As a Tambrahm, I do not need to profess my love and addiction to curd (yogurt) and I very nearly cried knowing I would never taste the thick creamy, just set tang of a good smooth yogurt when I decided to become vegan. When I joined facebook, I began to get in touch with many vegans in India, and was pleasantly surprised to meet a few in Thane itself. All were trying to get the perfect ‘yogurt sub’.
I came to know about making yogurt with rejuvelac from Rithika and decided to try it at home. A couple of weeks ago, a memory thread from long ago came back to me at random. I remembered having read in some magazine about making yogurt starter using chilli crowns. I am not sure what it is in chilli crowns that causes it to ferment milk to set into the perfect yogurt but I was sure it could happen with any milk other than dairy milk too. Searching across the net I came across a blog in which the author had posted her soy milk made with chilli crowns. When I understood that it was possible to have vegan yogurt, the craving returned too.
This happened around the time when Jr.H and I were on our raw vegan detox diet and I was desperate to add variety, partly to induce Jr.H to keep up the good work. I started setting up wheat grains for the rejuvelac and two days later when I had a good liquid to make the starter, I soaked both, raw cashews as well as raw peanuts to make the yogurt.
Here is how I made it:
(I later updated this post with specifics – Please check here)
Peanut yogurt starter:
Soak 1 cup raw peanuts overnight or 6-7 hours. Drain, rinse and blend with a cup of plain water till smooth. You might want to skin the peanuts like I did the second time, but it is not necessary. Our temperatures are almost the same as in Summer around this time (except for the sudden rain spells during the last two days), so I just added two teaspoons of the rejuvelac liquid from the wheat grains and set the cup in the sun. When I returned home that evening, I ran straight to the window and lifted the lid to see yogurt where there had been milk that morning. The only let down was that the yogurt carried the flavour of peanut oil.
I forgot to take a picture of the peanut yogurt this time but I will when I make it again and update the post.
Cashew yogurt starter:
Soak 1 cup cashews as above. Drain, rinse and blend with a cup of plain water till very smooth. This time I just poured the thick milk in a medium sized bowl and topped with the crowns of fresh chillies, about 13-15, I think. Chilli crowns mean the stem ends of green chilli that remain attached to them. That evening I had perfectly set cashew yogurt that tasted exactly like the one made of dairy milk, no kidding! You would not have made out the difference. This has the taste of just set yogurt. If you need a tang, add some lemon juice as per your taste.
Update: The chillies need to washed and patted dry completely before separating the crowns. Do not wash the crowns again after separating them from the chillies. The first batch which is the starter culture will have a very faint aroma of chillies that will not affect the taste. The second batch made with this culture will not carry that aroma.
Temperature: If your region is not sunny or warm, grind the cashews with hot water (not boiling hot) and cool the milk till it feels lukewarm or just hot. Then top it will chillies and leave it a warm spot for 4 to 5 hours to let it set. It sets faster in thermal ware as temperature is constant for a long time in such wares. Usually, I just measure the heat by dipping the tip of the index finger of my right hand into the center of the milk and test the temperature, but the internet tells me that milk should be about 30 deg. Celsius or around 100 deg. Fahrenheit in order to be set into yogurt.
Q: A question about Chili Crowns. The addition of Chili crowns didn’t make the yogurt spicy? After the yogurt was set, did you discard the crowns?
A: The yogurt will not be spicy at all. It will taste exactly like that made with regular full fat milk, but the first batch does have a very faint aroma of chillies that cannot be detected if you dilute it into buttermilk or if blended and mixed into rice. Yes, I did discard the crowns once the milk was set.
Peanut yogurt is affordable while cashew yogurt is expensive.
Peanut yogurt is thin but cashew yogurt is smooth, rich and tasty.
I will go for the former if I am going to make a biryani but for the latter for all other things.
If you want flavours in your yogurt you could slice a vanilla pod and drop the seeds or add an organic essence but Indians prefer plain yogurt with no flavour.