Thursday, September 25, 2008

Week 1: Homemade Yogurt

I love yogurt and when my boyfriend, Scott, came across a wonderful web site with all kinds of great recipes, we decided we had to try it. Let me tell you, our first attempt was amazing. I have tried variations since and made a few mistakes, but I think I am perfecting the recipe to how I like my yogurt. I never thought that making your own homemade yogurt was sooooo easy! I am not a big fan of plain yogurt since the store bought kind has a "bite" to it, but the homemade version is really mild and great when you add honey or some jam to it. I make my yogurt with powered milk, which I remember as a kid being "weird" tasting, but actually really like it now and it is much more economical than regular milk. I just don't drink milk fast enough before it goes bad, so being able to make us some milk anytime has been great. Here is the simple recipe for delicious homemade yogurt.

Homemade Yogurt:

  • 4 cups water

  • 1 2/3 cups nonfat dry milk (or use any kind of fresh milk that you like)

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons store-bought, plain yogurt with active cultures
Special items needed: candy thermometer, 2-3 bath towels (I'll explain later)

Step 1: I like to mix the water and milk in a quart water bottle and shake it when I am using dry milk. It is easy to mix. Experiment with the quantity of dry milk, if you like thicker yogurt add a little more dry milk.

Step 2: I heat the milk in the microwave, in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup or any microwave safe container to hold the milk. I first set the microwave for 3 minutes and stir. (I found that there is less milk "scum" that forms this way. 4 minutes is too long, 3 minutes is just right). I usually just stir it with the candy thermometer to see the temperature. Then I set it for 1 minute and stir, and continue at 1 minute intervals and stir until it hits 180 degrees. I found with my microwave that it takes about 7 minutes total. The reason you are heating the milk is to kill off any other competing bacteria and I guess 180 degrees is their killing point.

Step 3: I pour the hot milk into my container that I am going to store the yogurt, which also helps let it cool down. You now just let it set for about 15-20 minutes or until it cools below 115 degrees. (Trust me, you want to let it cool, I got so excited on my second try that I forgot to let it cool and put the store-bought yogurt in and 8 hours later I just had milk. I forgot about that magic temperature of 180 degrees and how it kills bacteria, so my little good active yogurt cultures never had a chance) Let it cool!

Step 4: Now you can add the store-bought plain yogurt to the warm milk. Stir it in until dissolved. Basically you just need to buy a small generic container of plain yogurt to use as your starter. I then take the rest of the store-bought yogurt and put it into ice cube trays and freeze it. I then just take out a cube when I go to make a new batch of homemade yogurt.

Step 5: Now the fun part. I just put the lid on my container, place it on a few towels and wrap the container up with the towels to keep it warm. There are recommendations of putting in the oven for 6-8 hours at 100 degrees to keep it warm, but who wants to be away from the house when the oven is on!? I found that wrapping it up so the container is insulated works pretty well and let it rest on my kitchen counter for 6-8 hours. Low tech and easy!

Step 6: Refrigerate and eat! That's it. This is pretty easy and the yogurt tastes really good. Experiment and enjoy!

Recipe credit to: Hillbilly Housewife. Check out this wonderful Blog with great ideas, recipes, and more! Love this site!

52 Week Posts

I love learning and exploring and decided that I am going to post a new post every week for the next year! Yes, 52 posts on various recipes, tips, and how to guides of simple things you can learn and do to become a little more hillbilly. I have some ideas, but would love to hear form you on things that you would like to learn to better enjoy the simple life.

Have you ever made butter? What about about easy homemade ice cream with a zip lock bag? How to keep your cast iron shinny & beautiful. Looking for some homemade Christmas ideas for great gifts? Let me know what you are interested in and I will do some research and see if there is a simple and easy way to get to do it.

Friday, September 5, 2008

It's time to Go Hillbilly!

I have made the decision to go Hillbilly! Yes, I said Hillbilly! Okay, I live in a townhouse in an urban town in Los Angeles. I cook with cast iron, make homemade yogurt and jam (YUM!!), and want to learn more about canning.

I am thirty something and I think my generation never really learned how to cook from scratch, make bread, shop on a budget, save tinfoil, etc. Okay, I watched my Mom using a pressure cooker, which was scary!, and she did some canning of some amazing apple butter, but my generation never really had to learn all this, we could just go out and buy it. The store bought stuff never tastes as good as homemade either. So why have we settled for uninteresting food? For convenience?

What I am finding now, is there are such simple pleasures in just cooking a great meal, making homemade strawberry jam that is out of this world, and just goin' hillbilly, a little! I propose that an urban woman can take a little extra time to learn a few techniques, cooking methods, how to shop for food, and save some money by Goin' Hillybilly!