Vietnamese Yogurt

Hey!  We have a giveaway this week.  Details are after the recipe.  Stick with me, it’s worthwhile and will make your upcoming holiday baking projects sing!

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We are currently in Week Three of a full-immersion ‘get-to-know-influenza’ unit study of our homeschool.  One, two, three, four, five, six, and seven. We like to space things out around here -move at a leisurely pace- and we subscribe to rugged individualism, so we’ve each started our full-body look at the flu at a distinctly different time.  This is also great for our math studies.  Check out the following word problem we composed:

If each person in a family of seven begins a sickness of two-weeks’ duration at a rate of one every fourth day, how long will that family be stuck at home? (And I’m not answering it for you.  If I did, what kind of self-respecting homeschool mom would I be?)

So the stomachs (there’s part of this unit’s anatomy study) around here have been craving mild, easy-to-prepare* food. Our normal super-spicy fare swimming in hot sauce has been off the table, quite literally, for the past couple weeks.  We’ve been turning to simple comfort food; steamed rice, mild fruit, soups, and stews (Liam, since a babe in arms, has held the immovable conviction that beef stew cures everything.  So stew is de rigeur when anyone in our household is ill, even if they refuse to eat it.)  And new to the sickbay rotation is Vietnamese Yogurt.

*Well, my stomach has anyway.  The rest of the stomachs don’t care how difficult something is to prepare so long as it’s mild.  Since I’m the one wielding the tongs, spatulas and whisks, I get to add the easy-to-prepare dictum.

I first read about Vietnamese Yogurt in a post by Todd  of White on Rice Couple (two of the blogosphere’s sweetest sweeties ever to be sweet) a couple months ago.  Intrigued by the promise of a silky, sweeter-than-its-Western-counterpart yogurt, I decided to give it a go.  Since the recipe calls for pantry staples, it was simple to whip it up on a whim.  Todd promised in no uncertain terms that it was easy, and boy howdy it was.  I raided the cupboard and grabbed a bunch of small glasses (read: jelly jars.  What?  You use real glasses?).  The kids hovered, as they are wont to do, over me as I mixed up the yogurt, peppering me with questions; “Hey!  What’s that for?”, “Can I just dip my finger in that sweetened condensed milk?”, “Can I just drink that sweetened condensed milk?”, “Can I at least lick the empty can of sweetened condensed milk?”, “What are you making, Mom?”, “Do I have to eat that stuff?”, “You do know I don’t like yogurt, right?”, etc…  So this was the environment in which I made my first batch of Vietnamese Yogurt.  If I could do it in the midst of this household’s chaos, anyone could.  Next came the hard part.  The waiting.

I’ve gone my whole life thinking yogurt is one. thing. only.  And don’t get me wrong, I like yogurt.  In fact, I make what I think of as ‘regular’ yogurt a couple times a month. And it’s a bit of a production. But what a revelation this particular yogurt was.  It was not tangy and sour enough to make my tongue curl back up in my mouth like parchment the way many Western yogurts did; It was mild and gently tart and sweet and totally set my mental picture of yogurt on its ear.  If you’ve never had Vietnamese Yogurt before let me clue you in on one of it’s more interesting differences.  While it’s totally spoon-able (that is, you can eat it top to bottom with a spoon) it’s also imminently slurp-able (in other words, you could pop a straw in there and drink it down.)  It’s almost like a short-cut to a yogurt smoothie.  Not to be ignored is the fact that every single one of my kids love it.  Even the three inveterate yogurt haters can’t get enough of it.  The fact that I found a simple-to-make, inexpensive yogurt that all of my kids like in time to be really grateful for the fringe benefits* yogurt offers is nothing short of a miracle.

*Healthy bacteria for the gut, improved digestion, etc…

For a photo-free, printer friendly version of this recipe, click here!

Vietnamese Yogurt

This recipe is my take on the original  White On Rice Couple recipe.  The ingredients and ratios are all theirs but I played a bit with the method. Because I’m incorrigible.  I should also mention that this recipe doubles and triples beautifully!

Ingredients:

  • 1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 cups water (It should be hot enough that a great deal of steam is coming from the surface of the water, but it should not be boiling.)
  • 1 1/4 cups cold milk (Using cold milk helps bring down the temperature of the mixture to just the right point to encourage the yogurt to set nicely.)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (This can be any plain or vanilla yogurt you can get at the grocery store.  Plain is preferable, but vanilla stands in nicely.  Just as good a quality yogurt as you can find.)

Optional for serving:

  • Assorted toppings: jam, fresh fruit, syrups, granola…  Whatever floats your boat!

