Guy Fawkes Day and NaNoWriMo; Homemade Dairy is Easy

Well although I’ve actually been working on it for a little while already – today I officially set up my NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer’s Month) page! I figure this will motivate me to write… in between getting ready for Warlords of Draenor. And leveling up once it comes out. And Thanksgiving.

So okay, I may not have the best concentration this month, but I’m hoping NaNoWriMo and seeing all my friends’ writing will give me a bit more of a kick in the seat of the pants. I’ll try to remember to post updates to my progress here without giving away too many spoilers.

Happy Guy Fawkes day! …does one say “Happy”? I really don’t know. I’m not British. Apparently the British children celebrate with fireworks, much like Americans celebrate the Fourth of July. We don’t burn a wicker guy, though.

I’ve been making homemade yogurt and butter. Both are astonishingly easy and if I’d realized how easy I may have started years ago.

To make yogurt, you must start with a yogurt that has a live, active yogurt culture in it already; and some milk – as much milk as you wish to turn into yogurt. You will also need a saucepan, a stirring spoon, an accurate candy thermometer or meat thermometer that can handle high temperatures, a strainer or colander and some cheesecloth.

First, heat the milk to 170-180 degrees, stirring occasionally. Let it get close to boiling without boiling over. Remove it from heat immediately when it reaches this temperature and let it cool to 100-110 degrees. You can either leave it in the saucepan or transfer it to a large, clean bowl at this point – but at this point you add about 2 tablespoons of yogurt with live, active cultures. Stir it in smoothly and set the bowl somewhere warm and dark – probably your oven – for several hours. Many people turn on the oven light to keep the oven at an appropriately warm temperature – another method is to turn it on for one minute, then turn it off. You do not want the oven temperature to go above about 100, because this will kill the cultures you are trying to encourage; but you do want the milk to stay a bit warm because it will turn faster that way.

Check the milk after several hours. You should smell the characteristic tang of yogurt and see it firming into a gelled mass with whey rising to the top. Once the consistency seems close to right for you, you can choose to stir in the whey for a softer yogurt; or use the cheesecloth and strainer to slowly drain the whey into a larger bowl and make Greek yogurt. This is usually what I do, and I save the whey to add to homemade soups and stews.

Homemade butter is even easier. I use a blender – a fairly heavy duty one – and add heavy cream, about a quart. Turn the blender on high for a minute or two. Stop then and with a large spoon, stir the frothy whipped cream inside the blender. Then turn the blender on again. You will need to repeat this process several times, and the whipped cream inside will become more and more like a mousse, very thick and bubbly and semi-solid. At some point then, almost like magic, the sounds coming from the blender will change and liquid will appear as you hear a thumping sound – this is the butter suddenly manifesting as the whipped cream separates into butter and butter milk. Let this go on for about 30 seconds then stop the blender and stir one more time to be sure all the whipped cream gets properly turned into butter.

Run the blender about 2 minutes longer. Pour off the buttermilk into a separate container (it also can be used in recipes such as homemade ranch dressing or mashed potatoes) and put your butter into a medium sized bowl. Soak the butter in ice water to remove any remaining buttermilk from it, or it will have a tendency to go rancid. You can add salt to it if you like salted butter, but bear in mind it doesn’t need very much salt at all so add salt very sparingly! Homemade butter is a bit harder than the butter bought in stores, but is very tasty.