I was 19 years old the summer I spent two weeks helping to build a wall around a schoolyard in a rural Turkish village. During breaks, villagers expressed their gratitude (or maybe just entertained their own curiosities about us) by offering us a drink called Ayran. It’s a salty yogurt drink that on those hot, sweaty days made some of my fellow travelers gag, but the taste stayed with me in a good way and I recently found myself wondering if I’d still like it. I recently made a glass and found that I do not like Ayran, at least not the way I make it. Despite this disappointment, I continued to have a curiosity about ways to use salted yogurt. I found a recipe for cold yogurt soup that finally hit the spot. For the same meal I also gave in and made a sweet yogurt treat for dessert.
But first, let me tell you that I make all my own yogurt now. I always knew it was possible to make your own yogurt, because my mother had a yogurt-making machine when I was a child. I assumed it was a complicated process, however, so I continued to spend the big bucks on farm-fresh or organic brands. I was encouraged to take the leap of making my own yogurt at a From Scratch Club Cheese Making party we had last month, where a number of my cohorts insisted it was super easy. I scanned the Internet and my own cookbooks and, after making yogurt several times now, have come up with a method that combines several different suggestions from a variety of sources.
First I heat a quart of milk, taking it off the heat as soon as it boils. I wisk in a half cup of yogurt in to the milk once it has cooled to between 110 and 120 degrees. I pour that mixture in to a glass jar and place the jar in a large bowl of warm water. Then I wait and within a few hours I usually have deliciously fresh yogurt. That’s it! You can use milk with any amount of fat in it, but I prefer whole milk (go figure). I have my method down so that I can make yogurt while I’m busy making dinner.
The cold yogurt soup I made, from Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian”, is a two layered delight. The bottom layer is chopped tomatoes, thyme and orange juice, marinated for a couple hours. Layered on top of that is the plain yogurt, mixed “vigorously” with chopped basil, salt and pepper.
Strain the basil out before pouring the yogurt on top of the tomato mixture. The final product is very pretty, and I served mine in drinking glasses. I’d recommend using some sort of nice glass bowl, if you have that sort of thing lying around your kitchen. Sprinkle the final product with chopped toasted pine nuts.
There are a number of ways you could vary Bittman’s recipe, and he lists several suggestions of his own, but I can see experimenting with the salty yogurt flavor infinitely. Liz uses garlic scapes and greek yogurt with cucumber to create a tzatsiki that sounds heavenly, and I bet could be transformed in to a cold yogurt soup as well.
Breaking away from the savory, a backyard plant overflowing with blueberries inspired me to follow Hanna’s recipe for Frozen Yogurt Popsicles.