Friday, May 16, 2014

Making yoghurt

When I was a kid, my friend Fay lived with her grandmother during the school week. Grandma was Macedonian and spoke little English, and our conversations revolved mainly around cooking and eating. She was a brilliant cook and showed me some recipes and methods that I still use to this day. One of the things she made was yoghurt. She nearly always had a large glass jug of it in the fridge, home-made and different from the commercial variety we used to get in the shops. And yummy.

The very first time I tried to make yoghurt was with Fay and some school friends when we were staying in a caravan on holiday. We were about fifteen or sixteen, and of course Fay knew what to do. We heated milk until it just started to bubble around the edges, then took it off the heat until it cooled to "blood temperature" — we stuck a finger in and guessed. Then we stirred in half a cup of commercial yoghurt, put the lid on the big glass jar we were using, wrapped it in a sleeping bag and put it in the cupboard. To our delight, the next morning it was yoghurt, almost as good as Grandma made —yoghurt like this.

Recently I had a yen for some of the yoghurt that Grandma used to make. I haven't had it for years — these days you can get good plain yoghurt in the supermarket, and it's delicious. But I enjoy making things from scratch sometimes, and so I decided to make my own.

To cut a long story short, and as you can see from the picture above, it worked beautifully. And then, of course I had to play with it, didn't I? First I decided to turn some of it into "Greek" yoghurt -- a process that basically involves draining some of the whey from the ordinary yogurt.  You can see the difference it makes here.

I used a brand new chux superwipe, which I sterilized by pouring boiling water over it, then lined a wire drainer, tipped in the yoghurt. and left it for a few hours.  (I developed this technique when I made cottage cheese with the same method, only using rennet from junket tablets instead of yoghurt. I believe in using what I have to hand, rather than getting in special equipment.)

Then I decided to make some lebne --a thick kind of cheesy substance (Lebanese, I think) that's basically yoghurt left to drain even further. The same process again. And here's the result -- left to drain an afternoon and overnight -- you can see how much firmer it is from the imprint of the cloth on it.
So that's it, my little trip down memory lane. I'd forgotten how easy it was, and how delicious the result is. I'll be making yoghurt and lebne much more often, now I've reminded myself. Fay's away with her husband, gadding about Queensland on holiday, but when she comes back, I might have to take her some of "Grandma's yoghurt," which is what it will always be to me, even if it's not in a tall glass jug covered with a cloth.