Sunday, April 26, 2009

Powdered Milk Yogurt

Dear Georgia,
Learning a new skill is never pretty. At least not in my case. There are always smears and smudges (blood and bones) left as trail markers on the path of skill development. I prefer to do my learning in the quiet privacy of my home, or a safe group of close friends.
Well, here I am, learning several new skills (blogging, photography, tutorial) and it is in a very public venue -- that is to say if anyone other than you felt like looking at this, they could. I am trying to hide in in a corner of the world wide web and learn quietly, but I promised some Relief Society sisters my slide show and this is how I told them to reach it. Now I have put it off almost a whole week. It really isn't going to get any better than this. (sadly!)
At least I didn't have a learning curve on the yogurt making -- just the blogging about it. I have (in the quiet privacy of my own home) made plenty of mistakes, blunders, fumbles with powdered milk (not least of all drinking the stuff!) but here I am pretty sure that you almost can't go wrong.
(that is to say I won't take credit if you do...)

Why would you want to make your own yogurt? Because it is SO easy that you will wonder why anyone pays for the stuff at the grocery store.

Start with powdered milk.

About pre-measured milk powder

You need to adjust the amount of water.
Add about 1/3 of cup less than recipe calls for.
You are trying to make slightly thicker milk than regular

You need about  a quart of water

Pour it into a large but shallow pot with a heavy bottom

It's a pot not a person so yes I can make personal comments like that.

Next you need to measure the powdered milk

Don't look at this picture too closely, because you really need 1  1/2 cups of milk powder rather than 1  1/3...

Dump that in the pot

Stir it up well

It's okay to have foam.

Heat milk on medium low

I promise there really is a flame there and I did not put my family in danger of gas inhalation.

Heat to 180 degrees

This kills off the bad bugs and leaves all that nice warm milk for the yogurt babies.

Let the milk cool to 90-100 degrees

Please be careful:  I take no responsibility for burns (or other injuries) but I wait about 1/2 hour and then put my wrist on the side of the pot.  If it feels skin temperature than it is good to go.

Add 2-4 TBS of yogurt

The less starter the longer it takes to culture.  (The longer it takes to culture the tarter the flavor.)  Don't overdo the starter though or you will curdle the milk and get lumpy, cheesy yogurt.  Yogurt cheese is my next tutorial.  Hang onto your hats...

A word about your starting culture

Make sure it has active live cultures.  I like to splurge and get the kind of yogurt that my family could never afford to eat a quart of every day but would like to.   Plain is best, but vanilla will work.  In a pinch I have used the top non-fruit-gunky portion of a fruit-(gunky)-on-the-bottom  single serve cup.  After your initial start you can use homemade yogurt as your starter.  I like to buy a quart container and divide it into an ice cube tray and freeze it.  Two cubes is about 4 tablespoons and you don't have to get the milk to such a low temperature because the frozen starter will cool it while it is melting.

Pour inoculated milk into clean canning jars

I know everyone says you have to sterilize everything, but I have 5 children and nothing in my house is sterile.  Don't eat it if it smells funny (as in not like yogurt) and every couple of generations (yogurt generations, not family generations) start with fresh store bought starter.  After the first few times you will know if it is different than it should be.

This is how much I usually get

Not including the inevitable spills...

Now fill a small cooler with very hot tap water

If your hot water heater is set properly it should be somewhere around 120 degrees or so and will work nicely for this.  Please disregard the grungies on the sink.  They are, of course figments of your imagination, or blemishes on your computer screen.

Place lidded jars in hot water

There are many, many other ways to incubate your yogurt babies, but this one works for me every time.  No one sneezes into it, or turns on the oven with out checking, or takes my thermos and puts worms in it this way.  

Let sit undisturbed for 4-6 hours

As mentioned above, the shorter the time it takes to set up, the less tart the yogurt will be.  Other things that affect the tartness of the yogurt are milk fat (um... it is supposed to be nonexistent in powdered milk so expect this to be a bit on the tart side) and sweeteners added (again, none here...)

Set up yogurt

I love it best on homemade granola.  (maybe once a year...)

Next up is yogurt cheese...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Ten ways to NOT raise chickens

Dear Georgia,
I took my letter out because Todd said it might be to personal. Now he says it is sweet and thinks it should go back in. In and out. Here it is (well, a different letter). This is the required list post. I think this is from day 3 of 31 days to a better blog. I don't see it as 31 days to a better blog, but 31 days to any blog at all. (Incidental, I am still on day three, but Daren at ProBlogger is on day 40 or something like that.)


