Recipes and Photography by Mary Reilly
I never feel like my fridge is fully stocked unless I have a container of yogurt on hand. While store-bought yogurt is a pretty good thing, over the last few years I have gotten into the habit of making my own. The process is easy, and a quart of homemade yogurt is a quarter of the price of what I buy at the supermarket. With probiotics promoting the good bacteria in your stomach, it’s good to have this healthy stuff on hand.
The first step in yogurt-making: find great yogurt to use as your starter culture. Ideally, you can find yogurt made with fresh local milk, but in a pinch, I’ve used yogurt from the supermarket with great success. Just look for a variety that contains nothing but milk and cultures (no pectin, no stabilizers). This recipe is easily doubled or tripled. Makes 1 quart.
1 qt. fresh milk
2 T. plain yogurt
Heat milk in a saucepan over a medium-low flame until it reaches about 190 degrees (the milk will be steaming, a skin will form across the top, and bubbles will form around the edge of the pot). Turn off heat and let milk cool to 110 degrees (the milk will be just barely warm to the touch).
Remove from heat and whisk in yogurt. Pour into a quart-sized Mason jar and screw on the top.
Place the Mason jar full of milk and starter in the center of a slow cooker (you’re just using the slow cooker as an insulator, don’t turn it on) or very small insulated cooler, and fill with warm water (approximately 110°F) until it reaches just below the lid. Cover with a towel for added insulation and leave in a warm spot in your kitchen to culture for 8– 12 hours. Alternatively, wrap the jar with a towel and a heating pad set to “low.”
Once the culturing period is complete, remove your jar of yogurt from the slow cooker and place it in the refrigerator to chill and firm up.
Lassi is a yogurt drink from the Punjab region of India. It’s similar to a smoothie and is incredibly easy to make. Flavor-wise, the options are virtually unlimited. Traditionally lassi are flavored with salt and herbs, but sweetened, fruit-accented drinks are also popular. Enjoy lassi as a snack or alongside a spicy meal to help tame the heat. Makes 1 serving.
For salty lassi:
1 c. homemade yogurt
¼–½ cup cold water
½ t. salt, or more to taste
Small handful of cilantro
3–4 mint sprigs
Pinch of cayenne
For sweet lassi:
1 c. homemade yogurt
¼–½ cup cold water
2 t. sugar
¼ c. chopped mango
1 t. ground turmeric or ½” slice of peeled fresh turmeric
Combine all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until ingredients are pureed and the liquid is smooth. Add a little more water if the mixture is too thick. Adjust salt or sugar to taste.
Labne is drained yogurt, similar to Greekstyle yogurt, but even thicker. In this recipe, yogurt is drained to make a very firm labne, then rolled into herbed balls and marinated in fragrant oil. Marinated labne is delicious spread on toasted bread, or alongside grilled vegetables. Makes about 2 cups labne or 16 labne balls.
3 c. yogurt
½ t. salt
¼ c. minced herbs
1 t. ground pepper
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
Lay a 12-inch square of doubled cheesecloth in a strainer set into a bowl and scoop in the yogurt. Stir in the salt. Let the yogurt drain its whey until it is firm. Depending on your preference, this can be done on the counter or in the fridge. It make take from 6– 24 hours for the yogurt to drain off enough whey. The desired texture is similar to chevre or cream cheese.
Mix the herbs and pepper together. Scoop tablespoons of the drained yogurt and roll them into balls. Roll each ball in the herbpepper mixture and put into a clean quart jar. Cover with olive oil. These are best after at least a day in the oil. Store in refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Mary Reilly is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Edible Pioneer Valley. She is a local leader for the Chefs Collaborative Western MA chapter, and a member of Les Dames D’Escoffier and the IACP. In a past life she was the chef-owner of Enzo Restaurant & Bar. When not writing, editing, or engaged in supersecret publisher activity, she can be found experimenting in her kitchen.