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Somerville group gets together to make yogurt

SOMERVILLE — It is Tuesday evening at the First Church Somerville near Davis Square and an acting troupe is getting all dramatic in the other room. But over a couple of cauldrons of steaming milk, Mariel Villere, 26, and Pamela Worth, 31, are bonding over kombucha tea.

Worth, a speechwriter at the University of Massachusetts Boston, is excited to learn that Villere, an MIT graduate student whom she met only an hour ago, recently started brewing the trendy fermented sweet tea drink at home, and wonders if she might get a dollop of the culture to try it herself.

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But it isn’t tea that has brought them together. The two are members of the Somerville Yogurt Making Cooperative, begun about two years ago by Sam Katz-Christy of Cambridge (see related story, Page 16), who was making about three quarts a week for his family, figured others were doing the same in their homes, and thought they could be more efficient if they worked together.

Villere and Worth, both Somerville residents, are tasked with making about 500 ounces of whole and nonfat yogurt for the group’s weekly needs. After more than a couple of hours in the rented kitchen, the batch will be incubated in coolers before being ready for pickup in a couple of days.

Given a mutual interest in local, sustainable food, the tea tie isn’t surprising, though the co-op’s attraction for Worth, a member for only a couple of weeks, is even more basic: “I really just love yogurt. It’s that simple.”

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A 24-week share costs $60, not including a one-time $12 deposit. The rest of the investment for the co-op’s 18 members is in labor, usually by taking a turn heating the milk to 180 degrees, cooling it to 120, inoculating it with starter culture from last week’s batch, and portioning it into wide-mouth mason jars.

Villere has put in “more than five, fewer than 10” shifts since joining about a year ago. Moving here from New York City to study the history of architecture and art, she says, she wanted to connect with people who weren’t only from academia, and she’s pleased with how it’s working out.

“When I thought about making my own kombucha, I thought, I’ll obviously e-mail the listserve to see if someone’s doing that, and of course there was.”

It’s just the sort of thing you’d expect from an active culture based in food.

For more information about the Somerville Yogurt Making Cooperative, go to www.sites.google.com/site/somervilleyogurtcoop.

Michael Prager can be reached at michael@
michaelprager.com
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