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J works for the local college, at a suit & tie job involving lots of data & numbers & statistics & whatnot. He is a complex & highly entertaining man, however, & a few years ago commandeered a sunny patch of his building’s landscaping for a tiny vegetable garden to take the place of our now defunct neighborhood plot. Tucked in among the decorative shrubbery, he’s grown hot peppers, herbs, & lots & lots of tomatoes. This year’s Romas did particularly well, as did a lovely low acid yellow salad variety. It’s pretty great when your husband brings home gorgeous tomatoes all summer long.

Alas, it is mid October, & they’re forecasting our first real frost this weekend. This means certain death for the tomatoes, so J picked all the remaining green ones & brought them home for me to play with.

That's two GALLONS of chopped green tomatoes. Chutney, anyone? #jamonit #canning #summer #fall #eatlocal #eatcheap #tomatoes #chutney

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Fried green tomatoes are super, but with such small fruits, they would have been a pain in the butt to do with these particular tomatoes. I know there are green tomato jam recipes out there, but that’s just one hurdle I can’t get over. But what I can get behind is chutney.

I grew up on cheese & chutney the way most kids grow up on PB & J. Cold, or run under the broiler til the cheese bubbled merrily, a thick layer of Branston Pickle under sharp cheddar is still one of my favorite lunches. A few years ago, I started playing with micro batches of home made chutney, & while they’re no Branston, they certainly get the job done when you need that sweet, vinegary, spicy crunch to offset a tasty cheese.

A lot of green tomato chutney recipes call for apples & more sugar than vinegar – I’ve tried that, & the end result has been just too darn sweet for my taste. This year, I dialed back the sugar, left out the apples, & added some more savory accoutrements. I won’t know for a few weeks if I have a total winner, but fresh out of the pot, it’s pretty darn good.

Which is comforting, as I only used half of the green tomatoes I chopped. Oy.

You know it's right when the smell alone makes you crave cheese… #chutney #jamonit #eatcheap #eatlocal #tomatoes #getinmybelly

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Note: I use whole spices in my chutney, which soften significantly as they cook down, but still pack an entertaining punch when bitten into. If this isn’t your bag, feel free to put them in a muslin sachet or tea ball that can be fished out after your chutney has finished cooking.

***

Savory Green Tomato Chutney

Makes appx 7 8-ounce jars

12 c diced green/barely ripe tomatoes

2 large red onions, diced

8 cloves fresh garlic, chopped

2 c vinegar (I used half red wine, half standard white)

2 c light brown sugar

1 T brown mustard seeds

2 T yellow mustard powder

2 t ground ginger

1 T whole black peppercorns

1 T whole juniper berries

2 t whole allspice berries

1/2 t red pepper flakes

Appx 1 T salt, to taste

Combine all ingredients except the salt in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil & simmer lively for approximately two hours, stirring frequently as the liquid begins to evaporate. When volume has reduced by half & all the vegetables have turned completely translucent, add salt to taste. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then pack into sterilized jars & water process. Alternatively, let cool, pack into clean jars & refrigerate, using within 3 months. You can also freeze your chutney in smaller plastic containers if that’s more your style.

Serve cold with sharp cheese, charcuterie platters, pork dishes, or even as an accompaniment to Indian curries.

But mostly with cheese.

Nyom. #chutney #jamonit #eatcheap #eatlocal #tomatoes

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OK, you know what? I’m not even going to apologize for the months it’s been since an update, nor for the crappy phone pictures on this post. This hummus is THAT GOOD.

Hot damn!

I’ve had this idea for a sweet potato-based hummus rolling around in my head for a while, but nothing came of it til this afternoon. I’ve been making jam all day, the kitchen is destroyed, it’s hot as balls, & oh hey, what’s for dinner?

We do a lot of what I call pick-a-nibble dinners in the summer – sort of a poor man’s mezze, salad & steamed veggies & a bit of cheese & whatever else I can throw together with a minimum of cooking. Tonight, J’s making guacamole, because he is amazing. We’ll have greens, steamed cold potatoes with parsley, a tin of oil-packed sardines, & this gorgeous hummus.

If you have pre-cooked chickpeas & a microwave, this goes together in a snap, with virtually no heat. Winning!

