Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I make yogurt

When I was in New York last summer I became addicted to Fage 2% Greek yogurt. It's thick and tastes - to me - almost like sour cream. It's also pretty durn exensive ($4.99 a tub).

In the olden days, I made my own yogurt. I had a Salton yogurt maker which made yogurt in neat little ceramic containters, although I also used the oven method before I got the yogurt maker. Of course, in the olden days I made my own yogurt because you couldn't get real yogurt in stores, stuff with lactobacillus in it; you could only get the stuff with sugar and fruit flavorings, and additives.

So for close to nine months I've been shelling out the big bucks for Fage, which is pronounced fa-yeh, and makes me happy when I say it. But the $4.99 part? well, I've never been really happy about that. So I looked up 'how to make Greek yogurt on Google, and found this wonderful video by Crebs, which I just love. This guy is cheerful! I pretty much followed his instructions, except I used 2% and no half and half, and I only let it ferment 11 hours. It's pretty tangy that way. If you want it less tangy, you let it ferment less. I made it in my oven. I used to have an oven with an oven light in it and I would just pop the saucepan in the oven with the oven light on, but my current oven has no light. So I put a small lamp with a 60 watt incandescent bulb in there.

I was really worried that Al Gore would be dropping by to beat on me for that, but I had my whole rant/rationale ready for him.

You see what prompted this whole yogurt making thing - other than the $4.99 part - was that yogurt comes in plastic containers. And plastic containers and bits of plastic containers have somehow ended up in the middle of the Northern Pacific Gyre (Turning and turning in the widening gyre...) in what is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This thing is the size of two Texases! Now, ya'll who don't live in Texas just may not realize just how huge that is, but it's pretty damn big. The closest border to me is the one with Mexico, and that's some 7 hours away from here. When I leave the state to visit the cabin, it takes me 8 hours just to get out of Texas... And it's 6 hours to Ricë's house, and I don't think of her as being all that far away. Far out, maybe, but not far away.

I learned about the Patch from John Colapinto's article in The New Yorker about David de Rothschild's plan to build a boat out of plastic bottles and sail it across the Pacific to raise awareness about plastic bottles. de Rothschild is talking about upcycling instead of recycling, and that's cool, but I started thinking about how much plastic I use. It's probably not as much as most people do, since I don't eat much commercially packaged food (except for Fage), but even if you shop at Whole Foods these days, everything comes in little plastic containers or on styrofoam trays. In the old days, when Whole Foods was ittybitty, you could take your own containers in and they'd put stuff in them, and you can still do that, but it's a bit more of a hassle now.

The City of Austin has a good recycling program and takes all rigid plastics, 1-7, including yogurt containers, but still, these get downcylced into stuff and eventually they're going to end up in that Garbage Patch and kill some poor albatross, and ya'll know what kind of bad luck that is.

The yogurt came out fine, thank you Crebs. And I have whey to feed to the outdoor kitties, which is a good thing. Next I'm going to figure out a way to carry to go containers with me to restaurants, so I don't have to take home anything in styrofoam ever again.

ps. The image was created in Wordle, and is licensed using Creative Commons.


Amy in Austin said...

Woohoo! She lives! Love your post.

Ricë said...

i was ranting about this last summer after reading "Plastic Ocean" by Susan Casey. it's a good essay--

wendy hale davis said...

It's soooo scary. And icky. Makes me want webcams on it or something that would broadcast all the time to remind people.

journalrat said...

Wendy, thanks for the info links on Greek Yogurt. When I first met Dick he was making his own yogurt and it's something we talk about doing again. We have a local yogurt that is so very delicious, but the plastic tub thing does bother me, because of the Garbage Patch. I was watching some show a couple months ago and they showed pictures and you can't get a sense of it except that it is a mass and immense, and dangerous.

Yesterday I was sketching gulls and saw that one was missing about the last inch and then the entire foot on the right leg. Don't know what happened, but I've seen enough geese and gulls with plastic and DENTAL FLOSS tied around their legs cutting off circulation, that it always makes me wonder.


anna maria said...

I know you probably want to give the whey to the outdoor kitties, but just in case you don't know this (I didn't until recently), you can let whey mixed with flour soak overnight to ferment, and use the batter to make pancakes or bread or whatever.
I learned this from a book called Nourishing Traditions, which supports eating tons of meat (not too keen on that, raw dairy products and fermenting everything.
Just wanted to add my two bits, which I guess is what commenting is all about.

wendy hale davis said...

I did NOT know that. Don't tell Ricë, she thinks I know everything!