Homemade yogurt

 

Yogurt and Whey

I love yogurt, just to eat and to bake with. Mostly to eat, with raspberries and honey. I can’t have refined sugar so buying yogurt is out (and I don’t like the “extra’s” they add).

Homemade yogurt seems to be the “new” thing, when really it’s been around for centuries. Yogurt is a fermented dairy product, most often made with cow’s milk. Notably the most popular cultured/fermented food for it’s health aspects. Now more than ever. Probiotics are getting lots of press lately and yogurt has a few.

Probiotic are good bacteria that help maintain the  microflora in the intestines. There are 400 different strains of probiotic bacteria in your digestive track. The most populous strain is Lactobacillus acidophilus or lactic acid. This strain is found in yogurt and is probably best recognized today (even if people don’t actually know what it is, kinda like antioxidants, I’ll tell you about those later). Surprisingly people with a lactose allergy can usually tolerate homemade yogurt because as it ferments the good bacteria eats the lactose leaving it almost lactose free.

Without a healthy balance of bacteria in your system, trouble digesting is the first of the problems you can have. Yogurt is usually recommended to people who are taking antibiotics. This is done because antibiotics do just that, they kill bacteria and not just the bad bacteria but the good stuff too. (I wish my doctor would have told me this. I learned the hard way and on my own) Probiotics help protect the body from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Colon Cancer, Skin irritations and some mental disorders. Long story short, you need good bacteria.

This is where homemade yogurt comes into play. Most recipes I’ve seen are pretty close to the same; milk and plain yogurt. I do things a little different.

The whey is the yellow jar in the picture above.

Don’t throw the whey! It makes great bread just use it in place of water or milk in your favorite bread recipe.

To keep the milk at the desired temp for hours people say to fill mason jars with warm water and place them and your milk in a cooler and check the temp every so often and exchange the cool jars with warm ones. Another method is lining a cooler with a blanket and put your yogurt in it. I find both to be a pain in the ass. I do everything in the crock pot. Warm the milk, let it cool, add the yogurt, then place the lid back on it and put it in the oven with the oven light on. Done! No changing water jars, no fussing with coolers and blankets and it stays the perfect temp.

You need the bit of plain yogurt for the probiotics to start the fermentation process. Most commercial yogurts list 2-4 different strains of probiotic. Kefir is another fermented dairy product it’s thinner than yogurt and thicker than cream and sometimes slightly fizzy. Kefir generally averages 12 different strains of probiotic depending on the brand. I use plain kefir instead of plain yogurt as my starter. It turns out great!

If left to ferment longer than 12 hours you will end up with sour cream, which is equally good. This being said your yogurt is unsweetened. I prefer adding honey to my individual serving, you can sweeten the whole batch if you like. Once you have made one batch you can use a little of what you made to start the next batch.

Less is more too. Adding more plain yogurt (or kefir) will not give you super probiotic yogurt. Too much starter will actually give your yogurt a more tart or sour taste. It won’t hurt you but it’s just not as good.

The only thermometer I have is a candy thermometer and it’s not worth the space it takes in the cupboard. General rule of thumb I go by it to heat to 180 you want it to be starting to steam and a film will develop on top. To cool to 110, I use my finger, it should be a little warmer than body temp. Be sure to wash your hand before testing the temperature as you do not want to introduce bad bacteria to your yogurt.

Happy yogurt making! (It also makes great frozen yogurt too 😉 )

Tips for using the Whey can be found here and here.

Yogurt
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Yogurt
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Instructions
  1. Heat 1 gallon of whole milk very slowly to 180 degrees in your crockpot.
  2. Turn the crockpot off and allow the milk to cool to 110 degrees.
  3. Temper 1/4 cup of plain yogurt with 1 cup of warm milk (Tempering is adding small amounts of warm to cold to bring them to the same temp without shocking the cold.)
  4. Add the tempered yogurt to the rest of the milk and stir.
  5. This needs to be kept at about the same temp for 8-12 hours. I do this by placing my crockpot in the oven with the oven light on.
  6. Once the milk has fermented for 8-12 hours pour it into a fine cheese cloth and let strain until desired thickness. You will be left with yogurt and whey.
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Stuffed Acorn Squash

 

Stuffed Squash

Summer is a very distant memory now and there’s so many months of cold left. I think I’m pretty well acclimated now as I went to get the mail this afternoon and thought to myself it was pretty nice out… it was -10. That doesn’t mean I’m not craving a garden fresh meal on the deck. It’s still winter and winter flavors.

