Making Yogurt

On Thursday,  I mentioned that I’d managed to get my hands on some glass-bottle milk.

At £1.20 per litre, this rivals the speciality jersey milk that you get in the supermarkets on price, though on taste, it’s FAR better.

That said, it’s not something I indulge in often. Not because I don’t think it’s worth the money – it absolutely is. The cows are happy, the milking process is literally transparent (with a giant window where customers can watch), and the money goes directly to the farmer rather than a huge corporation. That the bottles are refillable from a vending machine on site and that I can also purchase ice-cream there are the icing on the proverbial cake.

I don’t buy it often because I’m not often passing so close to Aberdeen, and because I’m really mean with my petrol. A round-trip to the dairy takes around an hour and when I’m already spending more on taking the kids to school/nursery than I am on feeding us every month, this is a fuel expense I really can’t justify.

So when I do get it, it’s exactly as precious as all milk should be.

Which is why my heart was honestly in my mouth the whole time I went about making yogurt the other day. I figured, if I could use the refillable milk to make natural yogurt from, then I could do away with another single-use plastic from our lives (and potentially have an excuse to go to the dairy more often…)

The thrift shop my mum volunteers at was selling an old-style Easiyo set, which I bought for £3. Normally, you use sachets of powder with this (which I guess is still a reduction in single-use plastic too as the sachets will be smaller than a yogurt pot and less bulky to transport), but I didn’t want to add another grocery to my shopping list.

I’d read yogurt making tutorials online before which basically involve tossing a couple of tablespoons of natural yogurt into 500mls or so of milk, heating to body temperature and then leaving overnight so I thought I would combine the two methods – I added some yogurt and milk to the Easiyo pot, then followed the instructions on the website

Except I did it wrong. I misunderstood where I was supposed to put the pot and for the first 30 seconds it ended up submerged in boiling water.

It worked, regardless, though the end result is rather thin. I did take a video of it slopping off the spoon, but unfortunately, I can’t get it to load so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

The taste is right, the texture – all wrong.

After some internetting, I discovered that keeping the yogurt at a steady temperature for longer is one way to go, so I might try that in future – using my trusty Thermos flasks instead of the Easiyo. This time though, I tried straining it through a coffee filter….

Which is fine, but it does create the waste product ‘whey’.  On this occassion, I’ve used half of the whey as a water substitute in these super cheap tomato scones but this isn’t a sustainable process financially, given that realistically speaking, I’d be throwing this whey out if I were to regularly strain yogurt.

Each 1l bottle of milk costs £1.20 (not counting the fuel to get to the dairy), which means that 100mls costs 12p. I made 600mls of yogurt, so 6×12=72p. But then I strained the yogurt, which meant that I actually got 300mls of yogurt for 72p, and when you can buy natural yogurt at 45p per 500ml*, the whole endeavour becomes something of a moot point.

I checked how much it would be to buy the Easiyo sachets online. A sachet, after all, is less packaging than a bucket-like tub so if I could make yogurt in this way, it would still be a plastic saving. Unfortunately, the sachets cost between £2.50 – £3 and make 1kg of yogurt, which is significantly more expensive than the massive Lidl bucket containing the same amount.

So… what’s the bottom line with yogurt? In short, it’s got to be a rare treat, rather than a staple. Whether I make it myself or buy it in plastic, it needs to be a very rare thing indeed.

Sad times. 😦

If you still eat meat and dairy, do you still consume yogurt? If so, how do you do so sustainably? ❤

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*Prices via MySupermarket – correct at time of publishing.

Reduced-plastic grocery shop – Morrisons

On Monday, I went to Morrisons to do my shopping.

While I was there, I saw some pretty great things – my favourite being trays of local eggs where you could purchase as many or as few as required.