Prepare a water bath for the yogurt by adding about two inches of water to a wide, deep pot (for example, a canning pot, pasta pot, soup pot, etc…) Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a temperature where a great deal of steam is pouring from the surface of the water but it is not boiling.  Place a tight fitting lid on the pan and turn off the heat.  Put a separate kettle of water on over medium heat on another burner.  While that heats, prepare the yogurt as follows.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sweetened condensed milk and water until thoroughly combined.  And don’t take any guff from that can of sweetened condensed milk.  Use brute force to open it if necessary.

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Whisk in the cold milk.  Set aside.

Measure the cup of yogurt into a medium sized mixing bowl.  Gently whisk in a ladle full of the warm milk/water/condensed milk mixture until smooth.  Repeat with two more ladles of milk.  When it is completely smooth, pour into the remaining hot milk and whisk gently until smooth.  Position a fine-mesh strainer or a colander lined with cheesecloth over another bowl and pour the liquid through the strainer.  Use a spatula or wooden spoon to press any lumps through the strainer.  This guarantees a silky finished yogurt.  If you don’t mind a few lumps you can skip this step.

Pour the prepared yogurt into clean and empty jelly or baby food jars or into small drinking glasses.  If using 8 ounce jars, this will fill about five or six jars.  It is helpful to use jars or cups of a uniform height since you will be putting them in a water bath. Do not put lids on the jars. Why the paper towel covers you might ask?  We’re not just fighting the flu around here, we’re also fighting cluster flies.  If you have them, you are probably cringing right now.  If you don’t have them, let’s just say you don’t want them in/near/on your yogurt.

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Remove the lid from the pan of hot water, steam should still be coming from the surface of the water, but not quite as vigorously.  If there is no steam, reheat the water slightly.  Transfer the pan of hot water to a heat-proof surface.  Arrange the jars in the hot water. Yes, that is most of a double-batch down there.  Remember I’m feeding a family of seven.  Little batches are a pointless tease.  And this proves that I know, from experience, that the recipe doubles and even triples beautifully.

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Use the kettle to add enough water, if necessary, to come about 4/5 of the way up the sides of the jars.  Todd recommends using a funnel to add the extra water to direct it away from splashing into the yogurt cups.  I agree wholeheartedly! Lay a bath towel over the pot in such a way that it covers the top of the pot but does not fall down into the yogurt or water.  Now the hard part is done.  All that remains is to let the water return to room temperature.  In my house this takes about four or five hours.  You may have to adjust this time slightly depending on how warm your climate (or thermostat) is at the time you make it.

When the water is room temperature, the yogurt should be set (in other words, it may wiggle like a firm jelly when gently shaken, but it won’t be a liquid.)  Transfer the jars from the pot to a tea towel.

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If using jars, you can screw or clamp on lids.  If using cups, cover lightly with plastic wrap.  Either way, refrigerate for two hours or more before eating.  Around these parts, we like them with a dollop of homemade blueberry jam.

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…Or strawberry jam.

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Don’t forget to try it with a fistful of fresh fruit sometime; peach slices, crushed or cubed pineapple, pomegranate arils, and mango cubes are all wonderful compliments to the velvety texture of the yogurt. (Don’t tell anyone I said this, but it’s also really good with a healthy spoonful of dulce de leche [yes, I am aware of the irony inherent in that statement] on top for dessert.)

Now, I promised a giveaway and I have a real humdinger of one to share with you.  But first, a quick story.  A few months ago, one of my Record-Eagle readers, Amy Martin,  contacted me to share her recipe for chocolate syrup (which is delicious, by the bye) and some fellow-harried-mom stories.  We exchanged a few emails back and forth and in one of them she mentioned that she made and sold hard-to-find vanilla products.  She has graciously offered to sponsor a giveaway of a gift pack of the more popular items she sells on her Etsy site. (and if you can browse her Etsy site without becoming famished then you’re a stronger beast than I am.)  Can you even imagine a better time of year to get a box full of vanilla goodies?  Look at what  that temptress Amy is giving to one lucky Foodie With Family reader:

These images all come from Amy’s Etsy shop, SoVanilla.

  • 2 ounces of Ground Bourbon Vanilla.  Imagine this baked into some pots de creme or a pound cake.  Pure heaven.

ground vanilla

  • 15 (count ‘em FIFTEEN!) Bourbon plus 5 (like fifteen wasn’t generous enough) Tahitian Vanilla Beans.  Make your own vanilla extract or vanilla sugar.  The possibilities are almost limitless.

bourbon vanilla beans

  • A bottle of Vanilla Bean Syrup.  Drizzle that over some oatmeal with a handful of dried cherries (or just straight into your mouth) and tell me the world doesn’t like a better place.

vanilla bean syrup And finally…

  • A package of BourbonVanilla Bean and Pecan Granola.  Oh yes.  Now you see the tie-in to my recipe?  If you sprinkle a fistful of this crisp and full-bodied vanilla granola over the top of a serving of silky smooth Vietnamese Yogurt you will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.  The kicker is that it’s great for you!  Healthy and decadent tasting?  That’s a recipe for success.

bourbon vanilla and pecan granola

So, what do you need to do to win this generous package?  In Amy’s words:

So Vanilla Giveaway Rules!

