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Making Yogurt Onboard

June 10, 2013

Just last night it happened again. We had a guest onboard who noticed our lack of refrigeration. (The open cooler in the hole where a fridge once sat makes it a bit obvious.)
"So, I guess you don't ever have eggs or anything, huh?"
"Oh no, we have two dozen eggs most of the time. They keep for months. Mayo keeps for weeks..." and we continued the explanation we've given hundreds of times. I was reminded of a similar conversation we'd had a few months ago, in which a guest was most surprised by the fact that yogurt, sour cream and cream cheese also keep well over a week. The biggest problem we have with yogurt is that we can't seem to keep it onboard very long before we eat it all. Which was the inspiration for Dave to finally attempt an experiment he has been threatening me with for years: making yogurt onboard.


Heat milk

We keep dried whole milk onboard (either Nido or Klim if Nido is unavailable), and as long as we remember to save the last couple of tablespoon or so of yogurt when we buy some, we have what we need to make yogurt onboard. After comparing many different recipes online, here is the method he finally tried.


Cool

Sterilize a quart canning jar with hot water.

Heat 3 cups milk in a sauce pan until it just begins to boil.
Pour the milk into the canning jar and let cool to lukewarm: 100 to 105 degrees. (To give you a comparison, a Jacuzzi is 102 degrees.)
Add a few TBSP milk to a few TBSP yogurt (either store-bought or from your last batch of homemade yogurt) to make it pourable.
Pour the yogurt gently into the quart jar of milk.
DO NOT STIR.
Leave in a warm place for 8-10 hours.


Pour in yogurt culture

Here is where things get tricky if you don't have refrigeration. Directions suggest that you then store your jar in a cool place until completely chilled, and then serve. Keeping the jar warm encourages the yogurt culture to grow. Cooling it stops this growth. The timing is important to ensure that the milk becomes yogurt, not just sour milk. But the cooling is also important because without it the culture continues to grow and the yogurt gets more and more sour. Another way to halt the culture's growth is to stir the yogurt. Unfortunately, this also makes it less solid. The more you stir, the runnier the yogurt. The less you stir, the more sour the yogurt.


Keep warm

So, no, obviously, this method isn't perfect. Luckily, we are not picky yogurt eaters. It is more important to us to make our own than to have the perfect consistency store-bought, seaweed-thickened concoction that is the alternative. With fruit and granola, neither a runnier consistency nor a sourer taste is offensive. We enjoy the yogurt either way.


Interesting insulation

However, if you have found a method that stops the culture growth without also thinning the end product without the use of refrigeration, please let us know. In the meantime, Dave is working on designing an evaporative cooler that we can use to bring down the temperature of the yogurt enough to stop the culture's growth. I'll keep you posted.


Of course there is string involved

Remove after 8-10 hours

The yogurt

Thick enough if you don't stir it

Another successful experiment

Life is the adventure you make it. Ours floats and is generally in warmer climes. But like we'll show you MONDAY, there's no such thing as a bad adventure.

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