Homemade yogurt, take 3

My last homemade yogurt was a happy success, and it made me really look forward to making another batch. And after 10 days and a lucky deal on milk at the grocery store, that time had come.

Process notes

  • used 1/2 gallon whole milk (as before) in a Dutch oven rubbed with an ice cube
  • heated to 188°, which was a little warm, and once it reached 188° I turned off the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes (it held this high temp the whole resting period)
  • cooled for about an hour to 115° (went and showered and got ready for the day while it cooled, rather than stirring it)
  • lightly stirred in 2 tbsp of the leftover yogurt — I was originally going to use the sample I had put in the freezer last time, but the consistency was weird (chunky and runny) so I played it safe and used what was in the refrigerator instead
  • original yogurt was from Feb. 11, this batch was made Feb. 21
  • heated oven to 110° then turned off
  • placed covered pot in oven — did not need to turn on the proofing function because there was plenty of warmth from the preheat and the cast iron pot, but I did leave the light on the entire time
  • let sit in the oven for 7 hrs


After sitting for 7 hours, I checked the yogurt and the texture was a little different from last time. I think it was too warm, or the incubation time was too long. It wasn’t as smooth, and it almost had a curdled quality to it.

But it tasted fine, so I filled a 1-qt jar with the yogurt, and for the other half strained it in a paper-towel-lined strainer. Both went into the refrigerator, and a couple of hours later the strained portion had produced really thick, creamy Greek style yogurt. This part smoothed out nicely after vigorous stirring, and left me with a scant pint of thick yogurt + a pint of whey. The regular yogurt is on the thinner side, but that’s not unexpected since it wasn’t strained at all.

The yogurt is tasting great! And the whey is going to come in handy for a birthday cake (buttermilk layer cake with chocolate frosting) and a loaf of buttermilk bread from my favorite whole grain bread book.



Homemade yogurt, take 2

Success! After making yogurt for the first time recently, I learned what system doesn’t work for me. This time I followed the instructions from the book Yogurt Culture by Cheryl Sternman Rule. And I’m still excited about the results, several days later.

Process notes

  1. Rub an ice cube along the bottom of warming Dutch oven. Pour in 1/2 gallon whole milk (just regular Kroger brand milk) and heat to 180° over medium-high heat without stirring. Once at 180° turn heat down and maintain temperature for 5 min. This process took me about 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 200° for 2 min., bringing it to 110°, then turn off and turn on proofing function. Note: this was too long and the oven got too hot and I needed to let it cool some. Next time turn oven off sooner.
  3. Cool milk to 115° by stirring gently. This took about 40 min.
  4. Whisk 2 tbsp yogurt (I used Maple Hill Creamery plain yogurt) with 1 cup of the 115° milk. Add back to pot, stir gently, and cover.
  5. Place in oven, with proofing function on. After 4 hours, I turned this off because the Dutch oven had retained enough heat to keep the oven warm. Incubated for a total of 6 hr 40 min.
  6. Remove 1/4 c for next batch and freeze in a small jam jar.
  7. Transfer yogurt into two 1-quart mason jars, cover, and refrigerate. I didn’t stir my yogurt before putting it into the containers — I just spooned it in gently, and there was a little bit of whey on top. Let rest in refrigerator until next morning.

Greek style: I was going to leave both quart jars of yogurt at their regular consistency, but the next morning I got inspired to take one jar and strain it to make Greek style yogurt.

I placed my fine mesh strainer over a mixing bowl (the small bowl in this nesting set), and layered two paper towels inside. Then I poured one of the jars of regular yogurt into the paper towel-lined strainer, folded the paper towels over the top, and refrigerated the entire thing for 3 hours.

After 3 hours it was perfectly thickened. It yielded about 1/2 quart Greek yogurt and a scant 1 1/2 cups whey.


It was so thrilling to pull the pot out of the oven and see it had set up properly. I really liked the method of keeping it in the Dutch oven instead of pouring the cooled milk into jars right away because the cast iron helped keep the yogurt cozy during incubation.

Seeing the wonderfully-textured, creamy, white yogurt filling up my quart-sized mason jars made me giddy. This batch tasted just like the store-bought yogurt I’m used to. I think the Greek style is even more delicious and mellow somehow. I can’t wait to make more!

In addition to the pleasure of making this myself, I’m enjoying the cost savings. Milk was on sale for $1/half gallon, which was nice. The little 6-oz container of plain yogurt for my starter was about $1.30, but I spent more there to get the high quality ingredients. My hope is that by starting with a finer starter, it will yield a finer yogurt in my kitchen.

So for about $2.30, I made just under 2 quarts of yogurt (equal to about 60 oz, or 7 1/2 c), at a cost of $.04/oz. Of course once I made it Greek style, that cost was effectively doubled, BUT I was left with the whey as a byproduct to cook with as well. So there wasn’t any waste, and it gave me a chance to make something else that called for buttermilk.

