August 22, 2016

Home-Made Cream Cheese with the bonus of getting some fresh Whey

Making your own cream cheese is so simple and tastes so good, you will never want to go back to the bought one! And I dare say you have all the ingredients at hand. As this does not require anything fancy like rennet. All you need is yoghurt and some salt.

Making your own has many advantages. Because you use your own yoghurt you control the amount of fat yourself (mine has 3,8% as that is what fat the milk has that I use for making our yoghurt), same for the amount and the type of salt. Lets say you suffer from Hyperthyroidism (use salt, that has no iodine) or heart disease (use less to very little salt). I am also pretty sure you could make this vegan by using a vegan type of yoghurt but I haven't tried it myself.

You need something to use as a cheesecloth. Either a real cheese cloth, which I don't like! It is too much waste for my environmentally friendly taste. I use either thinnish kitchen towels or my by now not anymore needed Burp clothes. It is a great way to recycle (or is it an up-cycle?) these Burp-clothes.
After use I rinse them out, let them dry and then collect them for a hot-hot wash (95C) with washing powder and ACV (apple cider vinegar).

You also need a jug that is preferable not plastic and big enough to hold at least 700 ml volume.

Now line your jug with your Cloth, if it is a very thin cloth, but big enough consider folding it and use it double. Make sure you have enough excess material at all sides of the jug, so you can tie it later without the yoghurt squirting out the sides!

Now spoon 2 jars (each approximatly 200gr) of cold! natural yoghurt (here is a recipe for homemade yoghurt) into the cloth. Gather the ends not too tight, but short enough that there is at least 2 cm space below the hanging cheese cloth construct to let the whey drip out. Make sure at all times that the whey does NOT reach the bottom of your cloth! The most dripping will happen in the first 2h. I usually leave it for a while on the counter and pour the fresh whey straight into a little bottle.
this is the construction that works best for me. I started with a rubber band and a spoon to tie it up, but I find the clip works best, as it just fits over the rim of my jug.

Whey gathered and refilled 

Once it slows down dripping I put it into the fridge for 24h. After that scratch it out of your cloth into a bowel and add about 1/8-1/4 teaspoon of salt to taste ( I have seen up to one teaspoon in recipes, which I tried at first, but I found that it is way too salty). Now my husband (and some of our guests agree with him) wants me to stop here, as he likes his cream cheese creamy and soft. If you feel the same way about the consistency of your cream cheese, fill it into a jar and enjoy.
But, if you like it firm and crumbly get out a fresh cloth and line a very small bowl just big enough to hold the contents of your cream cheese mass. Fill the cream cheese into the cloth lined container. Cut out a piece of card board just a small bit smaller than the opening. Fold the cloth closed tight over the cheese. But your piece of card board on top and then go find some weight that fits on top and pushes the whole shebang down and is not any wider then the opening of your tiny bowl (I used to fill a yoghurt jar with water and screw the lid on and leave it on top of the cream cheese. refrigerate your construction for another 24h. scrape out of cloth into a fresh jar with screw-on lid and enjoy!

The whey contains a lot of the milks protein. I use it mainly for baking bread, but I also used it to start a ginger bug, in smoothies and as a treatment for powdery mildew on my courgettes/zucchinis and pumpkins plants.

August 17, 2016

Let´s talk Mirabelle plums! We harvested 18 kg this weekend and preserved them in various ways.

Mirabelles (I added a link as I have recently learned that they are banned in the US right up there with the Kinder Surprise Eggs and Hagis. Who would have thought?! )

These little plums the size of a yellow cherry taste divine!

Pitting them can be a bit of a chore, if you do it with a little knife like us. The stone comes out a bit easier if you cut a long the line shown in the picture.

And here comes a public service announcement: USE A STAINLESS STEEL KNIFE! If you do not you will have a reaction between the metal in your knife and the acid in your fruit and your fingers will look like mine for a week or longer....Or if you do use that old granny knife in your drawer, just because it happens to be the sharpest in there....well, make sure you are not meeting people for the next week, you´ll get some queer looks or be smart enough and wear gloves....!

