I owned a copy of Nourishing Traditions before it became a popular lifestyle and have often fantasized of being a Real-Foodie. How I would love to have all that organic, home-grown, home-brewed, home-cooked food served at every meal. But alas, I despise the kitchen, and that does not bode well for a Nourishing Traditions menu. (It is a great difficulty to love good cooking and good table culture and be so ill-equipped to bring them about. Sigh.)
What has worked here has been to find a few healthy staples that are doable for me, and allow them to be the under-girding of our diet. The rest gets filled in with the easy, the modern, and the convenient.
One of the staples that has survived my Nourishing Traditions fallout is yogurt. Yogurt is good for everything. You can eat it for breakfast, make it into salad dressing, use it for baking, serve it as a condiment, or put it in smoothies. My babies subsisted on it when I was too lazy to make baby food. Even the more ballyhooed kefir cannot match the versatility and popularity of its common cousin. And when you have a family that likes yogurt, you learn to make it simply because it is so much cheaper, especially if it has fat (cream) in it, which yogurt simply must have.
Some folks will tell you that you need a thermometer and an incubator to make yogurt. I like to keep things simple, and all I use is a pinkie finger, an oven with a light, and one of these babies:
It’s called a milk watcher or pot watcher and is an ingenious device that our grandmothers used. It both alerts you to when milk reaches the scalding point and also helps keep it from boiling over. I discovered these a year or two ago and can’t believe they aren’t more well known. And no, you don’t really need a milk watcher, but if you are a busy mom with plans of regular yogurt-making, invest in one.
Here’s how I do yogurt. Amounts are very approximate.
1/2 gallon whole milk. (I would do more at a time but I don’t like storing more than this amount in our humble-sized fridge.)
1/2 c dry milk (You can skip this if you want to be uber-healthy. It just makes the yogurt thicker.)
1/4 c yogurt, any type. I use plain so it doesn’t flavor the yogurt.
Pour milk into a heavy pot and stir in the dry milk. Drop the milk-watcher in if you have it. Heat over med-low heat, stirring frequently, until scalding. The milk watcher will begin to rattle slightly. Or you can just keep a close eye on it until the milk is steaming real good and it’s thinking about boiling. You can still make yogurt with it if it does boil, but it will be grainy. So don’t let it. Remove from heat and let cool until it is the temp of nice bath water. You should be able to hold your pinkie in it comfortably for ten seconds. Whisk in the yogurt, pour into your storage container, and place in oven with the light on. Leave for 6-24 hours, until thickened. The longer you leave it, the more tart it will be. Refrigerate and enjoy.