Stovetop Yogurt

My recent ventures into making soap with yogurt led me to make yogurt from scratch. Crock pot yogurt turned out ok, but me and my girls weren’t crazy about its texture and consistency. It was really runny, which was great for the soap I made, but not very appetizing.

So, of course, I had to try again. I like to do things at least until I do them well. Can’t help it. Perfectionist, anyone?

This time, I decided to go with the tried and true method of making yogurt on the stovetop, then incubating in the oven.

I started by heating half a gallon of milk in a heavy stainless steel pot. Once it hit 180 degrees, I put the whole pot in an ice bath in the sink until it came down to 120 degrees. That only took a couple of minutes. At that point, I whisked in 3 tablespoons of yogurt containing live active cultures. I also added in about a tablespoon of vanilla extract and about a third of a cup of sugar. (My girls also weren’t crazy about the plain yogurt I’d made in the crock pot; we all like it sweet.)

Next, I poured everything into glass jars, making a nice mess in the process. Typical of me.

Stovetop Yogurt Mess

How did I manage to make such a mess?!

Ready for the oven

Here’s the heated milk ready to be transformed into yogurt in the oven.

I preheated the oven to 200 degrees, turned it off, then placed the glass jars inside on a sturdy cookie sheet. I left the light on inside the oven to help maintain the warm environment, giving those little yogurt guys the perfect place to make themselves comfy and multiply. After 8 hours in there, I pulled out the jars. What a difference from the crock pot yogurt!

The whey had separated quite a bit throughout each of the jars.

Yogurt fresh from the oven

See how the whey was already separated, forming what looks like bubbles around the inside of the jars?

Pouring off the whey

Pouring off the whey

I could easily pour off the whey, leaving a thicker, creamier yogurt. I decided to strain half the batch just to see what difference it would make. I let it sit in a mesh strainer lined with coffee filters for just over half an hour, then I plopped it into the mixing bowl and whisked until it was smooth. The strained yogurt (aka Greek yogurt) is much thicker with a more concentrated tangy flavor. I can turn the jar upside down without spilling a drop! The unstrained yogurt is more fluid, but it’s definitely thicker than the crock pot yogurt (yay).

Yogurt success!

Yogurt success! Thick and creamy and delicious. Doesn’t this look like soap batter at trace?!

The triplets are loving this stovetop yogurt! They can’t get enough of it. And the baby drools when she sees us eating it! She’ll have her turn soon enough.

The triplets eating yogurt

Here are the triplets getting their first taste of the new yogurt. They love it! Notice that Chloe (on the left) has already spilled it on her pants? We’ll blame this one on mommy for letting them sit on the kitchen floor. We were all just so excited to try it! Who needs tables?

Homemade granola and yogurt

And I even made some homemade granola to go along with our homemade yogurt. YUM!

I’ll probably be making yogurt like this from now on. It really wasn’t that much harder than the crock pot method, and my whole family prefers the second result. But I won’t be making any soap with this stuff! It’s all gonna be gobbled up before I have the chance!

A Baby Changes Everything

Five babies change, well,… Is there more than everything? I’m amazed at how much life has changed since having children. Yes, there are the sleepless nights, sweet sloppy kisses, crazy tantrums, love I never knew I could feel… But I’m not talking about all that stuff, as wonderful (and trying) as it all is! I’m talking about how much my perspective and lifestyle have changed.

You see, when the triplets came along, I started thinking about ways I could save us money. We suddenly jumped from one child to four, and I became a stay-at-home mom, cutting out a good chunk of income. Somehow I stumbled upon the giant world of cloth diapers.

And that’s where it all began.

What started as a way to save us money turned into a more natural way of living. I never intended to become so green. It just happened more and more over time. Cloth diapers led to natural remedies, which led to natural cleansers for our home, laundry, and bodies, which led to making my own soap. Once I realized I could make a lot of the things that I used to buy in the store, intrigue and even excitement set in. Creating things from scratch is exciting! It’s domestic triumph! And when you succeed even once, it spurs you on. From making soap to designing soap molds, from crocheting hats to knitting scarves, from making cute hair bows to sewing. The satisfaction that comes from creating is addicting.

This is true in the world of cooking as well. I’ve always loved to cook and bake (which is one of the reasons I love to make soap; it’s just making and following recipes, after all). And lately, I’ve been cooking up a storm. Maybe it’s the change in weather. Fall beckons me to make chili and homemade bread and pumpkin muffins. Or maybe it’s all the fresh produce we’ve been getting this year. Our measly garden has actually produced a nice little crop of tomatoes and cucumbers, and our neighbors have generously shared with us a bounty of strawberries, peaches, corn, potatoes and apples. I’ve spent a large chunk of time making jam and pie fillings, and freezing and canning the tastes of summer. Once again, domestic triumph! Preserving natural goodness and cooking from scratch = victory! And it all tastes SO GOOD! It’s fun to pull real food out of the freezer. It’s fun to make yummy and healthy meals for my family. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not always easy. It takes planning and work. But it’s so worth the effort. 

Five short years ago, it would never have occurred to me to do these types of things! Food from scratch? Canning? Making freezer meals? Being only me and hubby back then, we were content to eat out a lot and throw in a few home-cooked meals every so often. Now, I find myself researching real food cooking and eating. Who knows? Maybe in another five years, we’ll be nearly self-sufficient! My hubs and I are already planning a bigger, better garden for next year, and we’re excited at the thought of including our kids in harvesting, cooking, and eating well. We’re hungry to learn, and we’re fascinated with how it all works. We certainly haven’t arrived yet! We still eat processed foods and get take out, but it’s becoming less frequent. I don’t know if our goal is to always eat all-natural, but we do want to be more natural. This is true of our lifestyle as well.

