Years ago we couldn’t buy yoghurt, we didn’t actually call it yoghurt, we called it fermented milk, the children called it thick milk.
I can’t remember ever being taught how to make fermented milk, my mother taught me when I was very young and I just carried on doing it that way.
It was always made in a heavy metal pan with a close fitting lid, a portion of the last batch would be the starter for the next. I would heat the pan by standing it at the back of the range, not letting it get too hot, so I could still pick it up without cloth on my hands. The milk would be finger hot, lukewarm. I used whole raw milk or buttermilk left from making butter, though the buttermilk made a thinner yoghurt than whole milk.
All you do is stir the warmed milk into the starter, giving it a good whisk to make sure it is well blended together, put on the lid and leave it. To keep it warm I would set the pot on a flat pillow and put a couple of towels around it and set it down on a small table to the side of the range. I’d turn the whole thing around before I went to bed to try and keep the heating even. By morning the milk had fermented and we could eat the ‘thick milk’ with fruit for breakfast, a few wheat berries would be added in if we had them.
We never flavoured it in the pot, just in the bowl, that way everyone could choose what they wanted.
I hear a lot now about probiotics which I don’t really understand, but none of the children used to get stomach upsets much back then, nothing like now when they seem to catch germ after germ. It seems that we were making probiotic yoghurt when we didn’t even know what probiotics or yoghurt even was! We just knew that the fermented milk was good for us, and protected us from germs. I have no idea how we knew, we just did, most likely because our mothers told us so way back when we were young.
It seems that this time, like so many others, mother really did know best.