 

Stuffed Acorn Squash
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This stuffed acorn squash is a nice change of pace and has a few different adaptations too!
Stuffed Acorn Squash
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This stuffed acorn squash is a nice change of pace and has a few different adaptations too!
Ingredients
  • 4 each Acorn Squash
  • 1/2 each Yellow Onion diced
  • 1 each Carrot diced
  • 1 each Celery Stick diced
  • 3 each Garlic clove minced
  • 4 each Button Mushroom chopped
  • to taste •Salt and Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Sage crushed
  • 1/2 lb Ground Elk
  • 1/2 lb lb Venision Sausage
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put the whole squash in the oven for 10 minutes then remove and slice off the bottom. Scoop out the "guts" (seeds and such). (the short time in the oven makes cutting the squash easier)
  3. In the mean time saute the rest in a cast iron pan. (I use cast iron for almost everything. I love it!)
  4. Once the meat is cooked through stuff the mixture into the squashes and place them in a Dutch oven with a little water.
  5. Cover and bake for about 45 min, just until the squash is done.
  6. Then serve.
Recipe Notes

Variations:

  • Substitute ground beef and pork sausage for elk and venison.
  •  Add 1 1/2 cup of cooked wild rice.
  • Add 1 cup of cooked wild rice and 1/2 cup of Craisins
  • Add 3/4 cup of crushed Ritz crackers and 1  egg. (this should be combined after the meat is browned and before stuffing the squash.

These are just a couple ideas add or subtract to fit your families tastes.
I usually just stuff two squash and save the rest of the filling as a start to hotdish, as my husband gets tired of leftovers and really likes hotdish. 🙂

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Canned Venison

 

Canned venison

Fall means deer season around here. Hunting opener was the one time of year you could be guaranteed to see more of the family on my dads side than any other holiday. Over the years the crowd has thinned considerably with the cousins growing up and spreading out and travel getting to be too much for some in the questionable northern weather.

This year I was graced with getting a small (very small) buck. Any other year I would have left him to grow for a few more years, this year however the freezer was empty and so is the checkbook. We moved before I could harvest our gardens at the old house so every little bit helps.

I went out about forty five minutes before sunrise because I wanted to get to my tree grove by the barn before shooting time. It was cool, but I was bundled for -50 out. I sat in the snow by the pine trees and waited.

I watched the sunrise in facing west. If you’ve never done this, you should it’s really quite amazing. Like most people I like to watch the sunrise and set facing the sun. It’s very hard to describe the rising in the west. It’s like God flips a switch, “and there was light” it’s not on a dimmer. Just dark to light. From then the little critters begin to stir and so do I. I’ve been sitting for about an hour, being quiet and not moving, that’s got to be record. I watched and waited for another hour and decided I was hungry and it was time for breakfast.

That afternoon we went to grandma’s. My dad said I could sit with him in his deer stand. I got a chair and it was heated. Now that’s my kind of deer hunting! It was almost dark and a little buck came into sight. With dad’s permission, I dropped him. He didn’t know what hit him. Just the way it should be, I don’t like them to suffer and I don’t like to track a wounded deer in the dark.

With the help of my brother, husband and a couple cousins the deer was hung, skinned and gutted. (I don’t think an animal that small takes the whole family to take care of but I don’t complain about help. 🙂 )

After it hung for a few days it was brought home. Dad, my husband and I cut it up into steaks, ground meat, sausage meat and some for canning. I would have loved to can the whole thing. There’s something great about hot canned venison over mashed potatoes with caramelized onions in the middle of winter. Good old comfort food.

