Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homemade Yogurt and Buttermilk

Like so many things. It's just better homemade. 
The savings of course depends on whether or not you buy your milk. But regardless there is still the control over the quality. 


My favorite for soaking chicken to fry, of course in biscuits and anything chocolate that calls for milk. Besides just drinking it! 
Buttermilk can be re-cultured from the first starter batch and continuously after that. We purchased our starter enzymes from Cultures for Health. Their site is easy to follow and full of tips and recipes. The starter batch is simple. (screen shot from their page)

After the starter batch add 1/4 cup of your reserve to 1 Quart milk and let sit in a warm spot 70-77* for 24-48 hours. (Full explanation is linked under re-culture, above) 

(You will need a thermometer and a crock pot)
I use a lot of yogurt. I started out replacing a little at a time of mayo or sour cream in recipes like pasta salad and topping for Mexican foods. Yogurt can also replace oil in a lot of baking items. A splash of olive oil will give it that oily texture that is sometimes needed.

Like buttermilk, yogurt can be simply re-made from your starter batch. 1 Quart of milk heated to 160* and cooled to 110*. Then add 2-3 T of starter yogurt and allowed to incubate for 5-8 hours. You can buy the yogurt makers that are set to the right temp etc. I was given one and am trying it next time.We have been using a crock pot and have had very good luck with. Heat the crock pot with water in it until you are ready to let the yogurt set. Dump the water, add the yogurt milk mixture, be sure to shut it off and unplug. Wrap the whole thing with a heavy towel to hold in the heat.
Both can also be started from store bought. Make sure to get plain yogurt with live cultures. The drawback to this is that the store cultures are not as "alive" and after a batch or two they don't really work anymore. 

When making your own you will see that the textures are slightly different from store bought. The buttermilk is a little thicker but the flavor is amazing. A good stir with a spoon or whisk will loosen it up. The yogurt is slightly more watery but again a stir will bring it together. Also letting drain though a strainer or hanging from a cheese cloth will tighten it up to whatever texture you like. 
At our local store a 32 oz (4 cups) container of yogurt is about $4. A gallon of milk is also about $4. I can make 4x as much yogurt for the same price.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fall Garden

A well planned Fall garden can be as productive as your Summer garden and can provide fresh veggies, even after the frost and cold sets in.

Many varieties of pumpkin and squash will be ready to harvest but, in my case would have been planted earlier in the year. I'm in Zone 6. You will have to adjust for your zone or climate.

By knowing what zone you are in and what your first frost date is you can choose the best fall plants and varieties of those plants for your area. Some varieties mature in a shorter time and these are best if your temperatures dip drastically and/or very quickly. 

Succession planting, also known as relay planting, keeps your garden producing for the longest period of time possible by replacing crops that are finished producing with another crop.


 The list of fall garden favorites goes on and on and for the gardener that likes to experiment you could create a new list for years and not get to them all. With some help I picked a few to share today. 
 Garlic has to be first on my list. I use it in so many dishes that buying it is unrealistic. Easy to plant and grow, few pests and low maintenance, it's always a winner. Buy your heads of garlic from a trusted organic source if possible, but honestly most from the local grocer will also grow. To plant garlic:  Gently break into separate cloves, choosing the largest cloves to plant and saving any small ones for cooking. Choose your planting spot and turn in compost to about 3-4 inches deep. Plant each clove about 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Mulching with straw will help protect them from freezing, keeps weeds down in spring and help retain moisture. Garlic is ready to harvest (here mid-summer) when some of the the leaves start to brown. The 'flower' that it sends up in spring is called a Scape, and can be trimmed off and used like garlic in recipes. Garlic also has many health benefits and can aid in keeping pests out of your garden. 

Onions come next on my list, again because of how many we use. There are several varieties, so choose something that grows well in your area and fits your needs. To plant onions: onion sets should be planted 1 inch deep and 4-5 inches apart in a rich, well drained area that gets full sun. Onion maggots can be a problem often solved by covering with a fine mesh netting. The Egyptian Walking Onion is a fun change from the norm. The 'scapes' or topsets produce the next generation of onions. As they mature the weight pulls them down where they take root.