Sweet & steamy

Ethiopian Style Hummus

Makes about 3 cups

1 large sweet potato

1-3 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 t salt

1 16-oz can/about 1 1/2 c cooked chick peas

1/2 c hummus (Soom brand is my absolute favorite)

3 T lemon juice

1 T Berbere seasoning (find it at The Spice House, along with lots of other amazing spices)

1 t ground ginger

1 roasted red pepper from a jar

Water as needed

Using a sharp knife, stab your sweet potato a few times, nice & deep, & microwave according to your machine’s instructions for a standard baked potato – mine cooked for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a food processor, grind the garlic & salt until finely chopped. Add the rest of the ingredients save the water.

When your sweet potato is nice & soft, cut it in half & scoop out the flesh into your food processor, using a large spoon. Hold your potato in a dish towel so you don’t burn your fingers!

Process just to combine, then add about 1/4 c of water. Process continually for about 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides & add more water as needed so the mixture moves smoothly in the bowl. Look for a nice smooth, gently fluffy texture & a gorgeous orange color. Add a pinch more salt if you like, then serve warm, or chill until needed.

Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or warm naan.

Confession time: I really, REALLY like putting stuff in jars. Specifically, I love making jam.

Arty jam shelf

Every year, I pack the cupboard with micro batches of local fruit jam, my way of hanging onto the best parts of summer. Peach is the house favorite, but I’m partial to plum & cherry, as well. Home canning isn’t nearly as intimidating as I’d once thought, & discovering low-sugar pectin kind of rocked my world.

But. We’re not here to talk jam. Not this day.

It’s fall in south central PA, which means apples, apples, & more apples!

Yellow Delicious

A few weeks ago, Small Bear was invited to go apple picking with a friend, & came home with half a bushel of lovely local Yellow Delicious apples. Yellow Delicious aren’t my first choice of cooking apples – I tend to prefer the more tart varieties – but when life gives you an abundance apples, you go with it. Applesauce is the usual method of preserving pick-your-own apples, which is a fantastic project for a Sunday afternoon. This year, I wanted something different. Something silky & luxurious & undeniably APPLE. This called for making apple butter.

Apple butter is an ubiquitous part of fall in our part of the US. Thick, deep brown, & traditionally packed with spices, it gets cooked down for hours in open iron vats at apple festivals, scenting the air with clove & cinnamon & smoke. Here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, apple butter’s put on cottage cheese as a side vegetable (no, really), but it’s more commonly used in baking or as a spread. Personally, I love it with peanut butter on whole grain toast, or slathered over my pancakes.

My main complaint with most apple butters, though, is that in the end, they don’t really taste like APPLES. Traditional recipes call for spiced cider, as well as a healthy measure of cinnamon & cloves. Tasty, but a bit of a sledgehammer of spices, if you ask me. I wanted something a little more sophisticated, so I started with Marisa’s basic fruit butter recipe & improvised from there.

Peeling like my grandma used to

Vanilla Bourbon Apple Butter

Yields about 6-8 8-ounce jars

16 medium/large apples, peeled & coarsely chopped

1/2 c water

1/2-1 c dark brown sugar (adjust the amount based on the variety of apples you’re using, & your personal taste)

3 T lemon juice

1 vanilla bean, split

Half a whole nutmeg, grated finely

1/2 t ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

1/4-1/2 c bourbon or whiskey

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy bottomed pot (if you have a Lodge, this is the perfect project for it; you can also do this in a slow cooker). Cook over medium to low heat, stirring frequently over the course of an hour or two, until the apples have broken down and you can smash them easily against the side of the pan with your spoon.

Before

After!

Turn off the heat, pick out your vanilla beans & stick blend your apples into silky unctuousness. (If you don’t have a stick blender, a food mill or food processor will do the job just as well, if a bit messily.) Continue to cook over low heat for another half hour or so, stirring more frequently than before as your butter will be more inclined to scorch as it thickens. Taste as you go, adding more sugar, lemon or spices as you feel necessary. Keep in mind that warm apple butter will taste sweeter/stronger than when it has chilled, but that the spices will continue to bloom as it sits in the jars on the shelf.

Cook until you have a thick, cohesive sauce that leaves a pretty clear trail when you scrape the spoon across the bottom of the pot, & that stands up in peaks when dropped from the spoon back into the pot. Do a final taste for sweetness, & voila! Apple butter that smells – & tastes – like heaven, not a cinnamon stick billy club.