Back to the Topic: I read online that if you have a cherry pitter you can use it, but I have not tried this and I believe it will only work if the Mirabelle plums are super ripe!

Every now and then you find a little added 'protein'! You better not be squeamish, as these move faster than you think!

Here are some of the recipes we made this weekend:

Mirabelle Jam
Prepare your jam jars! Either boil them and the lids separated (as in open jar) in a big saucepan full of water for a few minutes, or boil your kettle and fill up the jars and lids with boiling water and let stand for a few minutes. This is the method I have been using for decades now. I have never had a glas break on me while filling it up with the billing water, but I know that that is a fear for some. I once read that you need to do this on either a glas top or a wet towel to avoid this to happen. I have them stand on my ceramic hob which seems to work just fine. It also usually has spilled water on it, which probably helps here, too.

Then empty lids without touching the inside (I just use a big pair of BBQ tongs) and then fill one lid with Vodka. Pour the Vodka from one lid into the  next, until you have them all disinfected. And again without touching the inside! Once the last lid is disinfected I just pour the vodka into the boiling jam.

for 1 kg of pitted and halved fruit you will need
500 gr of gelling/jam Sugar (the one that has citric acid and pectin and you can use a 2:1 ratio of fruit:sugar)
and 1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice (optional)
mix well and let stand for an hour in saucepan with lid (the sugar will drain some of the juice out of the fruit in this time) (if you are in a hurry you could also just add a little water or juice and start boiling immediately)
Bring to boil and let boil at full and while stirring for about 5 min. Then whizz the fruit mix until no 'lumps'. pour straight into jam jars (I use a wide mouthed funnel to help with the spillage) and screw the lid on tight, then turn them up side down and let cool in this position. Label and store cool (as in cellar)

I love my Jam with a bit of cream cheese instead of butter. A recipe for homemade cream cheese will follow soon.

Mirabelle & Blackberry Jam
prepare Jam jars as above
for 500gr of Mirabelles pitted and halved and 500 gr of Blackberries
add 500 gr of jam  sugar (see above)
1-2 teaspoons of lemon juice (optional)
 Proceed as above!

Mirabelle and Lemon Jelly 
This stuff is seriously good!

Prepare Jars as above!

Juice 3 kg of Mirabelles in whole just washed (I use one of those saucepans where you boil the fruit and the juice comes out of a nozzle at the bottom) but I am sure you could use a regular juicer too.

mushing the fruit with the potato masher helps speed things up

add the juice and Zest of 4 Lemons

200 ml of orange juice

Weigh the mix and
add half the amount in grams of jam sugar (in my case a little over a kilo of sugar)
also add 3 cinnamon sticks 
and 5 cloves
now boil until it thickens. Make sure your saucepan is big enough as the mix can get a bit foamy and bubbly when boiling. Fill in Jars and proceed as above!

Mirabelle Gin

Get big wide mouthed glas jar and prepare as above.

Wash 250 gr Mirabelles very well. Then pour some boiling water over them. Drain immediately.
Now layer the Mirabelles with
125 gr rock candy (if you use brown rock candy the gin will get brown!)
Stick half a stick of cinnamon in the middle and pour
Approximately 250 ml of gin over the mix.
The fruit should be well covered.

Screw lid on and shake well! Store in dark cool place for 4-6 weeks. Every time you pass give it a good shake. After this time you should be able to enjoy it. (obviously we haven´t tried our own yet as the mix is only four days old so far but we are very hopeful)

Canned Mirabelle halves

prepare jars as mentioned above

Wash Mirabelles very well, half and stone, fill in sterilised jars and prepare canning liquid.

canning liquid:
for 1 kg of fruit
use 300 gr of jam sugar (see above)
and 1 litre of water
add 1 cinnamon sticks
and a 1-2 cloves to taste.
Bring to boil and let simmer for a few minutes. Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves and pour hot over fruit. Immediately screw on lids. Put all your jars in a big water bath canner or in my case a huge saucepan and bring to boil. Boil for 30 min.