Turnips, Carrots and Radishes grow well together . To plant turnips: Loosen soil and spread seed at about 20 seeds per foot. When they start growing thin to 4 inches apart. The greens are also edible and wonderful wilted in bacon grease.                                  To grow carrots:  Spread seed over well amended, well drained soil and then thin to 2 inch spacing. Inconsistent watering and/or stony soil can cause forking and other deformities. Young carrots are not able to compete and should be weeded frequently being very careful to stay shallow and not disturb the fragile young roots. 

To grow radishes Radishes will grow in full sun or partial shade. 
Sow seeds 1/2 inch deep and when they start to grow thin to 2-4 inches apart. Ready in as few as 20 days small succession plantings every other week will keep you eating these well into the cold weather.

There are many varieties of cabbage, Red, Green and Napa are the first I think of. My favorite use is sauerkraut then salads, slaws and stews; stored, canned or frozen.  To grow cabbage: Start seeds indoors 8-10 weeks before last frost. Transplant to a full sun, well drained and amended space at 6 weeks. The variety of cabbage you choose will determine the spacing. Many cabbage varieties can be kept in a cool  storage area for several months. 

Greens in my mind coverer a large variety of salad type leafy plants. Chard, Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Collard, just goes on and on. To grow greens: Sow directly in the garden and be generous with the seed. As they mature, the thinnings are you first reward. Some will benefit you the best from weekly or biweekly succession planting. Small amounts that you will be able to use up as the next planting becomes ready. There are also many different types of lettuce. 

And I'm gonna stop at Brussels Sprouts.
Prolific and with a little practice delicious, these unappreciated little fellas love the cold. To grow brussels sprouts: Plant them 36 inches apart in well amended soil. They love nitrogen and consistent watering. Harvest when they reach 1-2 inches wide. 

These are just a few of the choices. In many areas they can be easily protected with row covers made of plastic or other protective materials laid over or tented and will keep producing long after the first frost.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pickled Green Tomatoes

Since my tomatoes are about done in I'm picking all the green ones and getting ready for some fall planting. Pickling is a great way to use up what you don't have enough of for a big batch. I love this recipe for the cherry and other small ones. (also great for ripe tomatoes)

2Q grape tomatoes, 1t salt, 1c white wine vinegar, 1c white vinegar, 1Q water, 4 cloves garlic peeled and 4 sprigs fresh rosemary.

 I halve the tomatoes and pack in jars with 1 rosemary and 1 garlic. 

Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil for 10 min. Pour into jars leaving 1/2 in headspace. Process in boiling-water canner 10 min for red tomatoes and 15 for green. 
If I don't have the white wine vinegar I switch it out for whatever I do have.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jerusalem  Artichokes, also known as Sunchokes, are a great addition to a garden or edible landscaping. Perennial. Seen often along roadsides and ditches they may be considered a weed by some, but they have multiple uses as a food source for both animals and people. As a member of the Sunflower family they attract beneficial pollinators. The stalks and flowers can be harvested and fed to livestock as can the tubers. For highest nutritional value cut stalks throughout the growing season and use as a supplemental feed. For best tuber growth wait until after the first frost, the stalks still hold value, although a little less, but the tubers will be larger and can be harvested and stored as a food source for your family and livestock. By waiting until the frost the energy all goes into the tubers. After frost dig the tubers, divide and spread out and/or tubers can be stored in a cool dry place and used as an animal feed or used in ways similar to a potato for your family. 

Planting  is simple. They are very hardy and need little attention. Prepare your spot by removing grass and weeds and turn soil 4-5 inches deep or I use a lasagna gardening method and they seem to be loving it. Plant whole tubers in early spring. There are several different varieties with different attributes. Researching can help you find the type that has any specific characteristics that you prefer, or in my opinion, finding someone local that already has them growing or digging them from a roadside (you know they'll grow and who doesn't like free) is a great choice. 
Jerusalem Artichokes are very pest and disease resistant.
*Note* They are considered somewhat invasive. Try to pick a spot that you will be comfortable with them staying and some room to spread. Cut off blooms and enjoy as cut flowers if you want to control them a bit.
Considering how easy they are to grow, and how pretty they are, they can be used to fill in large spaces as decoration. 
Having a diverse range of plants in your garden is important. No one knows from year to year what the weather will do. What flourished last year may not produce at all the next. Pests, disease, drought or extreme rain can throw things off track. 
The tubers can be cooked in most of the same ways as a potato or used raw in salads. High in iron, fat free and a wonderful nutty flavor.

