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Real yoghurt?

While I was poking my latest attempt at homemade yoghurt — bouncing the back of a teaspoon on the skin cautiously, trying not to break the surface, all the while making the kind of face you see caricatures make in political cartoons — M asked me how I would know for certain it was yoghurt.  He pointed out that, for all external appearances, fresh yoghurt and curdled milk don’t have a lot to distinguish them. And, after all, if you were going to make curdled milk that wasn’t yoghurt, you would pretty much follow the yoghurt-making process, but omit the culture — you’d bring the milk almost to a boil, then let it cool a bit, then store it at a warmish temperature for six hours or so: and what you got at the end of that would definitely be thick curdled milk.

This lead to an interesting discussion regarding context and certification: perhaps the only reason people accept that what they buy in tubs as yoghurt in the first place is the certification that comes with a business slapping its logo on it. Given a tub of thick, tangy dairy product, would you be reluctant to try it? What if it had “Yoghurt” written on it? What if it was written in texta, and spelled wrong? And given to you by a homeless lady with one pocket full of peanut shells? On the other hand (if you’re not inclined to source your dairy products from the temporarily-between-housing sector of the community), you buy a sealed tub labelled “yoghurt” in the supermarket, already you’ve got certain (entirely reasonable) expectations regarding non-toxicity, nice flavour, etc., so the tub of thick, tangy dairy product has a different context altogether. But then, what about things like YoGo, Ski and YoPlait, which are marketed as “yoghurt” (or a close approximation) but most of whose products are so low in yoghurt cultures, they make me puke if I eat them because they’re essentially just flavoured milk thickened with gelatine? Are they yoghurt?

The homemade stuff presented a whole new set of parameters, or, really, an absence of them. Nobody else was around to point at it and say “That right there is Yoghurt, mate”, thereby encouraging me to dive in, spoon-first. There have been a few (okay, buckets and buckets) of previous attempts that, upon opening, turned out to be just that little bit too runny, and not quite tangy enough, to really make me want to risk eating them. M pointed out that if I ever wanted to be sure I was making yoghurt, I’d eventually have to plunge in. (Whoa, swimming in yoghurt…I bet that feels good…)

M volunteered to be the first guinea pig in my dairy experimentation, and ate about half a cup of what we were calling yoghurt. Didn’t kill him! Not even a bit! Recognising that non-fatal does not equal edible, it was my turn as the representative of the lactose-intolerant sector of the community to sample. I tried, I enjoyed, I puked not. The next morning was the big test: a yoghurt-based meal: fruit and yoghurt for breakfast! A substantial enough portion of yoghurt to trigger any effects if there were any to be triggered.

Lesson learned: macro shots aren't always sexier

I wasn’t sure if I should post this…it seemed like such a personal milestone that I wasn’t sure if it was something I can share. I’ve tried so many times and failed, but now…now I think I can say it. I did it! I made yoghurt! Fresh, thick, homemade yoghurt. Go me! Now let’s see if I can do it again. And again. AND AGAIN! MORE YOGHURT! STAND BACK WORLD!

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