Do you make yogurt (dahi in Hindi) at home? My mom has been making it every day for who-knows-how-many years, just like almost every other home-cook in India. It’s pretty easy to make – you warm some milk, add a tablespoon or so of yesterday’s yogurt (called khatta or jamun) to start the process, leave it overnight in a warm place, preferably in an earthen pot, wrapped in a shawl if it’s winter, and you’ll have fresh homemade yogurt for lunch.
Making yogurt is part of my mom’s night-time routine. It’s what people who don’t live in an overly-commercialized world do. If you eat yogurt, you make yogurt. If you want dinner, you make dinner. There are no take-out places where my family lives, so the question of not cooking your own meals is pretty foreign to them. They don’t think of cooking as an inconvenience or a joyful, pleasurable exercise. It’s simply an essential part of life, like brushing your teeth. It’s only when we have outside options (restaurants or home delivery), that cooking becomes a choice and we start deriving new meaning from it. May be in future, cooking will be like hunting. We don’t need to hunt anymore to survive. So now we get to choose how we view it – for some it’s a sport and for others it’s a repulsive activity. But it was essential at some point in our past. I digress. Let’s get back to yogurt.
I don’t eat as much dahi as my parents do. And that is probably why I don’t make it at home. Or may be I am just lazy. But the thing is – store-bought yogurt is not that tasty. And the tastier ones are pretty expensive. I tend to like flavored yogurt, unless I am making raita. I have tried all sorts of brands. The only one I like is Liberté. Not Fage. Not Siggi’s. Liberté is not just thick, but also has the right amount of sweetness for me. I find Fage too tart.
But recently, I learnt how to make excellent, creamy, thick, flavored yogurt at home using inexpensive store-bought plain yogurt. Here’s what you need to do:
- Put a strainer on top of a large bowl, as shown below.
- Line the strainer with cheese cloth or 2 sheets of paper towels.
- Put the plain, regular yogurt of your choice in the strainer.
- Leave this bowl in the refrigerator overnight. By next morning, all the liquid would have separated and you’d be left with thick yogurt in the strainer. It’s amazing how much water collects in the bowl!
- And now, you can flavor it anyway you want! The options are endless:
Sweeteners: honey, maple syrup, jams, fruit preserves.
Dry fruits and nuts: almonds, pistachios, raisins, walnuts, apricots, pecans, candied ginger.
Fruit nectars: peach, mango, orange.
Fresh fruit: berries, mangoes, oranges, pomegranate, figs.
Others: fresh mint, basil etc etc.
Basically, go crazy! The one pictured on top was made with fresh strawberries, wild blueberry preserves, honey, almonds and golden raisins. And I say ‘was’ for a reason!