Saturday, March 26, 2011

Morning train

A lovely morning on the train - wish that crow had posed more artistically! :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Makin’ yogurt

I used to snicker a bit at the stereotypical homeschooling types who did things like grinding their own flour from wheat. Clarification: I was a homeschooler myself. But without the grinding of the wheat.

Well, I just opened a crockpot full of homemade yogurt, so I guess I won’t be snickering at the wheat grinders anymore (not gonna lie – it sounds kind of cool now – help me).

Anyway, I had heard that you can make yogurt in a crockpot, and all the ingredients being available in Japan, I really wanted to try it.

But, I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work. I have a hard time getting bread dough to raise properly (perhaps because I haven’t been grinding my own wheat). But really, everyone knows that yogurt magically appears in stores.

Also, not gonna lie here, I was kind of confused about how you make yogurt without poisoning yourself. After all, milk has to stay in the fridge, as does yogurt, so how in the heck was one supposed to leave it out overnight.

I decided that it was something I wanted to try, anyway. When (not if) it didn’t work, I could just dump it down the sink. Waste of good milk, but there was the slight chance that it might possibly work. I found a brilliant blog post on the subject at The Girls’ Guide to Guns and Butter. The author, who grew up in Azerbaijan, really emphasizes the use of a timer. I highly recommend following her method should you decide to make yogurt at home.

There was an extraordinarily long list of ingredients…milk and yogurt! I doubled the milk in order to try to fit the recipe. I used milk from one of the towns where I teach. Yes, that is a picture of my non-tropical island on the front. I actually just noticed that myself! I used yogurt from another part of Hokkaido. I felt slightly smug about using local (and mostly local) ingredients.
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The milk went into the crockpot for heating to a sterile environment – or something. This is where the timer was SUPER handy, because my milk took a whole hour longer to get to the proper temperature. Also, since I had the timer, I was able to cool the yogurt in a cool water bath to get it to the proper happy bacteria temperature faster. And yeah, it was literally a cool water bath. My kitchen sink doesn’t have a stopper, but my bathtub does.

When the milk was to proper bacteria temp, I added the yogurt and snuggled the whole crockpot up somewhat close to the heater. The original recipe calls for putting the yogurt into the oven with the light on. I didn’t think my mini oven would work just right. Plus, it doesn’t have a light.

BTW, it sounds kind of weird to make yogurt with yogurt, but you just use a couple spoonfuls in your vat of milk as a starter. Then those bacteria multiply by the zillions to colonize the new vat. Try not to think about it too much.

I had to laugh a little at my crockpot. It looks like it has a cold, all swaddled in a fuzzy blankie with a thermometer sticking out from its lid. I removed the thermometer and covered the whole thing before putting it to bed for the night, in case you were wondering.
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This morning, I was excited to see if yogurt had happened, but I didn’t get my hopes up too high.  I opened the blanket, removed the crockpot lid, and peeked inside. It certainly looked firm! Excited, I grabbed a spoon and decided to take a picture like on the original blog post. I stuck my spoon in, and dipped up a spoonful of soft, yet solid yogurt. Look!
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I then proceeded to eat a generous helping of the stuff. Fresh and slightly warm yogurt is reeeaaalllly delicious!  Then, I packed the remaining yogurt away into storage dishes.

I have a lot of yogurt. And I am very happy about it!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

To Sapporo! And beyond!

Today, I reached Sapporo on my goal map! Resolution finished! Now, where shall I go??