Lemon Thyme & Ginger

Dessert Tart Recipe: Figs and Almond Tart

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

It is tart week in my household with both sweet and savory tart recipes for yours and my pleasure. Because it is fig season, I am compelled to make something at least once using figs. I love figs. They are a beautiful fruit with its simple pear shape, deep purple color, and a seductive subtle but jammy interior. That rich eggplant purple is one of my favorite colors and I find anything with that color totally irresistible.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Fig and Almond Tart

Several years ago, I discovered this tart recipe on Food Network by Giada De Laurentiis but I thought it was very rich and sweet. Because I wanted to make a fig and almond tart, I decided to give this tart recipe another try with some minor changes. I adapted the tart recipe by reducing the amount of sweetener in the filling, so the sweet flavor does not dominate the fig and almond flavors.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar in the pie crust, and one tablespoon of sugar plus 2 tablespoons of honey in the mascarpone cheese and almond paste filling. In my opinion, it was too rich,  so I reduced the sweetener to only 1 tablespoon of honey in the filling. For me, this minor adjustment made all the difference.

I do like the sweetened pie crust and did not change the amount of sugar in that recipe. However, feel free to adjust the amount of sugar in the crust from 1 to 2 tablespoons (15 – 30 ml). The original recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of sugar and I believe the sweetness in the crust blends the crust with the filling. Otherwise, the strong flour flavor in the crust will compete with the figs and almonds.

Almond Paste

My experience baking with almond paste is limited, but what I have learned so far is each brand tastes slightly different for both almond flavor and sweetness. Depending on your brand of almond paste could determine how much sugar you need to add to the filling. Before you begin mixing the filling, taste the almond paste to determine how sweet it is. Then mix it together with the mascarpone cheese and other filling ingredients, then taste again. Add more honey or sugar if you wish. I like the amount of sweetener I have in this fig and almond tart recipe, but if your almond paste is on the less sweet side, you may need more.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

For another tart recipe using almond paste, make  Almond Cherry and Peach Galette.

Another trick to get more almond flavor without adding extra almond paste is, add a few drops of pure almond extract. Be careful adding the almond extract because it is strong and only use pure almond extract. Imitation almond extract tastes like chemicals and not the real deal, just like imitation vanilla extract.

The most common almond paste brands available are Solo and Odense almond paste. Solo comes in a box or can, and Odense comes in a tube. You want to make sure it is pure or real almond paste. I have used both brands with good results. You will find almond paste in the baking aisle.

Almond paste and marzipan are two different ingredients and not interchangeable. Marzipan is made with almond paste and extra sugar and more egg whites. It is the almond paste that gives marzipan its characteristic almond flavor.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can make your own almond paste.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Figs

You want to use figs that are just starting to ripen and getting soft. I used black mission figs, but any type of fig will work in this tart recipe. Stay away from figs that are too soft and mushy. They are over-ripe and do not taste as fresh. I recommend inspecting the figs before you buy them because they often have moldy figs mixed in with the ripe figs. Figs are very perishable and quickly become over-ripe so use them as soon as possible after you buy them.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

To store figs, remove them from the plastic container and place them on a paper towel-lined plate in one layer with space between each fig so they can breathe. Cover the figs in plastic wrap. You can keep the figs on the counter for a couple of days, but they will last longer in the refrigerator.

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

More recipes using figs:

Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta

Sexy Fig and Fresh Mozzarella Salad with Prosciutto

Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Mascarpone vs Cream Cheese

What is mascarpone cheese? Mascarpone cheese comes from Italy and is similar to cream cheese, but it has a higher milk fat content because it is made with cream. Cream cheese is made in America and by law must have at least 33% milk fat and 55% moisture. Cream cheese also has additives, like gums to give the cheese a thicker appearance. They are not equally interchangeable in a recipe because of the differences in consistency, texture, milk fat percentages, and additives in cream cheese. You will find mascarpone cheese in the cheese department or deli department near the crème fraîche. If possible do not substitute cream cheese for the mascarpone cheese in this tart recipe.

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Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart

Fig and Almond Tart

A delicate and flaky tart filled with an almond mascarpone spread and topped with sliced figs. The figs melt into the almond filling and taste jammy for a unique and impressive looking tart. Depending on how sweet your almond paste is may depend on how much sugar or honey you want to use. I err on the side of less sugar otherwise it is a very rich dessert. I happen to love fresh rosemary or lemon thyme sparsely sprinkled over fruit tarts as it adds a savory note to offset the sweetness in the dessert. Use a light hand with the herbs as you do not want them to overpower the dessert. Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis 2008, fig and Almond Tart from Food Network
Course Dessert
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Fig tart, figs, tart recipe
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6 servings
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Pie Crust

  • 1 ½ cup 213 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 -2 TB (12 - 24 g) sugar
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 10 TB ( g) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into half-inch (1 cm) pieces
  • 3 TB ice water

Tart filling

  • 3 ½ oz (101 g) almond paste, room temperature and cut into ½ inch ( 1 cm) pieces
  • 1/3 cup (76 g) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
  • 1 TB honey
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Pure almond extract to taste (if needed) a couple of drops
  • 12 figs, stems removed and sliced into fourths lengthwise
  • 2 tsp of Minced sprigs of Rosemary or Lemon Thyme optional

Instructions

Make the pie dough

  1. Food Processor Method
  2. Add the flour, sugar, lemon zest, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is evenly combined. Add the chilled butter cubes and pulse until the mixture looks like large course sand with uneven clumps. Turn on the machine and add the water in a steady stream until large clumps form being careful not to overwork the dough. Tip the mixture onto a clean and lightly floured surface and pat into a disk. Wrap the pie dough with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour, or up to 2 days.
  3. Hand Method
  4. If making by hand, add the flour sugar, lemon zest, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Whisk together until the ingredients are evenly combined. Add the cubed butter and toss them with your clean hands until coated with flour. Smash the butter with your fingers to mix into the flour until the mixture looks like coarse meal with uneven sizes. Add the ice water and stir with your hands briefly until the dough comes together. Tip the dough onto a clean and lightly floured surface and shape into a flat disk. Wrap the disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour.

