Even in the dead of winter, in my mind yogurt conjures long Greek Summers, when I was a college student sill living in Italy and taking an overnight ferry to Piraeus and then hop to any of the Greek islands was cheap and easy. Emphasis on the cheap.
Months were spent in dingy rented rooms, dancing until the wee hours and nourishing the body with street food. At the end of the Summer, after a diet of grilled fish and meat and fresh salads, I would return home lean and toned. And as brown as a coffee bean.
Lunch, if a meal consumed in the middle of the afternoon, on the beach, can be considered lunch, consisted of a giant bowl of thick Greek yogurt with just a few swirls of honey or fresh fruit. To this day, you will find it served on most beaches throughout Greece, a far cry from those fake fruit and sugar laden jars that grace the shelves of most supermarkets.
Why make yogurt at home when good yogurt can easily be found, you will ask. And doesn’t it involve a yogurt maker and buying lactobacillus? Not unless you really want to. As I am allergic to most kitchen gadgets unless they get weekly usage, I can assure you that all you need to make your own yogurt is a food thermometer, a jar and some kitchen towels. I often get it into my mind to make foods from scratch that I would normally sweep off a shelf in neat packages, just to see if I can improve on either quality or nutrients. Sometimes I can but not always, as when I instisted on making homemade Nutella. At the tenth try, I had the flavour right but the consistency was always slightly off, without the benefit of synthetic stabilizers (but still very good may I add).
This might be the first in an occasional series of “Why not make it at home?” articles. And why not? I thought I would start with yogurt because it is ridiculously easy. The recipe comes courtesy of Harold McGee, my favourite food scientist, whose website the Curious Cook is a treasure trove of information. I am also sharing with you my favourite granola, another extremely easy recipe. I wish I could credit the source but it has been in my files for years and I can’t remember where it came from; I believe it was from a restaurant in NY – if you do recognize it, please let us know so we can give proper credit. What I love about it is the use of olive oil instead of corn syrup. You can swap nuts or dried fruit for your favourites.
1 quart 2% milk (1 liter)
3 tablespoons low-fat yogurt (containing live bacilli and no sugar or flavoring – none of those Dannons or Yoplaits concoctions)
1 food thermometer
1 mason jar or other glass jar
Some kitchen towels
- Place the milk in a saucepan and slowly heat it to 180F (82C), stirring occasionally. Let cool to 115F (46C).
- Remove one cup of milk and whisk the yogurt in it. Add the remaining milk.
- Transfer to a mason jar. Wrap the jar, without closing the lid, in a couple of kitchen towels, covering the sides and top. Let sit undisturbed in a warm place for 4 to 5 hours. The longer you let the milk sit, the tangier the yogurt will be.
- After about 5 hours, refrigerate the uncovered jar. You will notice the milk which, at this point will have reached the consistency of a custard, is still slightly warm. After 30 minutes, once the yogurt is cold, you can screw the lid on.
- Yogurt keeps refrigerated up to a week. As it is very mild tasting, even the sugar crazed among you will be able to enjoy it as is. Promise.
3 C old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 C pistachios, hulled and unsalted
1 C coconut chips, unsweetened
3/4 C maple syrup
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil, mild tasting
1/2 C light brown sugar
1 ts salt
1/2 ts cinnamon
1/2 ts cardamom
3/4 C dried apricots, chopped
- Preheat oven to 300F (150C). In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients but for the apricots. Use your hands to mix evenly.
- Spread mixture on a baking sheet in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until golden brown and well toasted.
- Transfer granola to a bowl and add the apricots, tossing to combine.
PS Aren’t you glad I managed to go an entire post on yogurt and granola without mentioning dieting or New Year’s Resolutions once??