Sunday, March 24, 2013

Make this Yogurt

Foodies, bookmark this page.

(The rest of you can come back later to help me discuss if punk rockers have a brand.)

Making your own yogurt is worth the minimal effort it requires. Plus it is not as hard as you probably think. I was taught by an eminent MIT historian with help from one of my favorite cookbooks, Sally Fallon's wacky Nourishing Traditions.

This is yogurt sans sugar, preservatives, "natural flavor" (whatever that is) or xanthum gum. It's safe and actually natural and delicious.

For starters, here is my fancy yogurt maker:

It consists of a styrofoam cooler I got from the hospital (it once held cancer shots, 2 pts), a glass jar that holds half a gallon or so, and an old bath towel. THAT'S. IT.

You will also need a pan, a thermometer, and a few more (smaller) jars, like mason jars or re-purposed pasta sauce, pickle, apple sauce jars etc. Wash and soak the heck out of them until they smell clean.

Now the really complicated part. The ingredients: milk, yogurt.

You use yogurt as a starter. For the first ever batch, use the best commercially available yogurt you can get your hands on. I like Stonyfield Farms Plain Organic. You need about half a cup.

The genius is that when you've made yogurt once, you just reserve half a cup for the next batch, so your yogurt becomes its own self-perpetuating deliciousness.

(here's the jar heart of my yogurt oven next to the starter)

A word about milk: I use Organic Whole. You know, no hormones and all that. But whatever suits your fancy -- this will turn out with lowfat (though it might affect the consistency) and you do NOT need to use raw.

As to your thermometer -- meat or candy will do the trick. Heat up a quart of milk in a pan (gently, no higher than medium heat) until it reaches 180 deg. Fahrenheit. This is to kill off competing bacteria ("and to denature the milk proteins so that they set together rather than form curds," says wikipedia).

Now the hardest part. Remove it from heat and leave it alone. Booooring. Go wash some dishes or make a tune in Garage Band, but check back every so often.

At this point I usually turn on my yogurt oven. Heat up a kettle of water and pour it piping hot into that big glass jar. Pour the water in with the jar already resting inside the cooler -- don't want to try to move that hot jar!

Carefully close the jar's lid lid and keep it wrapped in the towel in the closed cooler for now.

When your milk cools to around 112 deg. F, add your starter and mix well to ensure the bacteria is evenly distributed. Pour the milk/yogurt mix into a couple of jars and tuck them in the cooler around the hot water jar.

Tuck 'em in snug.

Now lots of websites say "leave for 2-4 hours" or some-such rubbish. Heck. No. 12 hours minimum. I often do this before I go to bed (say 10-11PM) and take it out when I get home from work the next day around 6PM. That's 19-20 hours! 

When you take it out, you will pour off the whey (it can be kept and has many good uses -- topic for a future post). The best way to achieve a thicker texture from here on out is to strain it through cheese cloth, or if you are a mad genius, this strainer from etsy. A cloth strainer like this will really cut down on the fuss or mess of straining yogurt -- but again, if you let it "cook" long enough it will be decently thick anyway. You can also refrigerate and just absorb whey with a paper towel now and again.

If it seems too runny, strain it some. Too thick? Stir it like you mean it and add back some whey.

It's tangy and delicious. It goes amazing with fruit and/or my favorite homemade granola. It's great in a cucumber mint dip with toasted sourdough (sourdough: topic for a future blog post!). 

Stick it in the fridge and then stick it in your face hole.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Sunday Morning

I want to be an integral part of your Sunday morning.

I want you to nose about over breakfast, see what's happening in the world.

I want this place to be a part of that world. Or this place.

So I can tell you what the Ouija Board told Merrill, or what problems with heroism told Becker, or what the eye told Stevens.

Paul Simon could gather all the news he needed from the weather report. What if the most important news you read all week was a bit of verse, a scrap of philosophy?

The words in your head are the weather of your days. And you can rewrite them at will.

This idea is old, but it's still a radical notion.

Wittgenstein started and ended his famous Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by saying "Die Welt is alles, was der Fall ist." The world is everything that is the case.

What is relevant. At hand. Not passive objects. Facts. Bits of meaning.

Merrill unpacks this. "Open the case."

In Stevens' poem "Sunday Morning" he asks, "What is divinity if it can come / Only in silent shadows and in dreams?"

But also "in contentment I still feel / The need of some imperishable bliss."

This is perhaps the oldest of radical notions.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

*Read the Comments

Maybe extended metaphors are lost on the literal-minded. Alternately, maybe even I lost the thread.

Because I don't know what I was talking about yesterday. I should have just linked Ze Frank's brain crack vid and dropped the mic.

