, I want to talk about yogurt. I have been making  yogurt for years. I have made it from whole milk, skim milk, raw milk and powdered milk, all with good results. I usually use a cup of the previous batch for starter. The yogurt was good but,a few months ago, a friend gave me some Bulgarian starter, and the results were dramatic. The yogurt was not just good; it was fabulous. It was thicker and creamier as well as less tart. The only downside was that the girls were eating a whole batch in a couple of days. The inevitable happened and they ate the last cup without retaining some for starter and I am now without. I keep meaning to order some from the co-op but it has slipped my mind. Today, I need to take care of it.

Making yogurt is easy but it can be fussy. You can take no shortcuts with cleanliness. If there is any bacteria left on a spoon or in a bowl or cup, the yogurt can become pig or chicken food. You might want to invest in a dairy thermometer because temperature matters. I have always done it by touch but if you use a thermometer, you can’t go wrong.  The final important thing is the milk. If you use raw milk, wait for a couple of days after milking to make yogurt if the cow has received any antibiotics. This will give the medication a chance to dissipate and you won’t risk the antibiotics knocking off you good bacteria. Some people prefer pasteurized milk so the good and bad bacteria aren’t competing. If you use non-homogenized milk, you will get a layer of yogurt cream on top as it sets. You can stir it in or leave it. You can make good yogurt from skim milk but I like mine with a least a little fat. I actually like mine with a lot of fat. Yogurt from the milk of a grass-fed Jersey cow is a so good it feels sinful. It is a dream of mine to have a neighborhood Jersey.

Start by washing your equipment. Use good, hot soapy water and rinse really well. You can scald everything but it really isn’t necessary. All you need is a quart of milk and 1/4 cup starter. Adding more starter will make the yogurt more tart. I usualy add 1/3 cup of dried milk too. Some people swear my gelatin but I don’t always use it. Heat the milk to 185 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, watch for bubbles to form on the edge of the pan. Be sure to use a stainless steel or glass pan for this. If the milk boils, toss it the compost or feed it to pigs or chickens as scorched milk tastes terrible and will spoil anything you use it for. Let the milk cool to about 110 degrees. It should feel warm to the inside of you wrist. now add the powdered milk if you are using it and the starter. It will take a while to get all of the lumps out but make sure you do. I have had good luck with adding the milk to the starter until the starter is thin enough to pour, then adding that to the rest of the warm milk. If you are using a yogurt maker, put the warm milk in the maker and leave it alone to incubate for 6 to 12 hours. You need to keep the temperature between 105 and 115 degrees. If you don’t have a yogurt maker, you can put the yogurt in a glass jar. To keep it warm, you can set it in a small cooler with a jar of warm water or put it in a gas oven with the pilot light lit. Do what you can to keep the temperature stable. The longer you let the yogurt sit, te thicker it will be. It will also thicken as it cools. You can add sugar or honey or maple syrup to the finished product. We like our with honey and frozen strawberries. We also like it with granola mixed in. You can put your yogurt in a cheese bag and hand it up to drain overnight and enjoy yogurt cheese with chopped herbs.

Yogurt is a healthy food, with all the benefits of milk along with healthy probiotics. If you are taking antibiotics, eat yogurt. If you are recovering from any gastrointestinal troubles, eat yogurt. If you are prone to yeast infections, eat yogurt.

You can substitute yogurt for sour cream and yogurt cheese for cream cheese. It makes a good base for salad dressings.

I highly recommend either of two books (I have both). The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley and Home Cheese Making by Ricki Both have excellent chapters on making yogurt.

One more thing. Always check the label if you are buying commercial yogurt. Some of the stuff in the market is adulterated with sugars and thickeners and emulsifiers and colors. Most are flavored with fruit like substances rather than real fruit. Not all of it even has live cultures and it is all expensive.