Yogurt is my everyday snack in whatever form, buttermilk is the favourite drink that I keep making with several herbs or just with a hint of salt when in a hurry. I like it chilled, at room temperature or cooked in curries too. Yogurt in an Indian home never goes waste even if it becomes too sour. We have a recipe for all kind of yogurt and we like making our own yogurt at home.
For a couple of years in between, I had started buying yogurt from the neighborhood booth of Mother Dairy. Despite the fact that I know packaged yogurt is not the same as home cultured ones, I fell prey to the convenience factor. And then I realised I was not eating yogurt everyday anymore. Yogurt was just a bowl of a good thing I had to tell myself to eat, there was no pleasure in doing so.
And then while shifting some kitchen utensils to another cupboard I found this pretty earthen pot that I used to set my yogurt in. I held it in my hands for a while, sniffed the insides and it still smelt of yogurt. The porous material holds the yogurt within.
I washed it, filled it with warm milk and kept it covered on the kitchen platform to find perfectly set yogurt in about 4 hours. Indian summers are great for yogurt making.
Exactly the way it used to set earlier, the familiar aroma, the familiar layer of watery whey and some floating mass of live culture. Lactic acid bacteria can remain dormant for long time and revive as soon as they find milk. And they did well in this case too.
And then it became a daily routine and I started looking forward to my yogurt once again, sometimes having another bowl just because I loved the taste so much.
I even started reducing the milk to thicken it and setting yogurt in the earthen pot just like my grandmother used to do. The yogurt made with reduced milk tastes more rich and a bit smoky.
But that phase got over because reducing milk is no fun. I resorted back to just heating milk to about 45 C and setting yogurt every single day.
Here is a quick DIY check list if you are making yogurt at home...
- Use unpasteurized milk if possible, but pasteurized milk also makes good yogurt, the 'yogurt culture' has to be good quality and that is the deciding factor in how your yogurt turns out to be.
- Get your yogurt starter from a home where yogurt is made regularly. Beg, borrow, steal, trust me a good yogurt is worth all the effort. If you live in a part of the world where no one makes their yogurt at home, you could look for cultured yogurt or cultured buttermilk on the supermarket shelves or at health food stores. Use 1/4 cup of cultured buttermilk as a yogurt starter for the first batch of yogurt and then use a tbsp from the fresh yogurt you made.
- To make yogurt just heat the milk to 40-45 C or lukewarm to touch, mix 1 tbsp of good yogurt (or 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk) to it, whisk well and cover. Keep it in a warm place till the yogurt sets. It takes about 4 hours in Indian summers, in winters we keep it either in water bath or inside warm oven. Don't forget to save a tbsp of starter from each batch to set the next batch of yogurt.
- If for any reason you cannot find any yogurt starter or cultured buttermilk, use dry whole red chillies with their stems to set yogurt. They have lactic acid bacteria on the surface and they help set perfect yogurt. Just warm milk, pour in the pot to set yogurt and drop in a couple of dry red chillies on it. The chillies don't submerge. Remove them as soon as the yogurt is set. The chilies don't impart their heat to the yogurt.
- If you want to carry your family yogurt culture abroad there are a few easy ways to do so. Carry an earthen pot like above which was used to set yogurt a couple of times and has been dried after a rinse. This pot will automatically help set yogurt once you fill it up with warm milk. Or you can soak a small piece of clean muslin in fresh home made yogurt and dry it under sun. Fold the piece of yogurt laced muslin and pack it in ziplock bag and carry. Dip this muslin in warm milk and let the yogurt set, remover the muslin once the first batch of yogurt is ready. In older times yogurt culture in this form was given to daughters when they got married as part of the dowry (source~ First Food)
I hope I keep being regular with my yogurt making now, as there is no match to the taste of real buttermilk that I make after churning the butter for making ghee.
Yes I started making ghee too again. That we will discuss some other time. The homemade yogurt brought back the habit of tossing fruits in yogurt too to make a filling snack or a cooling light lunch. You want to eat more yogurt in many different ways when you have good delicious yogurt at hand.