Vanilla Bourbon Apple Butter

Ladle your hot butter into clean jars & either cool with the lids off & refrigerate/freeze, or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. (I’ll cover hot water processing at some point soon, I promise. For now, check out Marisa’s amazing blog, Food in Jars, for an introduction.)

Ratatouille by Request

We’re silly huge Pixar fans, & I worked in the restaurant industry for years, so it’s a mystery to me why it took us so long to see Ratatouille. It was a fantastic film, with lots of food porn & industry jokes & a minimum of my usual shouting at the TV about horrible kitchen practices.

More importantly, it got me thinking about ratatouille.

Specifically, Mum’s ratatouille.

Summer bounty

My folks are from England, but moved to Montreal when they got married in the late 60s. Mum has a lovely library of her old cookbooks from that era, deliciously “modern” guides to entertaining with photos of impossibly glossy architectural feats of Spam & asparagus. One of my favorite things to do as a child (and even now) was to leaf through the flour-filmed pages & plot exorbitant menus…

Mum’s sense of adventure & our time in francocentric Montreal meant that a lot of our routine meals were well beyond the standard family fare. I grew up eating warm crepes with lemon & sugar, salmon en croute, chicken & apricot curries, all sorts of fabulous stuff. But Mum’s mainstay was ratatouille.

Served over brown rice, ratatouille was Mum’s go-to, the dish that popped up with such regularity that when I think of the kitchen in our old house, it smells like tomatoes & peppers & herbs. I assumed everyone ate ratatouille, or something like it. It was veggie stew, really, just with a little pizzazz. No big deal, right?

Then in 3rd grade, I got the bright idea to invite The Popular Girl over for dinner. She didn’t usually give me much more than the time of day, so I don’t know what possessed her to accept, but the evening came & there she was, sitting at our table & trying to figure out what to do with a cloth napkin. Mum understood the need to play it cool – or else she didn’t feel like slaving in the kitchen all day – so she went with the house favorite. Ratatouille, piping hot, over a pile of fluffy, chewy brown rice.

I don’t remember exactly how things played out after Popular Girl got her plate, but it amounted to her declaring that she ONLY ate “chicken, hot dogs, and BASGETTI”. I think Mum dug a few hot dogs out of the freezer & ran them under the broiler to try & salvage the evening, but Popular Girl went home hungry & huffy and I went to bed thoroughly baffled as to how someone so popular could insist on eating like a 3-year-old. It was a bit of a pivotal moment for me, figuring out that popularity had nothing to do with actually being cool…

Crappy phone picture is crappy

So, fast forward thirty-some years, & my 8-year-old is growing up eating all kinds of crazy food just like his mum. I honestly hadn’t made ratatouille for years, but seeing the film made me crave it again, & got C excited to try something new. Ratatouille is perfect for this time of year, late summer/early autumn, when tomatoes & peppers & eggplant are still coming in from the garden, but the weather’s turning cool & inviting. It’s not a difficult dish to make at all, taking little more than chopping & tending for an hour or two, but it hinges on good fresh vegetables. For the love of Pete, don’t make this in February with out-of-season produce – it’ll be… fine. But ratatouille shouldn’t be fine. It should be a late summer symphony in a bowl, rich & bright & so tasty, you want a chunk of bread to sop up the traces left on your plate.

(A word on eggplant: if you don’t like eggplant, I’d argue that you’re cooking it wrong. Done properly, eggplant is smoky & flavorful, not bitter & chewy. Pick small eggplants, with nice tight, glossy skins. Salting the eggplant draws out a lot of moisture & potential bitterness, so don’t skip that step. Finally, make sure you add it early enough in the process that it gets fully cooked & absorbs all the gorgeous flavors of the sauce.)

***

Ratatouille

As usual, this is a total make-it-up-as-I-go recipe, so all amounts are approximate… Yield: about 2 1/2 quarts

1 small/medium traditional eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 t sea salt

1/4 c olive oil

2 medium yellow onions, sliced thin (I like to cut mine end-to-end, instead of across the center, but it totally doesn’t matter)

6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

3-4 bell peppers, assorted colors, cut into rough 3/4-inch pieces

2 small/medium summer squash and/or zucchini, cut into 3/4 inch cubes

2 t dry thyme

1/2 c chopped fresh basil

1 t smoked paprika (yes, smoked, but regular will do in a pinch)

1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, crushed roughly by hand

1 c dry white wine (I use pinot grigio)

Salt & pepper to taste

Sprinkle the eggplant with 1 t of sea salt & pile it into a colander to drain for about 20 minutes while you start the rest of the veggies.

