Monday, June 20, 2011

More (Concrete) Yogurt Insights

For previous home-made crock pot yogurt exploits, see Crockpot Yogurt--More than you ever wanted to know and An Addendum on Yogurt

For the record:

I have successfully cultured wonderful yogurt from both stringy-gloopy underheated yogurt and from over-cooked cheesy yogurt. So apparently temperatures of up to 150 degrees will not "kill" or ruin yogurt cultures, they just mess with the quality of that batch. Similarly, cooler-cultured stringy yogurt cultures are the same as any other and can produce good quality yogurt from new milk.

The secret to well-cultured yogurt: 120 degrees. I have actually produced consistent fantastic results from that. Once I have cooled the heated milk down to that temperature and mixed in the starter I put it in the warming oven (the regular oven set to the lowest "keep warm" tempurature of 145 degrees) and don't turn off the heat until it is back at 120. Then I (manually) cycle the oven on and off to maintain as close to 120 degrees as possible (this isn't too intensive if you are spending an afternoon at home--it's just a matter of opening the oven door and quickly checking the temp with a probe thermometer. If you had one of those leave-in-the-oven-stuck-into-the-meat thermometers that could give a continuous reading, it would be even easier. This has consistently produced yogurt firmly cultured into one mass with a little bit of whey floating around it. This yogurt looks like real store-bought yogurt in that when you scoop it, it leaves a well behind and does not stick to itself. I served some of this straight (without draining) to my kids for breakfast one morning and they loved it. I had some myself and found it a little thin tasting when it was not drained, but the weirdest part of it was that it was still warm. It tastes much better chilled.

This quality of yogurt also drains much better than poorly-cultured yogurt and naturally drains out just about 2 quarts of whey if left to sit in a cheesecloth-lined colander. What you are left with is beautiful, thick, white yogurt that scoops and is not sticky (after you put the drained yogurt into a bowl and stir it all vigorously to even out the drier and wetter parts). It is also awesome for making frozen yogurt.

Thick, soft yogurt cheese is best made by culturing the yogurt as usual and then leaving the oven on at the end until it gets to about 140 degrees. Once it has reached this temperature, the yogurt has started to break down and as you ladle it into the cheesecloth, it will seem loose. This is desireable as it allows more whey to drain out. I usually let it drain until it slows down enough to be draining almost nothing more, then I gather the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a sort of purse. This puts gentle pressure on the sides of the yogurt in addition to gravity and it begins draining more again. I suspend it by the gathered corners and put a bottle or bowl under it. I try to drain out 3 quarts of whey from this, but it sort of drains however much it wants.

To determine the nutrition content of your yogurt cheese (which may be different from mine as different amounts of whey will drain out, and the resulting cheese may vary unexpectedly in volume), use these formulas:
a=cups of whey drained out of the cheese, b=cups of yogurt cheese remaining
Carbohydrate grams per cup=(16*13-a*13)/b
Protein grams per cup=(16*9-a*2)/b

This is for one gallon of fat-free milk. I haven't ever used anything else.

If using a different kind of milk, substitute the grams of carbs in the milk regularly for the first 13 and the grams of protein for the 9. Then for the fat, where grams of fat per cup of milk=c, use 16*c/b (as far as I know, all of the fat stays behind in the cheese--none of it goes into the whey).

If using less milk to start with, substitute the cups of milk initially for the number 16 in all cases.

To be sure to negate the nutritional effects of the starter, just remember to remove as much yogurt as you added before you drain it. (you can even take out the starter after you culture it but before you over-heat it)

For a finer texture of yogurt cheese, when initially heating the milk, bring it all the way up to scalding (over 200 degrees, but not boiling). This makes the resulting yogurt not as firm, and so also makes yogurt cheese (if that's what you make) with a smoother, more creamy texture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boy, Oh Boy.

I was watching my boy play around (and occasionally behind) the TV stand where he has been forbidden to go because of all the wires and potential for things to fall. But he was so cute that I wanted to record it before I stopped him. I opened my blog and before I even got to the posting form he had tripped over the lamp cord and knocked it off the table. sigh.

But his cuteness that must be recorded was this: He has a plastic surfing baby Ronald McDonald in one hand and a wooden train in the other and he is making them talk to each other. I think the Ronald is the dad, but I'm not certain. This was their conversation, as near as I can remember:

. . . "No, you are brothers."
"Oh, I forgot. OK, Dad!"
"I need to do my work."
"I want to do work, too!"
"OK, it's time for work."
"Yes, we do work."
"Here is where we do our work!"

Remember, this is a train talking to a plastic McDonald's toy as they romp around the TV stand. I love my boy and his imagination.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Willow's First Talk

Last week in primary, Willow about jumped from her seat when they called her up as they were passing out assignments for the next week's sharing time responsibilities.  She was beaming from ear to ear as she sprang up to the front, had the note taped like a bracelet to her wrist (so it couldn't be missed by the parents on the way home) and proudly marched back to her seat.  I made myself wait until after primary to see what it was (Willow is a Sunbeam--the 3 turning 4 year old class--and I teach the CTR 4's--4 turning 5 year olds--and I think I had as hard a time as she did staying with my own class instead of running over to her to read all about it).  I was actually surprised to discover that, rather than being asked to give a prayer or a scripture--relatively short, limited word responsibilities--she had been asked to give a 2-3 minute talk on "The first principles and ordinances of the gospel make it possible for me to live with God again." This was great!  She loves to speak in front of people, and she has memorized the 4th article of faith during April of the 2 previous years (we were working on a different scripture this year), so it shouldn't be too hard for her to refresh it in her memory and discuss it a little further.