The Details:

Simply find the answers to the three questions below by going to the following links:  Sovanilla.etsy.com and amyecotarian.wordpress.com.  One name will be drawn from all correct answers for the grand prize:  A package including 2 ounces of ground bourbon vanilla, 15 Bourbon and 5 Tahitian vanilla beans, a bottle of vanilla syrup and a package of Vanilla Bean and Pecan Granola.

3 other people who have correctly answered the questions will be randomly drawn to receive 3 Bourbon Vanilla Beans. (Rebecca here.  I just had to emphasize this.  Three other folks are going to receive a prize, too.  I’m only terribly jealous that I can’t enter my own giveaway.)

The Questions:

From my blogamyecotarian.wordpress.com

From the post “Pickled Pink! And Other Things of the Summer”

What wildlife did Amy have to rescue and relocate this summer?

From my Esty Shopsovanilla.etsy.com

What’s the “fishy” name for the vanilla seeds inside a vanilla pod?

And the last one:

What is one interesting thing you learned from either the blog, Confessions of an Everyday Ecotarian or the So Vanilla shop that you didn’t know before?

Now for my details.  This contest is open until Friday of this week, November 6th, 2009.  You have until 12 noon, EST on Friday to enter.  The grand prize winner and the three other vanilla bean package winners will be announced by  8 PM, EST on Friday.  Good luck folks.  This is some great stuff!

Comments

  1. 38 days.

    And on the 39th day, God said “let there be Melinda’s hot sauce served with dinner” and there was Melinda’s hot sauce, and it was good.

  2. 1. Blue heron (that’s awesome btw!)
    2. Vanilla Caviar
    3. I had no idea of the existence of ground vanilla. Unfortunate, I’m sure! And with the promise that its flavor holds up better than alcohol-based extracts, I’m excited to try!

  3. 1. Blue heron
    2. Vanilla caviar
    3. I’d never heard of Bourbon vanilla beans before. Tahitian, Mexican, Ugandan and Madagascar … and I’m really intrigued with the ground vanilla. I bet that stuff is amazing!

  4. Hi Rebecca – It wasn’t too long ago that I was introduced to Greek Yogurt (I’m so late to the game, I know) and now this Vietnamese kind. I must try. I didn’t know there were so many variations either.

    I don’t have time to participate in the scavenger hunt for the free stuff (drat!)…she says this as 3YO is screaming for her tights and 1.5YO is wailing for a snack….

    We’ve been lucky enough to avoid the flu (and regular sickness) so far, but I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. House for of sickies is NO FUN. I carry around a batch of wipes and Lysol with me. I feel like Howard Hughes.

  5. 1. Blue Heron
    2. Caviar
    3. I discovered that I must have tahitian vanilla caramel sauce. Oh my word! I love real vanilla.

  6. Christina says:

    1. Blue Heron
    2. Caviar
    3. I wasn’t aware of powder vanilla, or that it would hold up better in heated foods such as the cheesecakes or pound cakes. I LOVE the speckled look, but I always gained that by utilizing the whole beans and scraping out the caviar (another thing I learned).

    Great write up about the yogurt. I was just talking to a friend about making homemade yogurt. You make it look so easy I may have to give it a try now!!! Thank you!!

  7. 1. Blue Heron
    2. Caviar
    3. Kefir is alcoholic.

    Thank you for this great post and giveaway!

  8. Ugh, and by “here” I meant here: http://amyecotarian.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/kefir-the-other-yogurt/. Oops!

  9. ikkinlala says:

    May Canadians enter?

    1) Blue Heron
    2) Caviar
    3) I learned that ground vanilla shouldn’t be refrigerated or frozen.

    • Melissa- You named our brand!! Yes, Melinda has been neglected at our house for the past two weeks. Poor gal.

      Ikkinlala- I don’t know! I will ask Amy and get back to you ASAP.

  10. 1. Blue heron (I have one on my license plate, so good on ya)
    2. Vanilla caviar
    3. Ground vanilla: that’s a huge revelation for me, as I wistfully think of all the vanilla pods I’d only used in making vanilla sugar.

