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Monday, April 4, 2011

Dabbling In Dairy

This is my Salton yogurt maker.  I bought it years ago after my Jordanian neighbor Rima taught me how to make yogurt.  When she showed me how to make yogurt the Arab way, it was really the Arab way.  First you boil three quarts of whole milk and one quart of half and half together.  Then you pour it into an immaculately clean bowl that will hold a gallon and let it cool.  When you can leave an immaculately clean finger in the milk for a count of ten, it's cool enough to add an eight ounce carton of plain commercial yogurt to it, which you stir in.  Then you cover it with plastic wrap and set a couple of layers of blankets in a draft free area of your nice warm kitchen, and then set the bowl on the blankets and wrap it up and leave it over night.  Rima always said, "the hotter it is, the sweeter it is," by which she meant that you want to keep it steadily warm through out the night.  She made the best yogurt though- it was so rich and wonderful.  But it wasn't consistent enough a recipe and it made way more than I could get through by myself, although if you always take your yogurt from the bowl with a clean spoon, it will last a long time in the fridge.  So I worked it out for myself: three cups whole milk, one cup half and half boiled and cooled to 110F, a tablespoon of plain yogurt, into an immaculately clean quart jar, pop it in the Salton, plug it in, and leave it for 6-7 hours.  I like it much better than commercial Greek yogurt.

However, I'm not making yogurt today.  I'm culturing buttermilk. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I really love buttermilk. Recently, Steve and I were at a store that carries Bulgarian buttermilk, which is my favorite.  This morning I had the chance to do a taste comparison of the Bulgarian against the swill I usually buy.  It wasn't swill before, but it is now because the Bulgarian is so much better tasting.  Turns out there's good reason for that.  Here's what's in the swill: cultured lowfat milk, salt, modified food starch, mono and diglycerides, carrageenan, locust bean gum, sodium citrate, and vitamins A and D added.

Here's what's in the Bulgarian: milk, sodium citrate, salt, live active cultures.  That's it.  So then I got this idea: I've cultured creme fraiche before- I bet I could culture buttermilk.  So a quick spin around the internet later and I was mixing one cup of the Bulgarian buttermilk with three cups of the organic whole milk I usually buy for my coffee and cereal (and anything else for which I need milk). I also added a teaspoon of salt, because part of what I like about buttermilk is its slightly salty tang.  The whole thing went into my yogurt maker, which I'll leave for twelve hours, and we'll see tomorrow how it turns out.

Just in case you're wondering about that creme fraiche?  Heat one pint of cream up to 90F.  Pour into an immaculately clean jar and add three tablespoons of buttermilk. Leave in a warm place overnight. (In the summer in Florida I'd leave it on the top of the dryer because it was consistently in the nineties in the utility room.) Once it's nice and thick, refrigerate.  Creme fraiche can be whipped, like cream, and it's awesome on desserts because it has a richer, almost cheese-like flavor.  It's lovely stuff.

I'd bet that it's even better made with Bulgarian buttermilk, though.

As an epilog to this post, I put the buttermilk in the fridge at around five-thirty this morning, which means that it was in the yogurt maker for twenty hours.  It was pretty thick, but stirring it in the glass loosened it up to a better drinking consistency.  I think that the next time I try this, I'll only incubate it for six to eight hours, and I'll back off the salt a little- maybe a half-teaspoon for the quart.  It still beat the swill all hallow though.


becky3086 said...

We have kept our yogurt going steadily without buying any more for quite some time now. I never have any problem with it. There is a post on my blog about it here:
I have not made buttermilk. I don't use it for much but I do agree--reading the label can make all the difference. Stops me from buying all sorts of things.

Paula said...

Hear, hear on reading labels!

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm impressed with your 'try everything' policy. Home brewing, now dairying. I can't wait to see what's next!

I don't care for store-bought yogurt either, but recently tasted some local thick yogurt made with milk from jersey cows, sugar and vanilla, and it was amazing. If I follow your recipe, I wonder if I could make something similar. Do you have to have a yogurt maker?

It's hard to find buttermilk in the UK, and of course I have lots of US recipes that call for it. Creme fraiche is common though. And you're right, it's delicious in place of whipped cream. Mind you, I LOVE cream...

Rae said...

Mmmm... creme fraiche... Drool

Ok. I'm hungry now. I like the creme fraiche I get at the Milwaukie farmers market on baby Yukon gold potatoes. Heaven.

Paula said...

Hi Jennifer- no you don't have to have a yogurt maker. Just a warm, draft-free spot where you can leave it wrapped up in blankets. I just like the yogurt maker because it ensures consistency, but Rima never used one. If your kitchen is cold, you might get by with the lowest setting on a heating pad.

Re: buttermilk: if you can make creme fraiche with buttermilk and cream, it makes sense to me that you should be able to make buttermilk with the cultures in creme fraiche. I'd risk a cup and a half of milk and a half cup of creme fraiche to find out. Just make sure you creme fraiche has live cultures in it.

I would love to have a source for Jersey cow milk, but you know everybody in the states uses Holsteins because they yield more. If I had space and a cow, it would be a Jersey.

Paula said...

Rae- try making your own creme fraiche- then you won't have to wait for the farmers market. If you bought it from the same folks from which we bought a pint of creme last summer, I think I know what you mean. Now that I think about that pint, I think it might have been from Jerseys, or at the least Guernseys. It was sure rich.

Yay butterfat!

Diane said...

I have a very thick foam cooler (came with a very extravagant gift of steaks) that I use for yogurt and kefir making. I put a large container of hot tap water in, then put the milk plus culture on top, then a bath towel and the lid. I make mine with lactose-free milk and a freeze-dried culture called Yogurmet. This is not frugal but it means I can indulge without repercussions.

Paula said...

That's a good idea Diane. Good for you for figuring out how you can enjoy yogurt. I don't know if they make yogurt for lactose intolerant people, but maybe that's a need that needs filling.