October, Honey & Thyme

6 Oct

I love Greece in October.  The last of the tourists have gone and harried waiters come and sit with the regulars in the now-quiet cafes, enjoying a smoke and well-earned rest.  Late figs hang heavy from the trees, inviting picking, and the first olives are eager for harvest.  The sea grows calm, clear, and irresistible – especially in the early evening when the sun begins to dip behind the mountains and the shadows deepen amid the ripples.

Then, the water, at 75 degrees, is for the first time all season warmer than the air outside. You swim, diving beneath the surface, emerging, diving once more, until the first lights dot the harbor, and the first of the old-folks appear in their going-out clothes for their evening promenade.

You coax yourself to leave the water, which your body, now cold, is willing to do; but your heart is reluctant.  You wrap up in a towel and make your way, slowly, home.

Soon, clean and dressed in your own youthful version of going-out-clothes, you return to the street that parallels the sea and, joining the stream of walkers, look for friends and an evening treat.

My favorite October-evening-in-Greece treat is a simple, but satisfying one.

Yiaourti me Meli

Yiaourti me Meli (Yoghurt with Honey)

Take a cup of plain, whole-milk yogurt and place it in a pretty dessert glass or bowl.

Sprinkle a handful of crumbled walnuts on top.

Slowly pour a bit of honey over both, perhaps the wild thyme honey for which Greece is famous, or the lesser known but equally delicious chestnut honey.  (Of course, your local honey would be great !)

Find a nice quiet spot with a soothing view and a few good friends, and enjoy.

P.S.  I love whole milk yogurt and can’t bring myself to use any other kind.  But feel free to substitute lighter varieties – it’s all about your enjoyment and satisfaction, after all!

You can buy the very expensive “Greek” yogurt that’s being promoted in grocery stores far and wide.

Or, you can buy a tub of much less expensive yogurt, place a cup of it in a colander lined with cheesecloth (I have used coffee filters or a clean cotton towel in a pinch!), place the colander in the sink or over a plate, and wait for an hour or so until the yogurt is rich and thick.

Or, you can make your own. Very easy and delicious. What will you need? A half gallon of whole milk, a small container of plain, whole milk yogurt (just this time — you can use your own home-made yogurt for the next batch), a saucepan, a spoon, and some towels.  A thermometer is helpful, but not necessary.

Place the milk in a sauce pan over medium heat.  Heat, stirring often so the milk on the bottom doesn’t scorch, until it reaches 180F.  You can use a thermometer  or your eyes – when the milk begins to froth, it’s ready.

Turn off the burner.

Take a cup of the whole milk and pour it into a small bowl.  Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of the yogurt and stir until smooth.

When the milk in the saucepan has cooled to 105F (you can use a thermometer or your finger if you are an experienced yogurt maker and aren’t afraid of germs!), add the milk-yogurt mixture and stir well.

Cover the pot, swaddle it in towels, and keep it on the back burner for 6 to 8 hours (I usually make it in the evening and let it incubate over night) until firm.  If your kitchen is cold, insulated in the 1940s like mine was with newspaper, heat your oven to 120F.  Turn it off.  Place the swaddled pot in the oven to incubate.



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