Frozen Yogurt

After such rousing success, yesterday, with the Double Vanilla ice cream, I decided to make some frozen yogurt!

I took 1 quart undrained homemade yogurt and 1/2 a cup of homemade low-sugar raspberry jam, and popped it in the ice cream maker. I wasn’t sure how it would freeze, but it was perfect!

When I cured it in the freezer, however, if froze solid. It is now a delicious raspberry yogurt brick.

frozen yogurt

frozen yogurt

So I got to thinking, wouldn’t this make the most amazing popcicles?! So the next time I make it, I will be curing it in plastic popcicle molds and enjoying an individual serving pop.

Nothing could be simpler! Delicious, entirely homemade and free of preservatives and artificial anything! Also, way cheaper than store-bought and can be flavored with anything you like!

Awesome America at work, sticking it to Monsanto, BigFood and fake treats!

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We Be Jamman’!

‘Tis the Season for beautiful, jewel-shade, berry jellies, jams and preserves of all kinds.

jam supplies

jam supplies

I’ve been making cooked jam since I was a teenager, and it has always the same method, the same tools, the same ingredients. I like the fact I can spend a few uncomfortably hot Summer days cooking, and be rewarded with a year-supply of sweet, delicious condiment for my toast, peanut butter sandwiches and yogurt.

But this year, all that has changed.

I have made the most glorious change, and it has resulted in a jam with less sugar (and by less I mean 3/4 of a cup of sugar vs. 8 cups of sugar per 4-5 cups crushed fruit) that is a sure set, no need for lemon juice (in the basic berry recipe), a recipe that can be doubled or tripled (or more, if you have a large enough kettle) with no loss of gelling, and that results in perfect fruit distribution through the whole jar. That change was Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

best pectin EVAH!

best pectin EVAH!

The instructions I am going to give are for my experience with a triple batch~ which begins with 12 cups of topped, squashed strawberries. These instructions are taken directly from the information leaflet included in the Pomona’s Universal Pectin packet. One 1 oz packet will complete 1 flat of fresh berries.

for best product, always buy organic berries

for best product, always buy organic berries

washed, topped berries

washed, topped berries

Before beginning the process, I boiled all the jars needed for the batch I was making, for sterilization. The lids and rings were also placed in a separate pan and brought to a boil at this time. While this was happening, I topped berries and made up a jar of the Calcium water (monocalcium phosphate, which activates the pectin, included in the packet) as directed by the instructions ~ 1/2 tsp calcium powder per 1/2 cup water, shaken well to mix. There will be a lot of this left over after your recipe, and it can be kept for several months in the fridge, for future batches).

calcium water

calcium water

The squashed berries and 6 tsp of the calcium water go in the cooking pot, to be brought to a boil.

bring berries to boil

bring berries to boil

The sugar is measured separately (can be also be made with honey, using this recipe) and placed into a bowl. The pectin powder is added to the sugar or honey and blended. (I was making this recipe for family, and they are accustomed to a very sweet jam, so I used 2 cups of sugar per batch- in this instance, 6 cups total. The recipe calls for between 3/4 a cup to 2 cups per batch).

As soon as the fruit comes to a boil, the sugar or honey/pectin mixture is added to the pot, stirred thoroughly to incorporate and dissolve sugar and pectin, and brought back to a boil for 4 minutes.

Then, the finished jam is placed into the sterile, still-hot  jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace in each. The rims need to be wiped to remove any jam which would compromise the seals. Then lids added and rings tightened.

filled jam jars

filled jam jars

All the filled jars go back into the boiling pot to be water-bathed for 15 minutes past boiling. This is to kill any remaining germs, to allow it to remain fresh for many months on the shelf.

All the jars are removed from the pot, and placed on a towel on the counter to seal and cool. Once the tops “pop” which indicates a complete seal, I flip them over and over as they cool (every 15-20 minutes) so the fruit distributes evenly throughout the jar. The bigger the jar, the longer this takes. Fruit floats in the jam jar, so if this step is skipped, there will be a fruit layer on top and a syrup/jelly layer on bottom. This is a natural occurrence, as sugar is heavier than fruit.

In roughly an hour (for smaller jars, or 2 for quarts- I know, crazy large for a jam jar, but my Dad eats jam at every meal, every day. His open jars never go bad before he empties them!) the jam is finished, the gel process complete and the fruit completely and evenly distributed throughout the jars.

finished jam, fruit well-distributed through jar

finished jam, fruit well-distributed through jar

This recipe is simple, a ton of time is saved by the ability to double and triple the recipe, so much cheaper and healthier because there is between 3- and 16-times less sugar in the jam as conventional pectin recipes, and the result is positively foolproof! You may never buy jam again. Take that BigFood!

