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Make The Most Out Of Your Milk

Posted on April 27, 2013 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I was born in the Dairy State (yes, Wisconsin, not the other one), and I can't remember a time that dairy wasn't part of my life, and life was good. If you know me at all, I can't imagine life without cheese!

Wednesday I pick up my milk. The first thing I do is skim the cream off for butter. There are a lot of different ways to make butter, but I'm going to stick with mine.

Making Butter

I fill a mason jar (or four) half way with cream. This can be heavy whipping cream from the grocery store as well, just stay away from the Ultra Pasteurized stuff.

I let it sit on the counter until it warms up a bit- a little cooler than room temperature. I was talking to someone the other day about using it frozen, but I haven't tried that yet.

Once it's a little warmer, shake it! Shake it like it's nobody's business. My kids call it my shake weight! This step takes about 10 minutes. You'll know when it's ready- you'll see the butter, and the buttermilk are now separated.

Drain the buttermilk into a container- you can use it in baking. (I completely forgot about this for the picture!)

Rinse the butter to remove excess buttermilk, and lay on a plate. Take a spoon or spatula and smoosh it (technical terms) to remove every last bit of buttermilk. Your butter will go bad quite quickly if you skip this step.

You're finished! You can put it in a dish, or put it in pretty molds- you decide! I always throw mine in the freezer until I need it.



The next step I took with the milk was String Cheese!! Yummy, yummy string cheese! since I already have a post showing how to do that, I'll skip by it. If you would like to see it, you can check it out here!

KEEP YOUR WHEY!!!

Once the string cheese was done, I decided to make Ricotta cheese with the whey! I had made ricotta from milk before, but never from whey. Here's what I did...

Making Ricotta Cheese From Whey

What You'll Need

Equipment:

* 2 large stainless steel pot or any aluminum or non-cast iron pot. You can also use a large heat resistant bowl for one of them.

* Thermometer (it will need to read accurately to 105 degrees F)

* Colander/strainer

* Cheesecloth or flour sack towel

* Slotted spoon

*small pitcher or Pyrex measuring cup


 

I used two gallons of milk to make the string cheese (we REALLY like cheese), so I had plenty of whey left.

Put your whey into your large, stainless steel, thick bottom pot, and set your heat to high. Your whey needs to get to 200 degrees. the directions said to stir occasionally, I stirred quite a bit. You may or may not begin to see the curds start to form at around 180- I didn't, so don't worry if you don't.

While you're waiting, line your strainer with the cheesecloth or towel and place it over the large pot or bowl.

Once your whey heats up to 200 degrees, take it off the heat. This is what mine looked like.



Here's where it got interesting. I personally didn't see anything going on with my whey, and almost gave up. DON'T! Your ricotta cheese is really in there!

With your pitcher or pyrex measuring cup, begin to pour your whey/cheese into the cheesecloth. My set up looked  like this...


As you continue pouring, you'll have to scrape the cheese on the bottom of your cheesecloth. Keep doing this until all of your whey/cheese is through. This process took quite awhile for me...so, I ended up doing this...


Once the whey is completely drained, you have ricotta cheese! I began with almost 2 gallons of whey- this made about 2 cups of cheese.

BUT WAIT! THERE'S MORE!

I was still left with a gallon and a half of whey! Don't throw this away! My cats love it, my dogs love it, my chickens love it! There are also certain plants that love it! You can use it in baking! Use it! Use it! Use it!


To Recap: I started the journey with two gallons of milk. I hit the finish line with a two molds of butter, about 18 oz. of string cheese (it's actually an estimate- we eat a lot of it while it's still warm), roughly two cups of ricotta cheese, and a 1 1/2 gallon of whey for my plants and animals! Not too shabby!

I personally felt that the ricotta from the whey was more trouble than it was worth. As I said earlier, I have made ricotta from milk, and nothing could be easier- this was time consuming, messy, and all for about 2 cups of cheese. Next time around, I think I'll go right to the "give the whey to the animals" after the mozzarella/string cheese.

