In this week’s Seasonal Pantry, which you can read here, I explore local yogurts and the difference between Greek yogurt and others. I also promised to post links to some favorite recipes, including for raita, an Indian condiment based on yogurt. Here you go, along with instructions for making yogurt and yogurt cheese at home, plus a fabulous yogurt dessert.
Homemade Yogurt • Makes 2 quarts
When you make yogurt, you want everything that touches the milk to be very clean, as you don’t want off-flavors to develop while the yogurt ferments. Heating the milk is important because it makes for a thicker yogurt. If you use raw milk, heating it above 110 will destroy the beneficial enzymes but the yogurt will not be thick, as this version is.
tools and equipment
- 2 quart-sized canning jars with lids and rings
- 1 narrow whisk
- 1 measuring spoon (metal, 1 tablespoon)
- 1 instant-read thermometer
- 1 full-sized bath towel
- 1 medium thermal bag (see Note below)
- 1 half-gallon organic whole milk, such as Clover or Strauss
- 2 tablespoons whole milk yogurt, without any additives
- First, it is essential to have your work space and utensils thoroughly clean. Put the jars and their rings and lids into a large pot, cover with water, set over high and bring to a rolling boil. I also drop in the whisk and measuring spoon. Remove from the heat and let sit.
- Pour the milk into a large clean saucepan and set over medium heat.
- Dip an instant read thermometer into the pan of hot water for a few seconds and then use it to test the temperature of the milk every few minutes. When it reaches 180 to 184 degrees, remove it from the heat and let cool to 110 degrees.
- Use tongs to remove the jars from their water bath and set on a clean work surface. Carefully pour the milk into the jars, leaving about a half inch of head room. Add a tablespoon of yogurt to both jars and use the whisk to stir gently but thoroughly. Add the lids and rings and secure tightly.
- Use the towel to line the thermal bag. Put the jars into the bag and wrap them snugly with the towel. Close the bag, set in a quiet corner of the kitchen and leave undisturbed for 6 hours or a little longer. Transfer the jars to the refrigerator and chill overnight, during which time the yogurt will thicken.
Note: For a thermal bag, you may use a small soft-sided “cooler,” or one of those small bags lined with metallic insulation. If the bag is particularly large, you may want to use two towels instead of one.
- Set the jars of inoculated milk into a 100-degree oven for 6 hours.
- Set the jars in a slow cooker filled with water that has been heated to 110 degrees; set the cooker to “warm” for 6 hours.
- If you prefer, you can make the yogurt in smaller jars. To do so, sterilize the jars as described in the main recipe. After the milk has cooled to 110 degrees, stir in the yogurt while it is still in the saucepan. Set the jars on a clean work surface, fill with the inoculated milk and let rest by your preferred method for 6 hours. Refrigerate.
Yogurt Cheese • Makes about 1 cup
Once you have a couple of quarts of yogurt, what will you do with it? I kept one quart to eat neat and to use in recipes; I made the other quart into yogurt cheese, which is excellent on crackers, bagels and toast.
- 1 clean muslin tea towel or 1 package cheesecloth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 quart homemade yogurt
- Kitchen twine
- Set a strainer over a deep glass or metal bowl and line it with the tea towel or several layers of cheese cloth, being sure that there is plenty of cloth draping over the strainer.
- Stir the salt into the yogurt and then pour the yogurt into the lined strainer.
- Gather the edges of the cloth and tie together tightly with kitchen twine. Secure it to something strong, such as a cabinet latch, that will leave it suspended over the bowl. Let drain for 18 to 24 hours, until the yogurt is very thick, like cream cheese.
- Transfer to a bowl or a glass jar and store in the refrigerator. It will keep for at least a week.
- Discard the whey or save it to make keifer or fermented fruit drinks.
Sikarni • Serves 4 to 6
Sikarni is a traditional dessert from Katmandu. I’ve been making this version for years and have recently added my own flourishes, which include citrus zest and a splash of rose or orange flower water, which resonate beautifully with the spices. I’ve seen many recipes for sikarni that call for heavy cream, sour cream and other dairy products, in addition to yogurt, but I prefer the purity and simplicity of this version.
- 1/8 teaspoon saffron
- 1 tablespoon golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 1 cup yogurt cheese
- Grated zest of 1 orange or 1 tangerine
- 1 teaspoon pure rose water or orange flower water, optional
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons cracked black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 3 dates, pitted and chopped
- 1/2 cup shelled pistachios
- 12 to 18 dried apricots
- Thin crackers
- Put the saffron into a small bowl and add about a teaspoon of warm water.
- Put the golden raisins into a small bowl and cover with the brandy. Set aside.
- Put the yogurt cheese into a small bowl, add the orange zest, rose water or orange flower water, if using, sugar, salt and saffron and mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust for sweetness, adding more sugar, a tablespoon at a time, if you prefer a sweeter mixture.
- Fold in the peppercorns, cinnamon, cardamom, dates, raisins and brandy. Cover and chill thoroughly.
- To serve, set the sikarni in the center of a platter, scatter with the pistachios and surround with the apricots and crackers.