We Get Milk Again – I Can Finally Make Buttermilk!

It’s been sort of a crazy few months around where cows are concerned.

You’re picturing it, aren’t you? With that one little statement, you have now conjured up in your mind a scene in which the local cows are behaving in strange ways, perhaps showing up on people’s doorsteps, speaking in full sentences, or maybe climbing onto billboards to paint a message. (Is anybody else now hungry for Chick-fil-A?)

What I’m really trying to say is that our regular milk sources have had unfortunate issues with their milk cows, leaving us without a source for raw milk. Boy have we ever been spoiled for the past few years.

Thankfully, as of last week, we were able to find another source for this liquid gold. What did I do just as soon as we picked up our milk? Well, I took a picture, of course. Then, I shook up a jar of milk and had a glass. And then I made buttermilk. And yogurt. And kefir.

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Besides drinking it, making homemade dairy products is what I’ve missed the most about having raw milk. (Here’s what we did in the meantime, in case you’re wondering.)

Doesn’t it take a long time and a lot of work to make buttermilk, yogurt, and kefir? Only if you consider five minutes a lot of time and shaking a jar a lot of work. Seriously, making homemade, cultured dairy products is so easy – and think of the money it saves!

So there you have it. My fridge is now full of great milk, fresh cream, and all the cultured dairy products I need for baking and making smoothies. You’ll find all the links and instructions for making these products here.

Do you make any homemade cultured dairy products? If so, which ones are your favorites?

Five Minutes to Cultured Dairy

I’m out to prove that making your own cultured dairy products is neither intimidating nor difficult. Just yesterday, I made Buttermilk , Kefir and Sour Cream. This took me a total of five minutes.  I did not break a sweat, not even when I was putting lids on jars.

I then started a batch of Yogurt . Yes, it was a big dairy day in my kitchen. Or rather, a big dairy eight minutes. Because that’s really how long it took to do all of this.

As soon as they are done culturing (which these products do all by themselves while I sleep, type, trip on legos or cut my fingernails), I’ll put them into the fridge.

Now, all of you stop thinking that you can’t make your own cultured dairy products and get started on this fun and healthy habit!! :)

Here’s a little Cultured Dairy question and answer time:

Is making your own cultured dairy products hard to do?  Did I or did I not just tell you that this isn’t hard? Okay then.

Can I use regular milk from the store to make these products?  Yep. I recommend drinking and using raw, organic, grass fed cow (or goat) milk to make these, but if that isn’t available to you, you can definitely use milk that you purchase from the store.

Do I have to trip on legos while my products are culturing?  No, in fact I recommend that you step over all legos and call your children in to pick them up before your feet get holes in them. I was just saying that to be funny, or something like that – and to prove that you don’t have to babysit your dairy products while they are culturing.

Why is there a rubber band on your sour cream jar?  I put a rubber band around my sour cream jar so that I’ll know at one quick glance into my fridge which jar is sour cream and which is regular cream. It’s quite helpful to know the difference. You’re welcome to use whatever color of rubber band you prefer. If you really think that sour cream deserves a red rubber band instead of a yellow one, knock yourself out.

What do you mean “knock yourself out”?  That is an expression that really just means “go for it”. To take that expression literally would just seem as though I were a big bully. Please, do not literally “knock yourself out”. Goodness.

Will I really have cultured dairy products in just five minutes like your title suggests?  The five minutes I was referring to was the time it takes for YOU to do any kind of work. It does take several hours for the dairy to become cultured after you’ve done your five minutes of work. Read the specific directions for each of the dairy products to know how long each item takes to become cultured. Here are the quick links:  Buttermilk , Kefir, Yogurt and Sour Cream.

Do you make your own cultured dairy products? Which ones are your favorite?

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Natural Help for a Yeast Infection

Hello, and welcome to a very personal post. I don’t usually write about these sorts of topics, not because I’m afraid of getting personal, but because I’ll never claim to be someone who knows much about natural healing. I leave that up to Michele at Frugal Granola. She’s brilliant, well studied in these matters and even wrote an ebook to help all of us.

