My recipe card for yogurt looks like I do most days. The plastic sleeve is melted (I must have left it on the hot stove one time). The instructions—in my sweet friend, Natalie’s handwriting—are smudged. And the amounts aren’t what I remembered them to be. I must have changed hers into own measurements somewhere along the way.
Melted, smudged, and changed.
It’s been a long time since I’ve actually looked at this recipe card. Since I make yogurt about twice a week, I have the four-ingredient recipe memorized. Though I admit that while it’s easy for me to memorize the recipe, about a third of the time, I forget that I’m actually making yogurt, and either leave it until it curdles, or turn on the oven to cook something and smell burnt yogurt just as I remember that I was storing it in there. And that is with all the notes I leave around my house, reminding me about the yogurt.
But this card is special to me. It was the first recipe (of many) I received after moving to Indonesia. And I got it just as I was learning that my old ways of cooking (buy frozen pizza, remove from wrapping, add extra cheese—they never put enough on those frozen pizzas—bake in 425 degree oven for 15 minutes, done) were just not going to work here.
Natalie gave it to me along with the three tablespoons of yogurt starter—which was just extra yogurt from her own batch—in a plastic bag. I knew then that I was in over my head by moving across the world to Indonesia. MAF picked the wrong girl.
But I smiled and tried not to let on how little I knew, wondering if I could ever cook from scratch without all the brightly colored cans and packages from the Wal-Mart aisle.
And I wondered how I would ever learn all the other things I would have to know to survive here. Not to drink the water. Keep smiling even when I have no idea what someone is saying to me. How to sleep through the traffic and roosters and calls to prayer. How to trust in a God who obviously had gotten one thing wrong—letting me come here.
Making yogurt each week, quickly, in between all the other tasks of motherhood and living here, reminds me that I’ve come a long way, and yet have so much left to learn. And though I don’t always get it right with my recipes, with my family, with my community, there is always the next batch. There is always tomorrow.
So, here you go:
My Yogurt Recipe
(modified from the one that Natalie Holsten gave me). By the way, I’m not that accurate of a cook, so bear with my loose instructions. Exact temperatures and lengths of time don’t seem to apply to this recipe).
1. Four cups of milk, warmed to the temperature you’d warm water for yeast—warm, but not too hot that you can’t put your finger in it.
(I can’t get fresh milk here, so I use mix one cup skim milk powder with one cup whole milk powder with four cups warm water.)
2. Add three tablespoons of plain, unsweetened yogurt (or you can use packaged yogurt starter that you buy at a grocery store).
3. Mix and pour into jar(s) and store in a warm place for three to six hours until set. (I put mine in my oven with the pilot light on, so it takes about five hours until it is set.)
4. Once set, store in fridge.
If it starts to separate, you’ve waited too long. Sometimes you can still use it—put it in your fridge and see if it still sets enough to use. In the future, you’ll have to just monitor how long it takes for your yogurt to set in your house, during the current season. Check every half hour after the first three hours until you learn what length of time works.
If you want to sweeten your yogurt, add a half can of sweetened condensed milk to the milk. Or you can sweeten it later with honey.
I serve my yogurt with my granola and fruit for breakfast or healthy snacks. I also use it, substituted for buttermilk or sour cream in recipes.
Don’t forget to save three tablespoons of your yogurt (non-sweetened) for your next batch.