As far as getting the most out of my milk, I think I did pretty well!

My No Waste Chicken Experiment

Posted on March 15, 2013 at 9:50 PM Comments comments (0)

I posted an article on the Homestead's Facebook page the other day titled, "Food Security 101" by Rowena Aldridge that inspired me like crazy! If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it.


I am the queen of the clearance priced chicken- Some people hunt for bargains on clothes or shoes, maybe purses- my eyes spot those brightly colored price reduced stickers on chicken! It embarrasses my kids to no end. I have been known to stop at the grocery store for one thing, see the chicken and mutter, "Get a cart". It's a gift.


Anyway, this story starts with three of those wonderful, clearance priced birds. The first thing I did was cook them up. For the purpose of my experiment, I canned the chicken, but you can cook them for dinner, or a mix of both.

I boiled the birds, then separated them into three piles- meat, bones (pick 'em clean except for cartilage , and for lack of a better word- gook (skin, pieces that were less than lovely, etc) Keep your broth!




Top Left: bones, Top Right: gook, Center: juicy, yummy, chicken meat!


How I Can Chicken

1. Boil, steam, or bake chicken until 2/3 cooked. (I always boil). Keep your broth- you'll use it!

2. Separate the meat from the bones (as I said before), and slice the meat into nice sized pieces.

3. Sterilize your jars (I use pints for chicken meat), rings, and lids.

4. Put chicken into jars leaving one inch headspace- cover with broth leaving one inch headspace.

5. Using vinegar, wipe the rims- vinegar is great for the greasy residue.

6. Attach rings and lids, and pressure can chicken at 10 pounds pressure for 1 hour 15 minutes for pints, 1 hour 30 minutes for quarts.

For this experiment, I canned a little over 7 pints of chicken.



I gave the gook pile to the animals (dogs and cats) who gobbled it up within minutes. Two piles gone and still no waste...



I put the bones back into the broth (2-3 chickens worth of bones to roughly a gallon of water) and simmered for about 24-48 hours to make good wholesome bone broth. You can add veggies or seasonings, but I usually let it be.

**Note: A lot of places instruct you to skim off the fat before canning. I personally don't do this. I have never had it go rancid, but you do what you feel to be best for your family.


How I Can Broth or Stock

1. Pour the broth into sterilized jars leaving one inch headspace.

2. Wipe rims with vinegar, put on rings and lids.

3. Pressure can broth at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints, 25 minutes for quarts.

For this experiment, I canned 5 quarts of broth, and had a  little left over for the cats.


After simmering in the broth for about 48 hours, my bones came out soft and crumbled between my fingers! Here's where it gets exciting for me, as I have never done this part!!!


Maiking Bonemeal for the Garden

I simply had to take my rolling pin and roll it over the bones a few times, which made a paste. I took the paste and placed it in my dehydrator for a few hours, and voila- extra fertilizer for the gardenl!




In the end, three chickens came together to make 7 pints of meat, 5 quarts of broth, a bowl full of noms for the animals, almost 2 cups of bonemeal for the garden and absolutely zero garbage!


Concluding my experiment, I want to add that the bones of three chickens only took up two of my dehydrator trays...The electricity of running the stove and the dehrdrator for countless hours needs to be taken in to account as well. What would I do differently? I think I will freeze my bones until I have enough to cover more trays- it might take awhile to come up with that many bones! Or maybe just wait until I collect a lot more chicken and do 10 at once?


Homemade Yogurt

Posted on February 15, 2013 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

I was fortunate enough to take a class last weekend about making different things with milk. I learned how to make yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, pudding, etc, and had a great time with other like-minded women. Some of the things I had done before, but I had never made yogurt! I couldn't wait to make some! It is so yummy, I will never buy store bought again!