Mix the almond filling

  1. In a clean bowl of a food processor, add the almond paste, mascarpone cheese, honey, and vanilla. Process until a smooth paste is formed. Scrape down the side of the bowl to blend and process again. Make sure there are no clumps of almond paste in the mix. Taste and add a couple of drops of almond extract if you want the filling to have more almond flavor. Go very light with the almond extract because it is very strong.

  2. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) with the oven rack in the middle position. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

Assemble the Tart

  1. Remove the pie dough from the refrigerator and if it is too hard, let it rest at room temperature for a couple of minutes. Remove the plastic wrap and place the dough on a lightly floured and clean work surface. Whack the dough with your rolling pin across the dough to soften it up and start forming a circle. Rotate the dough 180° and whack it again 4 times across the dough. Turn the dough over and repeat.

  2. Roll out the dough with your rolling pin starting at the center of your dough and roll it in one direction away from you. Move the rolling pin around the dough circle and roll out in one direction. Turn the dough over and continue to roll and shape the dough until you have a circle with a 12-inch diameter and is ¼ inch (.5) thick. 

  3. Transfer the dough onto your prepared baking sheet by draping the dough over your rolling pin then easing the dough into place.
  4. Spread the almond filling over the dough in an even layer leaving a 2-inch (5 cm) border. Layer the fig slices in concentric circles over the almond filling beginning at the outer rim and working inwards.
  5. Heat the jam for 15 seconds to loosen it up and spread the jam over the figs. You might not use all of the jam, but you want an even layer that is not too thick.
  6. Fold the dough border over the toppings to create an edge. Pleat the border to maintain the circle shape. You can bake the tart right away, but if it took you a while to arrange the tart filling over the dough and you are concerned about the tart expanding and opening up when baking, refrigerate the tart, loosely covered with plastic wrap for 30 minutes or freeze for 15 minutes. 

  7. Bake for 40 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown color. Transfer the tart on the sheet pan to a cooling rack and cool for 10 minutes. Loosen the bottom of the tart with a metal spatula or offset spatula and slide the tart off the parchment paper onto your serving platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.
  8. Best eaten the day it is made.
Dessert Tart Recipe: Fig and Almond Tart. A sophisticated dessert tart recipe made with fresh figs, almond paste, and mascarpone cheese. It tastes and looks very impressive, yet is simple to make.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

This is just one of those recipes that came to me in the middle of doing something else, that is completely unrelated, like weeding. Surely, my mind was elsewhere and not focused on what I needed to accomplish. Sometimes food ideas and inspiration just grow out of me at the most unexpected times. Clearly, I must have been subconsciously dreaming of the adobo sauce I made from one of my favorite Mexican food resources, Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez. It was so much easier than I expected and now I have a bowlful of this delicious smoky chili purée. What to make? Out of the blue, my mind forced me to stop whatever I was doing and pushed forward an idea for grilled chicken kebabs marinated in a yogurt adobo sauce.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

Here is my dream come to reality with a recipe for grilled chicken kebabs made using an adobo sauce and yogurt marinade, just because yogurt makes everything so tender, and mixed in with well-seasoned thick pieces of chicken thighs. The chicken kebabs cook quickly over a hot grill and taste remarkable with something fruity, crispy and sweet, like fresh corn and mango avocado salsa.

Trying Something New

I always hesitate when I make a new recipe with dried chili peppers because I never know how hot it will taste. But the more I cook with fresh and dried chilies, the more familiar I get with their multi-dimensional flavors. Every cuisine appears to have a sauce (or two) made with hot chilies and spices that are quite addictive.

Adobo sauce is another one of the great sauces with a pleasing smoky dried chili flavor mixed with vinegar and other spices. It is that acid chili pepper combo that just tastes so amazing and keeps me coming back for more. Adobo is not as acidic as Asian chili sauces like Sriracha. It is much subtler with the chilies as the more prominent taste.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

Adobo Sauce

To make your own adobo sauce, use dried guajillo and/or ancho chilies if you can find them. They are not as hot as other dried chilies and are the traditional chilies used in adobo sauce. These chilies have mild heat with smoky and fruity flavors. Making the sauce is not complicated. Toast then soak the chili peppers, then purée the chilies, garlic, herbs, and apple cider vinegar until smooth. That’s it. The most difficult part of making the sauce is sourcing the dried chilies. You can find them at well-stocked grocery stores or Mexican markets. Another bonus with making adobo sauce is, you can make it ahead and keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Or, you can freeze adobo sauce in an airtight container for one month.

I noticed this recipe from Roberto Santibañez is a basic adobo sauce and uses significantly less vinegar than other adobo sauce recipes I’ve read. Also, some adobo sauces include spices like cinnamon and cloves or paprika. You can play around with the ingredients just keep in mind that the chilies are the prominent flavor and the seasonings are in the background.

Store bought Adobo Sauce

However, do not let the extra step of making the adobo sauce deter you from making grilled adobo chicken kebabs. You can make a pseudo adobo sauce with canned chipotle chilies in adobo sauce. If you can find store-bought adobo sauce all the better. Chipotle chilies are spicier and smokier than guajillo or ancho chilies, so the sauce will taste different, but it is an easy substitute. Just purée the chipotle chilies with the adobo sauce using as much of the adobo sauce as possible. You may not need all of the chipotle chilies to make a half cup of sauce. Most importantly, do not confuse adobo seasoning with adobo sauce. They are not the same thing.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

Adobo Chicken Kebabs

What I love about the adobo chicken kebabs is they are perfect for many meals. Eat the adobo chicken kebabs hot off the grill with a fruit salsa like my recipe for Mango Avocado Salsa. They also taste great paired with something creamy like Mexican Crema, yogurt sauce or crème fraîche. Anything Goes Potato Salad is another perfect side dish with the sweet fresh corn and bright fresh vegetables to contrast with the smoky chili flavored chicken. Also, try Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad, with grilled adobo chicken kebabs. The lemon cream dressing, jalapeño peppers, and capers will compliment the adobo along with the fresh mozzarella and ripe heirloom tomatoes.

Mix It Up

To mix things up, make fajitas with Adobo chicken kebabs with poblano rajas, sautéed strips of poblano peppers and white onions, instead of bell peppers. Using my recipe (linked above) for creamy poblano sauce, follow the instructions up to the step before you process the vegetables into the creamy sauce.

