2 Months of Handcrafting…

Making America Awesome, again, through self-sufficiency!

Since I began my journey down the Handcrafted Road, I have learned so much, tried so many new things, and gained confidence from both epic successes and epic failures.

When I started this journey, I already made all my own bread and brownies. Since then, I have added quite a few things and began handcrafting them, rather than buying them. The list is pretty impressive, if I say so myself.

I have tried:

the reveal

the reveal

cottage cheese curd

cottage cheese curd

laundry ingredients

laundry ingredients

I like all of these products very well, and will probably make them again.

Here is a list of products I have mastered, love and use every day. I will never have to buy these items again:

green onions after over a week

green onions after over a week

ready to use, or store

ready to use, or store

cherry cashew vanilla granola

cherry cashew vanilla granola

boom. quart of liquid coconut-castile soap for $1.89

boom. quart of liquid coconut-castile soap for $1.89

Boom!  Body Wash.

Boom!
Body Wash.

soup!

soup!

I am also using a marvelous toothpaste made of coconut oil and baking soda. But I haven’t done a blog post about that yet!

My dream of providing healthy, effective alternatives to store-bought, chemical-laden products is coming along at lighting pace. Yes, it takes longer. Yes it is more work. Yes, it would be easier to buy them. But it is also cheaper, safe and gives me a chance to stick it to the Corporate Machine a bunch of times, every day.

All toll, I think it has been a successful 2 months! I can’t wait to see what I handcraft next!

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…and Finally, on Frugal Friday, cottage cheese

finished cottage cheese

finished cottage cheese

Simplest handcrafted cottage cheese ever. Also fast. This recipe comes from Poppy’s Money Tree, many thanks to them!

1/2 gallon of milk, 1/2 cup of vinegar

1/2 gallon of milk, 1/2 cup of vinegar

As with all dairy projects, they all seem to start with milk in a pan, on the stove

pan of milk

pan of milk

Bring the milk to 120 degrees, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add vinegar

curdling begins, immediately. Stir gently, but thoroughly.

curdle on

curdle on

put the lid on and allow to rest for 30 minutes

30 minutes rest

30 minutes rest

Drain into sieve lined with cheesecloth, and gently rinse the curds in cold water

gently rinse to cool and remove vinegar

gently rinse to cool and remove vinegar

then completely drain, starting by lifting the sides of the cloth off the edges of the sieve, eventually drawing the cloth together and wringing out the liquid

wringing the curd

wringing the curd

allow the bundle to drain a few minutes more

drain

drain

then empty the curd into a bowl

drained curd

drained curd

add a tsp. of salt and fluff with fork. Then add milk or half and half to desired texture. The curd is very small, a mild flavor and very rich.

finished cottage cheese

finished cottage cheese

It is glorious plain, with fruit, or blended as a “farm cheese” spread, with either fruit  and honey or jam or as a savory, with garlic and chives, or basil and sundried tomato.

Eat immediately, or refrigerate for up to 7 days.

And that concludes Frugal Friday!

It’s Frugal Friday!

laundry ingredients

laundry ingredients

Handcrafting in the Laundry Room

Today’s handcrafted money-savers includes making homemade laundry soap and, a fast, cheap, natural, kid-safe fabric softener.

Laundry detergent

I was going to use the recipe floating around on the internet that uses Fels Naptha. I had never used it before, but it was a really popular recipe with loads of glowing reviews. So, I got some. But when I went shopping for Borax, (and a non-toxic way to kill white flies in a greenhouse) at my hardware store, the clerk told me some things I didn’t know  about Fels Naptha.

She told me some kind of sketchy things about the perfume oils and other ingredients in Fels Naptha, and I don’t need gallons of laundry soap that is going to make my husband itch. Study that for yourself, but the literature about it from their own company uses words to the effect of “contains skin-irritants” and that is enough for me to shy away. I understand people use it with great success and swear by it, even for babies. But I am just not that keen on the smell, and that is rather important to me.

She did say the same recipes can be made with Ivory soap, which is quite pure for a commercial product, and you grate it just like the bar of Fels Naptha.

But then she told me about liquid Dr Bronner’s lavender liquid soap, which is available in bulk at my local whole food grocery. It is kind of expensive, in the investment, but for nearly everything it should be diluted (as much as 10:1 for some things). AND it smells so good to me that I actually go out of my way to wash dishes and wipe counters. It’s crazy. I wouldn’t do a dish voluntarily, and cheerfully, but three times a year under some spell of inspiration. But this stuff makes me want to scrub.  I want every square inch of my house to smell like it.   …instead of dog and dust and forest fallout.