What you need:

1 Gallon of milk

2 envelopes Knox Gelatin dissolved in 1/2 C cold water

1 heaping cup Sugar

2 Tbsp. vanilla

1 C Plain Yogurt with live cultures

Large pot

thermometer

container with tight lid



Heat the milk to 180 degrees F, then cool to 130 degrees.

Add the gelatin, sugar, vanilla, and yogurt.

Stir briskly with a whisk and pour into a container with a tight lid. I used the pitcher the milk was in.


The next step is letting it sit in a warm place for at least 8 hours. Three different options came up during the class.

1. Put into a large cooler and add 130 tap water around it. Close the lid.

2. Pre-heat your oven to 130 degrees. Turn off heat and set in the oven, keeping the light on.

3. I put mine in my dehydrator, set at 115 degrees and let it run for 8 hours (overnight).


Remove from holding area and stir well. It tastes so good just the way it is, but if you would like, you can add a small box of flavored Jello to the yogurt (see the pink yogurt in the picture).

Put into smaller containers and refrigerate.


Make sure you save some of your new yogurt to use as your starter for next time. You can use this instead of using the 1 cup tore bought yogurt!


And that's all there is! I can't tell you how long the yogurt will last, but I can say that it will be eaten in this house WAY before it goes bad! In the summer, I can't wait to freeze some in little popsicle molds for a yummy treat!


Homemade Mozzarella Cheese/String Cheese

Posted on January 24, 2013 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (3)




Making mozzarella cheese and string cheese is quick and easy! A few years ago, I bought a kit to make it, and I was addicted! Eventually, I would like to make my own cheddar, colby, and swiss, but let's start with the basics. Also, in case I forget, I post all temperatures in Fahrenheit.


Equipment:

* 1 gallon stainless steel pot or any aluminum or non-cast iron post.

* Thermometer (it will need to read accurately to 105 degrees F)

* Colander/strainer

* Slotted spoon

* Smaller Pot (will be used towards the end)



Ingredients:

1 gallon milk (not ultra pasteurized)

1 1/4 cup cool water (chlorine free)

1 1/2 tsp. citric acid

1/4 rennet tablet (or 1/4 tsp. liquid rennet)

1 tsp. cheese salt (optional)- you could also use salt substitutes or herbs to give it a different flavor

1/2 tsp. calcium chloride mixed with 2 TBSP of water- ONLY IF USING PASTUERIZED MILK)

**I buy my cheese supplies at Leeners, but you can get the supplies at health food store, brewery stores, and even some grocery stores.



1. Dissolve the rennet into 1/4 cup cool water. Stir and set aside. Keep the remaining rennet in the freezer for longer shelf life).

2. Mix 1 1/2 tsp. citric acid into 1 cup cool water until dissolved.

3. Pour 1 gallon of milk into your pot and stir vigorously as you add the citric acid mix.

4. Heat the pot over medium heat to 90 degrees, stirring every few minutes.

5. Once you have hit the 90 degree point, slowly add the rennet mixture stirring with an up and down motion. Continue to heat and stir until the temperature reached 105 degrees. (This is my favorite part- this is where the magic happens!)

6. Take off the burner, cover, and let sit for 15-20 minutes.

7. Pour into the strainer. The liquid you have is Whey- keep it or not...it's up to you. Gently press the curds together with the spoon and force more whey out of them. Squeeze out and drain as much whey as possible.


But wait...there's more....


There's two different ways to finish the process.


The Waterbath Method

1. Heat pot of water to 185 degrees f (I usually just eyeball it, but too hot will melt you curd, too cool will be ineffective- you want the cheese to soften)

2. Take your colander/strainer of curd and dip into the hot water. After several dips, take a spoon and fold the curds until they become elastic and stretchable. The curd will reach an internal temp of 135 degrees. (I have actually never truly checked this)

3. When it is stretchable, remove the curd and pull it like taffy. The stretching elongates the proteins. If it does not stretch easily, return it to the hot water for just a moment.