Adobo yogurt marinade is perfect for any type of chicken either grilled or roasted. Try it with a spatchcock chicken or other bone-in chicken pieces, either grilled or roasted. You can marinate bone-in chicken for a longer time than boneless chicken, but not more than 8 hours. Chicken gets mushy if marinated for too long.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

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Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs recipe.

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs

Grilled chicken kebabs marinated in a yogurt adobo sauce gets so tender and full of flavor. The adobo sauce adds a wonderful smokiness with bright flavors from the chilis and apple cider vinegar. There are so many variations you can do with adobo chicken kebabs. Serve them as is with fresh corn or a fruit salsa. Or, you can use the chicken kebabs and make chicken tacos or fajitas with poblanos rajas and Crema Mexicana or crème frâiche. See blog post for poblanos rajas recipe. 

Also, adobo sauce tastes delicious with shrimp or fish so you should have no problem using up the sauce. If you do not want to make the adobo sauce, buy a 7 oz can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce and purée until smooth. Try to add as much adobo sauce into your purée by scraping it off the chilis. You may not need all the chipotles. This sauce may be spicier and smokier than if you made the adobo from scratch.

Adobo sauce recipe is from Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez

Course Dinner
Cuisine American, Mexican
Keyword Adobo Chicken, Adobo Sauce, Chicken kebabs
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 14 minutes
marinating time 2 hours
Total Time 29 minutes
Servings 5 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Adobo Chicken Kebabs

  • 2 lbs (1 k) boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 tsp (3 g) Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp (1 g) granulated garlic
  • 1 tsp (1 g) dried onion
  • 1 ½ tsp (2 g) Mexican oregano or Italian oregano
  • 1 tsp (less than a gram) ground coriander
  • A few rounds of black pepper
  • ½ cup (125 ml) plain yogurt or buttermilk (see note)
  • ½ cup (125 ml) adobo sauce or ½ cup (125 ml) of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce puréed
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) apple cider vinegar or more to taste
  • Vegetable oil for the grill

Adobo Sauce from Truly Mexican by Roberto Santibañez

  • 3 ounces (75 g) guajillo chilies about 12
  • ¾ cup (185 ml) water plus water for soaking the chilies
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 ½ tsp (22.5 ml) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp (4.5 g) Kosher salt
  • ¾ tsp (4 g) granulated sugar
  • Rounded ¼ tsp of ground cumin
  • 9 inch 23 cm bamboo skewers or metal skewers for the kebabs

Instructions

For the chicken

  1. Cut the chicken thighs up into 1 ½ inch chunks.
  2. Place the cut up chicken thighs in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle in the Kosher salt, dried garlic, dried onion, oregano, ground coriander and black pepper. Mix the spices in the chicken turning the chicken pieces over with your hands until the spices are evenly mixed. Set aside on the counter.
  3. In a small bowl mix together the yogurt, adobo sauce, and apple cider vinegar. Mix until smooth and well incorporated.
  4. Pour the yogurt adobo sauce into the bowl with the chicken and thoroughly mix until the chicken is evenly coated with the marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for two hours or up to 6 hours.

  5. 30 minutes before you want to start cooking your kebabs, soak the bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes.
  6. Take your bowl of chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you want to start grilling to bring the chicken up to room temperature.
  7. When the skewers are sufficiently soaked, thread the chicken pieces on the skewers. I fit 6 pieces of chicken on each skewer. Be careful not to pack the chicken in too tight and therefore will take longer to cook. Set the chicken kebabs on a tray when done.

  8. In the meantime, get your grill ready. Prepare your gas or charcoal grill for a medium-hot fire.

Grill the Kebabs

  1. When the coals and grill grate are nice and hot, add some oil to a wad of paper towels. Hold onto your paper towel wad with long barbecue tongs and rub oil over the hot grill grate.

  2. Place the kebabs on a diagonal over the grate directly over the heat source. Grill the kebabs for 3 minutes then turn them over to the other side. Grill that side for 3 minutes. Continue cooking the chicken kebabs turning them over every 2 minutes until they are done, the internal temperature is 165°F (74°C). You might need to sacrifice one piece of chicken and cut it open to see if it is done. The total cooking time should be around 8 – 12 minutes depending on how hot your grill is.

  3. If the chicken kebabs are getting too charred, move them over to the side of the grill not directly over the coals or heat source. 

  4. When done, place the kebabs on a tray and cover with foil to rest for 5 minutes.

  5. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Adobo Sauce

  1. Prepare your chilies. Wipe the chiles clean and remove the stems. Slice each chili open down the side and remove the seeds and the veins as best you can.
  2. Heat a heavy-duty skillet or griddle to medium-low heat. (I used a non-stick electric griddle set at 325 - 350°F, (173°-176°C). It was great to fit all the chilies on the griddle in one fell swoop.) Toast the chilies turning them over until they slightly change color, soften and become fragrant About one minute. While you are toasting the chilies, press down on them to get as much of the surface area touching the hot surface.

  3. Add the toasted chilis to a bowl filled with enough cold water to cover the chilies for 30 minutes. Remove the chilies from the water and place them in a bowl of a blender or food processor. Discard the soaking water.
  4. Add ¾ cup of fresh water to the processor with the chilies, the garlic, apple cider vinegar, kosher salt, sugar, and cumin. Blend until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add more water to thin the purée as needed. Taste and adjust the seasoning. If you want a smooth and silky purée, press the adobo through a fine mesh strainer fitted over a bowl.

  5. Makes 1 ½ cups (375 ml) of adobo sauce 

Recipe Notes

You want to use plain yogurt, not Greek yogurt for the marinade. It is best if the marinade is not too thick. If Greek yogurt is all you have then thin it out with some milk or buttermilk. You can also substitute buttermilk for the yogurt. 

There is enough marinade for 3 pounds of chicken if you need to cook for a larger crowd. There is no need to make more marinade for the additional pound. 

Grilled Adobo Chicken Kebabs Recipe. A recipe for grilled adobo chicken kebabs. Seasoned chicken is marinated in a yogurt adobo sauce. This marinade creates very tender chicken kebabs with a slightly smoky chili flavor.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Building A Charcuterie Platter

Building a charcuterie platter.

It is time to take advantage of the remaining warm summer nights and enjoy an evening with friends, sparkling wine, and charcuterie. Entertaining does not get any easier than this. There is no cooking unless you want to make the pâté or a spread. Just assemble and relax.  What you place on your charcuterie platter is up to you, but you want to keep in mind how many people you are entertaining, variety in texture and flavor, plus add your personal stamp to the meal.  A charcuterie platter is a perfect meal for hot summer nights when it is too hot to cook, or just enjoying a sunset from your deck with friends.

