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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I'm addicted to yogurt.

All you need to make your own yogurt.
 Last week, I ate nearly a quart of yogurt per day. Not just any yogurt. Fresh, creamy, tart, homemade plain yogurt. We had read that adding milk powder to our already  yummy culture would make it thicker. We decided to purchase some in bulk to try it. Milk powder apparently really does make all of the difference.

We have been making yogurt at our house for several years. Our process has certainly evolved. Today, we use a dehydrator to finish it off, but we started with a fish aquarium, boiling water, and newspaper taped to the outside walls of the aquarium's glass for insulation. Today, we use milk powder. Up until a few weeks ago, we had never tried that. So, while, I feel we've perfected and modified this process over time to our liking, you don't need fancy dehydrators or milk powder in bulk to make this super, probiotic food. The only real essentials include: milk, yogurt starter (in other words, yogurt), a constant temperature, and time.

That said, this is how we now make my method of getting lots of Vitamin D in Wisconsin winter's cold, long days.

Here's what we use  to make 4 quarts of yogurt:
4 Tbs. plain yogurt that you love
1 gallon of 2% milk
8 Tbs. milk powder
4 quart jars with lids
hand blender

To make it Backyard Market style, do the following:

1. Put 1 Tbs. of plain yogurt in each quart jar. Be sure this is a yogurt that you love. All yogurts have different cultures, different textures, different flavors, and different bacteria. Picking a yogurt you enjoy will ensure that you like your homemade yogurt.

2. Add 2 Tbs. of milk powder in each jar. If you'd like your yogurt thicker, add more. If you'd like it thinner, add less.

3. If using a hand blender, fill jars about halfway to avoid spillage.Mix until there are no clumps of milk powder and to distribute yogurt starter evenly. Fill jars with milk and screw on lids. If not using a hand blender, fill the entire way and mix to combine ingredients. Screw on lids.

4. Put quart jars in the dehydrator. Set to 100-115 degrees. Let the process work for 8-12 hours. Be sure not to agitate the dehydrator as yogurt does not like to be disturbed as it is forming.

5. Refrigerate! Be sure to save some to start next week's yogurt batch!

A side note: some recipes call for scalding the milk before processing the yogurt. We do not do this as it kills some of the good bacteria, and we are confident that our milk is safe. As always, we purchase it locally- sourced and from a farm we trust.

You might be wondering: Why not just go to the store and buy yogurt? Well, that's a thoughtful question.
#1: Making it using the method above ensures a whole bunch of fabulous bacteria that are oh-so-good for your body. Minimal processing = a happy body.
#2: Financial sustainability: Let's break it down...For a local, organic yogurt, we pay around 4.00 per container (which is about 3 cups). We make 4 quarts (16 cups) each time we make yogurt, so if we paid the 4.00 per 3 cups, we would need to hand out 21.00 per week. For four quarts of homemade yogurt, we pay $3.50 for a gallon of milk, around 1.00 for the milk powder, and we use our own yogurt starter at this point, so our four quarts of yogurt now cost us $4.50. Compare that to the $21.00 we'd pay if we bought 4 quarts at the store!
#3: Vegetarians benefit from yogurt as it contains the hard-for-us-to-get Vitamin B2. When you have 4 quarts of deliciousness per week sitting in your fridge, you are bound to get enough.
#4: Any form of self-sustainability creates an invaluable skill set.
#5: If you're concerned about the old BM, yogurt keeps you regular. 

Enjoy the creaminess! Until next time...I'll  have my spoon in the yogurt jar.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

10 New Year's Resolutions

Someone once sent us a cartoon eluding to a gardener's dreams being bigger...way bigger...than what reality will be. It's impossible to argue with that! Right around the start of the new year, our minds shift from the holidays to visions of plentiful fruit trees, bumper tomato crops, and perfect transitions from spring crops to fall ones. The magnificent garden dreams that plod through our heads might be unrealistic at times, but they keep us fresh.

With that said, we are trying to create realistic, doable resolutions for homesteading in 2012. They include:
1. Keeping up on daily gardening chores: more consistent weeding and watering and more timely replanting (if applicable).
2. Eating and preserving all of the greens we grow and get in our CSA box, including items such as carrot tops.
3. Constructing 4-5 new garden beds to replace our original garden in time for spring planting.
4. Planting strawberries, honeyberries, blueberries, and blackberries (finances pending).
5. Keeping up with fruit tree chores on a daily basis: spraying (organically, of course) when needed and watering.
6. Constructing a trellis for the kiwi berries. The trellis will also serve as the post for a bat house.
7. Getting bees.
8. Planting 3x more dry beans (get a minimum of 9 quarts at harvest time) and 2x more cabbage.
9. Figuring out what keeps eating the corn!
...and, of course...
10. Growing the biggest bumper crop of tomatoes known to man.

I think we can do it. What are your homesteading resolutions for 2012?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Homemade Granola

 We finally made a batch of homemade granola. We've talked about wanting to do this for years, but haven't had all of the ingredients at once until our annual co-op shopping trip occurred last week. Now, we have 21 cups of granola to last us for breakfast for the month.

The process was so simple. The possibilities of what to use to make granola are abundant. We chose to make it quite basic this time, adding in random bags of leftover holiday nuts and seeds.

This batch's ingredients:
8 cups of oats
2 cups of flaxseed meal
1/2 cup of hazelnuts
2 cups of pumpkin seeds
2 cups of honey
1.5 cups of sunflower oil
2 cups of dried cranberries
2 cup of raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Mix oats, flaxseed meal, nuts, and seeds together.
3. Mix the honey and oil.
4. Pour the honey-oil mixture over the dried ingredients.
5. Spread mixture out on baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove the granola. Allow to cool, stirring occasionally. Stir in the dried fruit.  Store in an airtight container.

Here is the nutrition information for 1/3 cup servings:
Calories, 180; Fat, 9.5; Sat. Fat 1; Trans Fat, 0; Cholesterol, 0; Sodium, 2; Carbs, 21; Fiber, 3; Sugars 10.8; Protein, 3.7; Vitamin A, 13; Vitamin C, .2; Calcium, 14; Iron, 1.3

According to my diet tracker, the amount of fat, sat. fat, protein, and sodium are great for this serving size.