Home-made update

Tis almost Christmas and I thought it fitting as I sit here consuming home-made rice wine to fill you in on the progress of my varied exploits in home economy.

I’ve never been a big fan of yogurt, but since I discovered I could make delicious fresh yogurt for $1 per litre, my consumption has dramatically increased to reach parity with production. It seems that the more yogurt I produce, the more I consume; and while part of me is curious to find just how far this relationship goes, the rest of me is a little scared.

At the same time, I discovered that leaving a 3 litre jar of yogurt lying on its side in the fridge is a good way to separate the whey, leaving us with extremely thick yogurt.

Given the dynamic relationship between brain and digestive tract, I’m also curious to see the long-term effects of increased yogurt consumption. Will eating yogurt make me a happier, nicer person?

Rice Wine
The rice wine is going strong. I pasteurised one bottle at 85 degrees for about 10 minutes which killed about half the flavour. Not a great move. The second bottle I heated to 70 for 10 minutes, and it retains most of its flavour. In fact it’s more drinkable than the unpasteurised bottle, which has too strong a flavour.

I have three batches of rice wine on the go: ten cups of rice in a fermenter, and five each in two large jars. The rice in the fermenter was soaked in water for a day before steaming in a bamboo steamer. The rice in the two jars was soaked for two days, at which point it turned sour and fearing the worst I washed it thoroughly and set it to ferment (after steaming) apart from the first batch.

Nonetheless both the fermenter and the two jars are doing well. The spread of the white mold is visible, and liquid is now forming, just over a week into the process.

My Bright Ale turned out too dilute due to an inexperienced error in the boil. I’ll adjust future recipes. Chilling the beer to near freezing, it is still quite enjoyable, especially after a night run, but the first few litres I was saddened at the thought of what might have been.

I’ll try to do a Golden Ale on Boxing Day, as my supply is running dangerously low!

Ginger Beer
I cooked up a batch of Ginger Beer for Christmas, and have yet to try it. I’ve been disappointed in the past at the inefficiency of the ginger extraction in the existing recipe we’re using, so in light of that and the exorbitant price of ginger, I used less of it but cooked it in a pressure cooker for about an hour.

Normally there’s enough flavour left in the ginger after boil to bake a cake or biscuits, but this time it was flavourless dross. Success! However, it’s possible that the high pressure/temperature might alter the flavour a little. Will have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’ve found a reputable Ginger Beer recipe that starts from scratch so hopefully I’ll give that a go in the near future.

We’ve had a couple of popcorn machines die on us. Could be bad luck or a change in the tolerances of the machine, but either way it might be time to look for an alternative brand of machine or failing that an alternative method of roasting beans. There are a few other cheap methods. If worst comes to worst a heat gun and a dog bowl will do.

That’s about all there is to report at present. Future experiments may include bread, limoncello, noodles and pasta sauce.

Fresh home-made yogurt


Update: these days I heat the milk in the saucepan, not the jar, as this allows me to quickly cool the milk by placing the saucepan in a sink full of cold water. If you heat and cool glass too quickly it will break; so it’s much safer to use the saucepan instead. In brief then: heat the milk to 85 degrees (not too fast or it’ll burn on the base). Cool it or let it cool to 49-44 degrees. Stir in a tablespoon or more of existing yogurt (commercial or home-made). Pour into jars or plastic containers, whatever you like. Put the lids on and keep warm for the next 4 or more hours. I put mine into a broccoli box (Styrofoam box with lid) and with a towel inside to isolate even further. I typically leave it for more than 5 hours to get an especially thick yogurt. I’m currently doing 3 litre batches every week and a half. I’ve also tried it with skim milk for a friend, and the result is apparently still very good.

Probably the easiest thing I’ve made so far.

You’ll need a large jar with a lid, a saucepan, a cooking thermometer, some commercial yogurt (preferably unflavoured and good quality), and a way to keep the new batch of yogurt warm. I have a nice purpose-built insulated container for the jar, but you could simply wrap the jar in a thick towel and put it in a bucket to keep it upright.

Heat milk to 85 degrees C, then allow it to cool to 44 degrees. You can heat it directly in the saucepan or put the milk in the jar and heat the whole thing in water as pictured. At 44 degrees add a heaped tablespoon of commercial yogurt and stir through, then pour it into the jar, put the lid on lightly, and wrap it in towels or use whatever method you have to keep it warm.

Let it sit for about 4 hours, then tighten the lid and put it in the fridge. The longer you leave it warm, the firmer and more tart the yogurt will be.

I’ve used this method three times in the last week and a bit, and last night I made an extra large batch, giving me three litres of yogurt. Fresh yogurt is pretty amazing. You can add it to fruit or blend favours with it after it’s chilled, but I haven’t tried that yet as the fresh plain yogurt is so good on its own.

When you near the end of the batch you can simply repeat the recipe, using your own remaining yogurt instead of commercial yogurt as the starting culture. If the yogurt doesn’t seem as effective at any point, you may need to buy more commercial yogurt to restart the process.

Milk here is about $1/litre, which is a very good price for an easily-replenished supply of fresh yogurt!

There are similar processes for making buttermilk, which can in turn be used to produce sour cream, creme fraiche, and cottage cheese. Will let you know if I get around to making those.