Jars of jam make amazingly welcome gifts for all occasions, and are appreciated by everyone who receives them!

No treat so decadent as a mouthful of sweet Summer when the frost is on the pumpkin, or the snowdrifts pile up against the house.

Enjoy!!!!

Tillamook Creamery responds to questions about GMOs

I have become ever-mindful about the foods I am eating, and increasingly more so in recent months.

When I learned that Land O’ Lakes butter was made with GMO-grain fed cow’s milk, I decided to pose the question to our own Oregon Coast neighbor, the Tillamook Creamery.

Tillamook Creamery

Tillamook Creamery

Here is how that exchange went.

My email to them:

message: I recently became aware that Land O’Lakes uses GMO materials in the manufacture of their butter. I am assuming this is related to the diet of their herd, but who can say?
My question is, does Tillamook use GMO- affected products in the manufacture of your butter, milk, ice cream, cheese, yogurt, etc.
A lot of us who buy these products have chosen Tillamook because of the proximity of Tillamook, to where we live (also on the Oregon Coast. It allows us to fancy ourselves loca-vores (despite so many of the products being made elsewhere, in reality).
But all of us are careful to try to avoid GMO products and processes which use a GMO-affected product. We need some straight answers about how Tillamook utilizes GMO affected products and grains.

 

… after a week or so, this was their response:

Hi Rachel,

Thank you for reaching out to us directly. We know the GMO topic is a sensitive and important one to some consumers, and we want to be as accurate as possible in responding to questions and concerns about it.  First and foremost, the core ingredients in all our products are milk and cream of the highest quality produced in the most natural way possible, and neither of these ingredients have exposure to GMOs.  In regards to some of the additive ingredients – particularly to our ice cream and yogurt – the answers are a bit more complex.  At this time, and in the absence of any clear standards or definitions around genetically modified substances, it is hard to categorize which ingredients are – with certainty – GMO-free.  We do use some ingredients like natural flavoring (e.g. sugar or corn syrup for sweetening), natural coloring (e.g. beet juice), and stabilizers (e.g. corn starch and soy lecithin) that have the possibility of being derived from GMO sources because of the pervasiveness of GMOs in agricultural crops in the United States.

Our farmers know that healthy cows make the best quality milk and part of this is a healthy diet.  The farmer-owners and all the dairymen who supply milk for Tillamook dairy products use a variety of forages and grains for feed. While the mixture varies dairy to dairy, it’s likely to include a mix of grass, alfalfa, some corn silage, and grains such as barley or soy. All of this is balanced by a nutritionist who also adds a vitamin/mineral supplement to ensure the healthiest cows possible, and thus the highest quality milk.  The feed used by our farmers and suppliers is both home grown on our farmer’s fields and purchased.

At this time, and in the absence of any clear standards or definitions around genetically modified substances, it is hard to know if the feed purchased for every cow contributing to our milk supply is GMO-free. In today’s market, it is extremely difficult to source feed for cattle that is 100 percent verified as GMO-free, given how pervasive GMOs are in the grain supply chain.  Even organic feed for organic farms is extremely difficult to verify as GMO-free because of cross-pollination. 

I hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any more questions.

Thanks,

Callie O’Sullivan
Consumer Loyalty Team
Toll-free: 1-855-Loaf-Love (562-3568)
Tillamook.com | Tillamook Twitter | Tillamook Facebook

________________________________________________________________
My hat’s off to Tillamook for responding to my inquiry in an intelligent and sensitive manner.

I appreciate them not treating my question as trivial and also for giving me the most thorough explanation possible, under the circumstances.

I really wanted the answer to be a very simple and straight-forward “No”. But that isn’t the world we live in.

I will continue to use their butter and cheese (even though they refuse to remove corn syrup from their ice cream 😦 )

Just thought others might want to know how this company responded to a direct question about GMO-affected products.

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!

A “Gateway Cheese”

After tasting my first little cheese, I am hooked on cheesemaking!

Ian Treuer, of Much To Do About Cheese coined the phrase (in my vocab, anyway) and nothing could be more true. One bite of that delicious, handcrafted cheese, and I knew it was gonna be on like Donkey Kong.

I am already dreaming about variations, flavors, colors, rinds… I want to buy molds and make a press. I am beyond obsessed about making new and amazing cheeses. Plus, I really liked the original, which I have finally figured out how to make, reliably.

That little gateway cheese won my heart after only 5 short weeks in the making. And I know that additional ripening time would make for an even more pleasing product (we like ’em a little sharp at my house).