The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to only turn the oven on for a few seconds to give it a slight warming boost, because the Dutch oven will be warm when it goes in. I’ll still turn on the proofing function to help keep it at the same temperature.


Homemade yogurt, take 1

Over the last couple of years, I’ve had a hard time tossing plastic and glass containers in the recycling bin. I just think there’s so much potential there for reusing them for…something. But recently when putting away the dishes I noticed the huge stash of big 32 oz. plastic Greek yogurt containers. That was the moment I decided to finally try my hand at homemade yogurt.

To get started, I followed this guide for making homemade yogurt, and then the accompanying recipe.

Process notes

  • 4 c whole milk in a sauce pan over medium heat until it reached 185°
  • remove from heat and set pan in ice bath for a few moments until the milk was 110°
  • mixed about 1/3 c of the warm milk with 1/2 c plain Greek yogurt (whole), then whisked this into the rest of the milk
  • poured milk into three jars and loosely lidded
  • heated 2 towels in the microwave for 30 sec.
  • nestled a towel in a foam cooler, placed the jars on top of the towel, then topped with the other towel
  • placed lid on cooler and left for 6 1/2 hours, then checked and noticed it wasn’t at all warm anymore, so re-heated a towel and placed back on top of the jars for another half hour
  • after a total of 7 hours, moved tightened lids and moved to refrigerator


My yogurt never thickened up, and turned out more like thick milk (or super runny yogurt). There are a few things I’ll do differently next time (essentially incorporating the instructions here):

  • use Dannon or Yoplait plain yogurt (not Greek — I read that some people have difficulty making Greek style work right)
  • use one of my new 1-quart canning jars (the 4 cups of milk should fit nicely)
  • briefly heat the oven, turn it off, then place the filled jar in the oven overnight

I refuse to let this first attempt go to waste though! I’ve got my eye on a few baking recipes that call for buttermilk that should work, like biscuits, yogurt cake, and a chocolate cake.

Update: Hurray! I discovered that my oven has a Proof setting. I did some testing and it looks like if I turn the oven on for a moment and warm it up to 110°, then turn it off and turn on Proof, it will hold the internal temperature there. Super excited to try this!

Homemade yogurt POSTS

A taste of Costa Rica: homemade Lizano salsa

When we visited Costa Rica earlier this month, I didn’t experience the region’s favorite salsa, Lizano, until the second-to-last day there. After a sea kayaking excursion, we were treated to a wonderful lunch of casado as part of the package, and a mysterious brown sauce was on the table next to regular red salsa. I tried a dab of it on my rice and beans, and it was so delicious I basically drained the little bottle by half. The guide explained that it was Lizano, and I immediately started thinking about how I could enjoy this sauce at home.

I could have bought some before leaving the airport, but my luggage was stuffed to the brim (I do one carry on and one personal item only) and I didn’t want to risk a broken glass mess in my stuff. Plus, they were checking for liquids on the jetway so I probably would have had to leave it anyway.

I could have ordered it online, but was more interested in making it myself. This is preferable to me because then I know exactly what’s inside (no preservatives or question marks). And living in the Southwest, finding the right peppers poses no problem.


Lizano-Style Costa Rican Salsa

Process notes

  • added 1/2 tsp ground black pepper, 1/4 tsp ground mustard, and 1/4 tsp turmeric


While I don’t think this tasted the same as Lizano, it’s very good and we’ve been enjoying it on gallo pinto with eggs and tortillas. It’s a good reminder of a fun trip. This sauce has a nice smokey flavor from the dried guajillo chiles, but is sweeter than we’d like.

If I make it again, I’d reduce the sugar, use a smaller amount of dried chiles, and play with the turmeric and mustard amounts.

thread spool and bobbin rack

DIY spool and bobbin rack for thread

My thread and bobbins have been sitting on my work table for awhile now, and every time I bump them they go clanging all over the place. I don’t have a ton of thread spools, but there are enough that it’s become cumbersome to just have them sitting out.

I didn’t feel like buying a new one and wanted to go the DIY route. We had some old cabinet doors with cat scratches on the front, so I picked a medium-sized one for the thread rack. My husband helped me put it together by cutting 3/16-in. dowels into 4-in. pieces, and while I sanded down the ends of the cut dowels he drilled the grid of holes I had measured out onto the door. Then he tapped in the dowels that had been tipped in wood glue, hung the panel onto the wall, and I was good to go.

Using some wood-colored wax that had originally come with the cabinet doors, I filled the holes that had been left by the door handle.

finished thread rack
Finished thread rack, with room to grow

It felt good to repurpose something that was only slightly damaged, and now my thread is nice and organized. Plus, each dowel holds a matching bobbin, so I don’t have to hunt them down and hope the thread is the same.

The cost to make the rack was $15. This covered the dowels, wood glue, sandpaper, and drywall anchors. It only took a tiny bit of wood glue and sandpaper, so there’s plenty left for future projects. Some of the sandpaper is earmarked for distressing a pair of jeans that I’ll be tailoring soon.

finished table with cutting and ironing tools

Fabric cutting and ironing station (Ikea Hack)

I’ve been reading lots of sewing books lately, and one common theme is to have a cutting station that’s counter-height to ease back strain. This makes sense — my back has been pretty achy from leaning over my desk to cut fabric. And my ironing board is rather wobbly and really un-fun to use, so I wanted to incorporate a pressing station into the cutting station.

