Tuesday, January 26

Countertop Culture

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Let the pressure cooker take the stress off the cook. Try these recipes to make your own homemade yogurt.

Yogurt is an ancient product, made in the home for the past 5,000 years without benefit of electricity, digital thermometers or commercially produced starter. This fact should convey to you that 1) How hard can it be? and 2) There are obviously lots of small variations in the process that can still produce great results. So relax — you’re way ahead of the game if you have a new digital pressure cooker! Just expect some trial and error before you land on your personal favorite style of yogurt. If you don’t have a digital pressure cooker, just use plain Greek or nonfat yogurt in the recipes.

Homemade Frozen Yogurt

Yield: 4–5 servings
  • 32 ounces plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
  • ⅓ cup honey 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup chopped fresh fruit, optional
  • ½ cup chopped nuts, optional
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey and extract. If desired, fold in the fruit and/or nuts. Transfer to an ice cream freezer and follow the manufacturer’s directions for freezing. Transfer to a freezer container, cover and freeze for 2 hours. Allow container to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before scooping and serving.

Herbed Yogurt Dressing

Yield: 4–6 servings
  • 3 ounces plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, zest, lemon juice, thyme, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving with mixed greens or raw carrot sticks.

Water Chestnut Spinach Dip

Yield: 8 servings
  • ¾ cup plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons onion powder
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 (4-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup chopped green onions
  • 1 pound chopped frozen spinach, thawed
  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, sour cream, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, garlic salt, paprika and pepper. Fold in the water chestnuts and green onions. Squeeze the spinach between paper towels to remove excess moisture. Add to the yogurt mixture, blending well. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving with chips or crackers.

Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (Tzatziki)

Yield: 2½ cups
  • 1 medium-large cucumber, unpeeled
  • 1½ cups plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  1. Grate the cucumber with the large holes of your grater to obtain 2 cups total. Place in several layers of paper towels and gently squeeze to remove any moisture. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir in the yogurt, olive oil, dill, mint, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Mix well. Allow to meld at least 30 minutes before serving immediately or covering and refrigerating for later use. Use within 4 days.

Yogurt Soaked Chicken

Yield: 6 servings
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup plain yogurt or plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon onion salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  1. Place the chicken in a large zip-top bag. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, oil, oregano, salt, black pepper and cayenne. Add to the bag and seal, pressing out as much air as possible. Massage the chicken so the marinade is evenly distributed throughout the bag. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Remove the bag from the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a jellyroll pan or 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on the pan. Squeeze the bag so that any extra marinade is on the chicken. Discard the bag and any leftover marinade.
  3. Bake for 35–40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Remove from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before serving warm.

Now, let’s make your own yogurt. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Yogurt starter, which should be 2–3 tablespoons of your favorite plain, sugar-free yogurt with “active,” or live, cultures.
  • An electric pressure cooker with a digital yogurt “function.”
  • A good digital meat or cooking thermometer to test the temperature of your mixture.

Additionally, if you want to control the thickness of your homemade yogurt, you’ll need:

  • Cheesecloth or a large straining cloth.
  • A place to set or suspend your yogurt so it can drain to the desired thickness. The liquid that will drain from your yogurt is whey; take a tip from Little Miss Muffett and use it to add nutrition to different foods. Smoothies, oatmeal, cereal and all sorts of foods that call for liquid can benefit from tangy and nutritious whey.

The hardest part of making yogurt at home with an electric pressure cooker is being sure you’re available for the times and steps involved. From the time you pour your milk into the pot until you transfer homemade yogurt into a container will take a total of about 11 or 12 hours.

Start your yogurt-making adventure by purchasing a container of your favorite commercially produced yogurt — but be sure it’s plain, no sugar, with live cultures. Once you’ve made your own yogurt, you can just set aside a couple of tablespoons of your own homemade stuff to use as the starter for the next batch.

First, be sure your electric pressure cooker pot is really clean. Milk solids (and other food smells) cling to surfaces and can influence the flavor of your yogurt. Just pour boiling water into the pot, then discard that water to be sure you are off to a clean start.