Let cool on a cooling rack and make sure all lids have popped inwardly. Otherwise they won't keep and can even be dangerous to consume (Botulism would be your biggest fear) if any of your jar lids, even after cooling down, did not have their lids plop inwards store in FRIDGE and consume immediately!

Mirabelle sauce

Prepare jars as above.

Wash and stone 3,5 kg of Mirabelles.
Add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon and
1 tsp of ground cloves.
Add 50 ml rum and
300 gr brown cane sugar (I prefer raw)
Mix well and let stand for a good hour. The Sugar will draw the juice out of the Mirabelles, this way you don´t have to add any extra liquid. After this bring to boil and boil on medium heat with no lid while stirring every few minutes, until there isn't too much liquid left (took me 2h). Whizz it into a homogene mass. Pour boiling hot into your prepared jars (funnels help reducing the mess! They also keep the rims of the jars clean) Close straight away and then boil in water bath as described above. Please check those lids before you stack them in your shelves.

Store your canned goodies cool and dark and before you store them wipe them all clean.
Before consuming any canned product you should check those lids again, and when opening them the first time you want to hear this hissing noise and a plop. this shows that there was a vacuum in the jar all the time you stored it!  Check for discolouration and signs of mould. Only then is it safe to eat! I only ever had a handful of jars turn mouldy, these would have been ones were I worked sloppy hygiene wise. Either not wiped clean enough or the rims of the glasses had spilled jam on them, here those funnels come in really handy!

We also halved, stoned and cleaned several kilos and just froze them. So if you have any more ideas let me know! Thank you for any input!

August 11, 2016

super fast to make sugar and gelatine free healthier jelly bears for your kids or yourself

200 ml orange juice (fresh pressed is more yummy, but from the pack will do just fine)
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (again fresh juiced would be better)
1 package of agar agar/ agartine (10gr)
1-2 tablespoon Honey or any other sweetener of your choice.You could easily make them vegan with rice syrup or agave syrup. I could imagine maple syrup having a bit of a too strong taste, but I have not tried it.

Heat up juice and dissolve honey in it.
Whisk in agar agar.
Whisk until all dissolved.
pour into forms. I used silicon form. If you do so learn from my past experience and put a cutting board underneath.
Chill for about an hour and then dig in. They will be a bit glibbery to the touch, but taste awesome. Even my mom who despises anything sweet, loved them and had not just one, but a few! They supposedly last a week to 10 days in the fridge but they didn't even make it to day 2 in our house as they where all gobbled up in no time.

You can make them in other colours by using different coloured juice/fruit purees. The only no go is pineapple as it won't work.

If you tried an esp. nice tasting  fruit/colour please let me know. Or if you have an idea that makes them less glibbery.

August 09, 2016

Homemade Yoghurt

Homemade yoghurt is so easy and my base for so many other homemade basics.
All you need is two ingredients.
1 litre Milk (I have also made this with coconut milk, which makes great baby food or you can use single cream for greek style yoghurt)
1 cup of organic natural yoghurt with live cultures.

Bring your milk to boil in a saucepan, stir often and do not walk away! Once it has boiled for a good two minutes, put saucepan to side and let cool to roughly 37-40C (it has to be below 42C, otherwise you kill your cultures if you add the yoghurt while still too hot!) To check the temperature without a Thermometer just use your clean finger, if it feels very hot, wait, if it feels just a tiny bit hotter than your finger, go ahead!

I have an old early 80s yoghurt maker that I got second hand, but my MIL makes her yoghurt in a saucepan, so I´ll give you both methods.

There are different type yoghurt makers, ones with several little glasses, and ones with one big one.
Mine has 6 little glasses, that hold together 1 litre of yoghurt. In each of those glasses I put 2 teaspoons of yoghurt, fill them up with the milk once it has reached 37-40C and stir well.  Screw lid on and put in yoghurt maker. Set for at least 12 h. After finished refrigerate. They keep for 2-3 weeks. When using save the last yoghurt to make new yoghurt, and just proceed like above. You will never run out of yoghurt and get 6 organic homemade yoghurts (if you use organic milk and starter yoghurt) with no additives for the price of a litre milk.
Yoghurt can be your base for so many things. I make our cream cheese out of it, and as a side product get homemade whey. Which you can use for starting your own ginger bug for soda making or use it for bread baking. I use yoghurt for a salad dressing that will keep a week in a screw jar in the fridge, as a dessert, or in ice cream... Really the list is endless!

