I’ve been reading Growing a Farmer, and in it, Kurt Timmermeister talks about making yogurt. He makes it sound easy: Heat the milk to 165 degrees, let it cool to 110, add live bacteria and sit the jar in a warm place. Voila! Super, homemade yogurt.
As soon as I read this, I began thinking about making yogurt myself. Then, I was reading Edible Grand Traverse, and the current edition has directions for making yogurt. OK, I thought, this is a sign. It wasn’t. Or, as G. said, it was a sign of madness.
I got milk, organic yogurt with live bacteria, a candy thermometer and a Mason jar. I heated the milk to 165 degrees, following Timmermeister’s directions. (Edible just heats it to 110.) I let it cool to 110 degrees, stirred in the yogurt and put a cap on the jar. I wrapped the jar in towels to keep it warm and put it in a cooler to insulate it. I waited. Periodically, I checked the temperature and gave the jar short stints in a warm oven to try to keep it around 110 degrees. Edible says this is very important. So does Greg Atkinson; I checked his recipe in West Coast Cooking too.
After eight hours, I pulled the jar out and opened it. There was a milky substance that kind of, maybe, possibly could have been yogurt. But there was also a lot of yellowish water in the jar. What to do? I thought about draining the water out, but instead I stirred it in. That was probably a mistake. I ended up with a liquid the consistency of milk that smelled like yogurt.
Timmermeister had said he left his yogurt overnight, or at least I thought he did, in contrast to the six to eight hours the others recommended. So, I bundled the jar back up and let it sit overnight. The next morning, the consistency was the same. So was the smell.
But now, I was afraid to even try to taste it because what if unhealthy bacteria had been growing along with the healthy yogurt bacteria? I could give myself food poisoning and spend the day vomiting — or worse, it could be the kind of food poisoning where your kidneys shut down and you die.
I threw it out. The whole jar, without even tasting it. But I kind of want to try again, you know, just to see if I could do it. Just once.