Tag Archives: dairy

Dairy Queen Part 3 (Or, How to Make Cultured Buttermilk)

I’ve been making yogurt for a long time now. It’s pretty easy and I have a system. So, every five or six days I start a new quart. I’ve also dabbled in cheeses, and even made my own butter. Until recently, however, I’ve had no need or desire to make butermilk.  Then hubby introduced me to chipotle ranch dressing and my love affair with buttermilk began. We had the buttermilk in the fridge for the dressing, but I started using it for other things: biscuits, pancakes, stroganoff and other cream sauces. What started out as a ranch dressing habit soon turned into an expensive butermilk addiction. I had to take action.

Enter: Homemade Buttermilk, a How-To

Warm about three cups of milk to 85°.

Stir about a cup of cultured butermilk into the warmed milk.

Let rest, covered, on the counter or other suitable warm-ish place overnight.

Once the buttermilk has cultured, store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks (if it lasts that long).

Expensive!

Culturing buttermilk is super easy and saves a ton of money.  Good quality buttermilk costs $4.99 a quart while unhomogenized milk from the same dairy costs only $3.49 a half gallon. So, for $3.49 I can make what would cost me $10 to buy.

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Down with Dark Days

Spring has officially been here for twelve days now, but the Dark Days Challenge didn’t culminate until yesterday.  It seems as if Michigan wanted to end the Dark Days Challenge with an exclamation point rather than a period.   Seventy degrees and sunny the last day of March?  This isn’t spring, it’s summer but I’m not complaining. 

I wanted my Dark Days to go out with a bang too.  The grill had its inaugural run Tuesday but it seemed fitting on such a lovely day to stay mostly out of the kitchen.  This menu screams, “summer” and practically wrote itself:  Buffalo, corn on the cob, redskin potatoes, tossed salad, grilled bread and strawberry shortcake with homemade ice cream.

The buffalo steak came from Oleson’s farm and grocery.  Corn on the cob came from the Farmers’ Market.  I froze a bushel of it last summer for days like these.  My potato supply is dwindling, sprouting and starting to get mushy but I picked through the redskins, cut off the roots sprouting from the eyes, and sliced them into an aluminum pan with some olive oil, garlic from last year’s CSA share, salt and rosemary.  I have never successfully wintered a rosemary plant.  I always manage to keep it until February or March before it dies but mine is thriving and enjoying a day out in the sunshine.  My tossed salad greens and “easter egg” radishes came from my brand new 9 Bean Rows share.  I made a new dressing.  I know, what a shock, right?  Instead of the usual feta-garlic-yogurt dressing I tried a “Greek” vinaigrette.  I didn’t actually measure anything, but here’s the ingredient list:

rice wine and Balsamic vinegar (because I didn’t have any red wine vinegar)
olive oil
fresh minced oregano (several sprigs)
2 cloves chopped garlic
about an ounce of crumbled homemade feta
some honey
Shake well (Keep the lid on if you don’t want it exploded all over the counter like I did.)

The vinegar and oil weren’t local, but everything else was.

The grilled bread is something I make almost every day all summer long.  Dylan wanted me to make it Tuesday but it is a leavened bread and couldn’t be made on short notice.   The original recipe comes from “The Barbecue! Bible” but I modified it.

2 1/2 tsp. yeast
5 T. honey
1 C. warm water
1 egg, beaten (fresh from the coop if you’re lucky :) )
3 T. milk
2 tsp. salt
5 ish cups spelt flour
1 T. olive oil

Combine yeast, 1 T. honey and 1/4 C. warm water in mixing bowl.  Let stand ten minutes until foamy.  Stir in the remaining honey, remaining water, the egg, milk and salt.  Add 4 cups of flour and mix until dough is soft but not sticky.  Knead in the mixer 4-5 minutes adding flour as necessary.

Use half the oil to grease a large bowl.  Put dough in greased bowl, drizzle with remaining oil and cover with a damp cloth. 

Soon to be flatbread

The dough ready to rise.

 Let rise in a warm place until double.  Punch down the dough and pinch off two-inch pieces.  Roll the pieces into balls and place on a floured sheet or plate.  Recover with a damp towel and let rise until puffy: about 30 minutes.

Preheat the grill on high.  Use a rolling-pin to roll each ball on a floured board.  I oil and salt the rolled balls before placing them directly on the grill.  Flip them when they start to bubble.  They are done when browned on both sides.

Grand Finale

The Grand Finale of my Dark Days Challenge.

These flatbreads go great with everything.  They also make excellent crusts for grilled pizzas, or platforms for sandwiches (I love grilled veggies and cheese.  Homemade feta or raclette are lovely.)

