Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Are all indie novelists do-it-yourselfers? I am. Maybe I got it from my immigrant mother or my I-can-fix-that father, but I always want to give something a try myself.

When the lawnmower stopped working, I took it apart and moved some wires and pieces around. It worked. My son, who was probably hoping to get out of mowing the lawn asked, “What did you do?” I said, “I’m not really sure, but it works now.”

I got into gardening that way. It seemed to me that if you stuck plants in dirt and watered them, they should grow. It was a little more complicated, but my dendrobium orchid has been blooming since March. (BTW, orchids are so easy to grow. Give them good light, occasional water, and ignore them. They’ll bloom. Then you can pretend they’re a lot of work.)

Brewing beer was a similar thing. Apparently, my great grandmother used to throw a huge pot on her stove and brew. I bought a huge pot and a brewer’s book, and I discovered that homebrew tastes really good.

Recently, I decided to make yogurt. The good stuff is too expensive. So I heated 8 cups of milk to 180, cooled it to 112, mixed in a few tablespoons of plain Greek yogurt with active cultures, and cooked it for nine hours. Afterwards, I refrigerated it. (If you don’t have a yogurt maker, wrap your Dutch oven in towels and let it set for a day or so.) Season as desired. (For a sweet tooth, try sugar and preserves. If you like savory, sprinkle the yogurt with Greek seasoning. YUM.)

Next up, cheese. I want to make Brie and blue cheese.

Tell me, are you a do-it-youselfer? If so, what have you done?

Here’s a photo of me making yogurt.


  1. I love making homemade yogurt, although something went wrong in my last attempt and the whole batch had to be thrown out. Which might explain why I haven't made any for a couple of months. In general, though, it is so much better than storebought.

    My parents raised both my sister and I to try to figure out a way to do something ourselves before getting somebody else to do it. It's a good thing, except sometimes we look at each other and wish we could just let someone else take care of the problems. Such is life!

    I don't know if I'd be brave enough to tackle a lawnmower, though.

  2. Oh my word so THAT'S how home made yogurt works!

    I just let unpasteurized milk clot back when I lived on a farm.

    I love doing some things myself, but sometimes it's too much work. So... do you just leave the milk in the pot with the yogurt mixed in?

    Why doesn't the milk burn? And are your temperatures in Fahrenheit?


  3. Misha--Oops. Yeah, the temps are in Fahrenheit. You can heat it to 82 C for 2 minutes, then cool to 42 C before you add the plain yogurt with live cultures. The milk won't burn as long as you stir it with a whisk.

    I've never made yogurt in a pot, but I have a friend who does and it works just fine.

    Just check the yogurt occasionally as it ferments. The longer it ferments, the thicker it will be. If you like it really thick, sometimes the whey separates a bit. You can either pour it off or stir it back in.

  4. Two things: you need to teach me how to take care of an orchid because I've killed two. and 2nd, can I come over for a homemade yogurt demonstration. I've heard making this but I've never tried it.

  5. I'm an avid DIYer--most food-y things taste much better homemade, and non food-y tings can be made exactly how you want them. So perhaps I can blame DIYness on an indominable spirit of experimentation...or maybe I can just blame it on being picky. :P

  6. Rachael--yes, we'll do it together and maybe go thrifting afterwards when Ariel's on fall break.

    Orchids. When you buy one, make sure it's not planted in real dirt or moss--should be more like bark chips. Also make sure it's not in a plastic pot, orchids need air around their roots. Assuming the orchid is potted correctly, all you have to do is put it in bright indirect light, water it by giving it 2 or 3 ice cubes once a week. (Melts slowly and the roots can absorb the water.)

    If anyone finds a cheap orchid that they want and it's potted badly, let me know and I'll give you tips on how to re-pot them--it's easy-peasy.

  7. Rowenna--yeah, picky-ness is definitely a part of the whole DIY thing. Why should I buy $6 a loaf artisan bread when I can make it cheap and tastier with Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day?

  8. I've made cottage cheese, which was delicious. You need to make "clabbered" skim milk. Got the recipe from my Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook.

    I've also made yogurt cheese, which is the lazy way to make cheese--just drain a huge container of plain yogurt over cheesecloth and voila!

  9. Ooh! That looks awesome!

    Homemade cheese? You could always make lebeneh, the Middle Eastern savory cheese (more for spreads or cooking)! Papa has a recipe somewhere.

  10. Yeah, I'm a DIY-er, too. Mostly with cooking ... making kielbasa (by using an honest-to-goodness cow horn to shove the mixture into the casings), corning beef, recreating and improving on dishes we've enjoyed in restaurants. Also do a lot of artsy-crafty sorta stuff, and all the painting and wallpapering around the house. Even built an amateur radio CW transmitter and receiver. Many times, I try my hand at something out of my league, though, and have to rely on my husband to save me from myself. (In many cases, I'm much better at taking things apart to "fix them" than I am at putting them back together again!)

  11. Wow, your own beer and yogurt, I'm impressed! Though I'm a do-it-yourselfer I've never gone quite that far, but I'd love to try!

  12. All this sounds amazing. I wish I could be around for your cheese tasting! :)

  13. Lebeneh is basically yogurt cheese with spices. (I've used your dad's recipe before, Beka. It was delicious.)

  14. Susan, okay, hands down, you get the award for the most daring DIYer. Making sausage is very impressive.

    Was it gross?

  15. Wow, I've never had homemade yogurt but anything homemade is better.

    I'll be interested to know how the cheese goes.

  16. I can't even eat yogurt right! That's awesome. You're such a talented woman. Thanks for the recipe.