I saw him once in one of my favorite Google cafeterias, sampling yogurt. I didn't have my copy of On Food and Cooking on hand, so I couldn't ask for a little piece of his genuis, but I did watch him as he went over and took a little cup of creamy deliciousness for himself. Rumor has it (direct from the head chef of that particular cafe) that McGee himself provided the starter, originally from a friend of his from India, for the delicious, perfectly textured & flavored goodness that we were served each morning.
Colin and I tried our own yogurt experiment last weekend. We started with one quart of Heritage Farm's oh-so-good raw (whole) milk; or rather, a little less than a quart after we each sneaked a little sip, which we heated to 200 F, stirring constantly so a skin didn't form. I think this was probably a little hot -- 175 or 180 is really more like it.
Then we waited for it to cool to 135 F and stirred in 2 tbsp of Brown Cow Cream Top yogurt.
Then it was time to wait. We swaddled our yogurt baby in a warm cloth and rubber banded some paper towels over the top and left it under a grow light in the bunkhouse, next to the tomato starts. 16 hours later, we divvied up the results into our respective refrigerators.
Apparently, our yogurt had tons of these little suckers called exopolysaccarides, better known as EPS which according to Mr. McGee's article:
"bind to the water and one another and make the whey less runny, thicker and more clingy. EPS producers are the bacteria that dominate in Finnish viili, which is so clingy that you can stretch it a foot or more between bowl and lifted spoon. You eat viili by cutting it into pieces."You couldn't cut our yogurt to pieces, but it did have a certain stringiness and chewiness that I've never experienced in yogurt (in anything?). I think we inadvertently stumbled on Nordic fermented milk (viili).
No mistake, the flavor was awesome, and I totally respect the Finns, but I would consider using regular pasteurized milk next time and maybe take McGee's advice on using typical sweetened, non-organic, no-frills yogurt for starter.