Homemade Yogurt as Survival Food

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(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)

Cooking Tools

The pot and metal bowl form a quick double boiler, it’s not strictly necessary, you could just use the pot. Using the double boiler helps keep you from burning or overheating your milk which can lead to a grainy texture. I find it very easy to keep the temperature where I need it and cleanup is easier with the double boiler setup. If you are using a rocket stove or some other live fire source of heat, the boiling water will keep a steadier heat. I use a metal bowl instead of glass because I find it keeps the mixture at the temperature I need better. It is also a more efficient way to cool the mixture when cooking is done (glass insulates while metal conducts heat).

Fermentation Vessel

Any food-safe container that will hold your batch of yogurt and can go from a warm environment to a cold environment. I have used a juice pitcher and a cereal container but I recently switched to wide mouth canning jars because the yogurt started eating away the plastic. The main thing you need is a wide mouth so you can scoop out the yogurt afterward. I normally do a half gallon and by using 2 wide-mouth quart canning jars I can keep one batch plain and experiment with flavorings for the second jar.

Incubation

The yogurt made simple PDF linked earlier gives you several options, I have only used 2 that are off-grid friendly and they both use a cooler to keep the mixture warm.
The first was to fill the cooler with several gallons of water that were 110 degrees F (~43 degrees C). This method uses a lot of water but is very foolproof. The water cannot get too hot and kill your colony because you aren’t adding any energy and there is nothing hotter than it should be. By having a lot of mass in an insulated environment, it will stay in range for a long time. You can alternate cold and hot water to get the temperature you need, all you need is your analog thermometer. In my case the hot water from my tap came out just a little too hot and was easily cooled to the target temperature. In a grid-down situation boiling water could be added to cold water.

The second method I have used is boiling hot water in mason jars next to the fermentation vessel, all inside your cooler. Remember to use warm and then hot water to warm up the jars first so you don’t shock the glass. Then put freshly boiled water in the jars and place the jars in the cooler next to the fermentation vessel. I also put a towel down so the hot mason jars weren’t touching the cooler directly melting the plastic. I used an equal volume of water to the volume of yogurt. It worked fine and I am transitioning to using this method exclusively as it uses less water and seems to work just as well.

Using your yogurt

I never understood why parfaits existed until I started eating homemade yogurt. By layering small scoops of yogurt with granola and fruit you get flavor throughout your breakfast without turning it into curds and whey. I find it’s best to let the granola sit for 2-5 minutes because the glaze on the granola starts to dissolve and sweetens the entire bite better. Much longer and it gets soggy — which I don’t enjoy. It’s a great way to use small bits of fruit; a dozen black raspberries aren’t enough to do much with but will flavor a parfait nicely.

Yogurt Drinks: Ayrans, Lassis, and smoothies

The Ayran is a Turkish yogurt drink, it’s simply yogurt thinned with an equal amount of cold water and salted to taste. The Lassi of Indian origin is very similar only with added flavors. I linked the recipe I found earlier but I’ll describe it here as well. Take some yogurt. Add pureed or mashed fruit for flavor. Add a liquid (water or soda or juice) to thin it out until it’s the consistency of pancake batter. That’s it, you’ve made a lassi. Mango tends to be the go to choice and it is excellent. But just experiment to flavor it with what you like. It’s a good application for some canned fruits because they come with juice or syrup already. And it would be an easy way to share a small treat among a family. Also consider smoothies (just milk, fruit, and yogurt), the yogurt adds heft and protein and likewise can spread out a treat. One of my children who dislikes homemade yogurt still loves smoothies made with that same yogurt.

Use it in Cooking

As a cooking ingredient is really where homemade yogurt will shine. Indian cooking is a useful thing for survivalists to look into anyway as they use dried spices and vegetarian ingredients (remember that meat will be rarer if the balloon goes up or if we just get a depression). Indian cooking uses yogurt to make marinades and to make sauces. Often these sauces are then used to cook the main ingredients on the stovetop. This makes it easy to cook bone-in cuts on the stovetop or over fire and flavors a bed of rice very nicely whether you have meat or not. Yogurt-based marinades stick to the meat very nicely, the acid tenderizes, and the flavor transfers well.