    This is an informative and terrific giveaway – thanks!

  11. 1. Blue heron
    2. Vanilla Caviar
    3. Ground vanilla! Cool.

  12. 1. Blue heron
    2. Vanilla caviar
    3. Ack! I just learned that I should not refrigerate my vanilla beans and I do that all the time (well wrapped in saran). Will now be taking those out and leaving in cupboard.

  13. I have to try this yogurt, thanks for the great tutorial!
    answers:
    Amy rescued and relocated a Blue Heron

    vanilla caviar

    That you can pickle turnips, I love turnips and this sounds terrific!

    Thanks for the chance to win the vanilla package, just in time for Christmas!

  14. This looks so yummy, I’ll have to try it! I amused my mom when I was 8 by buying a yogurt maker at a yard sale to make our own…I wonder if she still has it.

    Now, on to the questions.

    1. Amy rescued/relocasted a blue heron, which got lost in a storm.
    2. The vanilla seeds are called “vanilla caviar”.
    3. I learned about the differences between Tahitian Vanilla Beans and Bourbon Vanilla Beans. I also learned a little bit about their cultivation and curing methods.

    ooooo Im so excited about every aspect of this post.

  15. 1. She rescued a blue heron
    2. vanilla caviar
    3. Donkey rescues. Who knew?!

  16. Traci Torrey says:

    MMMMmm the yogurt sounds very very yummy and super easy…I think I try it out! Thanks for sharing:)

    1.) Blue Heron
    2.) vanilla caviar
    3.) I had no idea that vanilla beans grew in the shade 20 degrees from the equator…really I didn’t know much about vanilla until I saw your website…adding it to my favorites :)

  17. 1- Blue Heron
    2- Caviar
    3- How Kefir was originally made in a skin bag and where it was hung. Such a great post!

  18. I’ll definitely be trying this yogurt, I always need yogurt sweetened somehow, with pure maple syrup is my favorite, and I think I’ll try maple yougurt for the recipe.
    1. She rescues and relocates a blue heron
    2. The vanilla seeds inside the pods are called vanilla caviar
    3. I learned lots about vanilla, but the one that excites me most is that it is the fruit of the vanilla orchid, I love botany and orchids fascinate me, now even more!

  19. Amy (ecotarian/vanilla lady...but lady sounds too old) says:

    Yes! I can ship to Canada. I have shipped vanilla beans alone to Canada and haven’t had a problem so I’ll assume I can ship the rest. :)

    Yep, can’t keep the beans cold. They really will form this white mold on them, (it’s penicillin, actually and I’ve had this happen to me!). So, if you don’t want your beans to go from culinary to medicinal keep them room temp. Keeping them airtight prevents them from drying out. You can still use them when their crunchy-dry…but they’re not as easy to manipulate.

    :)

  20. Amy (ecotarian/vanilla lady...but lady sounds too old) says:

    And the Grand Prize Winner is…..Fiona!

    The three other winners of 5 bourbon vanilla beans: Lisa, Michelle and Wendy

    Email me at: sovanillabeans @ gmail.com

    Congrats everyone! My kids drew the names. I thought this was loads of fun, so I’ll probably bug Rebecca to do it again sometime. I especially loved seeing what everybody learned. It must be the teacher in me. :)

    Re: the Vanilla Orchid. I once asked a botanist if I could grow vanilla orchids from the seeds. They said yes, but I’d basically need to create sterile laboratory conditions! Crazy. Here is another fact. Vanilla is indigenous to Mexico, it was spread by people w/cuttings everywhere else. But, the only way vanilla is pollinated in the wild is by a specific bee and hummingbird indigenous to the original area. For a while they could grow healthy plants everywhere else but no fruit! That was until a slave boy figured out how to pollinate the flowers by hand. Today even, every vanilla bean that is ever produced from any area other than Mexico was pollinated by a human being. Interesting, huh?

  21. I am sooooo so excited to be the grand prize winner! Vanilla is one of those scents that never fails to ease me into a better mood. Thank you so much!

  22. I’m about to make my second batch and thought I’d better write you a note to say THANKS for sharing the recipe! I used coconut milk and it was wonderful. I used the whole can of coconut milk, which was more milk than called for, but it set up well. (I used greek yogurt)

    I filled 12 4oz quilted crystal jelly jars perfectly. They were just too cute. We topped it with granola when we were ready to enjoy it.

    Yogurt incubates between 85-100 degrees, so if you have a warm day, you can skip the water bath and set it outside.

  23. Viet. yogurt is liquidy, but put in the freezer for a while to crystalize! It’ll taste great! In Vietnam, it’s one of the ways it’s sold and eaten~ <3

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