Of course, I do know that if I cut hot peppers without gloves on and then touch my eye, my face will appear to be on fire and I will run frantically about the house until I can get some milk splashed into my eyeball. And through trial and error, we’ve found some things to help ease our son’s eczema symptoms naturally. But in general, you won’t come to Heavenly Homemakers and learn that in order to help your pet cat who is experiencing hair loss, you need to rub together the petals of four and a half tulips, mix them with yesterday’s shredded newspaper in a large pot of tepid coffee, stir in equal measures of garlic and plucked eyebrows, then soak your cat in the mixture for 2.7 hours per day*. That’s just not where my specialty lies.

However, I do have a thing or two to say about helping a yeast infection. This information doesn’t take the place of what your doctor might say, but of course you know from reading the above cat hair remedy that this goes without saying. I’m just going to share with you what I have learned from what I have read and what I have experienced.

I don’t suffer from yeast infections often (thankfully), and I know there are different varieties of yeast issues (like thrush). But the kind I’m talking about today is the kind that effects women in a very unpleasant and personal way. Yeast is a fungus and none of us wants an over-growth of fungus down there.  Not only is a yeast infection itchy, it’s extremely itchy and it burns and it also itches very badly

Here are the best natural remedies I’ve found to make an uncomfortable yeast infection go away:

  • Take a probiotic – It’s really a good idea to take a probiotic on a regular basis if you can, but especially if you have a yeast infection. I suggest talking to your chiropractor or local natural doctor to see which kind he/she recommends.
  • Stop eating sugar – I mean completely stop eating sugar while you’re having a yeast infection. Sugar feeds yeast and just makes your infection worse. Try to go easy on all carbs if possible, as carbs turn to sugar. Don’t worry, there will still be brownies in the world for you to eat later after you’re all better.
  • Eat cultured products like yogurt. Drink cultured products like kefir or kombucha. (Someday, I plan to share with you how to make kombucha.)
  • Better yet (and this is where the very personal part of this post comes in)…apply plain, cultured products directly to the infected area. 

Yes, this means that you take a little jar of plain kefir or yogurt into the bathroom with you…wash yourself gently…then put kefir or yogurt on and around and in the area that is feeling miserable.

I have found that this is a huge help. It doesn’t cure the problem instantly…but it does offer some temporary relief…as well as help with the overall healing process, as the good, living bacteria in the cultured dairy goes to work. It’s actually quite soothing.

But be sure the cultured products are PLAIN. Most commercial yogurts and kefirs have some sort of sugar in them and YOWZA you do not want to be smearing sugar in there to feed the yeast and turn it into a monster!

I recommend, if you can, to make your own homemade cultured dairy products. All the instructions are found through links on this page and they are SO easy!! There’s even a Heavenly Homemakers discount from Cultures for Health to help get you started. Look for it on the Cultured Dairy Instruction Pages.

I’m also going to put a plug in here again for always and forever avoiding regular Kotex and/or other typical store-bought brands of monthly “punctuation” products as these can cause all kinds of miserable  issues. Read this post again if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I really can’t emphasize this enough.

I’d love for you to share any other natural remedies you’ve discovered to help with yeast infections. And also for cat hair loss.

*The above described remedy for Cat Hair Loss was completely fictitious information written simply to cause me to sound ridiculous. I do not recommend soaking your cat in the previously described way, ever. Not enough studies have been done to prove its effectiveness, and trying this remedy may result in a very angry cat.

Homemade (Healthier) Chocolate Milk

I have not one, but two recipes to share with you today in regard to making a healthier variety of chocolate milk. If at all possible, I encourage you to stay away from commercial chocolate syrup, as it is full of high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. (You can’t tell, but I’m making a “blechy” face right now and it isn’t pretty.)