Yogurt, especially if you drain some of the whey out, generally substitutes for sour cream for baking and cold applications, though not for cooking necessarily. It’s not perfect but it’s in the neighborhood. My wife makes lovely chocolate drop scones and the yogurt subbed out for the sour cream perfectly well. You can also use thinned yogurt as a buttermilk substitute for biscuits or whatever else you are cooking that needs buttermilk. None of us could tell a taste difference in biscuits made with yogurt instead of buttermilk.

Frozen yogurt

This is far less “survival” than it is morale booster in tough economic times. That morale boost may be more worthwhile in the economic downturn we’re currently in here in the US. If you look closely at the “ice cream” aisle, in the US at least, there’s a lot less “ice cream” and a lot more “frozen dessert” (or similar language) if you look closely at the package. What this means is that the dessert inside do not meet the standard of identity for ice cream. Most likely the manufacturer is skimping on the cream/fat in order to save money while charging the consumer about the same amount.

Generally, if you don’t own a dairy cow or goat, it doesn’t make much economic sense to make your own frozen yogurt or ice cream. The cost of ready-made yogurt and cream conspire against you. On the other hand, if you make the yogurt, then it is more affordable to make frozen yogurt. Crunch the numbers for yourself but I’ll bet it’s cheaper than buying or make ice cream.

For frozen yogurt the master recipe I use is one cup of sugar to one quart of yogurt. To this, you can add any flavor you want, fresh fruit, flavorings, jams, etc. With the cold environment there are not the complications that there are during fermentation.

I have found three good methods to make frozen yogurt:

1. Use an ice cream maker.
2. Blend the yogurt with frozen fruit to achieve a soft serve consistency.
3. Freeze in a thin layer with mixing every hour.

For this final method, you either use a flexible spatula to remix the yogurt mixture in the bottom of a large pan every hour or freeze the mixture in a zip top bag and squish it every hour. I tried the zip top bag method and it came out better than I expected with one caveat: it peaks in readiness. When it is done it’s really nice soft serve consistency. But if your freeze it overnight and it gets icy. If you use an ice cream maker I imagine you avoid that. Of course, there is always the “freeze the yogurt with fruit in a popsicle mold” which isn’t frozen yogurt but is fairly healthy and cooling while the grid is up.

Again, these frozen treats are not for survival as much as they are for morale, which is important. It might help more hard-core preppers to remember that ice cream goes back to victorian times, if you have ice and salt you can make ice cream or frozen yogurt. Makes you wonder if a hand crank churner might not be a worthwhile implement to add to the kitchen and use in celebrations like the amish do.

Extra Research

I found the books in my library system were not actually that helpful. They were more flash than substance. As with anything there is minutiae you can get lost in but it’s a bit like marking a distinction between a proper roux and sawmill gravy. If you’re interested sure there is some distinction but if you just want to make biscuits and gravy, don’t major on the minors. Find a recipe that works, use it. The only book that I would recommend is Katz’s “The Art of Fermentation“. He goes into any and all types of fermentation, the section on yogurt is actually pretty small but he has a good argument for why continuing to use your own yogurt (sort of like a sourdough) is not the risky practice some people claim it is. He’s a little crazy but does good research and compiles a truly impressive amount of fermented foods and drinks. It’s a useful reference for anyone interested in food preservation.

At the end of the day, I’m much more likely to experiment with yogurt now because it’s cheap and on hand. Previously I would not buy unflavored yogurt to cook with but now I have it on hand. It’s a good protein source and I’m glad to be learning more uses. As I said at the beginning of the article, I’ve lost count of how many batches I’ve made, it’s just part of the rhythm in my house now. I imagine I will be making yogurt regularly for years.



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