But what is a charcuterie platter? By definition, charcuterie is a French name for a deli, or market, that sells cured meats, especially pork. Charcuterie also means the products that are sold in a charcuterie. With that understanding, a charcuterie platter is a platter or tray layered with smoked and cured meats and other specialty food items, like cheese and pickles.

Traditionally, a charcuterie platter is very meat focused and consists of a variety of cured meats like prosciutto, soppressata, and pâtés, with add-ins like pickles, spicy mustard, bread, or crackers. However, for my platter, and because I believe it is still in the realm of the definition of a charcuterie platter, I added cheeses, fruits, and vegetables.

Building A Charcuterie Platter.

How to Build a Charcuterie Platter

How does one put together all those different foods so that it looks appealing and covers all the bases of complementary tastes and contrasting textures? First, organize all your ingredients in groups, then arrange all of the ingredients in a decorative yet easy to reach manner.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Meats

Start with the meats. A good rule to follow is 2 oz of meat per person. Charcuterie platters contain very rich foods, so you do not want to overdo it. Pick three types of cured meat with different flavors and textures. The meats pictured on my charcuterie platter are soppressata, prosciutto, and bresaola. These three types of cured meats offer a variety in texture and flavor, although a subtle one. A common rule is, have meat that you slice like the soppressata, one meat that comes sliced, like prosciutto, and meat that you spread like pâté.

Other meat selections for slicing are Genoa salami, smoked sausage or ham (you can heat those up as well), and capicola.

Other meats you buy sliced are Guanciale or Mortadella.

Meats for spreading are smooth or chunky pâtés or terrines.

What is missing on my charcuterie board is pâté because my family does not care for it. Smoked fish or gravlax is also a nice alternative and an option for people who do not like pork or beef. Keep in mind you want to make something that you know you and your guests will enjoy.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Cheese

Similar to the cured meats, it is nice to have 3 different types of cheese on your charcuterie board as well. Although, if you want this to be charcuterie platter that is more meat-focused, one selection of cheese is fine.

Like the meats, your cheeses should have different textures and flavors. I usually follow this rule for building a cheese board, one soft rind triple cream cheese, one hard or sharp-tasting cheese, and one blue cheese. The possibilities are endless. If you do not like blue cheese swap in a soft goat cheese.

For my charcuterie platter, I selected Red Hawk a triple cream cheese from Cowgirl Creamery, Point Reyes Blue, from Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co., and Manchego.

Other cheese selections are:

For your triple cream cheese, try Kunik, (which is one of the best cheeses out there), Saint André, or a triple creme brie.

Any blue cheese, or goat cheese like Montechevere,

Other dry or aged cheese selections are Asiago or provolone or an Aged Gouda. These cheese pair nicely with the meats.

Building a Charcuterie Platter.

Add-ins

This is where you can get creative and add your personal spin to a charcuterie platter. Yet, keep in mind the additional accoutrements have a purpose other than tasting great and looking pretty. The add-ins provide a break from the rich meats and cheeses, provide textural contrast,  and clear the palate.

Fill your platter with a wide selection of any of these foods.

Fruits like figs, grapes, berries or dried fruits like apricots or figs are nice selections.

Pickles like cornichons are a must, but you can use other pickled vegetables like carrots, fennel, and chilies.

Briny olives like Kalamata or good green olives.

Fresh vegetables like fennel, cucumber, radishes, or carrots add an important textural contrast with their crisp crunch and are very refreshing.

Mustard is also an important ingredient to a charcuterie platter as they complement the cured meat wonderfully.

Jams like hot pepper jelly or fig jam. If you can find hot pepper jam it is one of my favorite jams with cheese. The sweet and spicy jelly is addictive.

Spreads like hummus and tapenade taste great with charcuterie.

Nuts. Any nut like walnuts, almonds or pistachios you can’t go wrong. Just make sure there are no nut allergies before you add them to your platter.

Building a charcuterie platter.

The list is long, but choose a selection of three fruits and/or vegetables, with a couple of specialty items. Don’t be redundant. If you have olive tapenade, do not put out olives. If you have fig jam don’t put out fresh figs, pick another fruit instead. Although, when in season fresh figs are delicious with charcuterie.

Just remember one thing, do not forget the mustard, sweet or spicy or both, it doesn’t matter. In France, it is sacrilegious to serve charcuterie without mustard.

Serve

It is nice to arrange everything on one platter and serve with bread or crispy crackers. You can also arrange your charcuterie selection on more than one platter. This is especially important if some of your guests eat a plant-based diet. They might not want their selections mixed in with the meats or cheeses. By the middle of the evening, the charcuterie platter will get messy, so it is thoughtful of you to keep the foods separate. Serving the charcuterie selections on multiple platters works well for larger parties when you will have more meats to arrange on your board.

Toasted French baguette makes a more substantial selection and looks nice when sliced thin on the diagonal. I especially like to serve charcuterie with bread when I want my charcuterie platter to be a meal. Thin crispy plain crackers work well with the cheese and meats too. Also, I found people really enjoy breadsticks as well.

Serve your charcuterie platter at room temperature. You will need to slice the meats and cheeses when they are cold, but everything tastes better when they are at room temperature.

Building a charcuterie platter.

Beverages

Chilled sparkling wines like a Spanish Cava or an Italian Prosecco, Lambrusco, or a dry rosé are perfect for this type of meal, especially on hot summer nights. Some dry reds that are not too heavy pair nicely as well. Dry sparkling wines help cut the richness of the cheese and meats and clear the palate so you can keep on sampling.

Beer is another good beverage of choice, but I would not do anything too rich. I really enjoyed the pairing of a red ale with my Irish Cheese Platter, so I imagine it works with charcuterie as well.

My son Andrew recommends Saisons because they are dry and spicy, or a good Pilsner. These types of beer will help clear the palate. He also loves Lambic, a Belgium Sour, with charcuterie. Low alcohol beers work nicely because they do not fill you up and you can easily snack on your charcuterie.