Dessert was a true tribute to summer.  Spelt shortcake with berries from the freezer and homemade vanilla ice cream with Shetler’s milk and cream.  Yum! 

Maybe this should have been the entree.

Spelt shortcake, local berries and homemade vanilla ice cream.

It was so yummy that I let the kids eat leftover shortcake and berries for breakfast today.  Sans ice cream of course.

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Dark Days Week Thirteen?? (or, No More Roosters in the Henhouse)

This week was an incredibly busy week for me. 

To begin the week I had a late meeting Monday evening after school.  On top of that, the second fundraiser for the Family Wisdom Conference was Thursday night and I had to do a lot of things to prepare for it.  I had to collect all the silent auction items from my friends that had agreed to donate items (A handmade basket, Barefoot Books, and abi*bags) and finish building the worm bin that I agreed to donate.  Then, I had to bake cookies.  I made delicious marmalade thumbprints using my homemade blood orange marmalade.  I also baked chocolate chip cookies and hand rolled truffles until all hours of the night Wednesday. 

After preparing for the fund raiser I got to actually attend it!  The evening was wonderful, we had a pretty good turn out and we raised money to cover the expenses of the upcoming conference, but it meant spending all night Thursday out of the house. 

Plus I had a sledding birthday party Friday evening with a meeting for the Road Rally scheduled right in the middle of it. 

Knowing that I had to attend all these functions and complete all these tasks, I set out to cook my Dark Days Dinner early in the week.  I started out with a local sirloin and some potatoes from my “root cellar”.  I whipped up a batch of homemade feta-yogurt dressing for my salad of local butter lettuce and then. . . I burned the potatoes beyond recognition.  Boiled potatoes mind you.  I boiled the pot dry and then waited for the smell of burning potatoes to signal the downfall of my dinner.  Steak and salad alone do not a dinner make.  So, I had to pull a bag of gnocchi out of the cupboard to round out our meal.  Mostly local?  Yes.  Dark Days local?  No.

So yesterday I started over. 

I started my journey as an urban chicken farmer in September.  If you’ve been following me since then you are aware that three of my four chicks turned out to be roosters.  The City doesn’t allow roosters in town so something had to be done.  Last week I dropped off the roos at Olds Farm to be processed.  We picked them up cleaned and bagged the next day and last night I pulled one of them from the freezer and roasted him for dinner. 

Our official Dark Days Dinner this week consisted of our homegrown rooster roasted with onions, celeriac and garlic from Providence Farms, butternut squash also from Providence, corn on the cob from the Farmers’ Market via the freezer,

Dinner was much more succesful the second time around.

The "Official" Dark Days Meal for the week.

butter lettuce salad with homemade yogurt-feta dressing

Local lettuce with homemade dressing.

Local greens with my old standby dressing: Homemade feta, homeade yogurt and local garlic

 and homemade biscuits from locally grown spelt flour. 

Local organic spelt flour makes yummy biscuits!

Dylan helps me roll the biscuits for our Dark Dinner.

Dylan helped me roll out the biscuits and I even drizzled a little honey from Millie Hathaway’s bees on mine.  Yum!

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101 Things to do With Whey

Okay, so it’s not really 101; it’s nine ten, but some of them are really good.  Let me know if you can think of more. 

  1. Make ricotta cheese.  (I have done this, and it’s quite tasty, but the amount of ricotta you get from the leftover whey is (in my opinion) not worth the time it takes.)  If you really must try making your own ricotta, here you go:
    Bring the whey almost to a boil (200° F).  The ricotta will begin to precipitate out of the whey and form little white particles that float around in your whey.  Line a colander with a cloth napkin and set it over a large bowl or pot to catch they whey.  Hang the ricotta to drain.  After it has drained for a few hours, salt it to taste.  Keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks.
  2. Boil potatoes in it.
  3. Make lemonade. (I haven’t tried this myself yet, but it sounds delicious.)
  4. Use it in place of milk or water in your oatmeal. If you eat oatmeal every morning like I do, you’ll use it up quickly.
  5. Make dog food.
  6. Make dog treats.
  7. Water plants with it.
  8. Bake bread.
  9. Add it to the stock when making homemade soup.
  10. Use it to cook rice, bulghur, barley or other grains.

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Homemade Butter

Heavy Whipping Cream

Shetler's Heavy Cream

I love butter.  There’s just something about freshly-baked bread smeared with butter that seems almost magical.  If you love butter as much as I do, you have to try homemade butter.  Making butter yourself is really easy.  All you need is some heavy cream and a way to shake it.  I salt mine, but salt is optional. 

