Homemade Yogurt

I've been promising to do this for the last two years. People keep telling me how easy it is. Last Thanksgiving I memorized the recipe from my sister-in-law, repeating it from the mashed potatoes to the pumpkin pie. Did we have pumpkin pie? Yeah, I forgot the recipe too.

Then I found a recipe and two nights ago finally used it. Yogurt. My own crock of yogurt. And they, the people, my sister-in-law, they were right. Making yogurt is easy. I made another batch tonight.

I have the recipe, from Mark Bittman, How To Cook Everything, memorized.

Heat a quart of milk to boiling and cool it to between 110 and 115. Whisk in half a cup of yogurt and keep the mixture warm for six to twelve hours.

I didn't believe it either. The hardest part was buying a cooking thermometer. I chose the least expensive.

To keep the mixture warm I used an old crock with a lid, tied two dish towels around that and put it in the back of the oven by the light, which I kept on all night - the light, not the oven. I did turn the oven on low for a few minutes, maybe five, before putting the crock in. To make the space cozy.

It all worked. The cute guy and I ate it up. From the crock. Plain. We couldn't stop.

And there's still part of me that doesn't believe how easy it is.

Underground Jam

Last Sunday I scored. In the smallest of antique stores; hardly bigger than my kitchen. I mean small. In this tiny store, with one pathway leaning from the front door to the back, which opened onto an expansive green field, there was half a case of wild blackberry jam on a faded red stool. Nicasio wild blackberry jam was printed in block letters on crooked sticky labels.

"She picks the berries down the road," the owners' friend said. She waved out toward the field. I didn't see blackberry bushes but I grabbed two jars; hugged them to me. It felt almost illegal. It probably was illegal, buying jam from some one's Grandma.

But really, I can't think of a better way to purchase a jar of jam. Berries down the road is the way jam is meant to be.

Kumquat Preserves

It happened last summer. When the kumquat season was come and gone. I spotted a jar of preserved kumquats at the Cowgirl Creamery in the Ferry Building.

Ten years ago I'd never heard of a kumquat. And it took a me a few years after recognizing them to try one and another couple of years after that to relax enough to like them. I remember everyone saying, watch out, they're sour. Be careful. Ha.

Kumquats aren't that sour. And the skins are sweet. Once I realized this I was hooked. I adore kumquats. The first juice of sour, the next bite into the sweet skin. They are alive with flavor.

I used a weeks worth of coffee money and bought the jar of preserved kumquats. Back at the office I spooned them over plain yogurt and ate each spoonful slowly. I wanted to eat kumquats and yogurt every day. Forever. It was then, rationing two preserved kumquats and one tablespoon of syrup to each bowl of yogurt so the jar would last that I promised, I swore, I would make my own preserves when the kumquats returned.

Now that I have, my insides smile each time I see them on the pantry shelf. I don't want to eat them. I mean I do, but I want to ration them again. I want to look at them, and at the same time sit down and eat an entire jar. My mouth waters in anticipation. It's crazy the things I get excited about.

Here's the recipe I used for the kumquats. I liked the addition of honey and I added sprigs of thyme too.

As much as I appreciated buying that first jar of kumquat preserves it's such a good feeling to be able to can my own.


Rhubarb season always bring memories of my Grandfather. He'd pick me up from kindergarten in his red and white truck. Lady, the collie dog, would meet us in the driveway at home, at the end of a forever row of eucalyptus trees, the song of red winged black birds through the open windows. I remember it as if it were yesterday. The red winged black birds still sound the same.

Later, in junior high, when he was driving a purple jeep, and I could walk to school, he taught me to make rhubarb pie. At first he made the crust, instructed me on the filling and with each successive pie he was further from the kitchen. Until the pie came from the oven; then he was first at the table.

All these years later, lifetimes really, and he's been gone more than a decade, I've not made a rhubarb pie. I honestly don't remember how. But on Sunday I improvised a stewed pot of rhubarb, adding flavor as I went.

The rhubarb, a squeeze of lemon juice, confetti ribbons of zest. I added candied ginger because I had it. Grandpa would never have considered it. And because I don't love sugar, like he did, I sweetened the pot with wild blackberry honey. And half a basket of strawberries. He adored a good strawberry.

With a bit of water the rhubarb cooked to a sauce, the consistency of pie filling. I ate it from the pot. Until it cooled. Then I spooned it, the biggest spoon I could find, over a bowl of meyer lemon yogurt.

If Grandpa had been able to taste it, he would have been first at the table. Even with the ginger.

It seems like such an old fashioned food, unfortunately forgotten. But a guarantee that it's not commercial. I like that, that I find it, unbunched, loose, on a small farmers fold out table, priced with a paper and felt pen sign.

How about you? Do you eat rhubarb?

Local on Our Table - May

Farmers' Market
Early Peaches
Little Gem Lettuce
Micro Radish Greens
Mixed Baby Greens
New Potatoes
Orange Blossom Honey
Spring Onions
Swiss Chard
Wild Arugula
Yukon Gold Potatoes

Back Deck Harvest

From The Pantry
Last of the '09 Canned Peaches
Last of the '09 Peach Jam
Last of the '09 Canned Pears
Tomatilla Sauce
Tomato Sauce

To the Freezer/Pantry
Kumquat Preserves

Gleaned and Gifted
(From Someone Else's Yard)

Happy Girl Kitchen Kimchee
Nicasio Wild Blackberry Jam