This first recipe for Chocolate Syrup is from a friend of mine right here in town. {hi, Nancy!}  It’s the easiest recipe ever, making it a perfect solution for those of you who really want your chocolate syrup but want to avoid HFCS.

Homemade Chocolate SyrupYum

1 cup sucanat
1/2 cup cocoa
dash of sea salt
1 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix sucanat, cocoa, sea salt and water in a medium sauce pan. Whisk ingredients together and cook on medium-high heat until the mixture begins to boil. Boil for one minute. Remove from heat. Allow mixture to cool for just a few minutes.  Stir in vanilla extract.

Add Homemade Chocolate Syrup to your glass of milk to taste. Store syrup in the refrigerator.

If you look real close, you can see a reflection of me with my camera
in the round part of this cute little pour bottle.
Try to focus on the chocolate syrup. I wasn’t having a good hair day.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

The boys have declared this Chocolate Syrup to be quite delicious.
It will be a special treat every once in a while at our house!

Now for recipe number two.  This is how I’ve been making chocolate milk for the past several years.  (Makes you wonder why it took me so long to share this, huh? I have lots of excuses.)

Now don’t freak out or anything, but I often add a few raw, farm fresh eggs into the blender when I’m mixing these up. I don’t worry one bit about getting sick from raw eggs that come straight from my friend’s farm. Their chickens are allowed to roam free all day long and eat all the healthiest chicken feed and you know…bugs. Healthy chickens means healthy eggs, and we eat them free of fear. Raw eggs are great brain food.

Okay, this post is not about the safety of raw eggs. But I did just want to let you know that if you want to add farm fresh, free ranged eggs to this Quick Blender Chocolate Milk recipe, you’ll find that the nutrition level goes WAY up, as does the creamy-richness of this chocolate milk! (I really don’t recommend putting raw eggs into this – or into anything – if the eggs are not organic, free range, farm fresh eggs. Please do your own research about this to determine what you feel is safe.)

Quick Blender Chocolate Milk

6 cups of milk
3 Tablespoons cocoa
4 Tablespoons real grade b maple syrup (give or take, depending on your taste)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Put all ingredients into your blender and mix well.

Chocolate Milkshakes

Malachi LOVES the job of serving the Chocolate Milk out of our fun blender.

So there you go. Many of you were screaming for a healthier chocolate milk recipe, so now you have not one, but two to choose from!

And now, the Heavenly Homemakers Recipe Challenge continues. I’m in the process of figuring out a healthier Onion Soup Mix recipe and have played a little bit with Angel Food Cake. The Angel Food Cake I tried first completely sank and went from four inches tall to 2 inches tall. I’m still working on it. I guess that’s why this is called a “challenge”, huh? :)

How to Make Ricotta Cheese

Here is the final post in my mini series “What I Can Squeeze out of Two Gallons of Milk”. If you recall…with two gallons of raw milk, I was able to make mozzarella cheesefresh butter…and now…ricotta cheese! 

Ricotta cheese is made with the leftover whey from your cheese making process. It is SO easy. I am so amazed that after I’ve finished making mozzarella cheese…there’s still ricotta cheese lurking in the whey! (What smart person discovered that…I want to know?)

To make Ricotta Cheese:

Pour all of the whey left from making your mozzarella cheese into a large stock pot. Heat it to 170°. Try to keep it right around that tempurature for a minute or so…then remove it from the heat. It looks something like this:

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I apologize for the quality of this picture. It’s…yucky looking. That’s what happens when you stick your camera inside a pot of almost boiling whey.   Look closely to TRY to see that the whey is bubbly with a thick layer of white froth on the top. Can you see it? Ah well…thanks for trying.

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Pour your bubbling whey into a strainer lined with a tea towel. (You will put something under your strainer to catch the liquid, right?)  Allow the liquid to strain through the tea towel. This takes a little manuevering because the ricotta starts to line the bottom of the tea towel and doesn’t allow the liquid to go through as easily.