 

Here’s my recipe:

Canned Venison
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Canned Venison
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Ingredients
  • 1 qt Canning Jar
  • 3 each Garlic cloves smashed
  • 2 slices Yellow Onion
  • 1 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Put everything in the jar and fill the rest of the jar with venison cut into chunks.
  2. Be sure to pack the meat in the jar, you don't want air pockets. Leave 1 inch of head space.
  3. Process in a canner for 3 hours.
  4. You can use a pressure cooker, I believe the process time is 1 1/2 hours. I do enough dangerous things around here I don't want to add pressure cooker to my list, so I water bath it.
Recipe Notes

To serve the venison just warm in a sauce pan. Saute a couple yellow onions in butter until they are a nice caramel color. Then mashed potatoes, I like russets, nothing fancy about them. Just boiled and mashed with butter and a dash of milk. Potatoes on the plate topped, with a scoop of onions and venison accompanied by a healthy slice of homemade sourdough. You just can't beat it.

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Scratch Apple Cider Vinegar

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I could have sworn I wrote about making your own cider vinegar before. As I was reorganizing the recipe pages I couldn’t find the article. Apparently I just posted the recipes on the “What’s Cookin’ ” page. I guess I’d better get on it.

I generally make my vinegar in the fall when I make apple cider, apple butter and apple sauce. You can save your apple peals in the freezer through out the year and when you have enough thaw and ferment. Personally I never peal my apples, with the exception of pie and then they are usually given as dog treats.

By now you’ve probably heard about the million and one uses for distilled and apple cider vinegar. I have the beginning of a vinegar article started and I think that’s where I will leave the history, facts and tips.(Finished it here) So without further ado the easiest vinegar recipes:

Apple Cider Vinegar 1
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This works well with pears too!
Apple Cider Vinegar 1
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This works well with pears too!
Instructions
  1. Place apple peals, cores and scraps in a crock or bucket and cover with water.
  2. Place a plate on top to keep the apples submerged. An extra weight may be needed. A jar filled with water or a rock that has been scrubbed and boiled works well.
  3. Cover the crock with a tight woven cheese cloth or flour sack towel and move to a dark cool place.
  4. This will sit and ferment for about a month. A taste will tell if it's done. If it seems weak let it set for another week and try again. If it's to your liking strain the apple pieces and pour into glass jars for use.
  5. There will be some sediment at the bottom of the jars this is referred to as the "mother". It can be strained out through a coffee filter if you like.
Recipe Notes

**Adding some sugar or honey to your apple peals will give the good bacteria something more to munch on and will hasten and strengthen your vinegar.

** Do not use metal containers to ferment or store the vinegar.

**A piece of wax paper under a metal lid will help prevent corrosion of the lid.

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Apple Cider Vinegar 2
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This one I find to be a cheater recipe, but it does work.
Apple Cider Vinegar 2
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This one I find to be a cheater recipe, but it does work.
Instructions
  1. Any amount of Organic Apple Cider in a crock left to set on the counter will ferment in a week or less.
  2. Once fermented this can be bottled and finished as hard cider or left on the counter for another week or so (check after a week and let it set longer if needed) to turn to vinegar.
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Here comes…

There’s a lot going on at the farm right now be sure to watch for the up coming posts!

The sheep have been sheered and it’s time to turn the fleece to a sweater. (Ok not our sheep, that will come later. But I do have a few fleece to tend to)

The pigs have been butchered. I should talk about the butchering, bacon making, ham curing, chop cutting pig processing,  but then what would I talk about next fall. Fat is being rendered and soap being made this time.

We are also going to talk about hide tanning too! But for now I have some steer hide ready to be tooled.

Cheese is in the works to start aging.

There’s some lace being put into a “built in” in the dining room. (I know it doesn’t sound to interesting but it’s actually kinda neat.)

The barn needs some help and repair.

The summer kitchen plans are getting close and will hopefully be in use by next year.

There’s more to come in the kitchen, the craft room, the garden and the barn yard.  Some things we are starting in the middle of the process, but don’t worry we will circle back to the beginning too!

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