If you can read my crappy writing, this is our meal plan for the week. In order of consumption they go…

Lasagne  – I made this on Sunday night so it was ready for when I got in on Monday. It was made from leftovers, so no shopping needed.
Vegetable Chilli – I had some peppers and leftover homemade guacamole in my fridge, as well as canned tomatoes and kidney beans at home. Of the groceries above, I’ll be using onion, garlic and carrot.
Ham Quiche – This is going to use up the ham my son didn’t finish last week, as well as some eggs we already had in. Of the above, I’ll be using the flour to make the pastry.
Stir Fry – I’ll be using another of the peppers from my fridge, some spring onions I have at home, rice, and a variety of condimemts (i.e. fish sauce, sugar, five-spice, soy sauce and cornflour to make a sauce). From the pictured groceries I’ll use a chicken thigh (possibly two) and the brocoli. The rest of the chicken will go in the freezer for future recipes.
Chick pea curry – This is a favourite in our house. I’ll use a can of chick peas that I already have, plus some rice that we already have, plus some lime pickle we already have. From the above, I’ll use onion, garlic and carrot, plus some of the non-brewed condiment* for the start of a mango chutney I’ve been making.
Beurre Blanc – this is the Jack Monroe recipe, only I use spagetti and butter beans instead. The wine we use was inherrited when my inlaws died, and I tend to keep this recipe for the end of the week when the cupboards are running low. It’s a real treat to finish on.

The stuff unaccounted for includes:
Strawberries, 6 bananas, 2 passion fruits, 2 lemons, 4 apples, 1 pineapple, lots of flour, lots of butter, sausage meat, 12 bagels, 1 bar of white chocolate and the rest of the non-brewed condiment.

Plans for the rest:
We’ll just snack on the strawberries. I will carve up the pineapple, mix it with the passion fruits and one chopped apple and we’ll have this as topping for yogurt (more on that in a second) and oats as breakfast. The bagels will cover us for breakfast for 3 days. For lunch, we’ll be having a combination of things on bread, made from the flour above and fresh yeast – usually hummus and grated carrots, or some sort of egg. The sausage meat has been made into sausage rolls of Daugher’s lunch box. she’ll start the week with two of the eight I’ve made, then the rest will go in the freezer so I have some ready-made things for more rushed weeks. The chocolate is for me.

Additional:
This week’s menu is chick-pea heavy so I’ll be collecting the aqua faba to use as an egg substitute in the baking I do (some of it has already been transformed into chocolate mousse for Daughter to take to school). This way, I can use the actual eggs I have as bread topping and in the quiche. Also worth noting – this week I’ve purchased pineapple, but it’s been melon for the last few weeks and I’ve taken to drying the seeds in the oven for use in baking.

Yogurt:
I promised more information regarding the yogurt I was planning to eat this week and I will deliver, but as I’ve been typing out what’s going on there, I’ve realised that it deserves its own post… watch this space.
TLDR? I tried making yogurt from expensive glass-bottle milk…

THE PLASTIC I BROUGHT HOME

And here’s the bottom line bit… How much plastic did I bring home? There’s a film on the top of the cardboard strawberry box (not recyclable) , the meat box (PET1, curbside recyclable) with its film (not recyclable), the butter wrappers (not recyclable), and the tube the sausage meat came in (not recyclable).

As I’m sure you’ve all guessed, the animal products required the most packaging. In future, I can avoid these by taking my own tubs to the Morrisons butcher counter.

How much did it cost? The groceries from the supermarket on Monday were just under £33. The milk – the three litres I bought of it – were £3.60 in total. That makes our weekly shop £36.60. That’s not to say that we’re only eating £36.60 worth of food though – as I detailed above, a lot of what we’re eating is based on food already in our fridge.

So, is it possible to feed a family of four for a week on under £50, whilst still being low-plastic? Sadly, not from just one shop, and not without dietary changes. It also requires a lot of organisation. Husband needs to remember to make bread each day before we can have that for lunch, and I need to make things like chocolate mousse and hummus, not to mention yogurt. Hopefully the further involved we get in this lifestyle the easier it will become.

