This post won’t discuss my dietary habits or the labels I assign them. I’ll save that for later.
This post will discuss a quest for more sustainable living, and how I turned a yogurt fail into a yoga win.
Since deciding to add sheep/goat yogurt back in to my daily diet, I have spent a lot of money on the stuff. Case discount aside, I can spend anywhere between $6-12 on yogurt each day. I am extremely active (therefore hungry!) and the stuff isn’t cheap.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I will always have an enormous grocery bill, but I do always try to find little ways to save money and waste less (all those plastic cartons make me cringe). So last week, I decided to spend forty hard-earned eBay sales dollars on a yogurt maker from Amazon.
When it arrived, I excitedly ran to Whole Foods to purchase yogurt-making supplies: goat’s milk (low fat-$4.99 for 32oz, and whole-$7.99 for 64oz) a bottle of goat’s milk kefir to use as a starter culture (all yogurt starters on the market are made with cow dairy or soy, neither of which I will touch) ($6.99 for 32oz kefir) and a can of powdered goat’s milk ($11.99 for 12oz) because the recipe book that came with the yogurt maker suggested it as a thickener (and runny yogurt is just sad). The powdered milk freaked me out a little–is this even natural? I was, however, excited about getting to eat goat’s milk yogurt again (the only commercial brand available in my area uses tapioca, which I also avoid, as a thickener). Even more excited, I went home.
Oh, wait. I had to purchase a meat thermometer, because apparently, milk won’t make yogurt unless you first heat it to 160-185 degrees first, then cool it down. It made zero sense to me, since the milk is already (unfortunately) pasteurized, but I bought the damn thing anyway ($7.99).
Get home. Unpack supplies. Measure out and heat milk. Prepare mixture of kefir and powdered milk. Let milk cool. Mix milk with kefir and powder. Slowly blend whole mess in Vitamix, pour into little glass (yay! no plastic!) jars, and lovingly place in yogurt maker. Set timer.
11 hours later, put lids on jars, refrigerate, be impatient for another 8 hours.
Finally, try yogurt.
It was…well, not thick. I had made a batch of kefir. Wonderful probiotics. But not the texture I wanted/needed. Still, I consumed all ~34 ounces of it. The taste was amazing, but I prefer to eat yogurt with a spoon…not a straw.
I turned to Google. A basic search told me that the general consensus is that goat’s milk will always produce thin yogurt, but cow’s milk will thicken. Well. I don’t eat cow dairy, so that was out. A further search revealed that I could buy agar-agar, a seaweed that acts like gelatin. I also considered that using kefir as a starter may have thinned out my yogurt, so I decided to try a cup of sheep’s milk yogurt as a starter for my second batch.
Agar-agar: $8.99. 6oz cup of sheep yogurt: $3.19.
Boil water to prepare agar-agar mixture. While milk is heating, boil and simmer agar-agar. Realize that it looks like snot. Transfer it to jar for later use. Wait for milk to cool. Notice something on counter that suspiciously resembles the stretchy glue used to attach beauty product samples to coupon cards or magazine pages. Realize it is spilled agar-agar. Peel it off the counter and toss it in the trash. Realize milk is down to 112 degrees and pour in the agar/kefir/powdered milk gunk. Dump it all in the Vitamix, mix it up, pour it in the jars, set the timer, wait. Clean agar-agar from pan.
(this is the agar-agar i peeled out of the pot I used to simmer it.)
This time, the yogurt was thick. Some cream on the top (the way I like it). Halfway down, though, I felt like I was eating yogurt mixed with a beanie baby, or eating my microdermabrasion scrub. I thought back to the agar-agar. It felt like plastic, and looked like glue. I was reminded of my one unfortunate attempt to eat kelp noodles (which had the exact taste and consistency of those plastic things used to attach price tags to clothing). Disappointed, I rinsed the rest of the jar down the drain. I considered my ridiculously picky digestive system and researched agar-agar. Apparently, it is GOOD for digestion, in the same way chia seeds are good for digestion. I cannot tolerate chia seeds. About an hour later, I started to feel ill. Damn plastic-y gunk. I sadly wrote the entire thing off as a loss, went out and bought a case of Old Chatham sheep’s milk yogurt from Whole Foods, and decided to use the remaining ~24oz of goat kefir-agar bead soup to feed my dogs. The result?
(ezra loved it.)
(satchel went for it.)
(piper: what is this sh!t? DO NOT WANT.)
(oh, wait..you mean this is all i’m going to get for dinner? okay. i will try it. oh. this is…GIVE ME MORE!)
Result of the yogurt maker experiment:
yogurt maker: $40
goat’s milk: ~$13
powdered goat’s milk: $12
kefir/yogurt as starter: $10
~64oz of (thin, gritty, ultimately inedible) yogurt: $92
Case of six 16-oz containers of delicious, cream-on-top, no-thickeners added sheep’s milk yogurt that requires no prep time or kitchen mess, $36 minus 10% case discount: 96oz for ~$32.50
It seemed like a good idea at the time. (Famous last words, right?) I spent a day being sad about the money I spent and the failed experiment, but after the day’s yoga class, I realized something. Sometimes, “sustainable” and “simplicity” aren’t mutually exclusive. In my current quest to reduce my material possessions and simplify my life, I am learning that depending on the situation, less can be more and more can be less.
I am currently trying to sell my yogurt maker, and practice the yoga of letting go.