One day at school the kids and I made butter.  I filled a pint jar a third full with milk and let the kids take turns passing the jar around shaking it until the butter magically separated from the buttermilk.  The kids really thought this was magic and loved it on the homemade bread we made that morning.  If six-year-olds can make butter, so can you.

Relax, you don’t even have to spend all morning shaking a jar full of cream to make your own butter.  If you have an electric mixer, you can make butter in just a few minutes.  First, get a jug of heavy whipping cream, NOT half and half.  I used a quart of cream and got a pint of butter and a pint of buttermilk, but there was a lot of splattering involved.

Ready to mix

Cream in Mixer Bowl

Next, pour the cream into the bowl of your mixer and turn it on a medium high-ish setting.  Make sure the cream is very cold.  You will have a harder time getting warm cream to turn into butter.

After a minute or two, the cream will start to whip and peaks will form, just like it would if you were making whipped cream.

Cream starting to firm up

Whipped Cream

Let the mixer keep running.  It will start to shake as the butter forms and starts to thump around in the bowl.  This is when the splattering starts!  As the butter forms, it will cling to the whip and separate from the buttermilk.  I actually had to drain some of the buttermilk off so that I could finish whipping the butter. 

Butter starting to form in the mixer

Yellow butter separating from the whitish buttermilk

Once the butter has formed, it needs to be washed in cool water.  This rinses the buttermilk out of the butter and helps prevent the butter from spoiling.   I rinsed mine by draining off all the buttermilk, adding cool water to the bowl and mixing it.  I drained the water and added fresh a couple times until the water was clear.

When I was finished, I packed the butter into this cute little canning jar because I didn’t have a fancy butter dish; I’ll have to watch for one of those. 

Finished Butter

Finished butter and leftover buttermilk

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Dairy Queen Part 2 (Or, How to Make Yogurt)

What is this?

Repurposed beverage cooler

What is this???  Don’t know?  Read on.  I love when I can reuse or repurpose old things. I almost took this beverage cooler to Goodwill on several different occasions.  It was actually in a donation bag when I rescued it for its new life as a . . .  yogurt warmer.  I don’t know about your house, but mine goes through a lot of yogurt.  I’m ashamed to admit that back in the days when we were a more “disposable” household, we went through Go-gurt by the gallons.  I’ve long since stopped buying Go-gurt for the kids because of both its waste factor and the fact that it is made of corn, coloring and chemicals.  However, Hubby was a hold-out on the Go-gurt.  He packs his lunch every day and appreciated the convenience factor of the stuff.  I finally won that battle when his doctor explained to him that he may as well eat sugar as Go-gurt since it has little or no actual nutritive value and is mostly sugar, food coloring and artificial flavoring with enough yogurt added in so that they can call it yogurt.  

Because we eat so much yogurt, this summer I started making my own.  It was actually a first step on my road to cheese, but it is so easy and economical that I can’t imagine stopping now.  If you google yogurt making, you will find lots of different recipes; some even have videos.  I’ve been making yogurt regularly enough that I have it down to a science: 

Quart Jar of Milk
Quart of milk ready to heat.

First, fill a quart jar with milk.  You can use soy milk if you prefer.  Put the jar of milk in the microwave and heat it until it reaches 110°.  (My microwave takes just over three minutes to do this.)  Many recipes tell you to heat the milk to 180° to scald it and then cool it to 110°.  I did that when I first started making yogurt, but I don’t anymore.  If you’re a purist and you prefer, you can heat the milk on the stove, but it takes a longer time and you have to watch the milk carefully and stir it often to keep it from scorching to the bottom of the pan.  Plus, you have to wash an extra pan.

Taking the temperature of the yogurt

Wait until the milk reaches about 110°

The milk may not be exactly 110° after the initial time in the microwave.  Heat it a little longer if it’s necessary.  If you have accidentally heated the milk to more than 110° or purposely heated it to 180°, you will need to wait for the milk to cool.  If you heated your milk significantly past 110°, putting the jar in a bath of cool water will help it reach the correct temperature faster.  Whether you are heating or cooling the milk, monitor the temperature fairly closely unless you like having to reheat your milk over and over again to try and get the proper temperature. The bacteria that turn milk into tasty yogurt thrive at about 110°, so keeping the temperature as close to that as possible will help ensure your success.

last of the old yogurt

The last tablespoon or so of yogurt from my last batch.