Warm the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot (if you don’t own a Lodge, get on that – best money you’ll ever spend) over medium heat & add onions. Saute gently with a pinch of salt until soft & translucent. Add chopped garlic & saute for a few more minutes, until fragrant.

Add peppers, stir & let cook while you tend to the eggplant.

Rinse the salted eggplant under cold water & give it a really good shake to get rid of excess moisture. Add it to the pot, along with the summer squash/zucchini. Stir everything well & let it cook until the squash starts to get bright. Add the herbs, paprika, tomatoes & wine & stir well. Add a bit of water if things look too dry, but not too much – this is stew, not soup. Bring the pot up to a lively simmer, stirring frequently, then lower the heat so you have a nice gentle bubbling. Leave your spoon in the pot & add the lid so the pot’s mostly covered but not sealed tight.

Let your ratatouille simmer away for at least an hour, stirring on occasion to make sure nothing’s sticking to the bottom of the pot. Your kitchen will smell REALLY FREAKING GOOD at this point. After an hour, take of the lid & let it simmer another 15 minutes or so to reduce the sauce a little. Taste for salt & pepper.

Warm up some crusty bread, pour yourself a glass of wine, and devour. A few shakes of hot sauce (we like the chipotle Tabasco) would not be amiss, nor would some good goat cheese to spread on your bread.

Bon appetit!

I’m going to warn you right now, there will be no personal photos of rehabbed chocolate chip cookies in this post. J & I have given up extraneous sugar for, well, as long as we can take it. So there will be no warm, chewy, melty cookies being made in this house any time soon. Believe me when I say that I am just as disappointed as you are.

My Twitter friend Fatima has been trying to get chewy, flat chocolate cookies for years, to no avail. Instead, she gets thick, rounded, almost scone-like cookies. She was kind enough to share her most recent recipe for me to dissect:

Fatima's cookies

Fatima’s cookies

Fatima’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, Before

2 cups cake flour minus 2 tablespoons

2 cups bread flour minus 2 tablespoons

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cup butter

1 1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 large eggs

1 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Sea salt

Fatima didn’t include her directions, but I think we can safely assume that the dry ingredients got stirred or sifted together, the butter & sugar got creamed together, the eggs were added, & the dry ingredients blended in.

***

Baking is, in part, all about proportions. My first thought in looking at Fatima’s recipe is that hey, howdy, that’s a lot of flour compared to butter – just shy of a 4:1 ratio. Unless there’s a ton of added liquid later in the recipe, this is going to be a pretty dry, dense dough. Dry doughs bake up high & round, not rising or melting much in the heat of the oven.

First thought, part two: two kinds of flour? Really? Sometimes, with really finicky recipes, you do need to do some flour blending to get the right balance of protein, aka gluten, especially when making delicate sponges. But for chocolate chip cookies? No way. The punchline: the equal parts cake & bread flour called for in Fatima’s recipe give you the approximate protein content of all-purpose flour. Yep, her recipe wants you to blend your own A/P. Life’s too short for that kind of nonsense.

The next thing that strikes me is the baking powder. Baking powder is awesome at making things puff up & stay puffed – think fluffy pancakes, layer cakes & the like. But if you’re aiming for low, flat things, baking powder’s not what you want.  Baking soda, on the other hand, likes to puff up & collapse, just the thing for flat, chewy cookies. Baking soda also helps things to brown, unlike baking powder.

The trick with baking soda is that it needs an acid to react properly. If you’ve ever had sugar cookies or muffins that had an unpleasant, soapy aftertaste, that’s unneutralized baking soda. Acids that are often used in baking include lemon juice, buttermilk or yoghurt, & molasses. In Fatima’s recipe, the acid is brown sugar – it’s a mild acid, but it works. Point of interest: if you were to make the same recipe & use all white sugar, you’d get that salty, soapy aftertaste.

Finally, I may be alone in this, but 1 1/4 cups of chocolate chips for this size recipe just seems mean. Go big, or go home, as they say.