For a non-alcohol beverage, seltzer is perfect. Mixed in with lime, or lemon and/or cucumber is very refreshing and helps clear the palate. Anything bubbly that is not sweet. Stay away from soda. You won’t taste the charcuterie if you are drinking a coke.

Building A Charcuterie Platter.

I hope you enjoy the remains of summer and the ease of the season with charcuterie and friends.

Building a Charcuterie Platter. A how to guide for making a delicious charcuterie platter. This charcuterie platter is filled with cured meats, cheese, pickles, fruit, vegetables, hot pepper jelly, mustard, and nuts.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

Appetizers, Cheese, Fall, Recipes, Salad, Summer | August 15, 2018 | By

Creamy tomato and mozzarella salad is a nice alternative to the more traditional Caprese Salad. Both have their place as an exceptional first course or appetizer and both feature ripe tomatoes and fresh mozzarella nicely as the star ingredients. Yet creamy tomato and mozzarella salad have an element of surprise with heat from the jalapeño chilies, a slight brininess from the capers, and a bright lemony creaminess from the dressing.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

Mozzarella Salad

To make this mozzarella salad sing like the opening act of an all-star concert, be very particular about the ingredients you use.

Tomatoes

First and foremost, only use perfectly ripe tomatoes and locally grown tomatoes if you can get them. This mozzarella salad is at its best when the tomatoes are in season and bursting with sweet sun-ripened flavor. Out of season tomatoes just won’t do the salad justice. The juices from ripe tomatoes will blend into the dressing creating a sauce perfect for soaking up with good crusty bread. If you must make this salad before or after tomato season, use cherry or grape tomatoes as you can get a good tasting and ripe, hydroponically grown grape tomatoes during the year.

Also, use any variety of tomato, as long as the tomatoes are ripe. If you like to mix things up, use a variety of tomatoes with different shapes, sizes, and color. Yellow tomatoes are especially nice in this mozzarella salad as they have less acid than the red variety.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

Fresh Mozzarella

Second, use only fresh mozzarella. The vacuum sealed mozzarella you find in the dairy section of the store is no substitute. Even the brand that looks like it is fresh mozzarella. If it is vacuumed sealed it is not fresh.  Don’t even think about it. That cheese works nicely on a pizza but not in a salad. Fortunately, several markets make their own mozzarella, so it is not hard to come by. Often the mozzarella is kept in water, or just freshly wrapped in plastic wrap and sold the day it is made. Buffalo mozzarella is another alternative if you can find it.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Third, use the best tasting extra virgin olive oil you can afford. Don’t use the generic extra virgin olive oil that is really a blend of oils, but real extra virgin olive oil with a fruity and peppery note and body. You do not need to buy the most expensive one, just a good one that you like.

More tomato recipes

Tomato Tart with Ricotta

Almost Classic Nicoise Salad for Two

Summer Vegetable Steak Salad with Spicy Citrus Dressing

Anything Goes Lemon Potato Salad

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

By using the best quality ingredients, this mozzarella salad is hard to resist. It is immensely satisfying as only food made with fresh quality ingredients is. Both tomatoes and fresh mozzarella taste best when they are at room temperature, so serve the mozzarella salad at room temperature. Though, it is easier to slice mozzarella when it is cold and right out of the refrigerator. I recommend making the salad no more than an hour before you want to serve it. Unfortunately, mozzarella salad is not a make-ahead meal.

Additionally, I recommend slicing the mozzarella and tomatoes into reasonable size slices. My yellow tomato was very large, so I cut each slice into quarters. It was a lot more manageable that way. Also, I cut each mozzarella slice in half, especially the middle slices.

If you wish, you can rip large bite-size pieces of the mozzarella and scatter the pieces over the tomatoes instead of layering each slice. This looks especially nice when you have different varieties of tomatoes in your salad and you arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella in a random pattern.

#wesaytomaotes

Mozzarella Salad makes a delicious first course or an appetizer with slices of grilled crusty bread like a baguette. You are going to want something to soak up the delicious juices from the tomatoes and dressing. Either way, this tomato and mozzarella salad is a fine addition to your salad repertoire.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad Recipe.

August and September are the best months to enjoy ripe tomatoes so go get some before they are gone.

This recipe is adapted from Marinated Mozzarella with Crème Fraîche and Lemon and Marjoram by Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, Happy Days with the Naked Chef, and Lemon Cream from Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden.

My Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe is part of a social media collaborative project featuring tomatoes. Below the recipe is a list of all the talented Instagramers and food bloggers who are participating in the #wesaytomatoes collaboration. Please check out their tomato recipes for more tomato inspiration

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella salad recipe. A fresh and brights tasting tomato and mozzarella salad with a luxurious lemon cream dressing and topped with minced jalapeno, capers and fresh herbs.
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Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

Creamy tomato and mozzarella salad is a wonderful change from the traditional Caprese Salad. Like a Caprese salad, creamy tomato and mozzarella salad showcase both the tomatoes and mozzarella as the stars of the meal. Yet in this salad, the fresh mozzarella and sun-ripened tomatoes get a subtle yet complimentary embellishment from the lemon cream, minced jalapeño chilis, and fresh herbs. The layer of heat from the chili pairs nicely with the fresh cheese and creamy dressing and adds a crisp bite within this yielding salad. I like adding a subtle but briny tang to the salad, so I added capers for some extra lift.  

This is one of those salads that you don't really need to follow the recipe ingredients amounts exactly. Use this recipe as a guideline and adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. The food pairings are lovely, but how much jalapeño, fresh herbs, capers, and dressing is best determined by your taste. If you use the best quality ingredients, this mozzarella salad is a winner no matter how much jalapeño you add. When adjusting the ingredients to your taste, remember to start with less as you can always add more. It is much harder to take away.

If you can find fresh marjoram substitute it for the oregano. This dish benefits from the flavor of fresh herbs, so do not use dried herbs. If you are not a fan of oregano, substitute it with fresh thyme, lemon thyme or rosemary. 

This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver’s Marinated Mozzarella in Crème Fraiche with Lemon and Marjoram from his book, Happy Days. The Creamy dressing is adapted from Joshua McFadden’s Lemon Cream, in his book, Six Seasons

Best eaten at room temperature and the day it is made. 

