02 June 2009

Dairy Queen

I have learned a lot of new things to cook and bake by studiously avoiding them with lots of excuses about time, money, and imminent failure before finally jumping in. It seems to work, so I am not going to mess with that sequence.

I have Ricki Carroll's Home Cheese Making sitting on my bookshelf and a mozzerella kit in my pantry. I really would love to try them with raw milk, but do not have a local source. Last weekend I went grocery shopping and was stocking up on various sundries, including the ever-disappearing-from-my-household butter and yogurt.

Butter has a bad rap, but I refuse to use the processed stuff. My parents' home now stocks margarine in all it's low-fat-low-cholesterol-we-say-it's-good-for-you solids and sprays. Not my idea of yummy. Or natural. I also eat a lot of yogurt now. I am not too much of a milk drinker anymore, and my consumption of ice cream has dwindled. But yogurt has been a great substitute, and when I was introduced to Greek yogurt, with its thick texture, I was hooked. But boy, it is NOT cheap.

So, I started roaming the internet halls to find a recipe for yogurt to make at home. I was perusing yogurt makers too, cause when you start working with liquids and stoves and monitoring temperatures to a certain degree, my head begins to spin from all the details. A friend of mine on Facebook mentioned making yogurt, and I asked her if she did it "by hand" or had a yogurt maker.

She did it by hand. But she did it easily - in a crockpot. She used a recipe from a blog that is one of my favorites, A Year of Crockpotting. I read over the instructions, no thermometer needed. Well, I did, but that is because I didn't follow the recipe quite exactly. Which I know with dairy products and the introduction of bacteria - deliberate or not - isn't always a healthy thing. But hey, as I said before, I have my sequence.

So off to the dairy I went to get a gallon of milk - even going the whole milk route since I was trying it the first time (I wanted to avoid imminent failure, just hints of it were fine). While there I decided to go full in and grabbed a quart of heavy cream also. While internet shopping for yogurt recipes, I started thinking about the butter that we go through in our house (it isn't just me, thank you). With costs rising, why not try making my own? And as much as I would love to own a Dazey churn, I found that my Kitchenaid mixer would be an excellent substitute. Although this one would also be nice, just in case I need butter during a blackout.

So, first the yogurt. I dumped a half gallon of whole milk into my slow cooker to cook for 2.5 hours. Easy. Then the directions said that it would need to cool for three hours before adding the yogurt. You need to add yogurt with live cultures to rev things up and start the whole process. I had about a half cup left from my Trader Joe's Greek yogurt, so I was all set on that. However, during the cooling process, I realized that I was going to be leaving the house before the three hours was up. Should I cancel? No way - I was going to see Star Trek. Not gonna happen. So, I did take it's temperature as the deadline approached, and although it hadn't quite reached 110 degrees, I dumped in the yogurt, covered and swaddled the whole thing and went on my merry way.

*I am not giving the standard recipe I used, since I didn't follow it and only want to be responsible for my own Self! However, you can find full instructions for the crockpot yougurt recipe here.

It could sit for eight hours, or overnight, so I went the overnight route. Not lazy, just following directions. I awoke to a solidified yogurt with whey settling on top. I am not a fan of whey, I know there are things to do with it, but haven't jumped there yet. However, I knew I wanted it as thick as Greek yogurt, so I lined my colander with cheesecloth (from the unused cheese making kit) and strained it.

While this was straining, I decided to throw caution to the wind and make the butter. It's pretty easy too. Beat until butter. How can you go wrong? (Shhh. It was a rhetorical question.) I didn't want just plain butter though, so I threw a head of garlic in my oven.

Into the mixer the cream went. It isn't a very exciting view, but you see the whole process of it going from liquid to soft peak to hard peak. Then, somewhere in between blinks, the whole of it collapses in on itself and liquid rushes to the bottom of the bowl. Your butter, and buttermilk, have arrived.

One thing all the instructions say is that you must wash the butter to get the extra buttermilk out, or it will go rancid pretty quick. First I beat water in the bowl, but that was a lot of manuvering to keep emptying the bowl. I took out the clumps of butter - not easy from a whisk - into a colander and washed it there. Once the water ran clean, I was done. I mixed a little salt into the whole, then I separated a large chunk out, about 3/4 cups, and mixed it with the roasted garlic. Both were shaped into logs and wrapped in plastic wrap.

(None of my butter pictures turned out well. Must be shy.)

I drained the leftover buttermilk into a container. I don't normally use it, but didn't really want to waste it, so I found a buttermilk bread recipe and threw the ingredients in my bread maker. Of course, I went to bed after this, so although it shuts off it also made the bread fall. It still tastes fine though, no complaints. One of these days, I may follow ALL the instructions. One of these days.

Oh, and the yogurt? With a lot of the whey drained off it is a thick and creamy consistency, just as good as store-bought Greek-style yogurt. The tang is different, I am honestly not sure if it is not as tangy, or just tangy in a different way. But it is good.

All in all, I loved making this stuff. I know that I will probably do the yogurt weekly, since I can eat it every day. The butter maybe not as much, but I will enjoy experimenting with flavored butters through the next months.

Now, about that cheese kit...


  1. You sure are brave! I am interested in making a lot of things at home but I don't know that I could do yogurt or cheese. MAYBE yogurt with a yogurt maker. Maybe. And I just love the instructions "beat until butter."

  2. I'm so impressed! I can make ice cream...with an ice cream maker but that's about it! LOL Love the photos!