Many Are Cold, but Few Are Frozen

David Lawrence's personal blog

Making Yoghurt Without a Clue

A Mongo-American bacterial blend

In Tbilisi, you'll often hear a voice, always an old voice, calling out: Matzoni! Matzoni! 

This is the Georgian word for yoghurt. Old folks make a little extra income by making yoghurt at home - probably in their bathtubs - and selling it on the street. It so happens that this is the best yoghurt in the world, one of the few Georgian boasts that I don't question.

I left Tbilisi in 1999, and ever since, I have missed their yoghurt. I can't eat the fruity, slimy stuff they sell in supermarkets. I need plain, white yoghurt, with a sharp, sour bite, and loaded with bacteria. I've never found what I want in a store.

So I decided to make it myself. My wife had made yoghurt a few times, using UHT milk, with limited success. I think the process of superheating milk had something to do with it. But she gave me the idea, and I had a dim idea of the process.

I kicked off my experiment with locally-made commercial yoghurt and some Shin Suu, fresh milk produced from Mongolian cows. I mixed some of the yoghurt and milk in a pitcher, and then added the contents of an American-made acidophilus capsule. I like the idea of a Mongo-American bacterial blend.

The next morning, I just had a pitcher of milk. I couldn't understand it. But then, I remembered that Mongolian nights are chilly, even in summer. My kitchen is like a walk-in refrigerator at night. So I filled a big pot with water, heated it up, and put the pitcher in.

The next day, I had a pitcher full of real yoghurt. It was a little runnier than what you get in the store, but tasted perfect.

Now I'm making it almost every day, with mixed results. I don't know how much yoghurt to mix in with the milk, how long it should sit, or what the best temperature is. It comes out differently every time. But it's always delicious. Maybe, someday, I'll go online and find out how to make it properly. But for now, it's more fun to learn from my own experience.

I can't say that my yoghurt is as good as the stuff I bought in Tbilisi. I think the secret ingredient in Georgian yoghurt comes from bathtub grime - maybe I'll give it a try after my kids go to college.