When I was small, my Swiss grandmother used to make yogurt at her home in Cleveland. I remember eating it at her long kitchen table. She’d set it out in a large bowl along with a jumble of preserves, and we’d spoon away the afternoon, eating cool yogurt with dark jam.
As an adult, I’ve always wanted to make yogurt and although I’ve made a few batches using commercial yogurt as a starter, I’ve never mooned over the results. Usually, it turns out sour, requiring oodles of sugar to smooth it out.
When I read about heirloom yogurt starters on The Kitchn back in September, I felt a little flutter in my belly. No, not that kind of flutter. It was a flickering memory of my grandmother’s silky Swiss yogurt -- tart but not sour, soupy rather than thick.
Now, Greek yogurt is in vogue, but I prefer the European version, especially in the morning – the kind of yogurt you can pour over granola, the kind of yogurt that does not taste cloying or gelatinous.
Villi yogurt starter from Cultures for Health makes a superbly light, delicate yogurt that is similar to what my grandmother used to make. A single box contains enough powdered starter to make two “mothers,” or starter batches.
The directions are easy -- you stir half the starter into a cup of cold milk, cover the jar with a towel, and let the mixture culture in a warm place (70-78 degrees). I used the oven and left the light on to create enough ambient warmth. In about 18 hours, I had yogurt.
With yogurt, one batch begets another, so if you time things right – making yogurt every week or so – you can keep using the step-mothers from the original mother batch.
Cultures For Health was kind enough to send me a sample of their Villi Yogurt Culture, per my request. And this family-run company has also agreed to give away a sample box of yogurt starter to a Madame Fromage reader. If you’re interested in receiving a yogurt starter of choice, just drop your info here. I'll select a randomly drawn winner a week from today, on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2001.
Cultures For Health sells a variety of heirloom yogurt strains (including vegan yogurt starter), cheese-making kits, and cheese cultures, alongside starters for sourdough and kombucha. I look forward to trying some of their other yogurt strains and keeping a fridge full of mothers, if only because this sounds preposterous.