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The maths

This week, I figured I should share with you the numbers associated with living well and buying less. Many of these costs and timings are approximate, and it will depend on where you source your ingredients or how accurate you estimate your appliance’s power usage. I make yogurt every 10 or so days, reserving some from the previous batch to use in the following batch. Bread gets baked every nine days or so. I freeze the ones that are not in use and defrost them as needed. I make granola regularly too, sometimes I am coordinated enough to follow the bread with the granola in the cooling oven, thus saving electricity. Anyway, I hope the numbers speak for themselves and perhaps persuade you to try making yogurt or home made bread. Bread recipe is on its way, though if you can’t wait a few more days for my take on it, the basic recipe can be found following this link. http://chickensintheroad.com/cooking/grandmother-bread/

Tools needed (slow cooker, spoon, food thermometer, blankets and a duvet to insulate it overnight)
1 x 1 off cost: yogurt starter, €1.50 (good for 8-10 goes) ~ 15c a batch
2 x 2L milk, 2 x 1.45 = 2.90
electricity: I am not sure what its wattage is, but lets assume that it takes 50c to operate the slow cooker for the 2 hours that it is on to reach the 85 degrees.
10c to boil the kettle to sterilise the peanut butter jars.
Therefore, each 4 litre batch costs around €3.65 = 45.6c/500ml jar which is still cheaper that buying live yogurt.
Time: 2-3 hours to heat milk in slow cooker, (check every half hour till temp is close to 85 degrees)
cooling to 49 degrees takes around 30mins, (less if using an ice water bath) Adding culture: 2 mins, leave overnight.

2 x 7g yeast = 27c
approx 1.5kg flour = €1.10
salt, sugar, wheatgerm and linseeds come to approx. 50c
oven use at 180 degrees C for 35mins is I guess €1
Therefore, 3 medium sized loaves of homemade bread + 2 rolls costs around €2.87 which I think is worth making as I can choose what goes into it.
Time: Prep time including kneading and shaping bread, 30mins, Proofing the dough (letting it rise) can take a few hours depending on the temperature of the room. Cooking time is 25-30 mins.

Thanks for reading

Yogurt, raspberry leaves, sewing

Just a quick post today

I have been quite wrong about how to make yogurt, it is little wonder the stuff I ended up with is runny and needed filtering. Seeming the proper way to make proper yogurt is this:

Heat milk to 85 degrees C, keep it at this temperature for 10-20 mins. Then cool the milk in a cold water bath till it gets to around 49 degrees C. Take it out of the water bath and continue to let it cool till around 45 degrees C. Once the milk is between 40 and 45 degrees, add your culture (smallish pot of live yogurt that you like the taste of). Insulate the container to keep it close to this temperature for a number of hours (5-10 hours, or more simply, overnight), seemingly the longer you leave it, and the higher the temperature, the tangier and thicker the yogurt will be. For more information visit  http://www.cheesemaking.com//store/pg/237-YogurtDetails.html 
I have plans to try this out tonight in the slow cooker, hopefully it works out well.

I found this great recipe for a baked yogurt cheesecake, it is high in protein and can be made coeliac friendly http://shine.yahoo.com/in-the-pantry/lemony-greek-yogurt-cheesecake-161200349.html
and it works well, even using the excuse for yogurt that I made and drained for too long in the heat last week.

Cheeses air drying, not perfect, but I am fairly happy with them

Cheese making got underway on Sunday evening, I went for a robiola cheese as it was in the beginners class on the cheesemaking website. If considering it as a project for the weekend, start it off on Friday or Saturday night, as there is a good bit of faffing around with it the following day. Anyway, my cheeses are now air-drying after being soaked in a saturated brine solution. Then to store it between 11 and 14 degrees C for 4 days, after which it will be ready to eat, but I intend leaving it for at least a week to ripen somewhat. I think that I may have to invest in  a few more cheese molds (as the largest three cheeses did not set together properly) and
a cool box as the ambient temperature at the moment is certainly above 14 degrees. There is now also 2.5L of whey available for baking, I hope to share a wonderful recipe for whey yeast bread next time.

I got some quality time with my sewing machine this weekend, I finished off a project that was started two years ago, seriously, it did not take too long to finish it, will post pictures next week. I am realising that finishing off projects is a great way to deal with clutter. I am still working on my dress for the hen party, I hope to finish it off tonight and be able to post some pics of it next week.

Allotment bounty!

Now is a good time to harvest raspberry leaves that can be dried and used as an infusion to help alleviate period pain (cramps).

The allotment this week supplied us with peas, broad beans, beetroot roots and leaves, strawberries, borage flowers and some tuberous rooted- parsley flowers that make a lovely cut flower (pictured).