Castile soap is made of olive oil and coconut oil (in the case of Dr Bronner’s, and also the recipe I am going to use, myself, as soon as I can get my hands on some lye. As I said, it is expensive, and I am quite sure I can make it for less at home). It is gentle to the hands while using and in varying concentrations is an excellent cleaner. I am told it can be used as shampoo, as well. Dr Bronner’s actual name is Dr Bronner’s 18 in 1 Magic Soap. So, there is a whole dilution chart on their website, if you’re interested. It also comes in a bunch of other smells. I am just kind of a freak about lavender.

Fabric Softener

For use in the rinse cycle of the washer, Place 1 1/2 cups of epsom salts and 10 drops of lavender essential oil (or natural smell of your choice) in a pint jar and tighten down lid. Shake the daylights out of it for about 2 minutes.  Use 2-3 tablespoons during the rinse cycle. I store a scoop right in the jar.

*It should be noted that when using the Dr Bronner’s lavender and this fabric softener, the whole laundry room smells like Provence in Summer. Epic-ly glorious….

I am about to sketch out a timetable for the projects and begin. I also need to make a batch of vinegar-version cottage cheese. I’m fresh out!  Timing is everything in handcrafting. I will document both projects with pics and post a report on them, when I’m through.

Happy Handcrafting on Frugal Friday!!!

The Cottage Cheese Controversy

…or which handcrafted cottage cheese is best?

The rennet, slow, cooked type or the super-fast, vinegar-activated type?

The fast, vinegar type, outlined here: http://poppyjuice-poppy.blogspot.com/2013/04/easy-and-delicious-homemade-cottage.html has a very rich taste, but the curds lack definition, creating a more ricotta-like texture. Ultimately, I spoon-blended this finished product and added garlic powder and minced chives. It is what I, now, refer to as Lazy Farmer’s Cheese.

It is, however fast, and easy and really delicious, and, probably, had I added more milk to the curd, it might have retained its shape better and been fine cottage cheese.

The rennet-type of cottage cheese is a lot more work, takes a hundred times longer and it looks pretty much the same.  I find that it tastes more “vinegary” than the type made with vinegar. Weird. I have detailed the making of it, here in pictures and the recipe for it is included in the junket rennet package insert or online.

It all started with 2 quarts of milk (the recipe called for one gallon, but I didn’t have a whole gallon for my experiment. I left all other ingredient amounts the same as the recipe called for). This recipe calls for buttermilk as the innoculant.

The night before making the cheese, the milk is brought to 70 degrees, and removed from heat. 1/4 of a dissolved rennet tablet in 1/2 a cup of water and 1/4 of a cup of buttermilk are added to the warmed milk, covered and set aside for the night, at room temperature.

The next morning, it looked like this:

the curd was not as firm as it needed to be, and I waited an additional 4 hours past 12 hours (for a total of 16 hours, for the math-impaired, such as myself), until the “break” looked like this:

Then the whole pot was returned to the stove, in a double boiler (type situation) and brought up to 110 degrees. I was to keep the temperature at 110 degrees for 20-30 minutes, although, in truth, mine did get a bit hotter. Maintaining an exact temperature in a double boiler is obviously not my strong area. But I persisted.

As my temp was too high for a while I removed the inner pan from the water bath and set it aside. I stirred the mixture gently every 5 minutes as called for in the directions.

 it looked like this while cooking, and the curd formation was more evident.

Once it had been cooked for the 20 minutes, I drained it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer: 

I allowed it to drain for a few minutes, to allow the whey to come away from the curd.

Then, I gathered up the cheesecloth, again, as per instructions, and immersed it in a bowl of cold water. Then, I allowed it to drain a few minutes, and immersed it into ice water, for the final cooling step 

a lot of the milky whey and many little curdy bits came away into the water.

Then, I allowed it to drain in the strainer for about 30 minutes 

afterward, I put the remaining curd into a bowl, added milk and salt, and voila, I had cottage cheese. 

Truth be told, the super fast, also super-small curd vinegar version came out better than the long, slow, labor-intensive rennet and buttermilk version.

So, as far as I am concerned, the vinegar type was the smarter choice, and I will be using it again. I will not be making the rennet type again.

Now, please keep in mind, I am very much an amateur cheese-maker and photographer, so I do apologize for my lack of skills in both areas. But as for my experience, this controversy is laid to rest.

Happy Cheesemaking, my little Blueberries!