Some time ago I wrote a post about store-bought, flavored yogurt and the absurd amounts of sugar contained therein, called Everything You Wanted to Know About Yogurt but Were Afraid To Ask. But the truth is there’s a lot more to know about yogurt, and don’t worry — it’s all good.
The first step to restoring yogurt to its healthful place in smart eating is to buy it plain. You can try your hand at making your own yogurt, but you’ll still need some plain yogurt to get started. “Plain,” by the way, is what I would have called yogurt if I wanted consumers to be more interested in other, fancier options, especially if I could increase profits by doing so. But that’s not what I want for you, so I would call it “pure” yogurt. So the first step is to buy plain, whole-milk yogurt. Now, if you aren’t ready to switch from low-fat to whole fat, we can compromise for now. Just please make sure it’s plain yogurt, with live, active cultures (check the label).This week, I compiled a list of various things that I saw people doing with yogurt, and then I added a few I’ve read about but never tried myself. One thing that should be obvious is that we are selling ourselves short when we eat only the dessert-like products that are available commercially. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:
1) Mix yogurt with curry powder and brush on grilled corn.
2) Sprinkle yogurt with fresh raspberries.
3) Add finely diced cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions AND onions to yogurt.
4) Slice 1/2 banana, add walnut pieces and sprinkle cinnamon on yogurt.
5) Mix 1-2 T yogurt with 1 part steel cut oats and 2 parts water. Allow to sit overnight, and then heat and eat.
6) Add 1-2 t. fresh dill, 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. lemon juice to 1 c. yogurt, and spread on a serving plate. Lay roasted zucchini slices on top of the sauce.
7) Halve apples and/or pears, and grill. When they’re done, drizzle with a dressing made of yogurt, honey and a pinch of cardamom.
8) Peel and slice a mango, and stir into yogurt.
If and when you’re up for making your own yogurt, it can be as simple as pouring 1 quart of whole milk (heated and cooled) into a casserole dish, adding 3 T pure, room temperature, whole-milk yogurt (this is your starter), stirring well, covering, and allowing the dish to sit overnight in a warm 100 F oven with the heat off. Yogurt can also be made in a thermos bottle, on a heating pad, in the sun, on the back of a wood stove, or in a crockpot. One trick worth sharing is to empty a carton of yogurt into an ice cube tray, freeze the cubes individually, and then collect them in a container in the freezer. Each cube will serve as a starter for later use.
Finally, you can make cheese from yogurt. My father taught me to make yogurt cheese, and it is fabulous — tangy, smooth, and satisfying. All you need is a large container of pure yogurt and a dishcloth or some cheesecloth, 3-4 layers thick. Dump the whole carton onto a large cloth, at least 15 x 15 inches square. Draw up the 4 corners of the cloth and tie them together with string or a rubber band. Then tie the knot to the handle of a large wooden/serving spoon, and hang the spoon (with its attached bundle) over a large saucepan so that the bundle hangs free. Leave it for at least 8-12 hours, until the liquid stops dripping. Remember – cooking with real food does require more advance planning, but not more time. Oh yeh, you can discard the liquid or feed it to your dog.
When you open the cheesecloth you will find a beautiful, flavorful, fresh yogurt cheese imprinted with the shape of the cloth fibers. Roll it in fresh thyme or basil, stir in garlic, or make it sweet with honey or jam. Sprinkle a generous spoonful with a little bit of oregano and the best olive oil, and then add it to a plate of fresh tomatoes. Spread it on a slice of sourdough bread. Make small, 1/2-inch balls and add them to a salad. The last time I made yogurt cheese, none was left by the end of the day. Bon appetit!