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cultured coconut milk with lavender and honey

Posted Jun 05 2009 5:07pm

Turtle Mountain recently released a line of frozen treats and yogurts based on coconut milk. I've been making coconut milk-based ice cream for a long time, but I've never tried to make yogurt from coconut milk. TM's product is very delicious, and also very expensive (about $1.79 for a single serving, and they don't yet sell quart-size containers of the plain or vanilla flavor - get on the ball, guys!). It's great for treats now and then, but not for daily consumption.

So I've decided to try to culture my own coconut milk. And what I've found (also from culturing other plant milks) is that homemade plant-based yogurt is very runny. I've explored all manner of methods to bulk up homemade yogurt, including the use of pectin and agar, but generally I've just accepted that homemade yogurt is better for drinking or adding to smoothies rather than scooping up with a spoon. And that's okay.

I use a commercial yogurt maker, which cost about $12. It works pretty well, but I do have friends who go the extra mile and culture yogurt without a machine. I've never tried that myself, but here is an instructive blog post if you are interested. (We do have a heating pad for Jeremy's fermentation projects, so I might give it a try pretty soon.)

We made plain cultured coconut milk last week, and after sitting for a full 12 hours it was VERY sour, so much that I blended it with some frozen fruit because it was just too intense for me. I add extra probiotic powder to really make those bacteria flourish, but it's not necessary. You do need at least a few spoonfuls of commercial yogurt to get a culture started. I have used the culture from subsequent generations of homemade yogurt and found that the resulting culture is too thin, so I just suck it up and buy a little container of yogurt when I'm ready to make my own batch.

I decided to make this culture, ironically enough, because of inspiration from this commercial yogurt (minus the plum). I haven't tried it, obviously, and I haven't seen a single favorable review of it, but it just sounds so cool! So I decided to make my own, with a pronounced lavender flavor. It turned out very well, and now I'm excited to try some other exotic combinations . . . like green tea-vanilla bean . . . rosewater-lemongrass . . . the opportunities are endless, and all waiting to be sketched out during slow periods at work.

You can make this from canned or fresh coconut milk. Keep in mind that the longer you allow a milk to stay warm, the more sour it will be. This culture is better at about 4 hours of warming, to retain its sweetness.

4 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. lavender flowers

8 oz. plain coconut milk yogurt
1 T. probiotic powder (optional)

3 T. raw honey (local is best)

1. Combine 1 c. of coconut milk with the lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly, until the milk is heavily scented with lavender.

2. Strain out the lavender petals with a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth.

3. Combine the lavender milk with the other 3 c. of coconut milk. Whisk in the prepared yogurt and probiotic powder (if using).

4. Place in a yogurt maker or in a quart-size container on another warming device. Allow the milk to ferment for about 4 hours. Keep tasting it until the sour flavor is to your liking. This culture will be thin and drinkable, not thick like yogurt.

5. While the culture is still warm, whisk in the honey to distribute it fully. Store the milk in the refrigerator, where it will keep for quite a while. Shake before serving.
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