Dips with Yogurt

Homemade cheese and yogurt are delicious not just on their own but also when featured or even a footnote in other recipes. Bring a tray of homemade dips, cheese, and sourdough bread to a potluck or party (or house concert), and guests immediately compliment your tasty contribution. Then when someone asks what’s in the dip, say, “homemade yogurt”; eyes brighten, jaws drop, and people dig back into the bowl. At least, that’s my experience.

I’ve long been a fan of tzatziki, and it’s among my favorite ways to showcase homemade yogurt. A tangy fresh batch makes the dip pop—so much so that I cut back on the lemon juice. Although traditionally made with sheep’s or goat’s milk, draining a cow’s milk yogurt until it’s thick works beautifully. Just a tablespoon or two of the same thickened yogurt gives a surprising creaminess to other dips, especially ones featuring beans.
Learn to make Tzatziki and Asian White Bean Dip

Curds and Whey

Once you start making cheese, you’ll quickly realize you’re left with a large quantity of whey—so much you’ll be loath to just pour the yellowish liquid down the drain. Fortunately, whey has many uses. You probably already consume more whey than you realize: it’s popular in protein powders, weight-loss beverages, and even infant formula. Cheese makers have long known the value of this by-product and use it to make more cheese, like ricotta and my favorite gjetost.

Whey is considered sweet or acidic. Hard cheese and Fresh Yogurt give you sweet whey; Lemon Cheese gives you acid whey. Some sources prefer sweet whey for most uses, but I love tangy flavors. I use the whey from Lemon Cheese as a cooking liquid for rice, a stock substitute in soups, and a cheese sauce replacement for soups and pasta.
Learn to make Whey Sauce and the Cheesiest Mac and Cheese

Cheese and Yogurt

Queso blanco, panir, whole-milk ricotta, farm cheese, lemon cheese—they’re the same cheese by different names. Even where recipes for them may vary, they share two features: all form curd through the addition of an acid, and all coagulate because they are heated above 176°F, the temperature at which the milk protein casein “sets.” This makes Lemon Cheese, my preferred name because I like to use lemon juice to form the curd, surprisingly simple and easy to make. This recipe is also a great first cheese because you need few special tools or ingredients: just cheesecloth, a thermometer, and ideally cheese salt. You can make about 2 pounds of cheese from a gallon of milk, but I prefer to use some of that gallon to make yogurt.
Learn to make Lemon Cheese and Fresh Yogurt

Fresh Homemade Dairy

My first experience with making dairy products at home was yogurt. Long before Greek yogurt was popular in the United States, my travel bug had given me an insatiable craving for the thick, creamy fermentation. A hostel owner turned me on to a local maker of sheep’s milk yogurt, which I then ate mixed with honey and topped with fruit almost every morning I was in Greece.

American yogurts paled by comparison, so back home, I searched for an alternative way to get my Greek yogurt fix. I could strain almost any yogurt to approximate the consistency, but only expensive ones got me in the right flavor neighborhood. Then I learned all I needed was a little bit of good yogurt and a gallon of milk: even with cow’s milk, homemade tasted better and was more affordable than anything I could buy. Which of course led to the question, Could cheese be this easy?
Read more about homemade cheese and yogurt