Ramadan Mubarak & Yogurt

Ramadan has arrived!

Nothing brings people together like food, and during Ramdan, the lack thereof. Ramadan at my parent’s house always consisted of the same ritual. My mother and I would vow to eat better meals, and healthier food. We would promise to cut back on delicious fried potato samosas and pakoras. We would eat fruits and vegetables and be content. My father would look at us with horror. I’m sure he wondered how we had the audacity to deprive him oil soaked foods.

Of course this never lasted. We would start out well intentioned and stick to our plan. But, within a week, we would break down and someone would begin frying something… anything really. And how can you avoid it? Whenever I smell pakora or samosa I think of Ramadan. I always remember my family coming together to prepare an iftar. My father making fruit salad, my mother and I wrapping and freezing samosas, my brother placing only 2 dates per plate (my mother set a 2 date per person, per iftar quota).

Sticking to tradition. I have vowed to eat healthy (stop laughing). I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m motivated by the fact that I really only have a few select meals that will nourish my body with the things that it needs… not what it wants.

Yogurt. This seemed a good place to start.

Unfortunately, I failed, I think. Whatever it was, it was definitely more than 400 degrees from perfection. I followed a recipe my mother gave me. I googled some directions on how to make yogurt and in the end it was just a runny mess of chunky stuff. I wasn’t able to achieve perfectly smooth and creamy yogurt. If you’ve made yogurt successfully, please help me out!

I began by boiling 4 cups of milk. Once the milk began to boil, or froth rather. I stirred vigorously, and allowed it a good minute or two to boil. I then turned the heat off and let the milk come to a lukewarm temperature. At this point I added two tablespoons of yogurt with active cultures and mixed well. I stuck the pot in the oven set to 100 degrees and allowed the bacteria to do their thing. 8 hours later, I had a soupy yogurt. It was yogurt, I think, but thin. Almost like a raita. Draining some of the water that accumulated on top helped, but still… it wasn’t thick and creamy. So I googled some more and learned that homemade yogurts tend to be thinner because it doesn’t contain Pectin, a gelling agent.

What is a girl to do? Do I buy pectin? Do I just use some cheese cloth and strain the whole thing? No, going to the store is not an option. I must conquer bacteria!

7 thoughts on “Ramadan Mubarak & Yogurt

  1. Salaams Kiran! I made my own yogurt for a while, and I found investing in a yogurt maker really worthwhile. Props for attempting it without one, and I’m sure it’s possible but…the yogurt maker uncomplicates things a lot. I would recommend the one below, and yes, do strain the yogurt after. I found mine wasn’t too runny, it was like average yogurt consistency without the sort of gel-like factor; but when strained it’s more like greek yogurt (a personal favorite).

    http://www.amazon.com/Yogourmet-104-Electric-Yogurt-Maker/dp/B000N25AGO/ref=sr_1_2?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1312241003&sr=1-2

    Beyond this, if you figure out how to do it without a yogurt maker, I would love to learn!

    • Thanks Dale! I haven’t tried a yogurt maker before, but thanks for the tip! I think I’ll try straining it next time to make it a bit thicker. I too am a fan of greek yogurt!

  2. a punjabi sufi verse attributed to bulleh shah goes:
    jaag bina dudh naiyo jamda, pawain lal howay kar kar ke
    without the starter, the milk doesn’t set, even if it turns red from boiling

    in other words, u need the “it” factor…the right starter in this case to set the yogurt …if u know of someone who already makes homemade yogurt, ask for a few tablespoons of yogurt from them…also once u heat up the milk to a boil (half gallon takes about 14 minutes in the microwave i believe), let it sit there for a few minutes..don’t bother it while it’s still burning up….no stirring nothing…once it drops the temp a tad (still hot, dont wait til its luke warm)….then add the yogurt and use a cup to mix the milk until u see froth show up on top…..u know how they do it in the motherland? w/ a cup? dig deep, take it nice n high above the bowl, and pour back…..once u’ve whipped it good for a few mins…cover and stick in a pre-heated-turned-off oven over night….OR during the day, if u cook over the stove and oven is underneath…that should work nicely as well….

    hope this makes any sense at all….yogurt making is super tricky..i used to make it all the time at my mom’s home…but for some odd reason, lost the knack for it once i got married…go figure! most online recipes involve the help of thermometers, so if u wana invest in one, go for it….. if all else fails, u can buy a yogurt maker machine….sigh…..

    • Thanks Sara! I learned that I might need a better starter from someone else tonight as well. I used like a generic yogurt from trader joes. I was told to try a full fat version that has a more sour taste to it. I want to try again and I’ll keep your instructions on hand. Thanks for the info, this is helpful!

  3. Hi Kiran, I think there are a couple of key things to making yoghurt: temperature and starter. As for the starter, you can use any yoghurt that has “live” cultures. I’ve had good results with Seven Stars, but Stonyfield will probably work well too. As for temperature, get a thermometer. The milk needs to be heated to 180F (don’t have to keep cooking it once it has reached this temp) then let it cool to 110F (otherwise it will be too hot for the bacteria to live). Add about one tablespoon per quart of yoghurt (bear in mind that this is a case where more is not better, you don’t want to crowd the bacteria). Then wrap it in a small towel for insulation and stick it in the oven with the pilot light on. I make my yoghurt in a quart size canning jar so it has a good seal, but I’m not sure if that makes a difference. Good Luck!

    • Thanks Nuri! I think its time I invest in a cooking thermometer. Thanks for pointing out some brands that you like. I used a Trader Joes brand with live culture, but I think using a “better” yogurt might make the difference. Thanks again for your help!

  4. Salaams Kiran! This is jess… You may want to buy a yogurt culture from your local health/organic food store. Comes in a box in the refrigerated section. Then you will know for sure that you have a good live culture and can use it for subsequent yogurts. 😀

    Awesome blog!

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