much easier than you think

making homemade yogurt

Most of my life, I have thought, “I’m just not crafty.” I watch other women knit sweaters while talking with friends, or see the dramatic swirls of art projects other moms have done with their kids, or look at the clothes that dear Amanda Soule makes for her kids, and I think, “Well. That’s just not me.” I feel a little sad.

Whenever I think of my brief history of trying to be crafty, I remember the terrible placemat I made in 7th-grade home economics. The edges were puckered and rolled in strange, unattractive bulges. Nothing was straight. We had to embroider our names on the monstrosities and my attempt was entirely crooked, like I had finished it on a roller coaster. I took one look at the final project and declared myself done. I would never be any good in these crafty things. Done.

Now I wonder where I formed such a solid impression that my first attempt had to be perfect or I would never try again. I don’t remember my home economics’ teacher’s face, but I remember the feeling of disapprobation coming from her general direction. Who is good at making placemats at 12?

I’m lucky enough to have made a life that means writing and taking photographs every day. I can’t promise they’re any good on most days, but those putting words on a page and looking through a lens are as daily to me as brushing my teeth. I don’t think about it. I just do.

It just occurs to me that I have crafted that life over time. It looks better than the placemat did.

Recently, I realized, “Wait a second. I am crafty! I make food.”

I took it for granted.

Whenever I make some food from scratch, like homemade potato chips, or mayonnaise, or granola, my first thought has always been: “Man, that’s good!”And my second thought has been, “Wow, that’s a lot easier to do than I thought.”

It’s not hard to make homemade yogurt. In fact, it’s mostly made of a little heat, a little stirring, then a lot of waiting. The taste? Oh, the taste.

Most of us think we don’t have time to make homemade yogurt. It may not be true, but with great yogurts on the market these days, it’s easy to turn our attention elsewhere. We have a yogurt maker, which we found on Freecycle, and we love it. The yogurt we make with whole, non-homogenized milk (made at a local dairy) comes out tangy and thick, bright with taste that makes us eat it all up the first day.

And yet, somehow, I forget.

Reading this piece by the eternally brilliant Francis Lam about making homemade yogurt made me drag out the yogurt maker and let a batch steep, then thicken, overnight. (And as Francis explains, you don’t need a plug-in yogurt maker to do this. A pilot light will do. Or a jar on a heating pad, covered with a towel. You can do this too.) Now that we’re going to be home more during the winter, I want to pull creamy whole-milk yogurt out of the refrigerator more often.

You know, if it were hard to make yogurt, we wouldn’t be eating it now. It would never have lasted through the centuries. Pretty much everything I make from scratch is easier than I thought. And whenever I finally flail over my fear of making something for the first time, I find I’m pleasantly surprised.

(And once you start, you won’t want to stop. Feel like learning how to make cured meat from scratch? Join Mrs. Wheelbarrow and Yummy Mummy, along with hundreds of us, at Charcutepalooza. February is salt-cured pork, after this month’s duck prosciutto. If you eat meat, you want to make it to experience it more fully. Come on over.)

So we’re going to start doing something new here: one new from-scratch food per month. Frankly, Danny has made almost every food, but there is still much left to learn. And me? I’ve never made paneer or kombucha or a sourdough starter or seaweed salt or banana chips in the dehydrator. I want to keep learning, every day. Maybe you’d like to join us.

After all, a bowl of homemade yogurt is bound to look better than that crappy placemat.