Tonight I inoculate another gallon of milk with my own handcrafted yogurt, and begin another odyssey into the glorious and ancient and magical world of making my own cheese. The round I press tomorrow won’t be ready until almost MayDay, but it will make for a delicious addition to the Beltane festivities.

Excited, confident, inspired, I go forth, past the Gateway and into the realm of Cheese, made by hand. This is how I stick it to Monsanto, this week.

Go forth and be Awesome, America (and elsewhere)!

 

Little Cheese #1 Reveal!

When we last saw Little Cheese #1 on March 7, she looked like this:

Little Cheese #1

Little Cheese #1

coated in beeswax and aging in my fridge. The recipe called for an aging time of one month. I almost made it. Today is 2 days shy of that mark, but, honestly, I waited as long as I could stand to.

This cheese was made with my own homemade yogurt as an inoculant.  The details about how I made this batch are outlined in this post from March 3.

This morning, I took her from the fridge and cut her in half, so I could begin to survey the texture of the finished cheese.

the reveal

the reveal

I peeled and saved all the beeswax from the round. Beeswax is expensive and I want to be able to reuse as much as possible.

saved beeswax

saved beeswax

wax removed

wax removed

Then I cut a slice and nibbled it slowly, and shared a piece with my husband, another  true cheese-a-holic. As I want to reduce our dependence on Tillamook cheddar, it was vital to get his opinion as well.

The texture was familiar, like a cheddar or a colby. Firm, but yielding. The flavor was very mild, and almost mild cheddar-like. I would use more salt next time, as it was a teeny bit bland, but otherwise delicious!

My online cheesemaking mentor, Ian Treuer, of Much To Do About Cheese (an actual cheesemaker!) says that “if it’s edible, it’s a success”, so Ian, it was a success! Not only was it edible, but it was lovely!

I believe that another 2 weeks aging would have made a lot of difference in the sharpness and would have made it more flavorful. Maybe even another month. But on my first go, that is insanity! I could never have waited that long!

Another vital test to me was melt-ability. I need to know that in a zombie apocalypse I can have a grilled cheese sandwich.

melting

melting

It melted quickly and had a consistency that seemed a cross between melted mozzerella and melted swiss. A little rubbery, but also sort of creamy. Absolutely perfect for a grilled cheese. And, let’s face it, if zombies are descending, comfort food is at a premium.

I am 100% thrilled, overall, with the outcome of this experiment. I will add more salt at the mix of the curds,before molding and pressing, and I will age the next batch (after Little Cheese #2- I want to taste the difference between the yogurt inoculant and the buttermilk- I am dying to compare, in fact. That batch won’t be finished aging until the 16th. I am going to stash a few slices of #1 to compare when #2 is revealed) a couple of weeks longer, to see if there is additional sharpness due to longer aging.

But for now, I am going to enjoy a few slices with my lunch, and rejoice that the Cheese Gods have smiled upon this venture.

gorgeous, delicious finished hard cheese

gorgeous, delicious finished hard cheese

Now, I am dying to make more!!!!

Thank you Ian, at Much Ado About Cheese for your encouragement. I have been, decidedly, bitten by the Cheesemaking bug and will be trying some new things as soon as possible!!!

 

Take Two-sday

I completely forgot to post my Stick-It-To-Monsanto Monday post, yesterday, so I am borrowing a Tuesday post to do it, instead.

baby tomatoes

baby tomatoes

Why would a relatively rational, well-read modern woman suddenly choose to start handcrafting everything in her life? I can’t speak for everyone who has made this choice, but I would like to outline my story.

Historically, I am a fast-food eating, devil-may-care sort of consumer who doesn’t give a hoot about health. I never exercise and I love my body exactly the way it is, blub and all. I am not a health nut, and I have always eaten whatever I wanted, without even thinking about it, what it was made of, or where it came from. I ate what was easy and what tasted good to me. But recently, all that changed.

For me, three things happened almost simultaneously to change my life. One, I quit drinking. Now, I am not an alcoholic, as evidenced by the fact I was able to walk away from my beloved alcohol without a backward glance (or any annoying cravings, temptations or agonizing DTs), but my life needed a turn-around, and this seemed like a good thing to change, in order to bring about a different result. Two, I decided to spend my Number One drinking holiday, Superbowl weekend, doing a home yoga retreat, which included a (temporary) switch to whole, healthy food for the duration of the program. And 3, I finally realized the way to bring down Big Food, and likewise realized I had a role to play in its demise. Spend differently, and Big Food comes crashing down. And, even if it doesn’t, at least I am not supporting it.