Course Appetizer, First Course, Salad
Keyword Mozzarella, Mozzarella Salad, Tomatoes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Infusion time for the Lemon Cream Dressing 2 hours
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 people
Author Ginger

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs (1 kg) ripe tomatoes any variety or color
  • 1 lb (500 g) fresh mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Black pepper to taste
  • Lemon Dressing
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ - 1 jalapeño chili
  • 1 TB capers
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Fresh oregano or marjoram to taste about 2 teaspoons or more

Lemon Dressing

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and smashed remove green germ
  • Pinch Kosher Salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp of lemon zest
  • 1 TB (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 TB (15 ml) extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

Make the lemon dressing

  1. In a small bowl add the garlic and heavy cream and allow to infuse for a couple of hours in the refrigerator. This gives you a nice garlic flavor without the bracing bite from garlic. 

  2. After 2 hours, fish out the garlic cloves from the heavy cream and add the Kosher salt and several rounds of freshly ground black pepper, and lemon zest.

  3. Using a wire whisk, whisk the cream by hand until the cream just starts to thicken. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and whisk until airy but pourable. This won’t get thick like fully whipped cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Cover the bowl and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Best if used the same day it is made. 

Assemble the Salad

  1. Slice the tomatoes a shy 1/2 inch (1 cm) thick and spread out in a single layer on a tray or cutting board. Lightly sprinkle the slices with flaky sea salt and fresh black pepper. Slice the mozzarella in ¼ inch (.5cm) slices.

  2. Arrange the tomatoes and mozzarella slices around a platter by alternating slices of tomatoes with slices of mozzarella. 

  3. Slice the jalapeño pepper in half and remove the stem, white pith and seeds. The white pith and seeds carry most of the heat in the chili so if you want it a little spicier, leave some of the white pith intact. However, make sure you remove all of the seeds as they would look unappealing in this dish. Mince the jalapeño chili and sprinkle it over the tomatoes and mozzarella. You may only need about half of the jalapeño chili, but use as much as you want. 

  4. Sprinkle some of the fresh oregano, and capers over the salad. Pretend like you are Jackson Pollock and paint the tomatoes and mozzarella arrangement with the lemon cream. Depending on how thick the lemon cream is, I find it works best if you wave a spoon back and forth, filled with the dressing above the salad. You will get a random pattern of the creamy dressing but not a heavy and gloppy looking one. You will not use all the dressing. Serve extra dressing on the side for those who want more. 

  5. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil over the salad and extra herbs, capers and minced jalapeño, flaky sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. 


  6. Serve room temperature as a salad or first course. Or serve as an appetizer with crusty bread or grilled bread.
  7. This is best eaten the day it is made. If you have some leftovers, store in the refrigerator and eat up the next day. 

Creamy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad recipe.A fresh and brights tasting tomato and mozzarella salad with a luxurious lemon cream dressing and topped with minced jalapeno, capers and fresh herbs.

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© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

What happens when a novel experience turns into a regular routine? You get to eat creamy homemade yogurt as part of your regular diet. For me, making the homemade yogurt phenomenon started as a curious experiment that quickly turned into something bigger than I could imagine. Not only did I learn about fermentation and a new cooking technique, I realized that the act of making yogurt at home, has additional valuable contributions besides enjoying a delicious and nutritious snack.

It all started when I was reading about Middle Eastern cuisine and in particular, Lebanese cuisine. While reviewing Maureen Abood’s cookbook, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms, it became evident that yogurt was a central ingredient in Lebanese food. In many of her recipes homemade yogurt or labneh, cheese made from yogurt, was the central ingredient. As a result, I believed if I really wanted to understand this cuisine, then I must learn how to make its most central ingredient, yogurt.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Homemade Yogurt

Unfortunately, the very first batch of yogurt I made did not set properly. I reached out to Maureen Abood and she explained, sometimes the yogurt just does not set up. It happens. Discouraged, but not daunted I tried again with a different yogurt starter and had great success. What a triumph. It was like the first time I made a loaf of bread, something I thought was impossible was now possible.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

My initial taste of the inaugural homemade yogurt was a revelation. This is one of those foods where you can taste the difference between homemade and store-bought. Homemade yogurt has the distinctive acidic tang, but it is a lot creamier in texture. I used to not like plain yogurt without any sweetener, but homemade yogurt has a je ne sais quoi taste about it. It is fresh, creamy, mild and tangy all at the same time. Can you taste fresh? Yes. It is the difference between eating an egg just plucked from the chicken coop to eating one bought from the store and is 4 weeks old. There is a presence that is hard to describe but you know it is there.

However, to change the habit and forgo the convenience of buying yogurt, it takes more than a curiosity to turn a novel experience into a weekly routine. After making yogurt a few times, I came to realize three benefits that will add up to significant changes for the better. First, I could support the local Hudson River Valley dairy industry, which consists mostly of family-run dairy farms that practice sustainable farming. Second, I could save money by not buying individual yogurt containers. Third, I will reduce my carbon footprint by buying locally sourced food and not buy all those plastic containers. This triple reinforcement, plus the desire to reduce the amount of sugar in our diet, sealed the deal and I started my weekly homemade yogurt routine.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Hudson River Valley Milk

Fortunately, my local grocery store carries several brands of milk that come from dairy farms in the Hudson River Valley. Most of the dairies source their milk from a cooperative of dairy farms that meet their standards of quality, sustainability, and humane treatment of animals. These brands are not USDA organic milk, but I know they are operating under the best practice policies to produce quality milk, maybe even better than the USDA standards. Another bonus is this milk is not ultra-pasteurized, which is crucial for making yogurt or any type of cheese. Even though it is not labeled USDA Organic, it is as organic as it can be.

Most of the USDA organic milk you find in the major grocery stores, is ultra-pasteurized. This is done so the milk has a longer shelf life. It is the one thing the industrial organic dairy farms must do in order for grocery stores to stock their product. This is because organic milk is more expensive and thus takes longer to sell. Unfortunately, ultra-pasteurization kills off good bacteria as well as the bad bacteria in the milk. It is the live cultures, the good bacteria, that help create yogurt and cheese, plus pasteurized milk has more nutritional value thank ultra-pasteurized.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Hudson River Valley Dairies

Listed below are dairies whose products are available in my area.

Hudson Valley Fresh

Five Acres Farm

Ronnybrook Farm

This post is not a sponsored post. I am just passing along my experience and research about local farming and how a person can make a difference to slow down climate change. I am sure there are other dairies out there that produce top quality milk and practice sustainable farming, even in my area. The dairies listed are just the ones available to me at this time.

