I miss our farm share. (That may seem to have very little to do with yogurt, but stay with me here.) I miss knowing exactly where my food came from and what I'm eating. I miss the kitchen experiments and eating so much that was homemade. We'd heard from an Indian friend here that making yogurt is easy. They make their own yogurt each week. So in the name of kitchen experiments and homemade food, we finally made homemade yogurt on Sunday.

And I have to say, man, that was easy, and it fulfilled a need to be back in charge--at least somewhat--of what we're eating.

We started out with yogurt, the most natural I could find: 

This does seem like missing the point--buying yogurt to make yogurt--but just like bread you need a starter. Once you make your first batch, you never need store bought yogurt again. It is possible to buy yogurt cultures somewhere, or you can use any regular yogurt with live and active cultures. I read that you need 2 Tbsp for 4 cups of milk. Too little and it won't work. Too much and you didn't actually need that much. I used half a cup of yogurt for about 4 cups of milk completely arbitrarily and it turned out great. I miss the experiments.

First you heat your milk until it's about boiling, but don't let it burn. Then cool it down to about 100-115 degrees. Alton Brown says more than 115 degrees will kill the bacteria, so keep it cooler than that. But you still want a nice, warm environment for them.

If you're trying to heat up your milk while also making pancakes, be careful. You know my stove doesn't like to multitask. At one point the stovetop got really hot and we had to turn off the milk because we were afraid we were going to break it again.

Whisk your yogurt into your milk, and keep it warm. I wrapped my cast iron dutch oven in a towel and let it sit in my 90-95 degree kitchen. If you have access to a crock pot, that seems to work really well. Here are some great crock pot instructions.

We let our sit for about 8 and a half hours--all day on Sunday. That night, we unwrapped it...

to find a pot of milk!

Just kidding! It was actually semisolid! [the above is a spoon mark, in case that was unclear] And it definitely smelled and tasted like [room temperature] yogurt.

We put it into clean glass jars and stuck it in the fridge. Monday morning, I had some for breakfast with a drizzle of honey and chopped walnuts. Yum.

It tasted exactly like the Yoplait I started with and was the same consistency: not really thick, but definitely not as thin as milk. Decidedly yogurt.

I really like strained or Greek yogurt though. You can get that in Singapore, but it's not quite as common and something like Fage tends to be much more expensive.

So I decided to strain about half of my yogurt stock to see if I could thicken it. Alton Brown says to use four layers of cheesecloth in a colander. Other people use coffee filters. I have neither of those things. But I did find a cloth bag Kyle uses to make beer.

I'm sure that says something about also good for yogurt.

The yogurt started draining right away. I left it in the fridge because it is so warm here, but I read about people hanging it over their faucet to drip in the sink. I let mine drain for just a few hours, but it made a big difference in the consistency of the yogurt.

Much thicker and creamier. Very yum. You can stir in flavorings here if you want them--honey, fruit, vanilla, whatever. 

All in all, the process took about a full day from starting to enjoying, but very little hands on time. I set aside 1/2 cup right away to use as the starter for the next batch when we get low on this. The cost comparison is whatever the cost comparison is between milk and yogurt in your location. For us, that's fairly significant, which is a nice plus.

Now if this is only mildly interesting, but not really because you don't eat a lot of yogurt, I highly recommend that you try cooking with it. It makes a great base for dips or dipping sauces. We use it instead of sour cream a lot because sour cream can be pretty hard to find here. But my favorite option is to use it to marinate chicken thanks to my favorite Indian cookbook. If you're up for it, here's a weeknight, super-quick chicken recipe adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves.

Yogurt-Marinated Chicken
1 lb boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 T minced garlic
¼ cup garlic chives/chives/scallions/onion
1.25 t salt
.5 t pepper
2 T veggie oil
½ cup yogurt
1-2 lemons or limes in wedges

Mix your marinade well, coat your chicken, and marinate for 1 to 2 hours in the fridge. [this is a very relaxed estimate]. Broil or grill until done.

The finished product doesn't have anything "yogurt-y" about it. You leave most of it in the marinade container and the rest cooks off while broiling. You're left with really moist and tender chicken, gently flavored with garlic, chives and lime.