My first discovery was I could make my own homemade yogurt. Mine is astronomically cheaper than store-bought, is better in quality, and contains no carageenen (whatever the hell that is!) or other weird words I don’t even know what they mean. (I am unsure if that is the correct spelling for this word, and when I right clicked on it to see, the word spelling choice offered to me was carcinogen…coincidence???)

Having aced the yogurt-making on the first try, I was inspired to attempt to make more things from scratch. Since then, I have made numerous types of cheeses, with varying success. I make all my own bread, and no longer buy boxes of anything at the store. If I want it, I make it from actual food items.

But all of these things take time. A lot of time. There is tremendous effort involved and some particulars which have to be done correctly in order to achieve the result I am seeking.

The time I spend waiting for milk to reach a specific temperature gives me a lot of time to think. It occurs to me that humans spent a lot of time to create the things they needed before Safeway came into being. They hauled their own water, grew and raised their own food and built the items they needed for comfort and safety. There was no such thing as boredom, insomnia, vegetarians or prozac. Their lives were filled with the “daily grind” and they took pride in their work, the product and in their lives.

Then came the “convenience” age. There was a machine to do everything. Nobody knew where their eggs came from, or who baked their bread. There occurred, over time, a complete disconnect between consumers and the origins of their food. They allowed factories and corporations to create their food and were all the happier for it, because they didn’t have to “worry about it”.

Fast forward to today. We, as a nation, aren’t at all “worried about” where our food comes from. We don’t care that even our very vegetables have come from seeds which have been changed, genetically, to make them easier to grow, ship and sell. Forget that the end result no longer even resembles vegetables of the past. We call those heirloom seeds, and they are gathered, by hand, from resultant plants, and can be recreated every year, without need of buying them.

This isn’t good for business, and there are actually political movements which intend for seed-saving to become illegal. Why would that be? It isn’t profitable for corporations who sell the seeds for us to make our own. These seeds also grow plants which strip the soil of nutrients, require vast amounts of pesticides  and chemical fertilizers (surprise! also sold by that same corporation) in order to flourish.

In order to beat Big Food, we as a nation, must return to a place where we are interested in where our food comes from. Meat-eaters need to know what kind of conditions their food animals live in, to support mass-production. Vegetable eaters need to know what sort of changes have been made to their seeds that produce those gigantic, red tomatoes that look gorgeous, but taste like a sponge.

While I have become whole-heartedly invested in the revolution to return to Real Food, slow food, I realize there are millions who value their convenience more than the mindfulness necessary to make the changes that will begin to cost Big Food profit. It takes effort. Work, even, to turn your own kitchen around. And it’s not just the kitchen that needs a makeover. Take a look under your sink, where all the cleaners lurk. If you have small children, you already know what a haven of poison this cabinet of curiosities holds.

I cleaned my toilet with vinegar and baking soda, today. Sparkling clean, very little effort. I washed my clothes with washing soda, borax and castile soap. And, while I wouldn’t want kids eating any of these items, I am not terrified for their lives if they should decide to dump them all out onto the floor and begin playing in them.

I discovered that even my healthy salad was being topped with salad dressing that contained plane de-icer (propylene glycol). It was like the first time I saw the set of The Wizard of Oz, and recognized that the background in the distance was a painted curtain, and not an extensive magical land. Once you see it, you can never UnSee it.

So, when people ask me, “Why do you bother going to all that trouble?” I always say “Because I know better”. Was it not drinking anymore that gave me the clarity to see what I was eating? Maybe. Was it the success of that first batch of yogurt that gave me the confidence to try other things? Probably. Is it my determination to stop paying Monsanto to slowly, but ever so surely, poison me? Definitely. But mostly it is because I can’t UnSee the lie.

This is why I spend as many hours handcrafting my own products as I spend at work every week. It is why I am healthier than I have ever been. It is why I have actually lost weight, despite eating plenty of gorgeous, fatty yogurt every day. I am hoping that there will be folks who will happen upon this blog, and become inspired to handcraft even one item on a regular basis. Who will see what they can’t UnSee and begin to make changes in their own lives which help to bring down Big Food and Monsanto. If this message reaches even one person, it will have been worth it.

Happy Handcrafting, my beautiful blueberries!

Granola goodness

cherry cashew vanilla granola

cherry cashew vanilla granola

When I am between bags of Hello Granola, I like to make this kind, myself.

I got the recipe from inspired taste, and the original recipe is for some delicious chewy granola bars. The recipe is delicious and they absolutely stick together and are chewy.  They are every inch as advertised.

But after making them, I decided that I wanted to tweak it a little to make some sweet crunchy granola, not as a bar.