With the death of RoosterBoy I am an OFFICIAL expert in this area now. Here are some great ways to make sure that you don't have a flock of chickens on your farm (be it large or small - the farm or the flock)

1. Do NOT go into the farm store during Peep Week.  This is harder said than done.  But you know that if you go in you won't come out empty handed.  Fuzzy, soft, tiny, little creatures... and right around Easter... 

2. Do NOT go on line to McMurray hatcheries to look at all the different varieties of chicks. This only leads to trouble and a 6:00 am phone call from the post office that they have a box for you that is peeping.  

3. Do NOT try to incubate fertile eggs.  I suppose you could try... it never works any way. Just because the neighbor can do this with out any problems doesn't mean YOU (okay I) can.  You (um... I) can make sure the brand new incubator is set up completely correct, with the right temperature and humidity and turn those eggs gently 3 times a day and STILL not get any chicks.

4.  Do NOT listen to friends who tell you they can get you mature pullets for nothing.  First of all, we know there is no such thing as a free lunch or a free chicken, and second (of all), some times things get out of proportion.  A free chicken soon turns into 40.  And then what are you going to do?

5.  DO  advertise that YOU are giving away free chickens.  Soon you will have many many people asking you for your "free" chickens (which even though you had to pay for them you are giving away for free... Hey!  How did that work?)

6.  DO pen cute little two week old chicks in with a skunk.  Learn from me: skunks eat cute little two week old chickies.  At least they kill them.  And that hole under the barn?  You CAN'T cover it up with a bigger rock.  Things like skunks dig.  

7. DO encourage free ranging chickens into your neighbors yard so the pit bull who lives there can use them as a squeaky toy.  You may feel bad about this at first (and your neighbor most certainly will) but if you are trying to avoid a flock of chickens from roosting on your farm, this is a sure bet to get rid of them.  Unfortunately, dogs can learn to only herd the chickens off their yard and back onto yours so make sure you let the dog kill the chickens without reprimand if you are trying to get rid of the feathered fiends.

8. DO encourage free ranging in the ditch by the road.  This will often lead to a chicken wondering what is on the other side.  With any luck a passing car will hit the bird and then you are one down, 30 more to go.  

9.  DO encourage free ranging by a hawk's nest.  This leads to most exciting results.  It can provide days of entertainment.

10.  DO encourage roosting in trees.  This brings coyote and other nighttime critters for a feathered buffet.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bye, bye Rooster Boy

Well, that's the last of last years chickens. Rooster Boy, who survived the winter in the barn with the goats was hit by a car when he tried to cross the road. There is a joke in there somewhere, but I am too sick to find it. The big question is do I dare pluck, gut, and cook him up for dinner?

I think I will use the sick excuse again.
I will miss his cheery "Cock-a-dock-a- doooo!" as Roo says.
I think I am done with truely free ranging chickens for a while. I have plans for a pastured chicken coop that moves daily, and I think that might be where we will head from here.

So the chicken stats: over 50 have been on the farm at one point or other.
none surviving.
none cooked.
only a couple of eggs collected.
none of those hatched.
Ox Cart Man score: very very low....
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ox Cart Man

Ox-cart Man is a book by Donald Hall, and illustrated by Barbara Cooney.  It is worth the trip to the library to look at it.  It is a lovely story about a self sufficient family, who are happy in their work.  It makes me nostalgic for a time that I never lived in.  
When my husband and I first read the book we would dream of being that family in their simple work filled world, and gentle joy.  
Over time, we have moved from place to place, picking up skills, and stretching our abilities due to necessity.  We now live on a small hobby farm (it is so small I don't know if it merits the term farm at all) in Upstate NY with our family and enjoy our attempts at self sufficiency.  It is a very good thing we aren't dependant on those attempts -- we wouldn't survive long.  I thought a blog might be a convenient place to record our errors, so you won't have to make the same mistakes we did.  I think recipes,  patterns, and projects might work here too.
I am not organized or creative or photographically inclined enough to have this be a design site, or a wonder-mama site, or a foodie site, or anything else so cool (I just read those, not produce them) and there won't be anything on here that you can't find in other places.    Just a place to record my own ox-cart tracks.