Once you’ve gotten the yogurt within a degree or two of 110°, get out your old jar of yogurt, or if this is your first batch, you can use a tablespoon of PLAIN store-bought yogurt.  Even if you are making soy yogurt, you will need to use cow yogurt as a starter for your first batch.  You can dump (or spoon) the yogurt into the waiting jar of warm milk, but I like to dump the warm milk into the jar with the old yogurt in it to rinse all the yogurt out of the jar without wasting any.  After several batches of yogurt, you may need to buy a new plain yogurt to use as a starter.  I haven’t had to buy a new starter, but I do every once in a while.

warm milk inoculated with yogurt bacteria

Warm milk dumped into the jar from the previous batch.

After I’ve dumped the milk into my old yogurt, I like to dump it back into the clean, new jar.  I feel like it helps to keep things more sanitary, but it is probably not necessary. Now that you have a jar full of inoculated warm milk, tightly screw a cap on the jar.  If you used a standard-mouthed jar you can either use a canning lid and ring or a standard-sized top from a commercially-made jam or pasta sauce with the same size lid.  Either way, make sure the lid is on securely so that water won’t seep into your yogurt in the next step. 

inoculated warm milk

The lid is on securely

Remember the beverage cooler from the start of the post?  It’s time to get that thing out.  My old cooler is the perfect size to hold a quart jar of yogurt.  Fill the cooler about half full of 110° water.  It can be a little warmer, but I wouldn’t recommend water any cooler than that.  You can warm water in the microwave or a kettle, but I’ve found if I turn the hot water on in my kitchen and let it run for a moment until it heats up, it is almost exactly 110°, so I just fill mine with hot tap water. 

yogurt in warmer

Yogurt in warmer submerged in warm water

Over the sink, set the jar into the warm water.  If you don’t do it over the sink, water will overflow all over your countertops when you submerge the jar of milk.  The jar should be completely under the water and the water should be level with the top of the jug.  This keeps the water warmer, which keeps the yogurt warmer.  Screw the lid onto the cooler and let it rest for about seven hours.  I generally make the yogurt at bedtime and take it out in the morning, but it can be made in the morning if you have time to deal with it. 

I’d show you the finished jar of yogurt, but it looks just like the jar of milk except thicker.   So, instead I’ll show you what I do with the yogurt to make it convenient and portable.  These cute little plastic cups are available in the canning department of a store near you.  They’re designed to be used in the freezer for jams, but are perfect for single serving yogurt.  They actually come in packs of five for around three dollars, but one of mine seems to have “magically” disappeared.  You can make the cups up one at a time but I like to make them all up at once to make packing lunch easier.  Spoon a little jam, jelly, honey, pie filling or applesauce into the bottom of each cup.  I used apple jelly, but I really like peach and cherry.  Scoop yogurt in on top of the spread.  Make sure you leave a little “head room” in each jar and screw the lids onto your cups and you’re finished. 

Freezer jars

Just like disposable yogurt cups from the store only reuseable!

Making your own yogurt may seem intimidating, but you have nothing to fear.  Homemade yogurt saves money and eliminates a great deal of garbage that is involved in pre-packaged yogurt.  A quart of premade yogurt costs over $3, more if you buy individual containers or organic yogurt, and even more than that if you buy locally made yogurt (if it’s available where you live).  When you make cheese, you have a lot of whey left over.  With yogurt, there is no waste, so homemade yogurt costs whatever your paid for your milk.  If you pay $3.59 a gallon for milk, you will get four quarts of yogurt for that $3.59.  Even if you buy organic or local milk, you are saving money on your yogurt.  Plus, homemade yogurt is delicious!

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Dairy Queen

Feta brined and ready for the fridge.

 

As a school teacher, it is easy to settle into the lazy days of summer.  For three months I hike, run, garden, cook, walk to the Farmers’ Market, take my kids to the beach and actually read grown-up type books that I enjoy.  This summer I also started canning again after a long hiatus and started making my own cheese and yogurt.  I’d make a new batch of cheese every week.  I started with mozzarella, tried feta and then moved on to hard cheeses.  After a few batches, my husband even built me a cheese press.  While each cheese has its merits, feta is by far my favorite.  I have always loved feta, so when I found out how easy it was to make,  I became even more enamored by its crumbly goodness.  

But, summer inevitably comes to an end.  When September rolled around this year, I started to panic.  Not only did I have to go back to work, but I had a class that I had to complete homework for and attend every week.  How would I keep cooking good, homemade food?  Where would I find the time to can? How would I go to the Farmers’ Market, pick berries, bake bread or make yogurt and cheese???  My life as I knew it came to a screeching halt.  I didn’t know how I was going to manage all the things I needed to do.  