Lower Your Carbon Footprint

I am lucky to live in an area that has a long history of family-run farms and agriculture, but it is only recently that they became available. Before I could buy local milk, I found a brand of organic milk that was not ultra-pasteurized in my local health-food store, Natural by Nature. This company is a family run business in Pennsylvania, so it is not too far away so I still consider it local. Fortunately, I did not have to look all over the county looking for it either. You might have to widen your circle, but hopefully, you can find an affordable source of organic pasteurized milk near you without too much trouble.

Over the years I have come to understand that any agricultural industry involving cattle has enormous environmental concerns from the methane gas released into the atmosphere, to the pollution from the runoff into our groundwater, and the health and safety of the cows. In my opinion, supporting local farmers who maintain environmentally friendly farming practices, and creates a healthy and humane environment for the cows, has a multiplier effect. There is less pollution compared to its industrial counterpart, creates food that is not stripped of nutrition because the cows eat an appropriate diet without growth hormones and antibiotics, and it helps local economies.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Helpful Tips for Making Homemade Yogurt

At its most basic, yogurt is milk with added live cultures, Streptococcus thermophilus, and Lactobacillus delbrueckii bulgaricus, that ferment in a warm environment until thick. It is the live cultures and warm incubating temperature that are essential to transforming milk into yogurt.

Yogurt is relatively simple to make but it does take some time for it to ferment and thicken. I found starting the process at night after dinner was the easiest way to work making yogurt into a weekly routine. This way the yogurt could incubate in the oven overnight and as soon as I woke up I placed the yogurt in the refrigerator for the second resting period. Later that afternoon or early evening, I strained out the whey for 3 hours.

The standard formula is: for every half-gallon (2 l) of milk, you need 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of yogurt starter. It is a one to one ratio: 1-quart milk to 1 TB yogurt starter. Using this ratio, the recipe easily scales up if you want to make more. Don’t be tempted to add more starter. One, you don’t need it and two, it will make the yogurt grainy.

The temperatures listed in the recipe are important for successful fermenting. Therefore, you need to pay attention and make sure the milk does not come to a boil and later, drop below 115°F when it’s time to add the starter. Also, a warm environment is essential for the cultures to do their thing. I have read, the incubation temperature is ideally at 100°F (38°C). If you have to keep it on the counter, wrap it up in a blanket and place under your kitchen cabinets or near a heating vent. If your cabinets have undermounted lights, turn them on. Room temperature is not ideal, but it might take longer for the yogurt to ferment.

I find the most reliable place to incubate the yogurt is in my oven with the oven light on. It is out-of-the-way in the oven and the yogurt stays warm from the heat of the light bulb. Because I have a tendency when something is out of sight, it is also out of mind, I place a sign on the oven door with big lettering Y O G U R T and a note of the time. Without that sign, I would completely forget about the yogurt and turn on the oven.

Not all commercial-brand yogurt are equal. Read the label and only use real yogurt with live active yogurt cultures. Stay away from brands with thickeners and stabilizers. I use Fage or Dannon, whole milk or low-fat plain yogurt with consistent results. Any good quality and real yogurt should work.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Yogurt for the Family

Would I make this if my kids were young and still living at home? Would they eat it? Maybe. Though, I would definitely need to sweeten the yogurt to get them to eat it. I found a small amount, about 1 teaspoon, of real maple syrup or honey, to a half a cup of yogurt gives a subtle sweetness and reduces the tang. Cinnamon also adds a sweet impression without the extra sugar. You can also sweeten yogurt with fresh fruit, real fruit purées or jams, and fruit compote. Even though you are adding some sugar, it is significantly less sugar than the store-bought variety. It is certainly worth a try.

An easy blueberry compote is roast 2 cups (500 ml) of fresh blueberries tossed with 2 TB of sugar in a 350°F (175°C) oven for 18 minutes. Tip the blueberries and their juices in a bowl and add 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice and a 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries. Stir and allow to cool. This recipe comes from Yogurt Culture (linked below). It is super easy and incredibly delicious. When mixed with yogurt, it makes the best blueberry yogurt I have ever had. I am positive my children would have gobbled it right up.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Recipe Inspiration for your Homemade Yogurt

Grilled Chicken Salad with Yogurt Avocado Dressing

Roasted Curry Chicken with Potatoes and Raisins

Potato Salad with Sorrel Yogurt Dressing

Baked Eggs in Sautéed Greens with Zesty Yogurt Sauce

Orange Spice Belgian Waffles

Spiced Figs with Yogurt Panna Cotta

Like buttermilk, yogurt mixed with other herbs and spices is a great marinade for chicken and lamb.

My Inspiration and  References

Here is a list of the three references I used over the past two years to learn about making yogurt and its history. If you want to really learn all about fermentation, the book The Art of Fermentation has everything you need to know about making all types of fermented food.

Maureen Abood, Rose Water and Orange Blossoms

Cheryl Sternman Rule, Yogurt Culture, and Team Yogurt

Sandor Ellix Katz, The Art of Fermentation

 

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Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

Homemade Yogurt

It may look daunting to make your own yogurt, but it is relatively simple. In the beginning, you need to keep an eye on the temperature, but mostly you just have to wait and give the cultures time to ferment. Other than the yogurt culture, the most important ingredients are time and temperature. You need 8-10 hours to incubate the yogurt in a warm draft-free environment, and an additional 8 hours in the refrigerator to finish. Once these steps are complete, you can eat it right away or strain out some of the whey for Greek-style yogurt.

Because there are only two ingredients in yogurt, use the best quality milk and yogurt you can buy. For best results, the yogurt used as your culture must contain real live cultures and no fillers, gums, or artificial ingredients. I use Fage and Dannon yogurt whenever I start with a new yogurt culture.

Seek out organic milk that is not ultra-pasteurized as this process kills off important and healthy bacteria needed for making yogurt.

You can use your homemade yogurt as a culture for up to 3-4 generations. After that, start over with a new batch of yogurt bought at the grocery.

This recipe scales up to 1 gallon of milk with ¼ cup (65 ml) fresh yogurt culture.

Yield: Makes about 7 cups (1 L 750 ml) yogurt before straining out the whey. 