Don't wait, is all I'm saying. It's 5 points for cancer reference. The future might not be what you expect. The future might not even be coming.

If you are me, you might want more education, more experience, a better job, financial stability. A house west of here. A dog and a wife and a couple of kids.

Well, now my future children live in a really expensive freezer. I took a sick day this week that I literally don't have to deal with pain, exhaustion and the panic that my cancer is coming back. I'm definitely too poor for a house and I'm going nowhere as slowly as I can.

Although I am now officially blog published*, no matter what any of my 11 Twitter followers might think.

So I win.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Wash the Damn Dish

Look, everybody soaks. It is often strategic and necessary. Fill that pan with hot, soapy water and leave it alone. Let time do the hard work that you can't of eroding grease and washing away lingering odors.

What I'm asking is are you a Soaker? Do you say "I'm going to let this soak." Regularly. For lots of stuff. Because as it turns out, with some intention and what my dad calls 'elbow grease' (I believe the dictionary calls it "effort"), a lot of what you're soaking can get clean in a short amount of time.

Being a Soaker is not about the act of soaking. It's about the lie you tell yourself when you transform "I don't feel like washing this right now" into "I'm going to let this soak." The lie that allows you to feel productive while rationalizing your own procrastination.

It will be easier to wash this after it soaks.


Because it will be LATER.

And that's a problem for your future self.

Serial Soakers are the people leaving clean looking bowls in the sink at work you share with like 30 people. The people whose dishes pile up for days -- until all that soaking has to turn into actual washing anyway. People who assume as a knee-jerk reaction that doing something later will be easier than doing it now.

Will it really be easier later? How much?

It's like what Ze Frank once said about brain crack. It's better to reward ourselves now, to feel satisfaction at our good ideas, than to execute them and risk disappointment and failure.

The difference between a Soaker and a brain crack addict is that the addict only imagines the rewards of projects perpetually put off -- but the Soaker walks away confidently, perceiving inaction as action.

For the addict, the lie is: it's going to be perfect.
For the Soaker, the lie is: it's going to be easier to do later.
The addict celebrates his delayed success, the Soaker his strategy of delay.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Internet Unicorn

Have you ever been part of a productive discussion on the internet?

I mean not including among friends. Especially your friends.

Have you ever seen a single worthwhile comment posted on anything? That rare beast.

The internet makes me feel like Atreyu slopping through the Swamp of Sadness. But then, like a magic creature, noble and pure, it appears. That pristine white horse, the helpful comment.

(Ignoring for now that trolls come and make it sink into the swamp -- we're going to get all our metaphors mixed up.)

I was reading this ProPublica article about a town in Texas that had an EPA decision overturned on them recently. Basically this company (Uranium Energy Corp) is looking at a pocket of uranium sitting on a pocket of pristine, untapped water. Guess which one they think is worth destroying for the other?

The EPA was all "nuh-uh," but then some lobbyist went to work, and now they are all "fine but just the tip."

The comments were what you'd expect for this narrative storied out on an independent not-for-profit news site. Hordes of folks showed up to create the Swamp, just bemoaning the failures of the Obama administration and predicting doom on all of us when the inevitable day comes that we wake up in an episode of the Walking Dead and there's not a drop to drink.

 Ok, ok, maybe some people gave instructions on how to write your government representatives, and maybe I'm too jaded for scoffing at that out of hand. Probably I was distracted by the genius who suggested 'let the politicians come drink the water' as an "elegant solution" to the problem as opposed to a dumb revenge fantasy he drummed up to divert that nasty "I need to do something but I am truly powerless so why bother" feeling. Symbolic action! I did it with my words!

But then one dude goes: "The residents should have their waters analyzed before the mining starts and do it every 3 months there after. If the water gets polluted, maybe the residents will have a bigger pull with the EPA to get the mining stopped?"

 Look, I'm not saying he saved the day. That's the point. Nor am I chastising us all, myself included, for not rushing to Texas' defense. I'm just saying that somehow, against all odds and with no clear external motivation for doing so (see above where the horse drowns in the shit, Kiowa-style), this guy took a second to offer something that was actually contributing to an ACTION PLAN and not just a RANT or a PIPE DREAM. Or illitrate nonsense. And I was really stunned, which kind of brought into focus something I guess I've long thought about the internet.

I want to believe that access changes that. Free knowledge. Humans connecting. Then Zuckerb makes a billion turning the most cherished online community into a fucking billboard that spies on you while Swartz is literally scared to death by society's response to downloading too many JSTOR articles. ("What store?" -Everyone.)

What do you think? Can technology help us have a more productive conversation? Is it just a poor carpenter that blames his tools?