If you have no access to a yoghurt maker you could make it my MILs way. You let the milk cool down to just under 40C and leave it in the sauce pan add your cup of yoghurt and stir well. Put the lid on the saucepan and wrap it in big towels and Blankets (lid and all around) and leave it on a heater or other warm but not too hot place over night ( roundabout  12 h).

June 09, 2016

How to make an ever so cosy T-shirt scarf

I am currently going a little mad with the sewing machine. A young friend cleaned out her cupboard and gave me 4 bags full of old clothes. After that my husband and I did the same. Now my sewing niche looks like one big messy pile and I can hardly walk around the desk to get to the sewing machine. I really need a few mornings to get organised in there! Have you got any tips? What works for your sewing room? How do you organise all your materials, zips, buttons and other utensils? I would love to hear!

Anyway as I had 2 kids on the mend at home, I could only do something basic that wouldn't need too much concentration on my side. Our workshop is not exactly toddler safe, but the two guys love being down there as it is one big adventure park to them. Which also means I am in a constant high-alert-mommy-modus.

So I started this project working out how to cut up old T´s in the most efficient way to get enough stripes for a nice length scarf. I took 3 of the softest shirts and turned them into scarfs. Two of them I made as presents and one is for myself.

My next planned project is making hats for the boys out of old T-shirts. I have a basic plan in my head, I will just have to figure out how to get it out of there.

As for those scarfs...let me introduce ROARY to you. He kindly volunteered to be my model as I am a little camera shy due to some childhood trauma involving my dad and his very trigger-happy finger. ROARY is my boys piggy-bank dragon. He also thought my youngest walking, by holding on tightly to him while being pushed round after round through our living room. I am just mentioning this, so you know this guy is not just someone random, but has become a well established member of our little family.

My first attempt was a birthday present for my mum. And I tried the lazy way using the sides of a T-shirt to save myself a few seams. I used an XL shirt.

So here is what I did: First I made a straight line from the shoulder line down to the bottom of the shirt.

Then I cut it (front and back at same time). First along my pink line, then I opened the sides. Here I used a zick-zack scissors. I first thought it would make it look nicer and wouldn't frazzle. But later I cut them off and made them straight. I prefer the straight look, I think. But what you use is entirely up to you.  Once you unfold front from back you have one long stripe. You do the same with the other shoulder part of the T-shirt.

When you reach the sleeve while cutting the sides open, just cut along the seam very closely, for now it doesn't matter if there is a little seam left on your scarf side of the material, as you will later have to straighten the sides anyway. I also had a little of the print left on one side, as you can see in the left middle of the picture below. That two will fall away later when you clean the sides. So don't worry too much about these things when getting started.

Now before you pin your two parts together consider this: If you leave the seam at the shoulder bits, your scarf will be slightly curved, which looks a bit unusual when you hold the scarf in your hands, but if you fold it the right way around your neck it fits perfectly. But you can open the seams, straighten the material and sew them together straight if that is what you prefer or you can follow the second tutorial that will follow later and leads to the scarf ROARY is wearing in the first picture. 

Now take your two parts and pin them together. Right side should show outside on both sides! We will leave the sides raw.  You should try to put them together that printed parts you want to cut away stick out on that side, same for seams left from sleeves. It sounds more complicated than it is. 

Next step would be to check your scraps for a wee bit of colour to add. I decided that this one includes all the colours my mother has in her cupboard and gives her lots to mix and match. I made the scarf for her as a cosy one to wear when walking the dog, nothing fancy. And her Raincoat is black. So it is very easy to match something to it. 

Now I had come up with two possibilities for decorating this little present. I tried them both, but couldn't make up my mind. So I asked my sisters and some friends and took votes. I first thought that the material might be a little loud and I should only use it in small doses, esp. considering I was sewing this for an mid sixties lady. 

