Milk. So white. So pure and clean. What better way to begin this deranged culinary experiganza than by taking such a wholesome staple and infecting it with random cultures until it is a seething mass of uncontrolled bacterial growth?
This is not nearly so mad as it might seem. Do you like yogurt? That’s milk, cultured with bacteria. Sour cream? Cream, infected. Commercial examples of these products also contain all sorts of unnecessary thickeners and gums, but with fresh products that you make yourself, there is absolutely no need for these things.
The liberal elitist powers-that-be would have you believe that in order to make yogurt, one requires a whole slew of shielded low-heat electrical elements, tiny ceramic pots, and laboratory-isolated cultures. Absolute poppycock. Making yogurt is ridiculously simple. Stupidly simple. My cat could do it if she had opposable thumbs. 1 You need THREE THINGS to make yogurt: milk, buttermilk, 2 and a container to keep the yogurt in. 3
Are you ready?
Step 1: Pour the buttermilk into the container.
Step 2: Pour the milk into the container. 4
Step 3: Leave the container out on the counter at room temperature for about 24 hours, until it sets. If you feel like it, you can put a towel or handkerchief over it to keep bugs or dust from getting in.
There! It’s yogurt!
Maybe this is not the particular culture that makes yogurt yogurt. I don’t care. This stuff looks like yogurt, tastes like yogurt, and you don’t have to do any heating or cooling of any kind. That’s what this blog is about: cheap, easy, healthy.
And next time you make the stuff, you don’t even need to buy the buttermilk; just save a couple of dollops of the yogurt, and that will act as your culture.
Now for the exciting part. Want a big ol’ pitcher of buttermilk or kefir? Stir the yogurt until it’s smooth. 5 Want sour cream? Use cream instead of milk. Want mango lassis, available in your fridge anytime you care to have a glass? Pour your homemade buttermilk, some chopped mango, and some honey into a blender, puree, and keep in a pitcher. 6 To make greek yogurt, strain your yogurt in some cheesecloth. To make cream cheese, strain for longer. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY ANY OF THESE THINGS EVER AGAIN. Just milk, which is comparatively really cheap. And you don’t have to deal with all the fillers and junk that are in all that commercial stuff. It’s just cultured milk and whatever YOU decide to put in it.
Just so you know, out of the, say, fifty times that I have done this, something went wrong. There was an outside infection, from the air or from the pitcher or something. But instead of setting like yogurt, the milk became thick, slimy, and ropy. I did some research. There was nothing that I found online that said ‘Do not drink the ropy milk! It will give you crazy diarrhea / make you sterile / kill the heck out of you!!!’ In fact, I discovered that I had made viili, the Nordic version of yogurt. I ate it. Nothing untoward happened. If it had smelled or tasted off somehow, or if there was strange colors, I would have tossed the whole batch out. So if you think there’s something off, do your research! But know that mankind was culturing foods for millennia before microbiology was even a glimmer in Pasteur’s eye. So if you keep an open mind, smell before you taste, and taste before you eat, you’ll probably be fine. 7
Got any odd cultured foods you’ve tried out?
ADDENDUM 8/23/13: It has been brought to my attention that I totally forgot to give any kind of ratio of buttermilk to regular milk. You really don’t need very much buttermilk at all; I’ve used as little as a couple of tablespoons of buttermilk for a half-gallon pitcher full of milk, and had no problems. Whatever bacteria strain they use in commercial buttermilk seems to be quite hardy. 8 Here’s my process: half gallon pitcher, into which I put one of those little half-pint cartons of buttermilk, then I fill the rest of the pitcher with regular milk. (I use whole, but whatever you prefer will do.) Thank you, everyone (especially Mom! ( : ) for bringing this informational lack to my attention. And don’t hesitate to post any more questions! If you are having trouble posting comments below, please give the ‘Contact’ button in the menu a try and let me know it’s not working for you; I’ll see if I can figure what the problem is.
- Don’t let their haughty ways fool you. Cats are really, really stupid. ↩
- You don’t need much, just one of those little tiny cartons will do. ↩
- If you prefer your yogurt in little individual cups, then your container should be some sort of pitcher, and after you’re done mixing, you pour the mixture into all your little cups. ↩
- If you’re using little cups, give the milk/buttermilk a couple of stirs in the pitcher then distribute amongst the cups. ↩
- Don’t knock it. A big glassful tastes awesome on a summer’s day. ↩
- Try peach, strawberry, loquat, durian… ↩
- Please see the disclaimer on my About page. ↩
- Theoretically, you could use an infinitesimal amount of buttermilk for any quantity of milk, and it would eventually culture and set, because all that is happening is that the bacteria from the buttermilk are dividing and growing until they take over the whole container of milk. The problem is that there are other competing bacteria populations, from the air or the surface of the container or your breath or the milk itself, and these bacteria will probably just make the milk go bad instead of preserving it, like the buttermilk culture does. So you want enough buttermilk so that the introduced bacteria culture takes over before anything else does. ↩