Yogurt has been an integral part of the Indian cuisine and culture. Most Indian households prefer making dahi at home than buying the store ones. No one knows how long yogurt has been the part of an ordinary Indian’s life. Ancient Indians believed that a mix of yogurt or dahi along with honey was food fit for Gods. Even today, Hindu temples offer ‘charanamrit’, a mix of honey, milk (or water from the holy Ganges river), dahi, a little ghee and basil leaves to the devotees who visit the temple as ‘a sacred offering’. The literal translation of the word is holy nectar from the feet of the holy deity. I never ever liked its taste though and I would just touch my lips to it and give it away to my mother.
However, I used to love plain yogurt; actually sweet curd is something I could never develop a taste for. After my daughter insisted that I try the flavoured ones with fruits, I have sort of developed a taste for the sweet one yet given a choice I still prefer a savory raita or a savory lassi. As a child I virtually lived on yogurt. Mum once told me how I often demanded it for breakfast, lunch and dinner! However when Mum told me that yogurt was bacterial fermentation of milk, I looked upon the yogurt with suspicion and stopped eating it for a while!
Yogurt is an extremely healthy food. Rich in protein, calcium, vitamin B6 & B12, riboflavin (info derived from Wikipedia), yogurt is a valuable food for infants and elderly people too. It is a good source of protein, carb, mineral and fat. It is good for the stomach too and helps develop the good bacteria in the gut and aids in digestion. Apparently lactose intolerant individuals can tolerate yogurt better than milk. My granddad was lactose intolerant but he used to enjoy the yogurt without any discomfort. Ayurveda considers dahi to be a cooling food; hence people consume large quantities here during the hot sultry Indian summers. Not only is it consumed, but it is also applied to the face as it provides relief from suntan and sun burns too.  

There are over dozen ways in which you can use yogurt. Here are a few simple suggestions where you can use yogurt – smoothies, parfaits, popsicles, frozen yogurt, Dips, Salad Dressings, marinating lamb or chicken, making curries, baking, desserts, labne, lassi, raita, cold soups. I use them even in the Coconut Chutney and this Pesto Dressing. My sour batch of yogurt was used to make this Masala Spiced Beet Lassi
Making yogurt at home is a simple process; no special equipment (perhaps beside a thermometer) or vessels are required. However, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t get a smooth thick yogurt in your first attempt. The milk needs to be heated up to approx. 80-82 degrees C to kill any undesirable bacteria and then cooled to approx. 39-43 degrees C. Plain yogurt with active bacterial culture is added to the milk, temperature is maintained and it is set aside for 4-7 hours or over-night to ferment and set. A lot depends on the humidity and temperature of the place. During cool days I wrap the container in a kitchen towel or a regular towel. If the curds are still not set, I place the container (if using metal one) in warm bath till the curds are set. You may also heat the oven up to 50-60 degree, switch it off and keep the towel wrapped container in the oven overnight or till the milk is set.
Here is the process with specified amount of ingredients to be used…
½ litre milk (pre-boiled)
2 tbsp commercial yogurt with active culture (I use Nestle or Amul or Mother Dairy depending on availability)

Heat the milk in a sauce pan and bring the milk to 80 degree C temperature.
Remove the pan and bring down the temperature to approx 40-42 degrees temperature. For those not having thermometer, the milk should feel warm on touch.
Transfer the milk in the container in which you intend to ferment/ set it.
Remove a little milk (3-4 tbsp approx) from the pan and mix in the yogurt. Beat till there are no lumps visible.
Gently pour and mix this mixture into the rest of the milk and cover the container with a lid. Wrap the container in a towel and let the milk ferment undisturbed for at least 4 hours.
Once the curds are set, refrigerate it immediately. It is best to let it cool for at least 2-3 hours before you consumer it. Refrigeration further thickens the curd and sets it even better. ­­
Note:I usually boil the milk and refrigerate it. To make the yogurt, I remove it from the refrigerator and slowly bring it to the temperature of 80 degrees C.
Note: The amount to ferment the milk will vary from place to place. It takes no more than 3-4 hours here in the warm and humid weather of Mumbai (India). In peak summers it takes just 2 hours!
Note: You may use low fat or full fat milk for making yogurt.
Note: The longer the fermentation time, the sour the yogurt would be
Note: If you like the yogurt sweet, feel free to add some sugar in the milk before leaving it to ferment.
Note: To turn this yogurt into a Greek Yogurt, line a large sieve with a muslin cloth and pour the yogurt onto it. Bring the ends of the cloth together and tie into a knot. Let the wsater drain from the curd in a refrigerator for at least 7-8 hours or overnight. Do not forget to put a container underneath the sieve.  

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I am so happy to announce the first giveaway at EFS. The book that I selected for the giveaway is an extension of my belief that home-made food is tastier, healthier, cheaper and oh so gratifying!
The book – “The Homemade Pantry-101 Foods You Can Stop Buying & Start Making” is all about food that you can make right in your kitchen – from crackers to cheese, pesto to sauerkraut, and mayonnaise to toaster pastries, breads and candies. The author has thrown in humour and her personal anecdotes which gives a friendly appeal to the reader.
 
 
The giveaway is open worldwide. All you have to do is leave a comment saying that you wish to enter for the giveaway. So hurry leave a comment and ensure that you do that before 7 p.m. Indian Standard Time, 17th August 2013. 
The winner will be announced on the 17th of August 2013. 
 
Thanks for visiting and see you soon again! 
IT IS ALWAYS ENCOURAGING TO HEAR FROM FRIENDS AND READERS. I CAN ALSO BE REACHED AT: easyfoodsmith@gmail.com