If you want to, you may leave a comment on the blog letting us know what things you have been making and experimenting with making or growing.

Making mistakes, learning from them and rectifying others. Also, gearing up for some cheesemaking

Making mistakes
I have regularly noticed that the first time I try something it works out well, and the second time, disaster. I probably get cocky and think that I know best the second time round, I need to learn that this is seldom the case, perhaps after twenty or fifty goes I can start assuming that I know what I am doing. This certainly applied to the rhubarb crumble cake that I made last week to use up the rhubarb pulp and the whey that came from the yoghurt filtering. The first time I made it, it was great. I lined the bottom of the cake dish with the rhubarb and put a whey-sponge on top followed by a crumble topping. This time, the rhubarb (double the amount called for in the recipe without regard for the other ingredients) went in to the sponge (following a complaint from my husband (Dee) that the rhubarb stuck to the serving plate and was messy) In all there was not enough raising agent, and too much batter in this small dish and the whole thing just collapsed in the oven! We have been frying it and eating it as a sweetmeat, not the best. I will perfect this recipe, hopefully it won’t take twenty or fifty goes to do so, otherwise my waistline will suffer,  perhaps not using rhubarb as rhubarb season is coming to an end. I hope to post the perfected recipe in the future.

Rectifying mistakes
Last week, I figured that it would be wise to add more elderflowers to the cordial, so I steeped loads of heads in half of the cordial, then mixed this up with the other half and bottled it. thus hopefully rescuing the cordial from tasting like lemonade of sorts and firmly settling it in the elderflower category. Elderflowers being medicinal and all.

On the upside- I finally figured out how to make granola without burning it. A loose recipe follows:

Granananalola (to the tune of Lola by the Kinks)
In a bowl, place the following or similar ingredients
300g rye flakes (rolled oats will do)
200g rolled oats (Important pant of granola)
some sunflower seeds
some linseed
handful of flaked almonds
2 handfuls of raisins or saltanas
a handful or 2 of chopped apricots (or whatever fruit you have access to or floats your boat)
a tiny (or large) sprinkle of cinnamon

In a pot melt some coconut oil with some muscovado sugar (any sugar is fine), and add honey or syrup to it too. Once melted, pour onto the ingredients in the bowl and mix through till everything is nicely coated, if there is liquid on the bottom, add more oats.

Spread out in a thin layer on a baking sheet and bake for 10mins at 60C. Mix and spread it out again and return to the oven, this time to a cooler over (dehydrator setting). All ovens are different, mine is fairly tempermental, so keep a watch  on it so that it does not burn. When it has acquired a brown look to it, it is ready, let it cool down before storing it in an airtight container.

Thrifty and delicious hot pea salad
In a previous post I mentioned pea pod wine, well in an attempt to use up this year’s allotment pea pods in a recipe that does not involve turning them into wine, I found a process for making the pods of ripe peas palatable:

Remove peas from pod, slide a knife under the cellulose membrane that lines the pod, loosen this and remove it from the pod, the pod is now perfectly edible (delicious) and none of the pea harvest has gone to waste. Discard the tough membrane.

So, into a hottish pan with some olive oil, add your peas and de-membraned pea pods, stir while cooking till they change colour, sprinkle on some salt and black pepper, serve. Bliss!

Cheesemaking is something that I thought I would try eventually, but after reading this fantastic website, http://www.cheesemaking.com/  I have decided to jump right in. So from a homebrew supplier I bought a lactic culture, some small cheesemoulds and a bit of liquid rennet. I have also sourced some calcium chloride (useful for the milk we get in Ireland due to the pasturisation process) and I am awaiting the arrival of a digital food thermometer. So at the weekend, I mixed the culture with 1L of full fat milk, left it out for around 20 hours, put it in the fridge for a further 12 hours and then froze the cultures into 10ml ice cubes (hearts and penguins) Each of these cubes will culture 1L of milk for souring the cheese before adding the rennet. (I need never buy this culture again!) It is all waiting on the thermometer to arrive and a bit of free time, perhaps Saturday morning, just enough time to get my cheesecloths sorted,  and we will get started, so excited! I have yet to decide on which cheese to start with, certainly one of the cheeses suitable for beginners in a kitchen.

Kefir update
Well,  I have started keeping a journal about what I am feeding my kefir, in this warm weather the kefir is fairly active and possibly containing a small amount of alcohol, not good if you want to drive after drinking it. So, in an attempt to fix it,  I am trying it out in 1L batches that run only for 24 hours as opposed to the 48 hours previously, I hope it works, contains no alcohol and is still fizzy but not so fizzy it bubbles out of the bottle upon serving.