4. Add 1 tsp. salt or herbs and work into cheese Stretch the cheese until smooth and shiny. (Now would be an excellent time for a sample taste or two!)

5. You can now form your cheese into a log, braid, bite size pieces, or....string cheese! (take another sample- just in case. :) )

6. If you are not making string cheese, submerge the cheese into ice water and leave for 10 minutes. This cools it down and allows for your cheese to hold it's shape, protecting the silky texture from becoming grainy. And you're finished! This will keep for a week, or freeze for longer life...

**If you are making string cheese, while stretching the cheese, simply pull it into long strands and drop it in the ice water!


The Microwave Method

1. Ladle your curds into a microwave safe bowl, and heat for 1 minute.

2. Remove and drain off any remaining whey as you gently fold the curds into 1 piece. Add salt or herbs. (optional)

3. Microwave for another 30 seconds. Drain and stretch the curd. If it isn't easily stretching, place back in microwave for another 30 seconds.

4. Stretch the cheese by pulling like taffy until it's smooth and shiny. The more you work the cheese, the firmer it will be. (Now is the perfect time to eat some- just sayin')

5 You can now form your cheese into a log, braid, bite size pieces, or....string cheese! (take another sample- just in case. )

6. If you are not making string cheese, submerge the cheese into ice water and leave for 10 minutes. This cools it down and allows for your cheese to hold it's shape, protecting the silky texture from becoming grainy. And you're finished! This will keep for a week, or freeze for longer life...

**If you are making string cheese, while stretching the cheese, simply pull it into long strands and drop it in the ice water!


I have tried both methods, and actually do either, depending on how I feel at the time.


One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato, Four...

Posted on January 3, 2013 at 10:50 PM Comments comments (0)


This seems to be the time of year when potatoes go on sale- I picked up 100 lbs. of them for only $20. I did pull in about 60 lbs. from the garden this fall, but you can't have too many potatoes in your food storage. They are incredibly versitile, filling, and let's face it- comfort food. What does one do with 100 lbs. of potatoes?


Dehydrating Potatoes

Dehydrating is a great way to process potatoes for your food storage. They are light weight and easy to store, they have a shelf life of up to 25 years(when stored correctly), and once reconstituted, can be used like regular potatoes. You can dehydrate them sliced, diced, or shredded- in this case, I did sliced, but I think I will be doing some diced as well.


To Dehydrate Potatoes (White or Irish)

Wash well to remove dirt.

Peel (optional)

Cut into 1/4" slices

Set in boiling water 5-6 minutes, then

soak in very cold water for 15 minutes

pat dry

dehydrate at 125 degrees until crisp (about 8 hours)


I vacuum seal mine and keep the packages in a sealed bucket.


To reconstitute:

Bring two cups water to a vigorous boil, turn down to medium heat and add potatoes, and let sit for 10 minutes. Poke with fork- the potatoes are ready when the fork slips through the potato. Pat dry, and use as usual.


OR you can use them in their dehydrated state.


Scalloped Potates

2 cups dehydrated potato slices or diced

1 Tbsp dehydrated onion

2-3 cups water

¼ lb. grated cheese (or dry cheese)

2 Tbsp margarine

Salt and pepper to taste

2 Tbsp dry milk + ½ cup water

½ cup bacon bits (optional)

 

Rinse and reconstitute potatoes and onions separately. Sauté onion in margarine until soft, but not browned. Stir in flour, salt and pepper. Add milk, cook until smooth and thick, stirring continually. Add cheese, stir until melted. Remove from stove. Mix potatoes, bacon bits, and cheese sauce. Bake in a casserole dish 20-25 minutes at 325°.