Serving size is a half a cup (125 ml)

Keyword Yogurt
Cook Time 20 minutes
Author Ginger

Ingredients

Equipment needed

  • Heavy bottom stock pot or Dutch oven with lid
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Small bowl for tempering the starter
  • Whisk
  • Stainless steel mixing spoon or rubber spatula
  • Large bowl partially filled with ice optional
  • A warm and dry place like an oven for incubating the yogurt
  • Triple layer cheesecloth or thin flour sack towel
  • Strainer
  • String
  • Storage container

Ingredients

  • ½ gallon of milk whole or 2%, preferably organic and not ultra-pasteurized
  • 2 TB yogurt with live active cultures like Dannon or Fage

Instructions

Prepping your utensils

  1. Make sure all your utensils, pots and bowls are clean. Clean them with hot water and soap and drip dry on a clean kitchen towel. I do not sterilize my utensils or pots when I make yogurt, but some people do. If you wish to sterilize your utensils and pot, run them through a complete cycle in your dishwasher. You can sterilize your instant-read thermometer by placing the probe in a mug of boiling water and drip dry on a clean kitchen towel.

Heat the milk

  1. Rub an ice cube over the bottom and partially up the sides of your stock pot. This helps the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you do not have ice cubes, run the bottom of the pot under cold water and empty any water that collects in the pot.
  2. Pour your milk in the stock pot and set the burner between medium / medium-high.

  3. Take your starter, 2 tablespoons of yogurt out of the refrigerator and add it to a small bowl like a cereal bowl. Set it aside so it will come to room temperature while you heat and later cool the milk.
  4. Slowly, heat the milk until it reaches 185°F / 85.5°C without stirring. Any temperature at or slightly above 180°F (82°C) but below 195°F (90.5°C). You do not want the milk to boil or be too hot and kill off the important yogurt-making bacteria.

  5. When you reach 185°F / 85.5°C, lower the heat and maintain that temperature for 5 minutes.
  6. It is hard to maintain a constant temperature, at least on my stove, just keep it in the 180°F - 186°F /82°C- 85.5°C range. If you go below 180°F (82°C) stop stirring and turn up the heat until you get back at that temperature.

Cool the milk

  1. Turn off the heat and remove the pot from the stove. Let the milk rest until it cools down to 115°F (46°C). I allow my milk to cool on the counter and stir it every now and then to help release the steam. I set the timer to keep track of the time and check the temperature frequently. This process can take around 35 minutes, give or take.

    A faster method of cooling the milk is to fill a large bowl partway with ice and cold water. The bowl needs to be large enough to accommodate your stock pot with ice water surrounding the bottom and partway up the sides of your pot. A sink will work as well. Stir the milk in a back and forth manner every now and then until it is cool. Remove the pot from the ice bath when it reaches around 118° – 120°F (48° - 49°C). Place on the counter and keep the instant-read thermometer in the milk so you do not cool the milk below 115°F (46°). If the milk does fall below 115°, place the pot back on the burner and heat it up 115°F (46°C).

Add the Yogurt Starter

  1. Add one ladleful of the 115°F (46° C) milk in the bowl with your starter yogurt. Whisk the yogurt mixture until well incorporated then pour the yogurt culture in the pot with the milk. Stir then cover. Place the inoculated milk inside a draft-free and warm space.

Incubate the yogurt culture

  1. Place your yogurt culture in a warm draft-free place. In my house, my oven is the best spot. Keep the oven warm by keeping the oven light on. I found it does not always work if I let the yogurt incubate on the counter. According to Cheryl Sternman Rule in her book Yogurt culture, the ideal temperature for incubating yogurt around 100°F (38°C).

  2. Allow the cultured milk to incubate for 6 – 10 hours. Sometimes, it takes longer, up to 12 hours, but the consistent incubation time is around 8-10 hours. The yogurt is done when it looks thick and solid with some liquid, the whey, sloshing about when you jiggle the pot. It will look like plain yogurt. 

Chill

  1. One final step before eating your yogurt is to chill it in the refrigerator for several hours. Tip the yogurt in a bowl and tightly cover with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid. Add the yogurt to the refrigerator and chill for 6-8 hours or overnight. This extra step develops more flavor and a creamier consistency.

  2. Voiá, you just made yogurt! 

  3. Before you use up your yogurt, measure out 2 tablespoons (30 ml) to ¼ cup (60 ml) of yogurt and place in a bowl with a tight fitting lid. Label and date the yogurt. You will use this yogurt for your next batch of yogurt. Store in the refrigerator for up to 7 days. Taste before using to make sure it is not starting to turn. You can get 3-4 generations of yogurt when using starter from homemade yogurt. After that, start fresh with a new batch of yogurt from the grocery store.

Greek Style Yogurt

  1. Normally, I strain my yogurt for about 2-3 hours to thicken it up and produce Greek Style yogurt.
  2. To strain the yogurt, line the bowl of a fine mesh strainer or colander with a moistened triple layer of cheesecloth or a damp tea towel. The length of the towel or cheesecloth should drape over the sides of the strainer. Place the strainer or colander over a large bowl to catch the whey.
  3. Scrape the yogurt into the lined strainer. Draw up the four corners of your cheesecloth or towel and bring them together. Tighten them close to the yogurt and tie with a string or twisty. Place the bowl with the colander in the refrigerator and drain the yogurt until it reaches the consistency you desire. The longer it strains the thicker it gets. I like the consistency after straining for 3 hours.

  4. When done, place the yogurt in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid and store in the refrigerator. The yogurt will keep for a week.
  5. If your yogurt is thicker than you like, add some of the whey back in to loosen it up.

  6. Reserve your whey and store in a covered container in the refrigerator for 2 weeks.

Recipe Notes

Yogurt dries out inconsistently throughout the incubating and straining process. This creates some lumpy spots in your yogurt. This is normal. If you want smooth yogurt, spoon out the amount you want then whisk it right before using. Whisking the yogurt will make the yogurt looser, but it gets out the lumps.

Whey

Don’t throw out the whey. It is great in many recipes and for marinades. Use whey in any recipe calling for traditional yogurt, not Greek yogurt, or milk like in baked goods, pancakes, and bread. Whey is acidic, so it will activate the baking soda. Use in smoothies. Use as a tenderizer for meats and in marinades. Whey will last in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Creamy Homemade Yogurt recipe.

© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

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