Yogurt making was something I started doing when I was ten. I am not kidding. While we cleaned up the kitchen after dinner, my Grandmom would put the leftover milk from the day to heat gently. And then it was my job to check the temperature and add the starter, and let the yogurt do its thing. There was however only one problem. There was no recipe to follow. It was not 1 tsp to a cup of milk or anything like that. I was supposed to guess the quantity of milk and adjust the amount of starter accordingly. The idea of measuring things (except for how many cups of rice to cook) did not seem natural to my grandmother. It was all done by “andaz” or instinctive measuring if we may call it that. And I have more fun facts – The process of checking the temperature was also done by how warm the milk felt to your finger, that you had to insert into the milk to feel the temperature. No thermometers were used.
Most of my life I did not have a problem with this method. It was ingrained in my system, it worked and I never had to think about it twice. And then I moved to the United States. And suddenly, it just did not work. Hubby, who had been living here for years before we married, tried to show off his yogurt maker and made a batch of yogurt. He added in some milk powder to thicken the milk, added the culture, set the yogurt maker to work and voilà! The yogurt was ready in 7 hours. After which he insisted we needed to refrigerate it for a few hours and only then eat it.
But, it just did not taste the same. I lived with that home made yogurt and store bought one for sometime. I tried making fresh batches adding Greek yogurt as culture but the result would never be ‘like we used to make at home’ yogurt. After a while, the thought dawned on me! It was the way the milk was processed. I can keep a gallon of milk in the fridge for a week and it is still stable. The ultra pasteurized and ultra homogenized milk never turned into a good yogurt.
So, I decided to make yogurt the way it was done back home. I got some raw milk and boiled it. Left it to cool on its own and allowed the temperature to gradually come down to 115*F. Added in the culture and left it undisturbed for 7 hours, covered in a warm place. And I found my mojo! I have never looked back and I can now safely say, making yogurt is something I just know how to do.
Since I can’t always procure raw milk, I tried this with pasteurized milk, and the method worked. The result is a nice, relatively thick yogurt with a well rounded flavor. So if you want a flavor of good old Indian Dahi, boil the milk.
The lovely Cher of The Not So Exciting Adventures of a Dabbler was our July Daring Cooks’ hostess and she asked us to create homemade yogurt in our own kitchens! No incubators needed, no expensive equipment or ingredients, just a few items and we had delicious yogurt for a fraction of the cost and a whole lot healthier than what you buy in the stores!
In addition to making the yogurt she also threw in an extra challenge and that was to make something from the yogurt. I made a Kesar Pista Shrikhand ( Saffron and Pistachio Shrikhand ) The dreamy creamy dish (dessert) that my hubby likes to eat with or without puri ( fried bread). The process does take some time, but it is well worth the effort.