Now the real process begins: start with a half gallon of milk. What kind of milk? Whatever kind you prefer — skim, 2 percent or whole! Skim milk makes nonfat yogurt, 2 percent makes lowfat yogurt and so on. Pour ½ gallon (or up to a gallon) of milk into the inner pot of your electric pressure cooker and lock the lid in place; the vent should be sealed for this function. Press the “Yogurt” function, then adjust the button until it reads “Boil.” The cooker will beep when the milk has boiled. If starting with milk fresh from the fridge, this step should take about 50–55 minutes. Remove the lid and test the temperature to be sure the milk has reached 180 degrees. This 180 degree temperature is crucial for the yogurt to thicken properly. Don’t panic if you miss hearing the beep by a few minutes … but if your temperature reading doesn’t show 180 degrees when you take your reading, you’d better replace the lid and set the digital function to either “Saute” or “Rice” for two or three minutes at a time until you get that 180 degrees. Reaching 180 degrees will kill enzymes in the milk, making the milk available to the live cultures you’re about to introduce with your starter. A few degrees over 180 won’t hurt anything.

Now it’s time to remove the inner pot from your cooker and cool the milk to under 115 degrees. You can do that a number of ways: If simply placed on a counter, it will take about an hour (for ½ gallon) or two hours (for 1 gallon). By placing the inner pot of hot milk into a mixing bowl filled with ice, ice water or, better yet, in your freezer, the mixture will cool in half that time. It’s smart to use your cooking thermometer no matter your method.

Once the milk has cooled down properly, you’ll notice a layer of “skin” sitting on top of the boiled milk; skim it off. It may not look good to you, but the skin is edible and nutritious. Try offering it to your favorite feline or canine as a treat!

Now it’s time to introduce your yogurt “starter” — the yogurt you bought or saved from a previous batch — into the milk. A couple of tablespoons is enough. Use a whisk to combine the starter into the milk to ensure it’s well incorporated.

Place the inner pot back into the pressure cooker and replace the lid. Press the “Yogurt” button once more, and this time, adjust it until it reads “8:00,” or 8 hours (increasing the time up to 9 and a half hours will add to the tartness of the yogurt). This is the incubation period needed for the active yogurt cultures to grow and produce the delicious, nutritious yogurt you love. Here’s another instance where extra time doesn’t really affect the results; nothing is ruined if for some reason some extra time passes before you remove the fresh yogurt from the pot.

Once the incubation time has passed, you will have yogurt that is ready to be removed from the pot, chilled in plastic or glass containers and enjoyed — unless you want to strain some of the whey to make a thicker yogurt.

Greek yogurt, yogurt cheese and all the thickness options are simply a matter of straining whey. You can line a large mesh sieve or colander with a few layers of cheesecloth or other straining cloth, then gently pour your fresh yogurt into the lined container to drain until it’s the desired thickness. A faster option is to make a sack from a large enough swath of cheesecloth or straining cloth that you can pull up the ends, tie the ends firmly together and hang the yogurt over a sink or large pot to drain. Just be sure your yogurt is securely tied, or it might slip loose and all your efforts could literally go down the drain!

ASK Chef Tammy

Dear Tammy,

I have lots of cinnamon sticks and am wondering if I can grind these into the powdered form. Is that possible?

— Anna

Dear Anna,

It’s possible if you have the right equipment. An automatic coffee grinder works best and is the easiest. If the sticks are too long to fit, simply break them into smaller pieces. If you don’t have a coffee grinder, you can grate them with the small side of a grater, but it’s harder work, and the end results are not as consistent. Do so over a piece of waxed paper so you can catch every bit. Transfer to an airtight small container and store in a cool, dark place like the pantry.

Dear Tammy,

Can you tell me where to locate caster sugar? A family recipe calls for it, and my local grocery doesn’t carry it.

— Mona

Dear Mona,

Caster (sometimes spelled castor) sugar is nothing more than superfine sugar. It is usually called for in recipes that require a fast-dissolving granule.

If you can’t find it in the grocery, place regular sugar in your food processor fitted with a metal blade. Then process until the consistency resembles very fine sand.


About Author

Tammy Algood develops for The Tennessee Magazine recipes that feature farm-fresh Tennessee food. Those fresh, local ingredients will always add cleaner, more flavorful foods to your table. We recommend visiting local farms and farmers markets to find the freshest seasonal produce. For more information about our recipes, contact Algood at talgood@tnelectric.org.

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