Au-Gratin Potatoes

 

3 cups sliced or diced dehydrated potatoes

6 tablespoons of butter

3 tablespoons of flour

1 1/2 cups of milk

1 cup of shredded Cheddar cheese

Salt and pepper to taste


1. Place potatoes in a shallow baking dish.

2. In a small saucepan over a low heat melt 6 tablespoons of butter.

3. Take the butter and add the flour to it. Stir well in order to blend together.

4. Gradually add the milk.

5. Continue cooking and stirring continuously until a thick sauce is formed.

6. Add the cheese and stir until the cheese melts.

7. Pour the sauce over the potatoes that are in the baking dish and mix them gently.

8. Bake potatoes at 400 for 30 to 40 minutes. Final product should be golden brown.


Potato Soup (makes 4 servings, 1 cup each)

2 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 small onion, chopped

1/4 cup chopped celery (if you like)

4 cups milk

8-ounce can whole kernel corn (if you like)

1 cup potato flakes (you can grind up dehydrated potatoes for this)

Salt and pepper (to taste)


1. Wash your hands; make sure your cooking area is clean.

2. Melt the butter or margarine in a large saucepan.

3. Add the onion and celery, cook them until they are soft.

4. Add the milk and whole kernel corn, and stir.

5. Heat the milk, onion and celery until the milk is hot but not boiling.

6. Turn off the heat and add the potato flakes until it is as thick as you like.

7. Add salt and pepper.



Canning Potatoes


Wash and peel potatoes

Leave small potatoes whole; cut large potatoes into quarters.

Cover potatoes with water in a large saucepot.

Boil for 10 minutes.

Drain.

Pack hot potatoes into hot jars, leaving 1" headspace.

Add 1/2 tsp salt to pints, 1 tsp for quarts (optional)

Ladle boiling water opver potatoes, leaving 1" headspace.

Remove air bubbles.

Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure in pressure canner.


You can use these as you would normally use potatoes.



Homemade Apple Cider Vinegar

Posted on November 3, 2012 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (2)

If you hang out with me on my Facebook page, you already know that last month, I processed 8 bushels of apples for applesauce and Grandma Allerup's Cinnamon Apples (blog posts of themselves). I saved all of the apple skins and cores to make my own apple cider vinegar.


Before I get into the instructions on how to make your own apple cider vinegar, I want you to know a few very important things about the process...


1. IT STINKS!! Within a matter of days, your house will smell like vinegar. This is not a joke, or an exaggerated claim. Please make sure that your family/roommates are up for this. My kids learned to inhale and hold their breath before opening the pantry door. :)


2. IT'S MESSY! During the first week, the fermentation process makes the apple cider bubble and overflow. Be prepared for this with a garbage bag and towel under your containers.


3. Fruit flies LOVE this stuff! Be prepared to deal with gazillions of them! Interestingly enough, I learned that some finished apple cider vinegar on a plate with a squirt of dishwashing liquid takes care of most of them.


Now, let's get to the fun!


What you'll need:


Apple scraps- cores, peels, the works. As far as I know, it doesn't matter what kind of apples you use. I personally used Red Delicious- it makes for incredible sugar free applesauce.


Glass or enamel containers- I used my crock pot insert, sun tea containers, and even went out and bought some big glass containers. I did see on some recipes that stainless steel is ok to use, but I am a stickler for glass or enamel.


Cheesecloth or flour sack towels- I started with cheesecloth, and ended with the flour sack towels. I prefer the towels to the cheesecloth. If you use cheesecloth, make sure you have LOTS of it around, and use several layers.


Rubber bands


Measuring cup


Water


Sugar



What to do:


1. Place your scraps in the container(s). The wider the mouth on the container, the easier, but I had both wide and narrow, and both worked fine for me. Make sure that whatever container you choose will not be missed for at least 1 week.


2. Cover your scraps with a mixture of 1 quart water to 1/4 cup sugar. Use this ratio to completely cover your scraps, multiplying as much as you need.



3. Cover with cheesecloth or flour sack towel for 1 week. A good fermentation temperature is between 65 and 75 degrees. I didn't pay much notice to the temps in the house- it was pretty normal weather though.