The fruit yogurts are perfect snack for office too, you can always carry an extra jar of fruit yogurt or an appropriate glass container that doesn't leak.
We like any fresh fruit in yogurt. It is always much better than the 'flavoured' fruit yogurts. Here is a musk melon, sticky dates, chopped almonds and chia seeds yogurt. It doesn't need any sweetener.
The real taste of a fruit cannot be achieved by chemical flavorings, though chemical flavorings and sweeteners together may make the fruit yogurt comforting in nature IF you haven't ever tasted the real thing. Try making the real fruit yogurt and compare the two. You will find all your answers.
Here is another version that I make using apricots, plums, some chopped figs (dried), chopped almonds and chia seeds.
After about 4-5 hours the flavours mingle so well it looks like this. Absolutely yummy.
You can play with seasonal fruits or use dried fruits if you could shop for grocery lately and there is no fresh fruit left. Yogurt will make the dried fruits better. Add chopped nuts and seeds as you like.
Or have a fruit yogurt as a generous dessert after a meal. For lunch boxes too yogurt can make a plain packed meal interesting and nourishing at the same time.
Those who don' like yogurt or avoid milk products can always make a nuts and seeds salad with some sauerkraut or pickled salad thrown in for the daily dose of probiotics.
Few guidelines for packing yogurt for lunch boxes...
- Get a leak proof tumbler or a nice bottle for flavoured or herbed buttermilk. Buttermilk is a great way to hydrate during summers and can be a good substitute for coffee and milky chai if you have fallen pray to work time coffee habit. Try some intense mint or curry patta spiced up buttermilk and see how it brings back the energy level. Electrolytes, much needed water and probiotic all at the same time brought to you by buttermilk. Dilute the buttermilk if you plan to have it frequently and use fresh herbs or dry mint, curry patta or moringa powders.
- A suitably sized glass jar or Tupperware container is also good for yogurt. You can have a few of these and set your yogurt directly in these jars and refrigerate. Fruits, nuts and seeds etc can be added and the jars can be carries as is.
- You can try freezing the buttermilk or fruit yogurt containers and packing them in padded bag to carry if your office doesn't have a refrigerator to store. This way the yogurt or buttermilk comes to right temperature at the time of consumption. There are some ice packs in the market that can be packed along with yogurt in a bag so keep it chilled. In air conditioned offices the yogurt and buttermilk doesn't spoil normally, the above suggestions are good if you like your yogurt chilled.
- Keep some herbs ready to flavour the yogurt and buttermilk everyday, fresh fruits or dehydrated fruits are a personal choice but make arrangements of the ingredients before had so you keep up the habit of carrying your own yogurt.
- A very dear friend who is single and male and cooks his own lunch boxes, told me recently that he started carrying buttermilk with his lunch box after seeing my buttermilk pictures. But his office friends started asking him why does he carry so many things to eat like kids, not that my friend cares. Let me tell you one thing, the same friends will come to have a sip after a few days and then some of them will start bringing their own too. Make it fashionable in your office I say.
There is nothing more refreshing than a fresh mint buttermilk. Loads of mint, hint of green chilly or black pepper and salt makes me refreshed always without a fail.
And it is not just about the momentary refreshing feeling. It is also about how your gut feels after a few shot of 'work stress induced coffee' and how this coffee induced freshness lasts only an hour and after so many shots of coffee you still feel dull in the evening.
Start having these variations of buttermilk or Iced teas and see how the 'real' herbs and electrolytes boost your spirits and keep your gut also healthy. You will feel the difference every evening trust me.
Note that you can win a few useful pretty things useful for your lunch boxes in the ongoing lunch box series. A couple of these pretty bottles for buttermilk and Iced teas are also being given away to one of the comments that I like.
Please comment below and tell me if you carry yogurt to office and what way you like it. There is a Tupperware steamer and a hand painted lunch box by Trove as give away too, check out the lunch box series for more useful information and participate by commenting on any of the posts you like..