Ferments are on trend and I am working my way through the different kinds.  I’ve already written about sourdough but, unlike everyone else in lockdown, I started with yoghurt in an attempt to reduce our plastic usage.   Plus, I’ve always loved the little glass pots of yoghurt seen at posh hotels. 

Decades ago my husband and I fancifully planned a dream kitchen that would include a warm place for bread and yoghurt making, a space for beer brewing, perhaps also cheese making….. you get the picture.  It probably would have been in an old farmhouse in Provence or Tuscany too.  

We never did get such a kitchen and these days I know that it would be folly to allow the different yeast and bacteria strains for beer, bread and yoghurt to get too near each other.  No-one wants beery-smelling yoghurt!   We do, however, have a warming drawer and this has proved just the place for producing yoghurt easily. 

Now I must confess to having a rather laissez-faire attitude to cooking.  I’m a throw-things-together-and-see-what-happens kind of cook.   I trust to instinct and experience to get the flavour combinations and cooking times right.  And most of the time this is fine because I confine myself to slow-cooked foods, one pot meals and salads.  Ferments, too, seem to fit well into this way of cooking.

But it is not fine for yoghurt.  You have to be precise about temperature and hygiene.  Believe me, I’ve learnt the hard way.

Of course there’s plenty of advice online about this, but I can share a few of my learning points:

  • Never heat your milk past 82ºC in stage 1.
  • St Helen’s Farm goats milk yoghurt makes a great starter culture.
  • Different strains of yoghurt bacteria have different optimal temperature ranges for growth.  The sweet spot is 43ºC.  Our warming drawer holds itself at 45ºC, which favours the sour one a bit more. 
  • 12 hours is a good ferment time for a reasonably firm yoghurt.

In case you are wondering, I have successfully curbed my liberal attitude to cooking instructions – at least for yoghurt.  You do have to keep renewing your culture and I aim to get about 10 batches before I have to buy a new pot from the supermarket.   That’s still a big reduction in our plastic consumption!

Text and Images (C) Claire @theslowfix A slow food devotee, Claire is constantly searching for new ways to enable us all to live sustainably.

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