I’m beginning to feel a little bit Martha Stewart-ish. Or Amish, maybe. An Amish Martha Stewart. From crafting to cooking to making my own soap. But I’ll keep my electricity, please.

In all seriousness, we are so very blessed that God gave us these five babies who changed absolutely everything. We feel like God has called us back to Himself, focusing us on His creation and His intentions for our family, and showing us how He provides for us continually. He’s given us the desire and ability to do all of these things. We love to create because He loves to create. And it’s a fun process, all this creating! We’re thankful for all of the changes that have come with our five messy babies, and we’re looking forward to the changes that will keep coming as we all grow up together.

Yogurt, Soap and Candy Apple Red

As promised, I’ve just completed my first yogurt soap! And as always, I got more than I bargained for in the process. Here’s a first look at Enchanted Apple Soap.

Enchanted Apple Soap

Enchanted Apple Soap made with yogurt

Silvia of SoapJam has been raving about how wonderful yogurt soap is, and her soaps look divine! When I saw her posts, I started looking around the web for more information about making yogurt at home and then using it in soap. Apparently I’ve been missing out on yogurt awesomeness for years by paying for it in stores! I had no idea it was so easy to make. Why would I do this, you ask? Well, first of all, it’s much cheaper to make it than to buy it. One of our local discount stores has milk on sale for $1.49/gallon! That’s less than 5 cents per serving compared to the typical 50 cents or more per serving for store-bought yogurt. Second, I have the pleasure of making something myself. That’s one of the main reasons I make soap. I find sheer joy and satisfaction in creating things. Plus, yogurt is quite useful; I can eat it and make soap with it! Yummy and healthy, inside the body and out. Last but not least, it’s really easy! So why not try making it at least once? No harm.

There are recipes all over the internet on how to make yogurt. Some ways look a bit complicated, but I chose the seriously simple crock pot method:

  1. Put 8 cups (a half gallon) of milk in the crock pot set on low for 2 hours 45 minutes.
  2. Turn off the pot and let it cool for 3 hours with the lid on.
  3. Stir in half a cup of yogurt that contains live and active cultures. I tempered it first, then whisked it gently into the milk in the crock pot.
  4. Put the lid back on, wrap it in a towel (this is so much like insulating a soap mold 🙂 ), and let it sit overnight.
  5. The next morning, transfer the crock into the fridge.

A few hours later, voila! Homemade yogurt. Pretty cool, huh?

To make soap with yogurt, I followed Silvia’s (and many other soapers’) advice and made a 50% lye solution with water, added yogurt to the oils, then added the cooled lye solution to the yogurt and oils. I was going to do another two-color Holly swirl of red and white into plain base, then finish it off with white on top. Unfortunately, my fragrance sped up the process dramatically! I poured the main uncolored soap into the mold then worked quickly to get the other colors swirled. To match the Enchanted Apple scent, I wanted a bright red pop of color, but it was muted when I swirled it with the white soap. In the short time it took me to mix the red and white, the soap was already completely set in the mold. Once again, I got layers more than swirls, but it actually looks kind of pretty.

Enchanted Apple Soap

Each bar is so different than the next!

Enchanted Apple Soap

There are a few little air pockets, but for the most part (to my great surprise) it turned out smooth.

Since the colors didn’t mix quite as I’d hoped, I thought I’d try to add some pizzazz to the top of the soap with some peaks and gold mica sprinkles. In my typical klutzy fashion, I spilled the gold mica right on top of one end of the loaf. A few bars will just be extra sparkly! My girls will love it, I’m sure.

Loaf of Enchanted Apple Soap

See that sparkly spill of gold mica? It’s not as noticeable now that it’s cut into bars.

Now, here’s the extra kicker that I wasn’t expecting. As I was cleaning up my soaping mess, the triplets woke up from their nap. And I was home alone with them. I had already put away the lye, the oils, and anything that I thought might be even slightly dangerous to leave out and about. But apparently I missed one little sample jar: the candy apple red dye powder. BIG. MISTAKE. While I had my back turned, Chloe must have sneaked in and stolen that little jar of horror. She also must have thought that it was some form of food, because she ate it! In a matter of seconds, she’d eaten some of the colorant, then tried to spit it out, wiping her tongue off with both hands, and spilling the remainder of the powder on my living room carpet. She came running into the kitchen with what looked like blood spilling out of her mouth! I panicked, ran water in her mouth and over her whole face. It was obviously not blood, but was staining everything red. So I ran into the living room looking for what might have caused this, saw the spill on the carpet and immediately knew what she’d done. I was so thankful that it wasn’t blood, but I was also so mad that I’d accidentally left that jar within her reach!

This was a monster of a mess. I put Chloe in the bath tub and scrubbed her down. After a long soak, the red stain finally disappeared. Then I had the task of attempting to clean my carpet. That’s still a work in progress. Candy Apple Red dye powder is as fine as dust, easily spreadable, and darkens upon contact with liquid. Oh my! Believe it or not, it’s only a very faint pink now! That Bissell carpet cleaner is the best tax refund money I’ve ever spent.

Candy Apple Red water from my carpet

After cleaning my carpet for the third time, this is what the water still looked like coming out of the cleaner! If I hadn’t been so mad, I might have thought to take a picture of the carpet before I started cleaning it!

It’s amazing what soaping has brought into my life. I now know how to make yogurt and how to clean red dye out of carpet! (#thingsineverthoughti’ddo) I’m hoping this yogurt soap will be as wonderful as everyone says, making this mess worth it!