Greek Yogurt: Where MacGyver Meets Momma-G

I really love Greek yogurt.  Mixed with a banana, a handful of almonds andsunflower seeds, it is the power breakfast that keeps me running from six until noon, and helps me bypass the carbs that settle around what used to be my waist.

However, Greek yogurt is expensive.  Now that everyone is home for the summer, every food item has to undergo an evaluation to measure its cost against its relative family value.  In short, I have to trim the budget.

Madison women are known for our prowess in a budget conscious world.  In the seventies, my mother gardened, canned, put up jam, and yes, made her own yogurt for her family of ten.  She started with a yogurt maker, but within hours all five cups were gone.  She soon switched to a gallon size glass Sultana peanut butter jar, and used the pilot light in the gas oven to keep it warm.  It made wonderful albeit thin yogurt.  I still remember how my dad loved to mix it with homemade preserves and eat it as an evening snack.

Nobody sells gallon sized peanut butter jars anymore.  They do sell it in plastic buckets but it would take several years for my family to eat all that peanut butter.  The thought of that amount makes me gag.  Still, I needed something large and made of glass- not easy to find in this age of cellophane and Tupperware.  Undaunted, I dug deep into the cupboards and produced a large glass applesauce jar I had kept for storing home made soup. 

I looked up a basic yogurt recipe on the internet.  Easy- heat 2 cups of milk until boiling, cool, add 2 tablespoons of starter, and incubate for about twelve hours.  To make Greek style yogurt, just strain off the whey (technical talk for milk products) leaving the dense, tart concoction I crave.

I was able to boil the milk without trouble, and added the starter when it reached the proper temperature.  It was then that I hit a snag.  I have an electric oven. There is no pilot light.  It stays as cold as a stone when not in use.  When turned on, its lowest temperature is about one hundred and seventy degrees- about seventy degrees too high.

Hmm… what to do?

When my kids were growing up, one of our favorite television shows was MacGyver.  As any child of the eighties knows, MacGyver was a genius at finding unorthodox solutions to unusual challenges.   He made repairs from chewing gum, pen barrels and duct tape.  He had a clock powered by potatoes.  Not only that- he had a social conscience and was opposed to guns.  I thought I died and went to Heaven.  I think the kids outgrew him before I did. 

My kids dubbed me Mrs. MacGyver, because I too, did some unorthodox handiwork.  I have duct-taped sneakers, toothpasted nail holes and stapled hems with the best of them.  Also, I have performed repair jobs to which I will never admit, for fear of prosecution from past landlords. Suffice to say, I am fierce with a power drill.  

So I was not about to admit defeat over a small thing like this.  The crock-pot was too hot.  The cooler filled with warm water too cold.  After much pondering, I decided to try an electric heating pad.  I tried measuring the temperature on the lowest setting, by sticking my kids’ oral thermometer inside a folded area.  It kept beeping at me, displaying a message that means either the thermometer is improperly placed or the patient is dead.  I gave up, figuring I couldn’t go wrong with a Medium setting.

I carefully wrapped the jar filled with the precious white substance and secured the pad with a large elastic band.  Twelve hours later, I had produced the same runny yogurt of my mothers’ days.  It took me another twenty minutes to strain the yogurt through cheesecloth, which, by the way, is not easy to find. At long last, I produced my first batch of Greek yogurt.   I’m not sure how much money I saved, but MacGyver would be proud.

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