A quick search online for ideas led me to craft room Ikea hacks and lots of promise. Since we already had two Expedit (now Kallax) 2×2 cubes, that sounded like a good direction. I particularly liked this trio approach and this 2-cube approach. Rather than purchase an additional cube that wouldn’t quite match my two older Expedit shelves, I settled on the 2-cube design.

For raising it to counter height, I could either add legs to the bottom of the shelves, or raise the table top like this. I chose to raise the table top to keep the base more stable, and it buys me a bit of storage between the top and the shelves.

My husband helped me put together this hack, although the table top was lightweight and one person could do this alone if needed. Two people makes it easier.

I wanted the top to be easily removable and the whole setup to be easy to move and reassemble. One thing I don’t like about Ikea furniture is that once it’s put together, you’re pretty much stuck with full-size furniture if you ever want to move it around. We decided to glue inverted legs to the top of the shelves, positioning them toward the front of the shelves since the top doesn’t reach from front to back, and affix industrial-strength Velcro to the feet base (which is now the top because they’re upside down) and the bottom side of the table top. Then we tacked down a layer of cotton batting on the underside of the table top, and finished by tacking down unbleached muslin.

There are a few inches of empty space at the back of the shelves where I intend to put some narrow storage bins. The Velcro appears to be working great, and if it loses its sticking power we can always cheaply replace it with new pieces.

One improvement I would make in the future is to finish the edges of the fabric cover so they don’t hand down sloppily once the top is in place and it looks more finished. But hey, like my husband says, it’s a hack. So I’m not too concerned about it. My top priority is how it functions, and it appears to be a great solution.

legs glued to shelf base
The leg plates were glued to the shelf base with Liquid Nails
bases with legs in place
Bases with finished legs in place
finished table
Finished table, with an extra cute addition to the top
storing tracing paper roll under work surface
There’s enough space under the top to store a roll of pattern tracing paper

Supplies list:

  • two 2 x 2 Expedit shelves (already owned)
  • 2 packs of Besta legs (4 total legs): $20.00
  • Linnmon table top, 59 x 29 1/2 in.: $25.99
  • Drona storage box for shelves (1): $5.99
  • Velcro Extreme, 1 in. x 4 in. 5-pack: $4.87
  • Liquid Nails glue: $3.57
  • Unbleached muslin, 2 yards of 44-inch wide (had 50% off coupon at Joann): $2.99
  • Natural cotton batting, 1 1/4 yards of 96-inch wide (had 50% off coupon at Joann): $9.37
  • large white furniture nails, 25-pack: $2.49

Total cost: $75.27 + tax

I’m so happy with this table because it gives me a nice large space for cutting fabric in my sewing room, and provides a large pressing surface. And the most exciting part is that it was a frugal DIY solution for my specific needs.

Candied orange peel from scratch

Candied Orange Peel

While perusing Christmas baking recipes, I earmarked one that called for candied fruit, including candied orange peel. I’ve never bought candied fruit or peel, and after some poking around online to figure out what exactly candied orange peel is, saw some tutorials for making it instead. And as luck would have it, I had some oranges on hand (for a cold-buster boost to my morning green smoothies).


Jacques Pépin: How to Make Candied Orange Peels and DIY Candied Orange Peel

Process notes

Peel off thin shavings of peel off of 4 oranges using a vegetable peeler. Leave behind the white pith. Slice into long strips.

Place peel in saucepan with cold water to come about an inch above the peel, and heat to boiling. Boil for about 10 seconds, then drain the peel and repeat.

Empty out the saucepan and mix 3/4 cup sugar and 3/8 cup water in it. Simmer for 8 minutes. Add orange peel and stir around to push all of the peel into the liquid. Simmer for about 20 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally. (Note: instead of using the full amount of water and sugar called for in the DIY Candied Orange Peel recipe, I had reduced it by half since I was only using the thinnest pieces of peel. This wasn’t enough liquid, and it boiled off too quickly, leaving crusty sugary peel. I added a tablespoon of water to loosen it up before tossing in sugar and cooling.)

Remove peel from saucepan and toss in sugar on a baking sheet. Place peel on cooling rack for 5 hours, then store in airtight container in the cupboard.

Yield: 2 cups


I’m a candied orange peel newbie, so not sure exactly how it ought to taste. My peels pack a punch! They’re strongly flavored, rather bitter but sweet as well. I wish I had used more water with the sugar in the saucepan, but overall I think they worked fine. Can’t wait to see how they taste in the final recipe that I made them for.

While these were drying on the rack, I was at the supermarket and checked for candied orange peel. Lots of high fructose corn syrup and preservatives in the ingredients list, so I’m really glad I went the DIY route.