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Use a spoon and scrape all the ricotta off of the tea towel.

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Place your ricotta cheese into a jar for storage. Stuffed Manicotti anyone?

So, what do you think? Not too hard, huh? 

What recipes do you like making with ricotta cheese?
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Here’s what I need you to do now. Tell me what you’d like for me to talk about next in the Feeding the Family series! Thanks!
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This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.

How to Make Fresh Butter

If you recall, last week when I showed you how to make mozzarella cheese, I mentioned that if you’re making it from raw milk, you skim off the cream and save it to make butter. HERE is one way to make butter!

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Fill your food processor 1/3 full of heavy cream. Be sure not to fill it more than 1/3 full…it will probably not turn into butter if there’s too much in the container.

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Turn your food processor on high…and then flee the room. (It’s really loud and annoying!)  The food processor will whip and whip and whip the cream until it turns it into butter. It should take somewhere between 8-15 minutes.

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Once the fat has been “pulled out” of the cream, it should look something like this…and you can turn off the food processor.

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Pull all the solid pieces and squish them together. 
Place the solids in to a clean bowl.

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 Run some clean COLD water into it.

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Clean the butter with the cold water by squishing it with a wooden spoon until all the liquid comes out of it. Repace the cold water 2-3 times as you clean it.

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Squeeze the excess water out of the butter and shape it with your hands.

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Ah, look…a lovely little butter ball.

You can add salt to the cream if you want salted butter…this will also be a preservative, making the butter last longer.

OR…if you don’t have a food processor and want to have a little family fun…put your cream into a jar and shake it like crazy. Pass the jar around, and take turns shaking it. (I’ve tried shaking it all by myself once when no one was around to help…and I thought my head and arms would fall off from shaking the jar so much all by myself. I don’t think I ever got butter out of that jar.)

Have you ever made butter before?  Isn’t it COOL to see the butter form out of the cream!? 

I LOVE how with just one little gift from a cow (or goat or whatever) you can make SO MANY great yummy things!

P.S. Even if you don’t have fresh cream…go buy some heavy whipping cream at the store and try making butter. It’s just…cool.

Next week…RICOTTA CHEESE! :)

(Join us Saturday for the little Green Project!)
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This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.

How to Make Mozzarella Cheese

Want to know what makes me excited (besides little plastic drawers)? The fact that with only two gallons of  milk…I can squeeze out THREE great dairy products. With the two gallons of raw milk you see pictured below, I was able to make three eight ounce balls of mozzarella cheese…a half pound of butterand about a cup of ricotta cheese

Talk about milking something for all it’s worth! (Whoa…very cheesy joke.)  (Which I feel is appropriate because this post is about making…cheese. Cheesy-ness abounds.)  Anyway

Even if you don’t think you’ll ever make your own mozzarella cheese…you may still have fun reading about how it’s made!

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To make Mozzarella Cheese you will need:

  • Two gallons of milk (I use raw, organic) (As far as I understand, you can use pasteurized and homogenized milk too…although you won’t get the butter and ricotta out of it since the cream doesn’t rise to the top.)
  • 2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup cultured buttermilk
  • 30 drops vegetable rennet mixed with 1/4 cup water (I get my rennet from Azure Standard or Wilderness Family Naturals.)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1/2 cup sea salt
  • Large stock pot
  • Long knife
  • Food thermometer
  • Strainer
  • Tea towels

Okay, ready to make cheese? You’ll need to block out about two and a half to three hours of time…but most of that time is wait time, not work time!

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First, if you’re using raw milk…skim off the cream. You know I’m usually big on leaving in the fat…but the fat separates itself out of the cheese while you’re making it for some reason.   So, skim it off, put it into another jar and save it for making butter!

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Pour the milk into a large pot (I use my big stock pot). Stir in the buttermilk and citric acid mixed with water. Heat to 91 degrees. Remove from heat, put the lid on and let it sit for one hour. 

