Wednesday, June 20, 2007

May the Schwartz Be With You

You end up doing all kinds of incidental Arts and Sciences projects. This one started when I decided to prepare Tandoori Chicken for our cooking night at Pennsic. Naturally I wanted to do at least one test run instead of making it “cold” for the event, so I set out to acquire the ingredients.

One of the main ingredients in the Tandoori marinade is yogurt. Alas, Lord William seems to have a problem digesting cow’s milk, so Fjorleif and Juliana set out to the international groceries in search of a goat’s-milk-based yogurt.

No luck.

Undeterred, we bought some goat’s milk and some yogurt with live cultures and set out to make it ourselves. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has some nice instructions on the process.

Stage one was to mix the goat’s milk and some non-fat dry milk in a double boiler and heat it to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This stage reportedly changes the milk proteins to keep the milk from separating into curds and whey later in the process.

The next step was to rapidly cool the milk down to about 115 degrees, a temperature at which the bacterial culture that converts milk to yogurt can thrive. Once there, my lovely assistant Juliana blended some of our “starter culture” yogurt into the milk.

With the milk “inoculated”, we put it into the oven for six hours at about 110 degrees for the microbes to have their way with the milk. This turned out to be the most tedious step in the process, as I had to check the oven every ten minutes or so to try to maintain the correct temperature. The thing doesn’t even have a 110 degree setting on its dial. The temperature actually wandered quite a bit between 100 degrees and 150 degrees in the oven, but I think the milk/yogurt itself stayed pretty close to 110.

In any case, the yogurt seemed to have set reasonably well after six hours, and I transferred it to the refrigerator to cool down to the 40 degree range, which would deactivate the microbes.

This process was difficult enough with a modern stove, oven, double-boiler, refrigerator, and so forth. My mind boggles a bit at how much more complicated this must have been centuries ago when yogurt was discovered. Of course, much of this process can probably occur naturally given the right conditions; we’ve just applied science and technology to make it more consistent and reliable.

In any case, the test of the Tandoori will occur tonight, and we’ll find out how well we do as yogurt makers.


Tam said...

You'll have to post the recipe if it works well. I'd probably skip the yoghurt making step (I have no problem with cows milk), but I have a weakness for Indian food. Curry is the national dish of Britain after all. :)

Lord Runolfr said...

I used...

1 tablesppon of olive oil
1 tbl lemon juice
1 tbl red chili powder
1/2 tbl cayenne pepper powder
1 tbl coriander powder
1 tbl garlic powder
1 tbl ginger powder
1 tbl cumin powder
1/2 tbl mustard
1/2 tbl ground cinnamon
1/2 tbl ground clove
1/2 tbl tumeric
1/2 tbl mace
1 pinch of saffron
a few grinds of pepper
and a pinch of salt

It turned out pretty well that way.

Quite frankly, if you use every spice in your house, you're probably pretty close. It's not like there's a single fixed recipe.

Lord Runolfr said...

Having a "duh" moment...

All those spices went into a cup of yogurt, and the lot went into a ziplock bag with the chicken to marinate overnight.

We cooked the chicken on our gas grill.

It stuck to the grill a lot. I recommend skewering the chicken and getting the grill out of the way (as tradition dictates).

Greet said...

So the yogurt worked, even though you weren't carrying goat's milk in a goat stomach through the Gobi?

I also suffer lactose intolerance (I prefer to call myself 'weaned'), though the active acidophilus in ordinary yogurt pre-digests the lactose, so it's fine. Ditto firm cheeses - something about the bacterial cultures fixes the sugar problem. Cheesecake and icecream are Right Out, though.