Making Yogurt: Culturing a Marriage

Yogurt makings
Yogurt makings

Now you may ask “What does yogurt have to do with marriage?”

Well, my marriage at least, came about partly because of culturing and making yogurt. My husband and I met in college. I loved cooking, even back then, and I especially love trying something new. One of those new cooking things I tried back then was making my own yogurt, which is actually easy to do.

He may not remember this, but a few years into our marriage Dave told me that he pursued marrying me because he saw me making yogurt. He had thought to himself that if I could make yogurt I’d probably do alright in Africa. We were friends and dating at the time but me making yogurt gave him a glimpse into my “African-Missionary-Wife-Potential” and spurred him on to pursue the relationship and marriage. My yogurt-making skills snagged me a husband! See – making yogurt = culturing a marriage.

I have yogurt to thank for my marriage. . . .ok so not really, but it did play a part in it coming about and now we have come full circle; I’m still making yogurt except now I’m actually making it while in Africa. I think I’m doing alright here in Africa, personally.

So, here is how I make yogurt (just remember, each to their own).

Heating the milk in a double boiler
Heating the milk in a double boiler

You take milk and heat it to around 115 degrees F. You can either be precise and use a thermometer or you can use the lazy-man’s way and just watch for steam beginning to rise and if you can hold your finger in it for ten seconds. I have done both. I have also done it while using a double-boiler and directly on the stove. Both work.

I have also used both raw and pasteurized milk, whole milk, 2%, 1% and they all work. Yup, each one works, though I have never bothered to make skim milk into yogurt (why would you?)

The empty container that held the reserved yogurt.
The empty container that held the reserved yogurt.

After heating the milk I then take some of my existing yogurt from the previous batch that I reserved and mix in some of the heated milk. Then it get’s whisked into the remaining heated milk to ensure it gets incorporated thoroughly and in a way it sorta tempers the yogurt and is nicer to the cultures. I made yogurt using some yogurt from the store back in the States. If you don’t have some yogurt already made up you can use a starter to make your first batch and then begin reserving some of the yogurt from then on.

After mixing in the reserved yogurt there are different ways to keep it warm so it can culture. Back in the states I simply left it in the pot and placed it in a warmed oven (warmed and then turned off) overnight with the oven light on. Worked great. Here, my oven is gas and you want to conserve electricity so I use a yogotherm yogurt maker.

The nifty little bucket full of goodness
The nifty little bucket full of goodness

So with the yogotherm you pour your heated milk with culture mixed in, into a nifty bucket, seal it and then place that bucket in an insulated holder that helps the yogurt maintain temperature to culture. It can make half a gallon of yogurt at a time in about 5-8 hours.

The bucket is sealed and placed into the yogotherm
The bucket is sealed and placed into the yogotherm
Pouring the cultured yogurt into the cheese cloth so it can drain
Pouring the cultured yogurt into the cheese cloth so it can drain

We prefer a thicker yogurt, similar to Greek yogurt, so I choose to strain our yogurt and allow some of the whey to drain off. It leaves behind a thick and creamy yogurt. I line my large colander with a cheese cloth and place it inside a cake pan to catch the whey. The whey is still useful and I use it for other things, but you could always just tie up the yogurt over a sink if you don’t want to keep the whey.

Thicker yogurt is how we like it
Thicker yogurt is how we like it
The yogurt draining
The yogurt draining
Pouring the drained whey into a Tupperware bound for the fridge
Pouring the drained whey into a Tupperware bound for the fridge

I will use the whey in baking or feed it to our animals, which actually has shown to reduce their need for feed intake substantially because whey is so nutritious.  Personally I think it’s a shame to just dump it down the drain, but like I said earlier, each to their own.

So that’s how I do yogurt here, did yogurt in the States, and that’s partially how I cultured a marriage.

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