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There were never any "good old days" — they are today, they are tomorrow
the challenges of finding good plain yogurt 
25th-May-2008 06:11 pm
I love plain yogurt. Yes, nasty sour plain unsweetened unflavored yogurt — yum. It's part of growing up Northern Californian, I think. The #1 favored topping for pancakes and waffles in my family is plain yogurt with Grade B maple syrup. The tanginess of the yogurt with the sweetness and richness of the maple syrup, on top of the toasty nuttiness of a good pancake or waffle — with a cup of good coffee, that's close to heaven.

But it can be tough to find decent plain yogurt, especially in these days of low-fat, no-fat, over-sweetened, gelatin-added, aspartame-containing, on-the-go-for-your-busy-lifestyle ersatz yogurt-like products. (And I don't care if yogurt wants me, I don't want it — not that kind, at least. And I don't have a master's degree, and my hoodies tend to be black, btw.)

I picked up some Straus yogurt at the Berkeley Bowl and was pleased with the creaminess but disappointed by the lack of sourness. Next I got some Mountain High, which tends to be sourer, and mixed some into the Straus in hopes that it will make it a bit tarter.

And as I was mixing the yogurts together, I thought about homemade yogurt, and about how people who make yogurt at home say that one problem they have is that the yogurt gets progressively sourer and sourer with each batch, until they wind up tossing the old stuff and beginning again with a fresh starter from a bought tub of yogurt.

Wait a sec...

I can't seem to buy yogurt as sour as I like it.

People who make yogurt at home have problems with their yogurt getting TOO sour.

When it comes to sourness, I am a genetic freak who used to peel and eat lemons as if they were oranges. I suck on lime wedges and smile. The monkey cringes to watch me.

You put these three things together... hey now!

*opens a new browser tab to search for info on making yogurt at home*
26th-May-2008 01:58 am (UTC)
I suck on lime wedges and smile. The monkey cringes to watch me.

*narrows eyes* That must be why the waiters seem surprised when I ask for extra lime (or lemon) wedges with my pho, and eat them at the end of the meal. My hat is a filthy rag compared to yours, making it seem like we're not at all related.
27th-May-2008 02:36 am (UTC)
Mmm, pho (with extra lime). Mmm, ceviche (con mucho límon). Mmm, tacos (con mucho límon).

MMMMMM, sour things.
26th-May-2008 06:31 am (UTC)
Where do you get Grade B maple syrup? I can't even find it.
26th-May-2008 02:30 pm (UTC)
This might be one advantage to living east of the Mississippi. I have access to Ohio and New Hampshire (and Vermont) maple syrups of a variety of grades. (And, yeah, they all taste different, like coffees or wines.) Here are some places you can order it:


Vermont has slightly different grading and processing requirements than other states or the national system. Some folks like it more, some less. It's generally more expensive.

I agree with Lexica, though, Grade B is the one for me! The grade A's are more sweet and less mapley, though there are times when the lightest one is nice -- kind of like when you'd use the lightest olive oils v. a hearty flavorful one.

(I've not tried any of the brands I listed. Just did a quick search for you.)
27th-May-2008 02:40 am (UTC)
I never thought of maple syrup as having so much terroir to it, but it makes sense.

So in addition to exploring the wide range of local honey varieties, I can also look forward to exploring the range of maple syrup varieties? Cool!
27th-May-2008 02:57 am (UTC)
Oh yes! Honey! It's a whole world.

We have a friend who farms plums. He also keeps bees. In the hive, the honey comb shows up in layers depending upon when it was created. It's possible, therefore, to isolate flavors based upon what was in bloom at the time a given layer was made. The plum flower honey tastes like ... plums and flowers. Sublime!
27th-May-2008 02:37 am (UTC)
We generally get it at Trader Joe's, although I think the healthfood stores around here also tend to carry it. (Or am I thinking of agave nectar?)
26th-May-2008 02:34 pm (UTC)
Something has just struck my silly head: you have a bird and a cat. How's that work out? Me: dog woman. Not understand intricacies of living indoors with predator and its prey.

Re: yogurt. I love Fage -- nice mix of sour with creamy (it's Greek-style and I think that means it's strained). It could be a good starter for your own yogurt. The flavor is rich and complex, almost like a super-fresh cheese. Might not be sour enough for you, but I can share that I've eaten it with a drizzle of plum honey and a squeeze of lemon. I've also grated lemon zest, mixed it into the yogurt and let it sit for half an hour before using it on waffles or alongside grilled fish.
27th-May-2008 02:54 am (UTC)
Heh. Around our apartment, the bird is the boss. It helps that Nemo is going on 17 years old and has gotten lazy and mellow with age, but even when Bucky was a youngster of 2 or so, which would mean Nemo would have been 7 and Cosmo would have been 3, they knew better than to mess with her.

Most of the time, we leave the door to her cage open and she hangs out on top of it, going back inside when she wants food or a drink of water. We close it up when we vacuum (so she won't get freaked out and go for a flutter) and when we cover her at night.

And Fage, yum. Very good stuff. It tastes like sour cream to me, between the delicate tanginess and the incredibly rich mouthfeel. Honey and a squeeze of lemon? I'll have to try that. I was realizing earlier that if I pack yogurt layered with frozen berries, the berries will keep it cold for at least a few hours, and I won't even need to refrigerate it. A little granola on the side to sprinkle over it... presto!

And I definitely want to try the lemon zest in Fage thing. Been wanting to eat more fish anyway. Hmmm... maybe something grilled with Greek-style spicing and the zested yogurt on the side. That sounds good.

(The monkey is doing dishes so I can go start dinner, so I'm sitting here typing and smelling what our neighbors are making for dinner. Hungry!)
27th-May-2008 10:54 pm (UTC)
Dannon makes a plain yogurt with milk as the only ingredient - that might be something to keep an eye out for. I don't know if it will be sour enough for you, though.
27th-May-2008 11:43 pm (UTC)
Hey, Sour Girl.

Next time you come for your posture-therapy (I forget what it's called) near Montgomery BART (by my office!) let's go to SoGreen for some froyo. They have a Tart Frozen Yogurt flavor.
28th-May-2008 03:18 am (UTC)
Making your own yogurt is easy. I found a tutorial somewhere (can't find it!) that showed how to incubate it using an ice chest and warm water. You can use quart size canning jars. Dunno why we stopped doing it.
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