What are your top-tips for reducing plastic at the supermarket? Let me know either here, or on Twitter. ❤

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*I use non-brewed condiment instead of vinegar because a. it’s cheaper than even the big bottles of malt vinegar, b. it comes in glass bottles when malt vinegar comes in plastic, c. the stuff they stock in Morrisons is made in Scotland so has fewer food miles in relation to me and d. I can use it for cleaning too so it’s multipurpose.

Stock Alternatives

Throw a

When I first began looking into ways to reduce my waste when shopping, I had more money available to me than I do now. So I didn’t think twice when choosing OXO stock cubes over the own brand ones – even though an OXO is just under 10p, a mid-range Tesco brand stock-cube is 5p and an ASDA brand stock-cube is 4p*.

I chose OXO because the chicken and beef flavours don’t contain any palm oil, and the packaging is 100% plastic free. The vegetable cubes are also plastic free, but they do contain palm oil.

Everything else I looked at either had a metallic paper wrapper (unrecyclable) or came in a tiny plastic pot.

So… problems all round, really, when it comes to stock.

You can’t be a palm-oil free vegetarian, for example. And to be a plastic, palm-oil free meat-eater you need to spend twice as much. I looked into using Boullion powder too, but that also contained palm oil, and comes in a tub you can’t recycle, and my local supermarkets don’t sell it so I would have to order it specially online which creates yet more packaging.

After the OXO cubes ran out, I took to using lovage leafs from the garden, along with extra salt and for most things, these work amazingly well. My mother-in-law always called them ‘Maggi Herb’ after the German stock company which is what gave me the idea, and sure enough, it really does taste very similar. If you pop a few leafs in with your pasta, for example, you can forgo a sauce when making a pasta salad – just add a little bit of oil after you’ve cooked it to stop the pieces congealing. But again, it’s not a perfect solution (not that such a thing exists) because the plant only grows during the spring and summer – dying off during the colder months – and because not everyone has the space to grow it. Our plant has, in the past, reached over 2m tall – hardly ideal for a window ledge.

So I decided to have a go at making my own…

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Before I get to that part though – and I know I’ve rambled on about stock for long enough and I should just get on with telling you what I did – I wanted to acknowledge that not everyone is going to have vegetable peel that they’re happy to use. We peel vegetables – in part – because of the pesticides used in farming, so depending on the rules where you live, your access to organic food (or food you’ve grown yourself) and your level of personal comfort, you might like to set aside your peel to compost, then peel a thin layer of flesh from your chosen veg. You can then use these just-below-the-skin peelings instead. For ease of writing, though, I’m just going to refer to ‘peel’ going forward.

Anyways. To make my stock, I used:

Beetroot peel (but any sweet, root veg will do i.e. carrot, parsnip, sweet potato)
Potato peel
Lovage leafs (if you can’t get lovage, celery leafs are a good alternative)
Finely ground table salt (I buy mine from Lidl – it comes in cardboard, then i decant it into a old plastic bottle to store it)
A microwave or conventional oven
A pestle and mortar/something else to grind the dried peel in

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First of all, you need to dry the peel. There are a few ways of doing this. You can either dry the peel on a baking sheet in your oven – it should be on its lowest setting for a long time, rather than on high for a short period. If you’ve got good weather and a vehicle at your disposal, you can place the peel on a baking sheet on your car’s dashboard in the sun and leave it there all day, removing it in the evening as the air begins to cool. Or you can do what I did and microwave the peel for around 3.5minutes on full power, wiping the microwave down after every 60 seconds to do away with the steam.

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You then need to dry the lovage or celery leafs in the same way.

Once you’ve done this, grind the lot into a powder with the pestle and mortar. Add about a teaspoon of salt per two tablespoons of vegetable powder and mix well. You’re good to go!

Plastic free, gluten free, cheap, vegan and (depending on your peel) a great way to reduce food waste. Winning.

Use about 1tsp in place of a regular stock cube in your recipes.

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*Prices correct at the time of publishing – via MySupermarket and rounded up to the nearest 1p