What is with this whole DIY/Etsy/make sauerkraut in your bathtub movement that seems to have washed over our nation’s hipster enclaves in a tidal wave of smug? I find it so annoying. First of all, it makes those of us who are happy to pay someone else to make our alcohol, condiments, cured meats and honey feel like lazy bums. Second of all, it’s unsanitary. If you’re someone who is open to using your bathroom as a kitchen you’re probably not on very familiar terms with Scrubbing Bubbles. I prefer buying things I plan on ingesting at a facility that is held to some kind of official standard, albeit a standard riddled with greasy palms I’m sure. Years ago my boss at the time worked with an oily haired client whose idea of a Christmas gift was a few bottles of stout he’d brewed in his tub. (Um, no thanks). It’s all kind of arrogant, no? Did he really think his bathroom brew was going to be better than, say, the King of Beers? Not likely. But, like most things one starts off deriding, I found myself a little curious about all this make- your-own business.
Spending habits are a funny thing. I am simultaneously a spend thrift and a cheap-o. On the one hand, I would sooner wear rags (and if you surprise me in the middle of the night you will see my pajamas are perilously close to falling into that category) than give up the transformative power of the hair salon. At the same time, I will walk a ½ a mile out of my way to save $.50 on a roll of Bounty. Once I was visiting a friend and her new baby when the babysitter informed my friend that the house was out of paper towels, Diet Coke and whole milk. Without so much as a split-second of a thought my friend picked up the phone, pressed a number programmed into her speed dial and placed an order with the corner deli for the three items she had just learned needed replacing. I was in shock. Do you have any idea how much a roll of Bounty would be at the deli? No, neither do I because I know it’s way more than the $1.19 I pay at the Love drugstore.
I have always been this way but with my most recent wave of belt tightening I find myself examining my spending even more closely and have become one of those crazy supermarket shoppers. I clip coupons and thoroughly review the circulars. I compare prices online before hitting the various neighborhood grocery stores and I use my Food Emporium card when necessity takes me there. If the creepy Pioneer market is having a special on Almond Breeze Almond Milk this week I prepare myself to make the sacrifice, forego my preferred brand (Silk), and pocket the $1.00 difference.
So the other day at Fairway I flinched when I picked up my weekly 32 ounce container of Stonyfield Farm Plain Fat-Free Yogurt and saw it cost $3.99. Oh, I am so nostalgic for the salad days of yore when I bought Fage Greek Yogurt without a care in the world! At $4.79 for 16 ounces I would never buy it now. Stonyfield had been what I’d been settling for and all of a sudden it was turning on me? How long had it cost this much? What had happened to my hyper-vigilance? This is crazy! And then I remembered having seen a recipe in Food and Wine for Greek yogurt and got to thinking, “hmmmn.” I was ready to embark on my very own Zoom-do.
The instructions looked easy enough and promised me 32 ounces of thick, creamy yogurt for the price of a quart of milk ($1.09). Well, that plus the two tablespoons from the remaining Stonyfield I had in the house which served as a sort of starter/fermenting encourager and the package of cheesecloth ($2.99) I’d need to strain out the whey. But even taking all of that into consideration I’d still come out on top in the long run—or so I thought.
My first attempt was, simply put, a disaster. After bringing the milk to what I thought was a boil, adding the yogurt/milk mixture and letting it sit for the prescribed 16 hours (in my unheated oven with the light on) I was left with a meal Miss Muffet would have been very happy to eat on her tuffet. I now know what curds and whey look like. Yuck.
In reviewing what may have gone wrong I decided I hadn’t really let the milk come to a full boil and I had used skim milk despite being told to use whole. So for my second attempt I compromised and bought 1% organic milk (on special at Food Emporium $2.79). This time we had a good boil and, as per the recipe’s promise, a skin formed on the milk’s surface. I had a good feeling—until I didn’t. After another 16 hours of supposed yogurt formation in my oven I removed the dish towel covering the pot and my heart sank. Can I interest you in a scant quart of sour milk? I continued to follow the recipe through to the end (just to see if some yogurt miracle was coming around the corner) and strained the pot’s contents through the cheesecloth and a sieve. You know what it yielded? The two tablespoons of yogurt I had used as a starter.
I should probably explain that in addition to my cheapskate motivation I also wanted to offer up a recipe sure to offset the gluttonous Thursday we are all about to surrender to. What’s better than something light and healthy for breakfast the day after Thanksgiving—with enough oomph to keep you in fighting shape for black Friday? Well friends, you’ll have to go to the store to buy your yogurt which is exactly what I did after wasting $6.87 and losing 32 hours of oven usage. The good news for me? Fairway was having a special that, due to my DIY craziness, I almost missed. $2.99 for 32 ounces of Horizon Organic Non-Fat Plain Yogurt. Some things are better left to the professionals.
Black Friday Yogurt Fruit Melange
1/2 cup fat-free or low fat plain yogurt (if you’re rich, splurge for the Greek)
1/2 cup chopped favorite mixed fruit
1 Tablespoon chopped toasted favorite nuts or ground flax seeds
Drizzle of honey or maple syrup (optional)
Put the fruit in a bowl, top with yogurt, nuts and optional sweetener. Mix. Eat.
Yield: One serving