At one point, I was so distraught that I would come home from work and cry to my husband.  I wanted to run away and live on a farm off the grid.  None of this had anything to do with the actual work that I do every day; I love my job.  I love working with kids and knowing that I’m making a difference.  My distress was all about my lack of time.  I needed to adjust and I didn’t know how.  

Cordon Bleu and Parmesan

Better than Zoloft.

 

While I’ve wanted chickens ever since I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” last summer, part of me needed them after school started.  I researched and researched chickens.  I learned about different breeds.  I learned about how many eggs chickens lay and what color they are.  I researched ordinances  and the legality of chickens here in the city.  I spent hours researching chicken coops and chicken care.   Getting chickens was my way of running away and living on a farm without having to really run away.  Chickens weren’t a step away from the life I was living, but they were a step towards the life I want to be living.  The impact those girls had on my mental health still amazes me.  While they didn’t create any more time for me, they did remind me that there were things I could do to have the life I want.  

Where's the coffee?

Even the undead need their exercise.

 

Since the girls arrived in September I’ve started adding elements of my “summer life” back into my real life.  I hike three to five days a week.  I haven’t managed to keep running regularly but I did run the Traverse City Zombie run and I’m signed up to do the Turkey Trot 5k Thanksgiving morning.  I haven’t done much in the garden, but I planted a row of blueberry plants and I’ve got raspberries, grapes and soapwort waiting to go into the ground.   I may not cook a homemade “slow” dinner seven nights a week, but I try to cook a “real” dinner for my family most nights and still try to eat as much local food as I can.  I cook vats of soup on the weekends to freeze for lunches.  I even signed up for the “Dark Days” challenge to try to cook a completely local meal at least once a week.   I managed to can some tomatoes, jam and jelly and found time to can (and pick) countless apples.  I’ve made it to the Farmers’ Market every Saturday morning and a couple of Friday evenings even though I couldn’t go to the Wednesday morning markets in September.  I didn’t make it out often to pick berries, but I did get out once to get a couple quarts of blueberries for the freezer.  I’m not making my own sandwich bread, but I have been making homemade loaves three or four nights a week.  

Homemade yogurt

 

 It took a while before I decided that I really did have the time to make yogurt, but in hindsight, that was silly.  Yogurt is so easy; I make a quart or two a week now.  Cheese however, is a completely different story.  Cheese isn’t difficult, but it is intimidating and it takes a long time to make.  

In my mind, I just didn’t feel like I could spend that much time on one project when there are so many other things I could and should do with the time cheese takes.  So what do you do when you go to the grocery store, purchase two gallons of milk and return home to find that you already have two-and-a-half gallons of milk, in your refrigerator??  You do what anyone else would do; start a batch of cheese and a quart of yogurt.  

When I got home from the store with The Milk,  I put away the groceries and started a quart of yogurt.  That barely made a dent; I still had over four gallons of milk left in the fridge.  It was time to make cheese.  Although I’ve been wanting to make cheese for a while (and I finished the last of my feta on the first Dark Days dinner) this wasn’t a cheese made of desire, but one of necessity.  

I got out the giant pot and poured in two gallons of milk.  I turned on the stove and monitored the temperature until it reached 90°.  I put the pot in an ice bath in the kitchen sink and let it cool back down to 86°.  When the milk reached 86° I whisked two tablespoons of Brown Cow plain yogurt into it and let it rest for an hour.  After the milk rested for an hour I mixed 40 drops of vegetable rennet into the milk and left it alone until the next day.  Just like that I had eliminated half the milk in my fridge! 

feta curds

Draining the feta curds.

 

The next day the milk had gelled and the whey had separated from the cheese curd.  I cut the curds with my long bread knife, let them rest for 15 minutes and then drained the whey from the curds.  I hung the curds to drip for the rest of the day and put them in the cheese press.  

feta hanging

Hanging the cheese to separate the whey from the curds.

 

Today I removed the feta from the press, cut it into chunks and put them in mason jars filled with brined whey.  In another day or two I’ll be able to enjoy my own, homemade feta cheese again.  While it takes some time to make cheese from start to finish, it really isn’t that much work.  The recipe is from Dr. Fankhauser at the University of Cincinnati. 

The amazing thing about making cheese is how much whey you have left over when you’re done.  Two gallons of milk yields about six cups of feta cheese and a gallon and a half of whey.  What do you do with all that whey when you’re done making cheese??  Stay tuned to find out! 

Gallon of whey

What do you do with all the whey once the cheese is made?

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