***

So, here’s my revised recipe for Fatima. I adjusted the batch size down a little, to make it an easier amount to manage. It should double happily, should you need more.

Notice the 1:1.5:2 ratio of butter to sugar to flour – this makes for a nice buttery, sugary dough that spreads nicely without running all over the pan.

I hope she’ll give it a whirl & report back!

Fatima’s Chocolate Chip Cookies, Rehabbed

2 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup butter (unsalted & at room temperature)

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup white sugar

1 large egg

1 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F, & line 2-3 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking powder & salt together & set aside.

With the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, the standard beaters on a hand-held mixer, or a good old fashioned wooden spoon & a ton of elbow grease, cream the butter just until it’s smooth. Add both sugars & blend until it’s a nice sandy paste. Don’t aim to whip any air into the mixture. Add the egg & blend until it’s completely absorbed. Pour in the flour mixture & blend slowly just until the flour’s mostly absorbed. Add the chocolate chips & blend just until all the flour’s mixed in & the chocolate chips are evenly incorporated.

Using a standard ice cream scoop (for big cookies) or a teaspoon (for smaller cookies), place rounded blobs of dough on the baking parchment, about 1 1/2 inches apart. If you want to gild the lily, roll each dough ball in granulated sugar before putting it on the sheet – it makes for a lovely sweet, crunchy crust. You should get 8 big cookies or about 16 little ones on a sheet.

Bake at 350F. If you like really soft, fudgy centers, pull the cookies when the edges have set, but the center is still really wet. If you like a little more texture, bake til the centers have set. If the edges & bottoms are getting too brown before the centers are done, drop your oven temperature down to 325F.

Cool on a rack by sliding the whole piece of parchment (with the cookies still on it) onto the rack. This saves you from breaking or distorting the hot, soft cookies. Let cool completely before storing in an airtight tin.

I can’t even tell you how badly I want a warm chocolate chip cookie right now. Go. Make some. Have one for me…

Not my cookies, but darn close! Thanks to Lara on flickr for sharing her photo.

Not my cookies, but darn close! Thanks to Lara on flickr for sharing her photo.

Recipe Rehab

I often get emails/FB posts/Tweets from friends, asking for help with a particular recipe. Rather than confine my answers to private accounts, I thought it might be fun to make blog posts out of them. You know, for the kids.

My Twitter friend Fatima posted a photo of her chocolate chip cookies last night, lamenting that they never seem to spread properly… They end up looking more like scones than the flat, round beauties she wanted.

Fatema's cookies

Fatema’s cookies

I’ve seen this phenomenon plenty of times – my mother-in-law’s oatmeal cookies look just the same, as have a large percentage of Christmas/school fair/bake sale cookies I’ve sampled over the years. A number of factors can turn an innocent cookie into a crumbly boulder or a bowl of bread dough into a doorstop, so let’s start at the beginning.

Sometimes, it really is the recipe

I usually rail against the knee-jerk “it’s not me, it’s this stupid recipe” reactions, but honestly, there are a LOT of bad recipes out there. Fatima’s recipe calls for bread flour & cake flour, & a lot of both, plus baking powder & not a whole lot of butter. I, a trained pastry chef, could make this recipe & still come out with boulders. It’s just not balanced properly to get the flat, chewy/crisp cookies she wants. How do you tell a good recipe from a bad one? Compare it to recipes that you know work. Look at ingredients & ratios. Read reviews. If something looks really off, chances are, it is.

Sometimes, it’s not the recipe, it’s your pantry

We’ve all done it at one point or another – bought jumbo eggs instead of large, run out of brown sugar & used white instead, subbed in margarine for butter. There are times when you can make subtle changes in ingredients & not notice a difference in the final dish – baking cookies (or anything, for that matter) is not one of those times. Baking is chemistry, rather delicate chemistry at times, & messing around with your ingredients can completely change how your batter/dough behaves. Basic rule of thumb: if a good recipe calls for something, it probably needs it.

Sometimes, it’s not the recipe… it’s you

How do you measure your flour when you’re baking? What kind of measuring cups do you use? Do you store your flour in the bag it came in, or pour it into a jar/bin/container? Is your kitchen usually warm or cold? Are you in a hurry when you bake, or do you take your sweet-ass time? Time, temperature, even the aeration of your flour can have a big impact on how your recipe behaves. I’m not one for Cook’s Illustrated-level minutiae – I’ve never taken the internal temperature of a stick of butter, nor am I about to ask you to – but certain environmental & behavioral factors really make a difference.