So this was my first design. It got one vote out of eight.

This one got 7 votes.  I would love your input! Which design would you have gone for?

And I got one voter saying I should not use this material unless I was sewing a clowns costume. My hardest and most honest critic went for the last version, so this was another reason why I went for the "louder" version.

Now that I had pinned down my design I just sewed all the bits together and then cut both sides straight which also removed the printed bit, and the little bit of seam from the sleeves.

While this is the fastest method, it will not give you the longest scarf. but it will be very cosy anyway!

June 07, 2016

DIY Muesli /Granola that even my kids go mad for

Lets talk Muesli or Granola!

Buying organic ones can get pretty pricey and honestly I still have to find one that everybody in this house likes. Plus our kitchen and dining area is too small to have 4 big packs standing around. So I came up with the idea to do a basic Muesli with ingredients that we all like. And in the mornings everybody can mix their own little extras into their bowl and all are happy. Most mornings it is just a little cocoa powder, a few cranberries or maybe some small chunks of dark chocolate.

This is what I came up with, what works best for us.

Basic Muesli/Granola

4 cups porridge/oats flakes (the old fashioned ones, not the super fast microwavable ones)
8 cups of mixed flakes (mine have wheat, rye, spelt, millet, buckwheat, barley)
1/2 cup linseed
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chia
1/2 cup sesame seeds
2 cups millet flakes
1 cup popped Quinoa
1 cup popped millet
1 cup oat-pops (look a little like Smacks but are not sweet)
2 cups cashew nuts
2 cups ground hazelnuts
1 cup almonds (whole or shredded)
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamon
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
a fair bit of fresh ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
and 350-400 ml of our yummy homemade canned applesauce (it acts as a sweetener (here no one has the urge to add more sugar to it) and it also makes the crunchy bits, once it was baked in the oven)

Mix all well in the largest bowl you can find. I first mix all the dry parts with my hands, and add the applesauce in the end and mix it with a pair of salad spoons.
Spread thinly 2-3 salad spoons per baking tray. Do this for 3-4 trays, depending how many you can fit in your oven. Preheat oven to 150C/300F. Put in the first 3 or 4 sheets. Set timer for 10 minutes, then stir well and spread out thinly again. Bake for further 10 minutes. Feel the crunchy bits carefully. If they still feel the slightest bit moist bake a little longer. Otherwise fill hot into a canning glas or other air tight container (I would not use anything plastic!) I use the Ikea ones. They have been doing a great job for the past few years, and they are not very costly. Once you have enough trays baked that your Glascontainer is full, close while still hot! This way it will seal with vacuum.

The longest I have tested shelve life was 6 months and it was fine after that. Will it last longer? I guess yes, but I never got the chance to test it. I have been making this Muesli for about 3 years now. We now have 4 regular eaters and the amount won't last 2 months. So shelve life here is not really an issue anymore...
A little side note and out of my own experience... you know those rubber seals with the little pull-thingy on them to break the vacuum seal easier before opening the glas for the first time?

Make sure that is somewhere on the side and not caught under the back bracket! It is incredibly hard to get a proper grip of it to pull!

I very much like the taste of buckwheat, if you haven't tried it, do! Millet contains a lot of iron, Calcium and Vitamin B, but can taste a little bitter, so you might want to play around with the amount of flakes if you are not to gone on the taste!

You can now vary this basic Granola every morning to your taste, try adding dried fruit like apricots, dates also dried cherries and strawberries. Or if in season fresh fruit, or simply a banana and some cocoa... chocolate chunks... the possibilities are endless and help not getting fed up with it, even after 3 can eat it the classic way with warm/cold milk, or try in yoghurt either natural or with flavour

September 18, 2013

Experimenting with Sourdough

For the past year, I have been baking all of our bread myself mostly using sourdough. I started my sourdough with this recipe. It was also my first bread baked. And for a beginner I can absolute recommend this! If you want to have a vegan sourdough, coconut yoghurt should work, too. I have also started a gluten-free sourdough the same way for my mom, and it worked like a charm. I used the regular white gluten-free flour you can buy in any shop. You might just make sure it has no added sugar in the ingredient list (I was rather surprised seeing it there, and I only looked, because once I baked something where I had to sieve the flour and I had all this sugar left in the sieve...surprise!) 

thats what the bubbles on a ripe SD look like

My first 3 attempts of sourdough died before the first 10-day-step was over. I mainly blame the very hot summer last year, and my kitchen basically had a room temperature of 32C and more as we don't have A/C.  But just in case I started steralising my utensiles (see below).