4. When a week is over, strain the liquid from the scraps. Since i was doing large batches, I had to get creative...




5. Return the liquid into the container and cover with cheesecloth (or flour sack towel), and let it ferment for another 2-3 weeks. Uncover it every few days to give it a stir and make sure it's all good in there. DO NOT scoop anything out that isn't a fruit fly or dirt speck, or mold (though I never saw any mold) !!! There is a "Mother" growing in there- she's very beneficial!




6. After three weeks, give it a taste. It took some guts out of me to actually taste it. I guess I'm just a chicken! Mine was not ready after three weeks. I think it's because I had them in two gallon containers- full up. I have a smaller container going right now- I'll have to update this post to say whether or not it's done quicker. The two gallon container WAS ready after 4 weeks! I didn't know how hard it would be to tell if it was ready, especially since my experience with store bought apple cider vinegar was very limited, but it's easy to taste!


7. Bottle it up like you would store bought. I put mine in canning jars. There is no need to seal the lid, and can be kept at room temperature. Raw vinegar will last indefinitely, though the flavor will "evolve".




Do not use homemade vinegar for pickling or preserving food in jars you plan to seal and store at room temp. Acidity levels in homemade vinegars will vary and a simple pH test strip might not give you a reliable reading of the pH of your vinegar.


Give it a try! If I can do it, ANYONE can!

The Adventures of Grape Jelly

Posted on September 29, 2012 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (0)


I bought a half bushel of grapes! While I had made jam before, I had never attempted jelly, so grape jelly seemed perfect. I used the recipe in my Ball Blue Book of Preserving (my bible), so, for this post, I’ll copy this recipe with my own comments thrown in.

 

When I started out, everything was good…

 


 

First, I had to turn my grapes into juice. Some of you have special gadgets for this: not me.

 

Juice For jelly

 

Wash and stem fruit. Slightly crush fruit (Which is easily done as you pull them off the vine). Add ¼ to ½ cup water for each quart prepared fruit (I went with 1/3- a happy medium) in a large saucepan. Cover; simmer fruit until soft. (We ate dinner). Strain mixture through a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth to extract juice.

 


 

I could’ve stopped here and just canned the juice- If juice is to be canned, heat juice just to a boil. Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process pints and quarts 10 minutes in boiling water canner.

 

 

I thought I had remembered seeing that it was supposed to sit and drain for 10-12 hours, but when I went back, I couldn’t find it…until I re-read it just now. (DOH!) But never fear, I created my own little press and pressed all of the juice out.

 

 

To Make the Jelly

 

This is where things got a little sketchy- here’s the recipe I intended on following:

 

Yield: 7 half pints

 

4 cups Concord grape juice

7 cups sugar

1 pouch liquid pectin

 

Put grape juice in a large saucepot. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in liquid pectin. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jelly into jars, leaving ¼ inch headspace. Adjust two piece caps. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

 

That would’ve been easy enough, except that I only had powdered pectin…I went frantically to the internet, searching for a ratio of liquid vs. powder… it gave me 2 tsp powder for every 1 oz. liquid. What? How many ounces in a pouch? I saw a few answers to that. So, quickly I went to the next page in my canning bible, which had a recipe for grape jelly using powdered pectin:

 

 

Quick Grape Jelly

 

Yield: about 5 pints

 

3 cups bottled grape juice, unsweetened

1 package powdered pectin

4 ½ cups sugar

 

(the rest of the directions remain the same as the last recipe)

 

My brain says, “ok, you have 20 cups of juice, you need to multiply by 6 2/3…but my brain had already computed it’s own crazy number for the amount of pectin. (instead of 6 2/3 packages, I somehow ended up with about 10 packages)

 

In the end, in spite of me adding way too much pectin, it turned out incredible! It’s very gelled, but my kids adore it! My youngest told me the other day that it’s way better than the other stuff. She ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich “with a lot more jelly than peanut butter…and make sure you use the really good stuff”.

