Sunday, March 29, 2009

Operation Homemade Yogurt: Failure

I like making things from scratch. Fussy, involved things that most people buy from the store: sauerkraut, salt-cured olives, sun-dried tomatoes, jam...

Things that require weeks of fermentation or hours of simmering make me very, very happy. Long rising, curing, drying— the words give me a thrill.

(I'm actually shocked--SHOCKED--that everyone doesn't get off on this kind of thing. This may explain why, when I get out in the world, I feel so freakish. That or my inability to make small talk.)

But as much as I love large-scale culinary projects, I hate fiddly baking that requires any amount of precision. Candy thermometers, sifting, and weighing are deal breakers, as are pastry bags and parchment-lined pans. And it turns out that yogurt belongs in that category. Finer brush required.

This is how I made clumps of sour milk floating in a clear liquid:

Bring milk to near boil, cool to the required 110-115 degrees by guessing. Why buy a candy thermometer when you have your fingers, right?

Bring milk/yogurt mixture over to W., tell him to stick his finger in it, ask "Do you think this is about 5 degrees hotter than that time your parents overheated their Jacuzzi?"

Scoff at the doubters. Put mixture in oven to keep warm by pilot light overnight.

Sleep in. Uncover mess of nastiness at 8 am. Make husband use it instead of buttermilk to make awesome pancakes.

Scoff at the doubters. "See, I told you this would be great!"

Budget for yogurt maker.


The complex math of household finance:

The organic yogurt we buy is about twice the price of milk by ounce. We eat about a quart of yogurt a week. So our savings would be about $12/month, minus occasional starter.

Yes, this is significant.

Yogurt maker bought off Amazon would pay for itself in 2.5 months if I slip in a sewing pattern book to get free shipping. The book would pay itself off in money saved by making awesome homemade Christmas presents for family and friends.

Bonus savings from buying Organic Valley milk in bulk at Costco. Membership paid for by savings on gin, contact solution, and contact lenses alone.

And this is how we subsidize a life with one student, one part-timer in a creative profession, and one child. We co-parent, we eat largely locally, we have cocktails, we carve out leisure time, we pay our mortgage. It can be done.


Skate Like A Girl San Francisco said...

Wow, yes, hard times. Thanks for making us laugh really hard just now. Can't wait to come up and have some yogurt... or for Christmas for that matter.

Crunchy Christian Mom said...

I like how you budget. :) And your yogurt experiment sounds like my no-yeast sourdough experiment, which I have yet to blog about.

Anna said...

You know what? The more I think about it, the more determined I am not to let yogurt beat me. I'm trying again...

@Crunchy Christian Mom--I've been curious about the sourdough thing. I'd love to hear about it, even if it's just what not to do! :)