Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food, by Cheryl Sternman Rule (Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015), $22.00

Historically, the substance we know as yogurt–that is, the unadulterated fermented and softly thickened milky matter–likely appeared in ancient times (recorded, for instance, by Pliny the Elder during his life in the 1st century A.D., and well before that), and by the author of Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World’s Creamiest, Healthiest Food, Cheryl Sternman Rule, while working as an educator (with her husband) in the Peace Corps circa “mid-1990s.” Sternman Rule pushed the pause button in the ritual preparation of the ingredient at home, but revived it some years later. The result? A kind of renewed sweet and savory look at yogurt’s elemental goodness wrapped up in a book of 352 pages.
While the focus of the text revolves around plenty of interesting recipes that drive yogurt into a culinary composition either as a dairy ingredient or accompaniment (see, for example, “Burnt Sugar-Apricot Halves,” “Overnight Challah French Toast,” “Pomegranate Raita,” “Ginger-Vanilla Lassi,” “Yogurt-Plumped Lamb Kebabs,” “Mixed Fruit and Yogurt Sheet Cake for a Crowd,” and “Blackberry-Lavender Frozen Yogurt”), other portions of the book present useful at-a-glance information on such areas as nutrients, choice of milks, the “fat” element, and so on. But equally important for consumers, you’ll find an exceptionally helpful section titled “How To Read a Yogurt Label.”
Yogurt Culture finishes with instructions on making yogurt at home. The recipe for “Homemade Yogurt” provided a reasonably simple procedure for two different base amounts of milk (1/2 gallon and 1 gallon) and culture (2 tablespoons and 1/4 cup), plus specific thermometer readings and timing. My first batch using the 1/2 gallon milk/2 tablespoons culture produced lightly thickened yogurt (after the requisite refrigeration); for the second batch, I increased the culture to 1/4 cup (using the same 1/2 gallon-quantity of milk), and preferred it for its denser texture and tarter flavor.
With yogurt as a four-season recipe component, Yogurt Culture offers the cook/baker ways to whisk and blend it into regional favorites no matter its provenance.