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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

An easier, less expensive way to make yogurt

So lately, in between drawing lots of what are hopefully very groovy mandalas (another preview at the end of this)- I've been thinking of my hippie mom a lot and started making yogurt again.

Now I've always made yogurt just like she did. A bit of plain yogurt with live cultures from the grocery store or a freeze dried culture. But this time I decided to try something new (old!) for me- mesophilic heirloom cultures.

So why? Heirloom cultures can be used over and over again as long as you keep them happy and fed. They last indefinitely and have all sorts of interesting flavor and texture profiles. Why mesophilic? The cultures I've used before are all thermophilic- which means they needed steady heat to work. Mesophilic cultures work at room temperature. No more messing with a cooler and hot tap water, or filling one side of my sink with hot tap water and keeping track of the temperature over the course of the day. No thinking "It's time to break down and buy a yogurt maker". None of that. For mesophilic cultures- all I need are clean jars, coffee filters, rubber bands and lids.

I got a set of 4 mesophilic yogurt cultures and a live buttermilk culture from Wells of Health on Etsy - no affiliation, just a happy customer. You can also get them from Cultures for Health. I chose the seller I did based on a combination of factors- they had a ropey viili was one, another was shipping cost.

The cultures arrived- about a tablespoon of each one to mix with a cup of plain milk to make a mother culture from. So I set them all up and out by putting them in mason jars with a coffee filter rubber banded over the top. I placed them all over the house so the cultures wouldn't cross each other and would stay pure. Several feet apart is sufficient, but it also gave me a chance to figure out where the best place to culture was going to be. (turned out not to be the kitchen but in my laundry room!)

The next day, my daughter and I tried teaspoons of each culture. The flavors were fantastic and different. We put the lids on them, and put them on the fridge. To make yogurt- you mix 1 part yogurt culture with 8 parts milk or milk and cream mixed, then cover with something permeable like fabric or coffee filters and set out for 8-16 hours until set. You can tell it's set by tipping the jar and seeing if the yogurt moves like a liquid, or if it moves as a mass. If it moves as a mass, it's set and ready to be properly capped and put in the fridge. Reserve some of that batch to make your next, and flavor and eat the rest!

The viili is wonderful. The consistency is about like that of thinned glue or honey. It forms gorgeous long ropes off the spoon and it's entirely too much fun to play with- the flavor is pretty mild.
My personal favorite for flavor is the matsoni- it's a tart flavor that is going to be just grand frozen or with sweet berries and honey or dates added for sweetness
The piima is the perfect smoothie yogurt, and I think with the viili will be good as a frozen yogurt with a more ice cream type flavor profile. It's a bit like a drinkable cream cheese and another possible use is cheesecake flavored smoothies adding a bit of the matsoni. Will try later.
Fil mjolk seems to be the best bet for ice cream type froyo and it's the yogurt I'd suggest for people who don't much like yogurt. It's extremely mild and it's my personal choice for trying whipped first. I think it would be a good topping.

I use a little bit of cream when culturing, and also thicken the milk a bit with powdered milk for everything but the piima. The viili was William's favorite just because it's fun. My second culture of that turned out very ropey and reminded me of hot cheese on a pizza except that it was cold and yogurt-y! The Amazing Turnip Girl loved the Matsoni/Caspian Sea yogurt. But thinks the viili is good mixed with a bit of her homemade jam. She also agreed the texture made it a really fun yogurt. I plan to try that one with matcha to make a green Nickelodeon-like slime yogurt! But just a bit of vanilla and raw sugar tastes good mixed into the finished yogurts too.

I'm sold. I love these yogurts so much. It's so easy to make and share. I'm giving some of it with instructions for making to a friend of my mom's- so if anything does happen to my cultures, she'll have a backup for me!

I also talked to my favorite local potter about making yogurt cups. She's going to make me a set of 4 10-12 oz cups with lids that I can keep in the fridge, so my morning yogurt will be in something pretty. It deserves to be. Hopefully it's going to be a family heirloom.

As promised- another sneak preview of what I'm working on for the coloring book.


  1. Wow! That sounds awesome! I would love to try that out, but unfortunately I am lactoseintolerant. However, I love yoghurt (especially with a cut up apple). But the only thing I can eat are those lactosefree yoghurts. :(

  2. Can't wait to hear more about the coloring book! I absolutely LOVE all of your mandalas, and want to get the coloring book as soon as it comes out. Thanks so much for sharing your talent with us.


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