Buzzed YogurtStory Recipe
The 737 carrying Leslie and me touched down at JFK at 7 AM local time. An hour later we burst into 100 degree heat and oppressive, hair curling humidity. Dashing from one air-conditioned building to another, we collected a rental car and soon found ourselves on I-95 headed for Connecticut.
"Grinders?" I asked.
"Perfect!" agreed Leslie.
A grinder is what folks in southern Connecticut call their perfect combination of meat, cheese, lettuce and bread. The bread has to be the kind that only grinder shops in New England can get - lightly crusted with a chewiness that mates flawlessly with the textures of the fillings. Just before closing and cutting the sandwich, the grinder guy splashes just the right amount of olive oil from a repurposed wine bottle over the contents and adds a light dusting of salt and pepper. But the sandwich is more than a collection of ingredients - for us, it is a trip back in time.
We were in Connecticut for my 35th high school reunion. Driving the once familiar roads, we were thrilled to find many touchstones of our youth in the sea side town where we were teenagers. The high school is still there, although it is changed (Thom Wolfe was right - you can't go home again) - there is a pool, the cafeteria is a huge multipurpose room and more classrooms have been added. One thing that hasn't changed is the hill. Back in the day, my friends and I would blow off gym and sneak out the door by the shop classes to climb our little wooded hill and spark up a bowl of the Mexican ditch weed that was all we could afford. After a half hour on the hill and a quick, munchy appeasing trip to McDonalds, Mr. Donahue's history class went down easily.
Despite the distractions of the hill, we managed to get through high school with enough of an education to launch us into lives and loves that gave us stories to share at the reunion. Several rounds of shots led to the usual reminiscences, boastful accomplishments and revelations of old secrets you find at such events.
I spent a bit of time talking to Steve about bee keeping. It hasn't been easy to keep the bugs alive and happy though pesticides, viruses and last winter's deep snow, but Steve is the kind of guy who can focus on a job more than anyone I know. He managed to keep his hives going enough to provide jars of honey that he passed out to the folks that made it to the end of the party.
The golden liquid was more than just a tasty treat. It was the kind of handmade treasure that, like the grinders, tastes better when you know the story of where it came from. There was a little bit of crystallization at the bottom of the jar, but it dissolved when I gently warmed the jar in hot water. (You can use this trick on most honey. When that little bear shaped squeeze bottle turns light beige, you can bring it back by heating the honey) I dipped a thin tasting stick into the amber liquid and pulled out a perfect drop that tasted of spring days and New England fields.
Steve knows his honey, but the Greeks are the masters of what to do with it. From Baklava to honey-lemon chicken to honey cake, they have perfected dozens of delicious concoctions. It was natural to turn to things Greek as the best way to honor Steve's hard work to bring me the sweet gift. I decided that I would use it to flavor a bowl of homemade Greek Yogurt.
So, I hopped in the van and drove over to my friend Wendy's place to get a half gallon of milk from her cow, Archer. For yogurt and cheese, fresh milk is important. If you don't know Wendy, make sure you get the freshest milk you can. This may require digging through the milk shelf at the supermarket all the way to the back for the carton with the best use by date. Any fat level will work, but make sure it is not ultra-pasteurized. The next ingredient is the culture. I've heard that you can use store bought yogurt for this, but so many brands use weird thickeners and stabilizers that I don't think you can get reliable results this way. I send to the New England Cheese Making Company to get their special cultures and I have not had a problem.
I used about three grams of Jack One shake to put the buzz in my honey yogurt. I wrapped it in aluminum foil and tossed the packet into a 320 degree oven for about an hour to activate the THC. I mixed this with the milk and poured it into the crock pot on high for an hour. Then I switched the crock pot to low for another hour and a half. I strained this mixture through cheese cloth to get all the plant bits out and returned it to the crock pot with a packet of culture. I left the machine off and put it in a warm spot in the kitchen overnight.
In the morning, the crock was full of thick yogurt that smelled awesome. I lined a colander with cheese cloth and poured in the yogurt. Stirring occasionally, it took about an hour for it to get to that perfect Greek yogurt consistency. By this time I was jonesing for a spoonful, but I managed to get it all into jars that I put in the fridge to chill. By late afternoon I had the perfect match for Steve's honey. It was so good I kept dipping my finger into the empty jar to get every molecule of goodness. An hour or so later, I was feeling fine except for a overwhelming need for a grinder.
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