 


Ode To Cranberries

Posted on January 8, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)


I love Cranberries! I'm not talking about that jelly stuff that comes from a can to our Thanksgiving dinner (though I am fond of that too). I am talking about the real cranberries- tart, plump, delicious goodness.


Cranberries aren't only delicious, they are incredibly beneficial for your health. We've all heard about using them for urinary tract infections, but did you know they also had antibiotic, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties? They are also filled with antioxidants, vitamins C, E, and K, as well as dietary fiber and maganese.


A few articles for further reading on the benefits of cranberries are:

What's New and Beneficial About Cranberries

Bow Down To The Medicinal Power of Cranberries


Here in Tennessee, you can only find cranberries in the stores around the holidays. So naturally, when I spot them in the produce section, after a dance of joy, I buy loads of them! I love to make cranberry bread, string popcorn and cranberries for the outdoor wildlife, and my kids dive into cranberry oatmeal cookies. Cranberries actually last quite awhile as far as fruit go, but never long enough- Soooooo, I dehydrate them!

I won't lie- I will try anything if it means I get to play with my dehydrator (I have lemons in there right now). So, it only seemed natural to throw some in. "You can find Craisins at the store, how hard can it be?"

That question led me to FAIL #1. I put them in the dehydrator, turned it on, and went about my business. 10 hours later, I came back to find extrodinarily plump cranberries. DOH!

After some internet research, and a little common sense, I found that the skins got in my way. I could cut each berry in half- way to much work...or, I found that I could put them in boiling water, just for a minute to pop the skins (they make a fun little pop noise- really), much like you do to skin a tomato.

After that it's on to the shelves and into the dehydrator. I didn't sweeten these- everything they will be used for (cookies, granola, bread, etc.) will be sweetened already- unsweetened berries wil give it a little yummy, tart kick.



After 8 hours, I started to check them. I pulled them out when they resembled raisins. I checked and pulled every hour until they were all done- about 12 hours total.



And Voila! homemade Craisins!



Other Homestead News: I am switching the formula of my soap this week. I have always used 100% pure castile (100% olive oil) for my homemade soap base. I will be working with a blend of olive oil, palm oil, and coconut oil. I will be going completely natural, using ONLY natural colors and scents (essential oils). I will also be adding some herbs- I'm really excited about all of this! My products will still be vegan friendly unless otherwise mentioned. Stay tuned!

Also, I am not the most consistent blogger, but I have made it a goal to post a lot more this year.  My main focus has always been teaching people how to be more self sufficient. I got away from that and I apologize. This year I will be focusing on teaching ya'll how to do it right with me. While we are kept indoors, I want to work on soaps, and a lot of herbal things- I am going to be building an herbal first aid kit, and I want to take you on that journey, step by step, failure by failure, success...you get it.


On a side note: I am having problems responding to comments here on the blog. I promise I'm not ignoring you- as a matter of fact, I have responded more that once to some, it's just not picking it up. Please bear with me- I'm good with the dehydrator, not so much the internet. ;)

Christmas In July- Day 1- Homemade Vanilla Extract

Posted on July 3, 2011 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

 As I have said before, I come from a large family. We don’t pick names at Christmas- we give to everyone! Years ago, I used to make beautiful cross stitich for the ladies in my family. I started doing that in an effort to save money, though it always seemed more expensive in the end. Fast Forward four kids, dogs, cats, and chickens on a homestead and I never seem to manage those lovely cross stitch anymore. But I still love to give home made gifts. Not only can it save money, but I really do believe that it’s the thought that counts. To me, the best gifts (whether home made or store bought) are the gifts that it’s clear the giver put some thought into them.

 

So, usually what happens is that I think about it in July, then find myself crazy in December because I haven’t started any. NOT THIS YEAR!!!! I came across a blog last year that had home made gifts everyday for a month- unfortunately, I found it in the middle of December. So, here, in the crazy month of July, while we are all busy in our gardens, and having summer fun, I’m going to think Christmas. I won’t lie- I won’t have time to try everything posted here before I post it. And thankfully, a lot of the things I’ll be posting won’t require 6 months to do. Also, if you have any ideas you would like shared here this month (c’mon bloggers, here’s your shameless plug!!), contact me, and we’ll get you on for the day!