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Add the rennet mixed with water to the milk. Allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes, or until the milk solidifies slightly and it able to be “sliced”.

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Use a long knife to “cut the curd” into one inch squares. 
Let the curd sit about five minutes.

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Heat the curd to 91 degrees. Remove from heat, place the lid on the pot and allow it to sit for one hour. After one hour, the curd and the whey should have separated.

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Place a strainer into another large pot and cover it with a tea towel.

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Pour the curds into the strainer/tea towel…straining out as much whey as you can. Save the whey!!

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Rig up something fancy like this to hang your curds, making sure you have a bowl underneath to catch more whey that will drip out. I usually leave mine overnight as it takes several hours for all of the whey to be removed.

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In the morning…remove the tea towel. Wow, a big hunk of cheese! Now…the fun part begins!

In your large pot…heat one gallon of water mixed with 1/2 cup salt. (Hint:  I use Redmonds Real Sea Salt and it can be too chunky if I don’t try to dissolve some of it first. Therefore, I put my water and salt into a jar and shake it well, then pour it into the pot. The residue from the salt remains in the jar, leaving only salty water…without chunks!

Heat the salt water to 170 degrees. Meanwhile… 

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Cut the cheese (oh, my boys think it’s SO FUNNY when I say that…) into 1-2 inch squares.

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Once your water reaches 170 degrees, remove it from the heat and dump in your cheese. Kind of stir it around for a minute or two until the cheese softens and begins sticking together.

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Use a big wooden spoon to catch the cheese from the water. It should start sticking together and forming a blob on your spoon. Stretch the cheese.  This part is SO COOL!! Dip it down into the hot water every once in a while to reheat the cheese so that it will continue to stretch, but try not to keep it in the water too long. Keep on stretching and dipping the cheese until it is shiny. This stretching process will take about 8 minutes. (Every once in a while I get a batch of cheese that just won’t stretch. It’s a bummer. The cheese still tastes fine…it just doesn’t look as pretty, shred as well, or melt as nicely. We eat it anyway!)

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After you’ve stretched your cheese and it has formed a big long shiny wad, take it out and put it onto a plate. 

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I divide my cheese into three blobs. Squeeze out the excess water and shape the cheese into nice balls. 

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Place the balls into a bowl of cold water. This will take out the heat and help them hold their shape.

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Tada!!! Mozzarella Cheese! 

I’ll take time during my next two Frugal Friday posts to share how I make butter with the leftover cream…and ricotta cheese with the leftover whey!  

So…have you ever made cheese before? Do you think this process looks like something you could do? You wanna come over and make cheese with me some time? (Then we can say “cut the cheese” together and laugh like we’re really funny.)

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Making Cultured Buttermilk, Kefir and Sour Cream

Wanna know how EASY it is to make cultured buttermilk, kefir and sour cream? Yeah, it takes about 30 seconds of your time. (Don’t tell anyone that though…they think it’s impressive when you make your own.)  :)

The beauty of making your own cultured dairy products is that once you make one batch, you can save the last cup or two to start a new batch. It saves a lot of money to do this, and it is so easy!

I buy my buttermilk, kefir, and sour cream (also known as kreme fresh) starter online. Here are some great starter packet options:

To Make Kefir:

How to Make Kefir

I begin with just under a half gallon of raw milk in a glass jar. (You can make this with pasturized milk too as far as I know.)  I pour the packet of kefir starter into the milk, shake it up, and put a lid on it. Then, I set the jar in the cabinet above my refrigerator for about 24 hours (in the winter, it takes a little longer in my COLD kitchen!). You’ll know it is done “culturing” when it is thick and has some bubbly looking bubbles all through it. And when you tip your jar over, it kind of…glops. (see how helpful I am?)

To Make Buttermilk:

How to Make Buttermilk and Sour Cream

Follow the same instructions as for the Kefir, only use the Buttermilk Culture Starter.