With todays experience I think I would recommend to either find a cooler room ( maybe you have a cellar?) or to wait until the weather changes if you face the same problem. Using the fridge is dodgy as you will not get the right bacteria started. The lactobacilli you want to grow prefer a temperature of 25-27C. Once you have established a stable culture you can slow their growth down in the fridge to keep your dough longer, but I don´t see how you can use the fridge to grow an entire culture!

There are also a few things you can do to help your dough to start:
Number One is Hygiene. The fork and the Tupper you want to use should be rinsed with boiling water first. Also a lid if that is what you want to use! You only have to do this when you get a SD started, once you have a stable culture you can just pull a tub and fork out of the cupboard because it is a lot more forgiving. 
Generally change your container every other day and later every second time you use it.

Lid or no lid? Reading a lot about SD I now know that the bread baking community seems to be split in those that use one and those that don't! Well my first 3 attempts were without one, ever since, I use one. My Mom uses just a towel on her gluten free one. So just do what works best for you and never mind what others say. Both have proofed to work for us!

The water quality is also very important. If your water has added chlorine, I would recommend using a filter! When using one of those water filters you should make sure they are not older then 4 weeks, as they too grow bacterias. 

In one of the discussions I read, that your sourdough also thrives on the germs you have in the air (coexisting with your Lactos). Which could be true, as I can see my dough change a lot when we travel! The best ever SD I had when we stayed in T√łnder/Denmark! But it could also have just something to do with the quality of the water and flour used... while in Denmark we had water from a well which seemed untreated.

Smell your dough before using it, if it smells off or has any type of growth...well toss it and start again!

Once you have a stable culture I recommend to freeze about 70-100gr of it, in case you kill your little friend for what ever reason, you have a fallback and don´t have to start the whole process again. Getting a frozen culture started to the point where you can skip the yeast as an ingredient takes about 2-3 days and not ten!

So this is what you need to get started:
Day 1:
50 gr flour 
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
50 gr water
stir well with fork

Day 2 add:
100 gr flour
80ml water
stir well with fork
(you want a dough that will form and is not too liquidy. So if it seems to dry add water if it flows off your spoon add flour)

I hope you can see, what kind of consistency you are aiming for in these pictures.

Day 3 add:
see Day 2

Day 4:
you can take out 200 gr of your dough and either use it (but add some yeast when baking with it) or toss it. I prefer the use it part!
then add your
100 gr flour
80ml water
stir well with fork

Day 5-10:
see Day 4

Day 11:
today is the first day I would see if you can bake without adding yeast! I find sourdough needs a lot longer to rise then yeast, so best is to let it rest over night and bake in the morning. 

From now on you can feed your SD roughly every 4-5 days and after 12-24h in a warmer location store it in fridge, and just use as needed.

I still bake a good bit with yeast, mainly in combination with sourdough. As I usually am in a hurry and have not got the time to let a dough sit for hours. In these cases I see the SD more as a natural preservative. As the bread baked with it, will not dry out as fast, as one just baked with yeast. But there are a few recipes I will show you in other posts like Breads and bread rolls that need no yeast what so ever, rise beautifully and you let them sit over night, and just shove them into a preheated oven in the morning and voila amazing breakfast to have!

Ok so now we have established the basics here are some recipes to look forward to:
breads in all variations, wheat and or rye bread sticks, Brack and other fruit breads (one of my favorites is a cranberry-pecan-nut-bread) SD-Pancakes and SD-Pizzadough and and and....