Merrill's baby Clara is finally old enough to eat solid foods. Armed with her greenmarket bag, a wooden spoon and a minimal amount of fuss, Merrill steps into the fray.
This week, she tackles yogurt. Which is not as simple as it sounds.
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As I mentioned last time, our pediatrician told us we shouldn't give Clara cow's milk until she's at least one. But apparently stuff made from cow's milk -- if you culture it, for example, or turn it into cheese -- is fine. Go figure. I don't know the science behind this, nor can I say really care. I come from a long line of dairy freaks, so this was straight-up good news.
Cottage cheese, a particular favorite in my family (did I mention that I have a husband who can't stand cheese? It was the one serious concern I had before I married him.), made it into Clara's breakfast routine early on. Soon we were ready to try yogurt.
I'd been buying organic cottage cheese without guilt, but once I started checking out yogurt labels, I found I wasn't thrilled at the prospect of feeding Clara one of the commercial "baby-friendly" varieties. (Have you seen how much sugar there is in that stuff?) So I pulled my yogurt maker out of the closet. Last year, I wrote about how easy it is to make your own yogurt, and I have one of these to make it even simpler. You just heat up some milk, add starter, pour it into cute little pots and leave the yogurt to gestate overnight.
I confess I felt a small thrill of self-satisfaction knowing I'd actually made yogurt for my child. I mean, how lucky was she? That thrill died when I tried to get her to eat it. When I tasted the yogurt, I'd found it pleasantly tangy and rich -- better than store-bought for sure. Clara did not appear to agree. After the first dab hit her tongue, she screwed up her little nose and pressed her lips together like a vise. Our first yogurt tasting was a total failure. As was our second. When she rejected it a third time, I realized it was time to face facts. My kid wasn't going to eat this yogurt as-is.
Rooting around in the fridge, I found some stewed blackberries I'd made the week before from some squashed berries that had fallen victim to some of the heavier produce in my farmers market bag. I strained some of the berries and their juice into the yogurt and tasted it. Tasty, but maybe even more tart than before. I needed something liquid and sweet, and I wasn't supposed to add honey. I spied a bottle of maple syrup and dribbled a little bit into the yogurt. I stirred and tasted again. Then I thought, "If my child doesn't appreciate this damned yogurt, then she's no child of mine."
This story has a happy ending (if it didn't, would I really be telling it?): Clara now loves yogurt. She still makes wonderful funny faces at the tartness, but now she opens her mouth for more before she's swallowed the last bite. I've made raspberry, peach, and blueberry yogurt, always cooking the fruit down with just a sprinkle of raw sugar to coax out the juices, and then sweetening the yogurt itself with a little maple syrup. If I run out of my own plain yogurt, I buy a plain, organic whole-milk variety and mix in the fruit and maple syrup. And I plan to freeze plenty of fruit purees now (more on freezing another week). That way, I can feed Clara homemade fruit yogurt all winter.
I haven't measured how many grams of sugar are in a serving of my homemade yogurt, and I don't plan to. If it's the same as the store-bought kind I initially rejected, well, I figure ignorance is bliss.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).