The recipe calls for heating the butter, honey and brown sugar in a pan until dissolved. Then adding to the toasted oats, nuts and fruit.

I am a complete freak for the seeds, and have added them to my personal incarnation of the recipe.

Here it is:

  • 2 1/2 cups (230 grams) old fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup (80 grams) whole almonds or cashews or pistachios… coarsely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (113 grams) honey
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) dried cherries, coarsely chopped
  • as many of the following seeds I feel like throwing in- sunflower, flax, and pumpkin seeds (all toasted)

Mix the oats and raw nuts and/or seeds onto a cookie sheet. Toast in 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes, toss, then another 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, cook the honey, butter and brown sugar in a pan to the hard ball stage (or even a little hotter). Once this stage is reached, remove from heat, and let sit a couple of minutes. Add the vanilla and stir it in.

When the dry ingredients are done toasting, and still very hot (within 5 minutes) place them in a large mixing bowl, and pour the liquid from the saucepan over the oat mixture. Add the fruit, and any already toasted nuts/seeds, and mix completely.

Once they are completely incorporated, spread the mixture out on the roasting pan, and allow to cool. Stir the mixture of crumbles several times as it cools to break up clumps and form new ones.

When cool, store it in a mason jar with tight fitting lid. If you like it super-crunchy, store in the fridge. Enjoy as a cereal or in your handcrafted yogurt for a delicious crunch!

Good Morning, Beautiful!

As promised, a picture of the “started” cheese, out of the press:

Cheese #2

Cheese #2

It is a queer sensation, to be so pleased with firmly pressed curds of milk. But after a couple of completely boneheaded fails, I am willing to call it perfection!

She has been liberally dusted in salt, wrapped in muslin and is curing in the fridge, with her wax-covered, aging predecessor from a week or so ago.

As with all “mad scientists”, I am already looking for ways to improve my process. A better press (than a crock and a spaghetti sauce can) would be nice. I am always looking for really heavy things that measure less than 5 inches in diameter to use as a weight. Maybe a mold that is a little less Irish ghetto than an oatmeal can. Proper presses and molds aren’t cheap, but I am not going to let a lack of equipment slow me down! But, a girl can dream…

Someday, I would like to invest in some real bacterial strains and make a more reliable cheese. I am already not as happy with the tangy-ness of the buttermilk incoulant. The yogurt was milder, and I will be using that, instead of the buttermilk, in the future. The flavors of the cheeses will be very different as a result of the different incoulants.

The point is, as always, start where you are, use what you have and do what you can. And, this morning, I am happy with the cheese I could make with what I had.

This weekend, when I make Cheese #3, I will be photographing the entire process so it is easy to understand for anyone who hasn’t tried this before. Hopefully, what I have learned in all 4 attempts will aid me in making an even better product.

Next time we see Cheese #2, it will be after the cure and time to wax!

Happy Handcrafting, Everyone!!!

If at first you don’t succeed…

keep trying to make cheese!

sterilizing cheesemaking equipment

sterilizing cheesemaking equipment

Last night, I determined I would try, try again after my two failed batches over the weekend. As with all my attempts, the first step is sterilizing all the stuff needed to process the milk.

I brought the milk to 68 degrees and inoculated it with buttermilk this time. I still don’t have a successful batch made with buttermilk, and I am hoping to compare it to the kind I made with yogurt, over a week ago. Then, with lid on, it rests overnight,

This morning, I was supposed to bring the milk to 86 degrees and then add the rennet. But I forgot to heat the milk, and added the rennet at room temperature. About an hour and a half later, I realized I had made this mistake, again. My first failed batch was as a result of having forgotten this step. So, since I didn’t have another gallon of milk and entire night to wait, I put the pot on the stove and brought it up to 86 degrees. I could tell the second it reached temperature, because curd began to form, immediately.

I removed it from the heat, lidded it and waited a couple of hours. Shazzam! Clean break curd!

It was a completely Eureka moment. The first failed batch was as a result of not heating it at all. The second failed batch must have failed, not because I forgot to heat it, but because the milk wasn’t quite hot enough to kick off the reaction in the rennet! I have found my own kryptonite in the cheesemaking process! I just need to heat it a little higher than 86, so it can afford to cool a minute as I incorporate the dissolved rennet.

This time, the curd was firm and lovely, and is in the mold right now.

I am so excited to have figured out what was holding me back, and to know how to compensate for it in the future. (Like a post-it note that says “Heat me to 86+ degrees” on the lid of the pot of inoculated milk)

Tomorrow, the round comes out of the mold and will be salted for curing. I’ll be updating the blog with a picture of the “started” little Cheese #2!!!