Now we’ve got the basic premise out of the way, I’ll do a post on Fatima’s cookies & show how we can make molehills out of mountains 🙂

(If you’re wondering What’s for Dinner lately, hell if I know. It’s been stupidly hot & muggy for the past week or two, & none of us have felt much like eating, let alone cooking. I have a pile of odds & ends to use up this week, & then we’ll be back on schedule, promise…)

Making yoghurt (Yes, yoghurt. You can take the girl out of England…) is a totally nostalgic thrill for me. When I was 6, we moved from the shady suburbs to a little 7-acre farm in the country. My folks dove headfirst into self-sufficiency with all the zealousness they could muster; we raised cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, goats, the lot. We have memories both heartbreaking & hilarious of those years, & while we’ve all moved on to other pursuits, some lessons still remain.

Our sole dairy cow was a long-lashed, caramel-flanked beauty named Guinevere, & she blessed us with gallon upon gallon of gorgeous, thick milk. Mum & I tried our hand at butter & cheese a few times, but making yoghurt in our little blue-topped incubator became a weekly ritual. Years later, when I found a set of jars & a warmer for $5 at a local yard sale, it seemed a sign that it was time for me to take up spoon & thermometer again.

You don’t need any special equipment to make good yoghurt, but a few key tools will give you a better chance of success: a stem thermometer (or a glass candy thermometer) & an incubator. Temperature is key when making yoghurt, & these two things will help you get your milk to the right temperature & ensure it stays there long enough to make the transformation. If you are feeling rogueish, you can skip the incubator & jars & use a heavy lidded casserole dish instead – use a pile of old towels to insulate the dish. I’m on the lookout for an old wide-mouthed Thermos, myself…

As for ingredients, you only need two things: milk & starter. Use the best, freshest milk you can get your hands on. This is the time to track down a local dairy & start getting your milk in glass, not cardboard. Yes, you can make perfectly good yoghurt with a national brand, but if you’re going to all this trouble, why not make it special? Whole milk makes a truly luxurious yoghurt; we’re watching our diets, so we use skim with excellent results.

You can buy packets of powdered starter, but I’ve never had much luck with them – my yoghurt would always get watery & broken. Get a small tub of plain, live cultured yoghurt from the grocery store & you should be fine. I’m finding Chobani the best option so far in terms of final texture.

To start, boil a kettle of water & use it to rinse everything you’ll be using: a 2-3 quart saucepan, a wooden spoon, a small cup & fork for mixing the starter, a stem thermometer, & your jars for incubating the yoghurt (including the lids). Let your equipment air dry. Cleanliness is the other important factor when making yoghurt – we want our milk to cultivate the good beasties, not the bad.

Measure out enough milk to nearly fill your jars – the actual amount will vary according to what brand of jars you’re using. Pour the milk into the saucepan & heat it gently over medium/low flame, stirring often, until it reaches about 190F. Keep an eye on it – milk will boil over horribly if left to its own devices. Once it reaches 190F, turn off the heat & move the pan to a trivet. Stir gently & allow the milk to cool to 110F (this can take 10-15 minutes).

Meanwhile, put your jars in the incubator & plug it in to pre-warm.

Once your milk has cooled to 110F, add your starter: for every 2.5 cups/600 ml of milk, use 1 tablespoon of your starter yoghurt. Put the starter in your small cup & add a slosh of cooled milk, whisking it with a fork until very, very smooth. Add this back to the saucepan & stir thoroughly to evenly distribute the starter. Carefully pour your milk into the prepared jars, add lids, & cover the incubator. Do this all fairly quickly so your mixure doesn’t lose too much heat.

Now, the waiting game. I find that my incubator needs a full 8 hours to get my yoghurt to the consistency I like, so I tend to make it in the morning & pull the plug around dinnertime. Check yours after 4-5 hours & see how it’s progressing – look for a nice, solid texture without too much wateriness. When in doubt, let it go a bit longer.

Once it’s ready, transfer your yoghurt to the fridge & let it chill overnight before assessing the final texture. It might take you a few tries to find the right combination of starter & incubation time – just be patient. It’ll be well worth the wait. Promise.