 

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

 

Our first gift idea, takes only 20 minutes (not even), but does need to sit for several months. This idea came from one of my favorite blogs The Prairie Homestead-Return To Your Roots. This one I did do the other night. I’ll show you mine, and, of course, give you the link to the original post.

 

Homemade Vanilla Extract

 


What You’ll Need



Vanilla Beans- I got mine from Mountain Rose Herbs. I do a lot of shopping there, and I have never been let down. Their quality is amazing.  I purchased 1 ounce, which was 7 beans- enough to make 3 half pint jars worth.


Vodka- I have to admit- I bought relatively inexpensive stuff. Probably not the worst, but definitely not top rail. (see the original post for alcohol-free ideas)

        I was also thinking, but haven’t tried: Vanilla beans steeped in the goodness of Malibu Rum…I happen to have some of that lying around, and I may still try this!


Jars- I just used mason jars for now, but before I give this as a gift, I will transfer it to a cute jar. I just didn’t have any at the moment. I am always on the look-out for vintage bottles. If you would like to keep them in the mason jars, you could easily put on a nice fabric cover with a ribbon.

 

Take the Vanilla beans and slice them length-wise in half.This shows off the incredible smelling resin.



Then cut them into 3-4 inch pieces and place them in the jars. For my half pint jars, I put 2 beans worth in each jar. 6-7 beans worth per quart.



Top with the vodka and seal!


 


Seriously- you’re done! Now you’ll need to let it sit for 2-8 months (depending on the size of the jar)


Here’s a picture of my vanilla extract 3 days later- YUM!



 



Want to start using some right away? I can help!



For day 2, we'll be working with a little photography- something quick and easy, and as I proved last year, can be done as late as December 22nd!


Something Smells, Part II

Posted on August 16, 2010 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Ok, with the dehydrator fixed, I tried the onions again. They did work the first time, but not being able to document it, I decided to wait on this post. But here it is!

 

I will admit that these are store-bought onions, not homegrown. I can never seem to get my act together enough to grow onions, or garlic for that matter. Having said that, let’s move on.

 

Dehydrating onions is a great idea. I got a bag of onions, for a buck or two, and was able to make onion flakes, and onion powder- which, for both would probably cost $5 or more to buy in the store…and it couldn’t be easier to do.

 

Cut your onions, fill your trays, and set the dehydrator outside- DO NOT miss this step. Serious as a heart attack- onions in the dehydrator smell like really bad B.O. and you don’t want that in your house- or anywhere near it. I had mine in the garage (unconnected to the house).


 

 

 

I fill my trays as full as I can get them- as you can see, and it was hot and muggy outside, so adjust your timing to your own climate. It took over 24 hours to completely dry them, and I did bring them in for the last few hours, which, by this time the onions smell incredible, so I was safe. Well, safe enough to bring them inside, not safe enough for my mind to go from onion rolls to a greasy cheeseburger!


 

 

Once they are completely dry, you can either seal them in a jar, as I did with the first batch, or take them to the blender to powder, as I did with my second batch. One word of warning when making onion powder: the powder process makes a lot of dust, so when you open the lid, keep your face away until the dust settles (just a minute or so)- it will affect your sinuses for hours if that dust get up in there. (yes, personal experience).


 

 

 

Now, you can even go a step further, and make onion salt. To do that, you would just mix three parts salt to one part onion powder. I don’t do this, as I watch my salt intake very closely. My parents both have/had heart disease, so salt intake is very much controlled in this house. I do use salt, but I like to go solo on it, and not have to worry about it being mixed into everything.

 

And that’s all there is to it! Once you realize just how easy it is, and how you can control what goes into what you put in your family’s mouth, store bought just doesn’t seem to make as much sense.



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