Homemade yogurt lassi

A hint of clove adds an air of sophistication to this lassi, which boosts breakfast with its mix of orange juice and yogurt.

Pickles and Tea
Orange-clove lassi made with homemade yogurt.

I started making yogurt during my first year of marriage. That was 13 years ago.

My impetus wasn’t being a Mrs. Nor was I inspired to become more of a homebody because we were living in the English countryside. The culprit was actually an insulated flask I found in a charity shop.

The flask was part of a kit with a fancy name, “Deva Bridge Yoghurt Making Kit,” and came complete with an instruction booklet. The instructions made it seem so simple to churn out homemade yogurt, I had to try it. And when I attempted it, it was!

The kit utilized some very quaint tools including a milk saver that rattled in the pot when the milk was ready and a “thermometer” with no numbers, just a red line to let you know you’ve hit the right temp.

I carried on making yogurt using the kit for several years, even after we moved back to the Unite States. That is, until my son was born. Then, I hardly had time to wash my hair let alone make yogurt.

Earlier this year, I found out my friend Cheryl Sternman Rule was coming out with a yogurt cookbook called "Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food" (clever eh?). I thought back to my yogurt-making days and was inspired to start making it again. However, some parts of the kit had gone missing (that tends to happen when you move as much as we do!) so I devised my own plan for yogurt-making without any fancy equipment. You can even make it without a thermometer, just like Grandma used to.

Keep in mind that there are many ways to make yogurt. This is just my way, and only one method. You may have to go through some trial and error before you come up with a process that works for you and your kitchen environment.

Homemade Yogurt

4 cups whole milk
 1 tablespoon store-bought plain whole milk or lowfat yogurt

1. Boil the milk in a 2-quart stainless steel pot over medium high for about 10 minutes, or until bubbles form around the edges (about 180-190 degrees F). Or, if you have a milk saver, until it starts rattling about in your pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 more minutes.

2. Take the pot off the heat, remove any “skin” that forms on the surface, and allow to cool on a hotpad for 30 to 35 minutes, or until you can stick your finger in the milk for a count of 10 (about 110-115 degrees F).

3. Spoon the yogurt into a glass measuring cup(easier to pour) or bowl and ladle in about 1/2 cup milk. Stir vigorously to combine and pour this mixture back into the pot, stirring to mix well. Cover the pot with a lid and wrap in a thick towel. 

4. Incubate your yogurt in your oven with the light on (but heat off!), or in a warm sunny spot by your windowsill. How long your yogurt will take to form depends on many factors but start checking in about 6 hours. I like to leave it overnight so I won’t keep peeking :).

5. Once the yogurt is thick and looks like yogurt, it’s probably ready. Refrigerate and it’ll thicken further.  

6. Yogurt-making is a simple process but can be quite finicky, so I’ve gathered some tips for you to ensure success.

My yogurt-making tips:

1. Make sure your equipment – pot, spoons, glass bowl, etc. – are as clean as possible. The dishwasher is probably your best bet but let everything cool down to room temperature before you start work.

2. Plain, whole milk or lowfat yogurt is the best starter to use but I’ve used sweetened/flavored yogurt in a pinch and it still worked!

3. Once you get into the swing of yogurt-making, set aside 1 tablespoon of the previous batch to start the next. Some say it’s best to start over with commercial yogurt after 3 months but I’ve used the same batch for up to 6 months!

Cheryl’s yogurt-making tips:

1. Use whole milk. The flavor, texture, and creamy mouthfeel from whole milk yogurt far surpasses what you’ll be able to achieve if you use nonfat or even reduced fat milk in homemade yogurtmaking.

2. Use a thermometer. People who make yogurt regularly are savvy about gauging temperature cues without a thermometer, but beginners should definitely use one. It’s important to hit target temps during the milk’s heat-up and cool down phases.

 3. Leave yourself time. Most yogurts incubate in 6 to 12 hours. This process can’t be rushed, so plan ahead!

 4. Chill out. Homemade yogurt is warm straight out of the pot and won’t properly “gel” to its ideal texture until it chills in the fridge for a few hours.

 5. Strain a bit. Straining out a bit of whey (keep it!) and whisking the lumps out of your yogurt is quick and easy and results in a beautifully smooth and creamy end product.

Now that you’ve learned how to make homemade yogurt, use it to make this lovely lassi recipe from Cheryl’s book. If you haven’t had lassi before, it’s a yogurt drink that’s available both sweet and savory – it’s a perfect summer drink, and good for you too! Sweet lassi is usually mixed with fruit and spices, while savory lassi is spiked with salt and is consumed as a daily tonic.

In her book, Cheryl interviewed several people from different cultures about how yogurt is consumed. Here’s an excerpt about lassi from Aisha Piracha-Zakariya, who is Pakistani. 

“Lassi is a drink of the farmers,” Piracha-Zakariya explained. “They’ve been working all day, they come in and have lost all their electrolytes, and the salt in the lassi replenishes that. In countries where the water isn’t potable, eating lots of yogurt can counteract the effects of unhealthy water and help develop good gut bacteria in a medicinal way.” At 4:00 p.m. in Pakistan, she added, “Grandma will call you in to drink your lassi.” 

Orange-Clove Lassi
Adapted from "Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food" (Rux Martin/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 28, 2015) by Cheryl Sternman Rule.

Serves 2

A hint of clove adds an air of sophistication to this lassi, which boosts breakfast with its mix of orange juice and yogurt. If using Greek yogurt, increase the proportion of juice to yogurt slightly to make the lassi thin and drinkable.

1 cup plain low-fat or whole milk yogurt (homemade or storebought)
1 cup orange juice
1 to 2 tablespoons honey or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3 ice cubes

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Serve immediately.

Related post on Pickles and Tea: Creamy lychee popsicles

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