To Make Sour Cream (aka kreme fresh):

Use the Buttermilk Culture Starter with one pint of cream. Follow the same directions as above.

Now, to make more batches of each of these…

Save about a cup each of kefir or buttermilk (or about a third cup of sour cream) from your initial batch.

Use this remaining kefir, buttermilk or sour cream to shake into more raw milk or cream (1/2 gallon of milk…or 1 pint of cream) to begin a fresh batch. Just put it in, shake it up, and let it sit out for 24 hours or so. (Until you’ve got the glop thing going on.)  You can do this up to eight times before you need to begin with a new starter package. (I’ve continued it more than eight times when I’m feeling rebellious. It still works.)

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Here’s the tail end of one jar of buttermilk,
ready to be poured into a fresh 1/2 gallon jar of milk.

 

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Here’s a jar of milk with a cup of buttermilk shaken into it,
ready to begin the culturing process.
(Yes, I know it looks like a plain ol’ jar of milk.
You’ll have to humor me and act like you can tell .
Nod and say, oh…very nice.)

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And here is my milk turning into buttermilk in the cabinet above my fridge. (With my Chrismas dishes.)
I’ve been advised that this spot is the best one in my kitchen to culture things because it has a fairly consistent temperature.

Oh, and when I do put my culturing dairy products in this cabinet, I LEAVE THE CABINET DOOR OPEN so that I can see it. It’s a bad idea to forget you have buttermilk or kefir or sour cream culturing in a cabinet. A bad, bad idea.

Now you have really, really healthy kefir for smoothies, and really, really healthy sour cream for your tacos, etc, and really, really healthy buttermilk for drinking or for making Creamy Orange Cooler.

See how easy it is?! :)

Make Your Own Yogurt and Cream Cheese

How to Make Homemade Yogurt

You can make your own yogurt and cream cheese, and it is not hard! You don’t have to have any fancy equipment (and when you see my pictures, you’ll believe it!). Not only will this save you money, you’ll have yogurt and cream cheese that is very good for you! Try making this yogurt, then add your own fruit, sweetener (I recommend stevia or real grade B maple syrup) and a touch of vanilla. YUM!

Here’s what you need to do to make yogurt:

1 quart of whole milk (I use unpasturized milk from a farming friend)
3/4 cup plain yogurt or this yogurt starter

Pour the yogurt into a quart jar (using a glass container is important). Heat the milk on the stove in a saucepan until it is just under 100 degrees.

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Pour the milk over the yogurt in the jar and shake.

Place the jar into a cooler of hot water, cover and leave in the cooler for seven hours.

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There, you just made yogurt!

Now, you can eat the yogurt as I mentioned before, or you can take your yogurt and make cream cheese (and impress the socks off of someone!).

To make cream cheese, line a strainer with a tea towel. Pour the yogurt into the tea towel.

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You need to secure the tea towel full of yogurt and hang it for 7-10 hours (I usually do this overnight) so that the whey can drip off. I’m sure there must be a more impressive way to hang your yogurt, but what we’ve come up with works just fine!

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Here are the secrets to my effective cream cheese-hanging-whey-dripping process (I know, you’re on the edge of your chair!):

I fold over the top of the tea towel and hold it closed with a couple of rubber bands. Then, I use several more rubber bands to attach a long wooden spoon to the wadded up tea towel. Then, I use a rope to dangle the tea towel from a cabinet door. And, of course I leave a bowl under the whole contraption so that whey doesn’t drip all over the floor (because then, my process would not be nearly as cute).

Then, after you can tell that the whey has all separated from the cream cheese (you can tell it’s finished if it isn’t dripping any more), then you pull the whole thing down and scrape the cream cheese into a jar. And that’s it.   It is so simple.

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Sure, you can tell people that it took you hours and hours to make yogurt and cream cheese (because technically it DID take hours to make), but the part you actually played in it took about 10 minutes.