  1. Jerusalem artichoke
    Root vegetable
  2. The Jerusalem artichoke, also called sunroot, sunchoke, earth apple or topinambour, is a species of sunflower native to eastern North America, and found from eastern Canada and Maine west to North Dakota, and south to northern Florida and Texas. Wikipedia
  3. Nutrition Facts
    Amount Per 
    Calories 109
  4. % Daily Value*
    Total Fat 0 g0%
    Saturated fat 0 g0%
    Polyunsaturated fat 0 g
    Monounsaturated fat 0 g
    Cholesterol 0 mg0%
    Sodium 6 mg0%
    Potassium 644 mg18%
    Total Carbohydrate 26 g8%
    Dietary fiber 2.4 g9%
    Sugar 14 g
    Protein 3 g6%
    Vitamin A0%Vitamin C10%
    Vitamin D0%Vitamin B-65%
    Vitamin B-120%Magnesium6%
    *Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

At home with Sweet Pea: Updating my Bee adventure. June 30

At home with Sweet Pea: Updating my Bee adventure. June 30: First please forgive the wrong date on the pictures. Added new batteries and forgot to reset. On Friday (June 26) My Big Guy, being the s...

Updating my Bee adventure. June 30

First please forgive the wrong date on the pictures. Added new batteries and forgot to reset.
On Friday (June 26) My Big Guy, being the sweet heart he is, agreed to drive me to Dundee, Ohio to pick up another nuc of bees. The directions I printed said it was about 7 hours, they It took us closer to 9 each way and it rained almost the whole time. Luckily Jason Bosler was very kind and even though we were late getting there he and his wife were a real pleasure to meet. The rain and the wait in the box had the bees very upset so I didn't get any pictures. Another 9 hours in a box, in the back of the truck, in the rain did not help their mood any so when we got home I just set them in the garden where I wanted to set them up and gave them the night to calm down. 

Sunday morning we went out and got them set up in their new home. They were still a bit wound up and ran my cameraman off so I will have to get more pictures later when they get settled. The frames were beautiful, covered with bees and heavy a hell. Very happy!

Checked on my first hive yesterday (June 30) This is the one I started on  May 15. I set it up wrong and had to relocate the comb that they decided to build on the inner lid. I cut them off and tied into empty frames. They seem to be doing well but have started building all wonky in the frames.

Some of the comb that had honey have been cleaned out completely. It's very interesting to see the structure of the comb like this 

On the other combs they have built off the sides and built some together. I would have gotten more pictures but when I pulled two apart they got upset with me and rather then stir them up worse with no particular goal, I just put it back together and left them alone.

After asking around in some of the Bee groups I now understand the importance of setting your hives very level. After someone explained it to me it made perfect sense. They will build with gravity regardless of what frame you suggest to them.

After reading through a lot of great suggestions for a fix and taking into account that these are so new and don't have the stores or the strength for me to risk damaging them, I have a plan.

They seem to be fine with the mess, and considering they naturally will build in trees and walls I'm going to just leave it bee. First thing I will get it level, then I'll move the two combs that they have cleaned out into a new super underneath this one. I have an idea for how to close off the rest of the super they are in with the intention of that pushing the queen to move down. Once I have found her in the lower one I can add a queen excluder between and keep her there. The brood in the top will hatch and they will back fill with honey which later won't be too big a problem to deal with. 

Since I am not expecting to take honey from them this year I am still feeding them. I have learned a lot about keeping your honey 'pure'. If you feed during a time you expect to get honey they could fill some cells with the sugar water and you don't want that! Also the supplements and anything else not natural will show up in the honey so I will have to continue studying on when I might actually get honey and work with that. It'll be a while so I have
If you are following or interested in what I have done so far here are my other posts from the start.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Electrolyte Drink Mix/Heat Injury

If you think you are suffering from a heat related illness seek medical attention. I am only offering this as a preventative, as in HYDRATE! 
After getting way too hot a couple years ago and spending over a week in a terrible state I keep this recipe on hand at all the times. 

2 Quarts water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon salt substitute (potassium chloride)
7 Tablespoons sugar 
1 cup fruit juice

This recipe is also great for animals which have gotten too hot or dehydrated from scours or excessive heat. Replace the fruit juice with Karo Syrup. 

Once you've gotten into a heat emergency situation you will always be more susceptible. Keeping hydrated is the easy prevention.