Willow takes after me in that public speaking is no problem.  In fact, I think we both seek the limelight a little too much.  But it is always exciting when the humble waiting pays off and we get to be the center of attention for a little while.  I may just be projecting my own feelings on my little girl here, but I'm pretty sure she craves it as much as I do, what with how she melts down when she realizes she forgot to get up and bear her testimony on fast Sunday.  

I was surprised how much of a struggle it actually was to get Willow to focus on preparing for her talk this week.  I remembered to start talking about it Sunday night, and then we had a lesson on the topic for Family night on Monday, and then I forgot about it until Saturday evening during dinner.  Trying to get her to recite the 4th Article of Faith, which enumerates the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, was like pulling her teeth.  I didn't know how to start the discussion about it with her if she wouldn't acknowledge what they were.  Finally, Saturday night after Rhys was in bed, I got her to sit down and talk about it with me.  We recited the Article of Faith a few times and then talked in one or two sentence explanations about how each thing is important in getting back to Heavenly Father.  I am a big believer in children's talks, and particularly that they should come from the child's understanding and abilities.  But it was really difficult given this topic that was so clunky to wrap a child's mind around.  I couldn't just ask a 4 year old, "so how do the first principles and ordinances help you get back to Heavenly Father?" and get any answer other than, "I don't know," or "Huh?"  So I was already in an undesirable place of telling her what she should think and then asking her what it was, trying to pretend that she was coming up with it herself.   But we persevered. 

I know that some children are so shy of being in front of a group or unpracticed with writing or pictorial representations that their personal best in a talk is for a parent to whisper in their ear what they should say and then repeat it aloud, but I knew Willow was capable of speaking unaided in front of a group.  My only concern was how to help her stay on topic during the talk.  So I drew pictures for her of the things she planned to say (to the best of my ability).  She started out with reciting the 4th Article of Faith--We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, repentance, third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost--then offered a sentence or two about how each of them is important in getting back to Heavenly Father: Jesus is the path back to him, so we need faith in him.  Repentance is how you get back on the path if you get off.  Baptism is becoming a member of the church, which is God's kingdom.  The Holy ghost helps us choose the right and become like Heavenly Father.  Then I told her she got to bear her testimony of those things.  This is something she is familiar with, so I was glad to encourage her to do it and not to write down anything in particular for her to say.  I did remind her that it is important to pray for and listen to the Holy Ghost while bearing her testimony and say what it prompts her to say, and stop when it is finished.  We also chose pictures to represent each of the 4 things she would discuss for her to hold up and show the primary as she talked about each one.  

When it came time for her talk (they almost forgot to ask her to come up.  That would have been a tragedy) she went up to the front with her pictures and her notes and I stood by her side for support and whisperings, if needed.  Her Uncle Jason was there because he is the Primary Pianist, her Aunt Neoma came from Relief Society meeting, and Grandma Gould (Jason's Mom) came all the way from Bothell especially to hear Willow give her first talk.  Willow  made it through all of the things on her note page with minor stumbling over the pre-chosen words and a few preemptive reminders (like to say "repentance" instead of "turning away from the bad people" when she looked at the picture of a u-turn arrow that was supposed to represent that principle in her notes).  

She got all the way to the testimony portion before she realized that we forgot to hold up the pictures we brought for everyone to see.  At that point it was the time I had decided I would encourage her to go "off script" and bear her brief testimony that what she said is true before she closed.  But with the pictures still needing to be displayed, she chose to go through each of the things again while holding up each picture.  Oh, I wish you could have been there, because I will never remember exactly what she said, and I am sure that me writing it down and you reading it will never be as profound an experience as hearing her pure, simple, and sincere testimony coming from her own mouth.  As she held each picture she repeated again the ideas that we had already discussed, the ideas that we had been talking about all week, but this time filtered through her own real understanding and in her own simple language rather than trying to remember and get right the exact words that I had told her before, including, "I know that I will get baptized someday," and "Jesus has the power to forgive us."  (I didn't tell her that one.)  

I am so grateful for my daughter.  I am so grateful for the love she feels for and from her Savior.  I know so much of her belief and understanding is wrapped up in what our home is filled with and has been from her birth.  It is so reliant on what we teach, not her own proactive discovery.  But that doesn't mean that her testimony isn't real.  She feels deeply, and because Christ is actually real and the things we are teaching her are true, her feelings and her understanding are real.  Sometimes she hears me pray that my children with gain a testimony of the gospel and come to love Jesus Christ and she tells me afterward, "Mommy, I do have a testimony!  It is growing bigger and bigger!"  We must be doing something right.  And above all, I know that God is blessing us.  

She is also a tremendously valuable example to her younger brother who loves to stand on things and bear his testimony (like his "Jesus Real"), and loves to show and express affection unashamedly.  A funny note--as my kids are exploring having different names (incdentally, Willow is now Rose Red, not Sally anymore), and calling me a different name (Aunt Maude), they often come up and want to practice my new name, so they call out to me, "Aunt Maude?" without anything really in mind to say to me once the have my attention.  Their default comment when I reply, "Yes?" is, "I love you."  (Of course, the more frequent the occurrence, the more emphatic they feel they need to make the comment, to prove its sincerity, so it has most frequently been, "I really love you so much.")