Monthly Archives: November 2014
Whatever the nature of the apocalypse, we have a growing list of people who have announced they are coming to our house!
We have filled up our freezer and have shelves full of homemade canned food in the basement. Part of this was done out of enjoyment, and partly out of wanting to see how much money we could save, but most importantly it was to enjoy our homegrown food throughout the winter.
Regardless of the reason, the result has been that we have been eating in-season food from the freezer and shelves for weeks now. We have barely made a dent in the freezer. Our weekly shopping, more often than not, has turned into bi-weekly shopping. Our grocery bills are much smaller as we are really only buying eggs, fresh fruit and occasionally meat.
I have a plan to cut eggs from our shopping list, but it’s a covert plan which could get us into some hot water with city officials. Keeping chickens is against the city by-laws where we live. Ridiculous!!! Nobody is talking about keeping a rooster and waking up the neighborhood at the crack of dawn. Just 2 or 3, or 4, quiet hens. Egg laying machines. For now…..no can do.
Back to our winter storage items. Let me try to put together a list.
Delicious corn, bought in-season from a local farmer after my 40 plants slowly disappeared over the course of the summer. Until one day I watched a brave, bastard of a squirrel, run off with the last 2 foot long stalk in it’s mouth. Becky loves to take pictures of me fuming at these moments. I’m not so amused.
Back to the list. Beans, kale, collards, swiss chard, zucchini, peas, snow peas, vegetable stock, beets, carrots, onions, garlic, and more flavours of jam than a typical grocery store. Blueberries from a recent trip to PEI that were so cheap that we bought 15 pounds worth! Several types of pickles, and pickled carrots which may sound strange but are pure crunchy goodness. Tomato sauce, BBQ sauce, zucchini relish, sweet chili sauce, peaches, red pepper jelly……and the list goes on.
The following pictures may inspire you….or they may make you want to have your name added to the growing list!
You say Kah-Fear…..I say Kef-her…..or, is it Key-fer?
Adventures in Kefir making!
Normally going to a stranger’s house to pick up a small ziplock bag of anything would be out of the question. But that’s what we did. Becky arranged everything about the deal online. My only contribution was to say “There’s no way in hell that you are going to a stranger’s house by yourself… I’ll drive!”
A few minutes later, a token amount of cash exchanged for a plastic baggie, we head straight home. “Let me see it, let me see it”I say. “Why do they call it kefir ‘grains’?”
And so it began….
Jump forward a few batches, a bit of uncertainty, and we think we got it all sorted out.
Kefir is fermented milk which is full of beneficial bacteria and yeast. It tastes similar to yogurt, but usually more tangy. It’s probiotic nature helps to maintain a healthy immune system and well-functioning digestive system. Kefir contains a higher amount of beneficial bacteria and yeasts than most yogurts. It’s also much easier to make.
They call it ‘grains’ because of the way they look.
It’s a SCOBY. This stands for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast.
When added to milk, kefir grains feed on the lactose in the milk. The lactose provides nourishment and allows the grains to grow and multiply.
Some people will give away their excess grains to strangers. Becky found several sources of free Kefir grains, but with an 8 week waiting period. Becky, not one who likes to wait, found another source for $5.
Here is where she found it.
How to Make Milk Kefir
Step 1 – use 1 tablespoon kefir grains for each glass of milk
Step 2 – place in a mason jar with a cloth over the opening, or if using the lid, don’t tighten it as the kefir needs to breath.
Step 3 – let ferment for approximately 24hours if your home temperature is 20 degrees Celsius or higher. It will depend on the temperature of your home, our house is cooler and we fermented the milk for 36 hours. This is where some of our initial uncertainty resulted in unsuccessful attempts.
Step 4 – strain the grains out of your milk and place in another jar with some fresh milk to keep it alive. Place in the fridge until you are ready to make your next batch. Start using your kefir milk.
Avoid using metal utensils. Try to purchase a plastic strainer (yes, our picture above is with a metal strainer, but it has since been replaced)
Two weeks ago my partner-in-homesteading, Becky, made Apple Scrap Vinegar. As with many of the things we do, the idea came from me. Sometimes I call myself The Idea Guy. Now I’m not trying to take any real form of credit here, but it’s an ongoing joke between us. I’m The Idea Guy, and she is The Get It Done Gal.
I openly admit that I love dreaming up all manner of things, some of which can be a bit far flung. One of Becky’s famously used quotes for when I get into idea mode, when she knows I’m not going to get it done in a timely manner is from Elvis – “A little less conversation, a little more action please.” For example: Becky “I would love to have a food dehydrator.” Stan “I read recently about how to make a solar dehydrator. It’s pretty easy. I think it would make a good summer project.” That was in the spring and we’re in mid-November now. I may have mentioned it last summer as well.
There was one notable exception to this, the story of the found kitten and the new kitchen door. But that’s another story for another time. Someone please remind me about it in the future and I’ll be happy to share it with you. It demonstrates my complete ability to get things done quick….for the right project.
Back to our topic at hand, Apple Scrap Vinegar, and the spilling of said vinegar. The scene opens with Becky proudly announcing from the kitchen “the vinegar has a mother!” I’ll explain this later with the recipe. As Becky enters the living room she proceeds to show me the bottom of the mason jar where the vinegar has been fermenting. As she tips the jar out pours some of the vinegar. Oops…no lid. The mason jar was only covered with a cloth secured over the opening with a rubber band. Opah!!!
Normally I would react poorly to such events as they require unnecessary clean up, but not today. I am on my last day of 5 glorious days off. Glorious except for the fact that I’ve been sick for 4 of those days. Locked up in the house, restless, this now had great entertainment value for me! Not much vinegar was lost, but Becky forgetting there was no solid lid on the jar was priceless.
Making Apple Scrap Vinegar
Making it is easy. You would normally just toss these in your compost or garbage anyway so why not give it a try. Plan to do it when you are making an apple pie, or in our case an apple crumble.
What you will need:
-1/4 cup honey
-1 liter warm water
-a large jar
-towel or cheesecloth (or a large basket disposable coffee filter)
-raw apple cider vinegar (with mother) – optional
If you have lots of apple scraps, just double or triple the recipe, ensuring the ratio of 1/4 honey for each liter.
Step 1 – collect all your apple cores, peel, seeds, etc (none of the good stuff) and set aside.
Step 2 – mix honey and warm water
Step 3 – fill your jar with the fruit scraps and pour in your honey-water solution.
step 4 – cover with towel or cheesecloth (this is just to keep unwanted things from falling in). Secure with an elastic band.
Step 5 – let ferment at room temperature. Stir once per day.Step 6 – the liquid will darken after approx 1 week. Strain out apple scraps and ferment the liquid for another 2 to 3 weeks. Stir ever other day. You will start to see a ‘mother’ form on top.
Step 6 – save your ‘mother’ for your next batch and enjoy.
‘Mother’ of vinegar
What is it?
Mirriam-Webster Dictionary definition:
“A slimy membrane composed of yeast and bacterial cells that develops on the surface of alcoholic liquids undergoing acetous fermentation and is added to wine or cider to produce vinegar.
Mother Earth News describes it simply as:
“The ‘mother’ is a gelatinous mass of vinegar-making organisms that forms naturally in vinegar.”
Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar describes it as:
“The ‘mother’ of vinegar is a dark, cloudy sediment. Only present in raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, it naturally occurs as connected strand-like chains of protein enzyme molecules. Many people believe it is the “mother” that is what provides so many health benefits.”