By the way, don’t filter yoghurt on a hot day, it goes a bit sour! I will have to buy another starter (pot of live yoghurt for the next batch.

Happy making stuff!

Water kefir, cordial, elderflowers

Water kefir, what a delight! When I bought the kefir grains eight days ago, I did not really realise how interesting these little things were, and quite how delicious the liquid from the brewing process is. Nor did it really dawn on me at the time that the grains are alive, (they are composed of beneficial bacteria and yeasts that are said to strengthen the immune system) and that all of the ingredients that go into the brewing of this drink are really there to provide nutrition to the grains. When they are healthy, they will reproduce. While the first batch was perfect, the second batch had a white fungus growing on it (pictured) by the second day, somewhat perturbed, I went to the internet and found this great resource: http://www.yemoos.com/mainwaterkefir.html The fungus thankfully turned out to be a harmless though undesirable mycoplasm that exists at the edge between sugar water and oxygen (seemingly some people capture this and use it for leavening sourdough) So I spooned off the fungus and watched it disappear down the drain and then proceeded as normal except that I thoroughly rinsed the grains and the mason jar this time before recommencing the process. I have not washed them since the fungus incident and they are perfectly healthy now (I started the fourth batch off this morning). I bottled the brew and left it for a few days to gas up, it was perfect, had a bottle with breakfast this morning! The way I now view the process is that every two days, I get to nourish and care for my kefir grains, in return, they provide me with a healthy, tasty, carbonated drink, better than any soft drink one could buy, complete with B vitamins and probiotics.

Basic Recipe for Water Kefir  2/3 cup water kefir grains/ litre (I used the whole bag, perhaps 1 cup of grains) 3 Tbs unsulphured dried fruit (handful of raisins/ some dried apple slices/ mixed fruit etc) 1 cup organic sugar (fairtrade brown sugar)  1/2 – 1 lemon, quartered (lemon juice acts as a pH buffer, peel and flesh provide minerals) 1 thin slice of peeled ginger (I never peel ginger, was not about to start now) 2 litre filtered water (I used tap water that I let stand for a few hours in a dish to allow the chlorine to gas off) Dissolve sugar in the water, to a 2L mason jar add all of the above ingredients, cover with a cheese cloth and let brew for 48 or so hours. Using wooden or plastic utensils, (not metal) strain the fruit out then pour the liquid off into sterilised bottles (I use glass bottles with skrewtop lids that had previously held a fizzy liquid, or a swing-top bottle) leaving the grains in the bottom of the mason jar. You can add a flavouring such as rhubarb or elderflower cordial at this stage to the bottles, this will cause the yeasts remaining in the liquid make carbon dioxide bubbles. Leave these at room temp for a day or two before storing in the fridge. Refrigeration will slow the gassing process.  Repeat the recipe with the grains that are in the bottom of the mason jar.

Elderflower cordial: I gathered elderflowers this week for cordial, which was duly made, using Richard Maybe’s recipe that is featured in his book Food for Free (one of my all-time favourite books), I have six wine bottles of the stuff and two smaller bottles sitting in the press beside the wine from last week. (The wine was not a big hit at the allotment party, leading me to the conclusion that I really have to get better at making wine) A foodie that I know recently told me that he freezes the cordial for use during the year as he finds that it does not store well- he cited curdling as a problem. I have never found that to be an issue,  neither is my freezer big enough to store 4 litres of cordial ice-cubes. I do however use citric acid and lemons every time, I wonder if that makes a difference? (I must admit that this batch of cordial is unfortunately a bit light on elderflower, as a restaurant that I sometimes supply with foraged ingredients got the bulk of my collection.)  Basic

Elderflower Cordial Recipe Per litre of water: Grated rind, juice and flesh of 1 lemon 25g citric acidelderflower cordial 1kg sugar 10 elderflower heads, largest stalks snipped off 1 litre of boiling water In a large bowl (stock pot) dissolve the sugar into the boiling water Add the lemon, citric acid and elderflower heads Leave for 24 hours, stirring occasionally Strain into sterilised bottles (wine bottles with skrew caps work well)  Label bottles with details and date of manufacture Dilute to taste or use as a base for making elderflower sorbet

Medicine chest: My quest for a medicine for sinusitis this week lead me back to elderflowers, seemingly they are also good for sinus infections, so an infusion of dried elderflower with a pinch of cayenne pepper was my tisane du jour for the last few days. I think that it is working! This week, I also harvested some Californian poppy (Eschscholitzia californica), stems, leaves and flowers these smell somewhat like fishy latex, these used in infusions according to my book (Penelope Ody’s Simple Healing with Herbs) as a mild soporific- aids sleeping and helps relieve pain.  Save