There are many reasons why I wouldn't mind being a houseguest of my favorite British cook and cookbook author Nigel Slater, but his nightly ritual of making up a pot of yogurt for the next day is near to the top. For over 30 years Nigel has been whisking up a small bowl of milk with a few tablespoons of live yogurt and milk powder and leaving it on the counter to rest overnight, wrapped up tight in a thick towel. By the next day, he has a lovely bowl of thick, silky yogurt. Now that's a way to start your day!
Nigel's bowl of yogurt is both practical and impractical. It's practical because you can control the quantity and quality, and because knowing how to make your own anything has a self-sufficient, practical air to it. It's impractical because yes, you can buy excellent yogurt in the stores these days and yes, he could make enough for two or even three days' worth. Yogurt doesn't spoil that quickly, so why go through the bother of making it every night? And why not use a machine?
But I like Nigel's nightly yogurt ritual precisely for the tension it creates between the pragmatic and the romantic. I've never actually done it myself (although I keep meaning to) but I rather enjoy the idea of spending a few minutes in the kitchen before bed, whisking up a bit of milk and starter, hedging my bets that I'll be around the next morning to enjoy the fruits of my very minimal labor.
Nigel's complete essay on making yogurt, with accompanying recipes, can be found on The Guardian's website. Here's an excerpt:
Swaddled in a snow-white towel, my little bowl of homemade yogurt is tucked up with my hot water bottle, calmly doing its thing. Soft, quivering, its surface as still as a village millpond, this is yogurt as it was meant to be, without sugar, fruit or flavouring. A pot of gentle, unsullied purity. It takes all my willpower not to peep until the warm milk and yogurt have been working together for a good five hours. It is while the milk is still warm that most of the curdling activity takes place, so keeping it at the optimum temperature for as long as possible is a bonus. This is where a yogurt maker would come in handy, but I am not a gadget person. It seems to work fine with my hot water bottle.
Related: How To Make Yogurt at Home
(Image: Dana Velden)