Friday, April 13

Gardening Desert Warrior Redneck

I woke up early this morning thinking about things I want to grow and things currently growing.

Dreaming of my dream kitchen, I did some research and made some lists.

I drank mate with my family and ate a perfectly, slightly burnt, loaf of whole wheat smitten kitchen zucchini bread; which is just as good as it looks (and yes, it's awesome with only whole wheat and only olive oil)

Then I made myself a gardening journal out of an old notebook and some vinyl I had lying around.

Then I took myself outside just long enough to plant my peas before the much needed downpour began. I could feel it when I woke up, because it was there when I went to sleep, and it was the first thing I looked for when I opened the curtains this morning. I could feel it because rain and me, we're just that way.
Some days it's like there's someone behind me cranking the cogs. I just feel more. I want more. I do more. And inspiration comes more easily. Unfortunately not all days are like that. Most days I stay in my pajamas too long, or leave the kids in theirs, I may not bake, in fact I may not even wash the dishes.

But today I did stuff. Okay, I did not yet actually do the dishes. But that isn't as important as all of the things I did. It's probably the rain. It's definitely the rain.

I read on a billboard this morning: In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

But today I totally disagree. In spring, and in fall, and any other time of year when the earths living flow falls from the sky (in the desert) you should smell like it. You should walk under it wearing holey shoes fit for a gardening desert warrior, meant to keep the dirt out of her toenails. You should feel it's cold squishiness between your toes and look for "bichis" with your two-year-old.

Because then next time you won't forget that you own galoshes.  And there might not be a next time, because lets face it, you live in a desert, and it's having a drought.

I'm so glad I finally planted my peas!

Wednesday, April 4

Redneck Yogurt

I'm having a foodie moment. A long one. As in...I still can't believe how good dinner was last night. And this morning, even better.

I haven't bought yogurt in a while. I haven't eaten yogurt in a while. Usually I stock up on it when I find what I like. One that I love is Greek Gods Yogurt. So smooth, so creamy, so perfect in it's sweetness. I had a source for a while where I could get it for $1.00 per 24 oz. tub. But that was short lived. It's usually about $4 per container.  Sad story.

But the other day I had a moment to myself. And another sad story, usually the only moments I have to myself lately are spent grocery shopping. So there I was, at Harmons. No kids. No list. Only a budget. And, having made yogurt in the past, finding myself on the yogurt isle, I felt inspired to try it again.

I bought one gallon of run of the mill, whole milk, one container of my favorite yogurt containing 5 pro-biotic organisms, one pint of cream and then, one half gallon of the very tastiest milk sold in the grocery store in this part of the world: Organic Valley, whole (which has absolutely nothing to do with this post, I just though everyone should know, It's the best, no contest...).

The next morning I woke up, sterilized some jars, probably not as important. Then I poured the gallon of milk and the pint of cream into a stock pot. (not nonstick, little black flakes of chemicals, not so yummy.)  While it was warming on the stove I pulled out the Greek yogurt, washed my camping cooler, and stirred the milk. When the milk/cream mixture was warm, actually just barely hot to the touch I turned off the heat and took pint or so out. I put two healthy dollops of the yogurt into what I had removed and mixed it in. When it was mixed in I poured it into the rest, mixed it all and poured the mixture into my sterilized quart jars with lids (you'll need 5 or 6).  At this point I still had hot water from sterilizing and I added more water until it was cool enough to touch.

I put the jars into the clean cooler, poured the warmish/hottish water over them, closed the lid, rolled the cooler out of the way and forgot about them until this morning (That's one day). Ideally I don't think you should leave it this long. I've heard that the longer you leave it the more acidic it is. Eight hours should be long enough, but comparatively mine was not acidic. But it probably stopped fermenting a few hours ago when the temperature dropped below 90 degrees (Fahrenheit). Also, remember this is a solution of pro-biotics. That means, beneficial organisms are occupying the area and anything else isn't likely to be there. However that's not a guarantee. If you do want to leave it this long and make sure you have a thick, densely inhabited (by pro-biotics) yogurt, pour more hot water in the cooler after a few hours to give them an optimum environment.

This morning for breakfast I mixed it with some frozen berries and agave syrup. And honestly, it's the best yogurt I've ever made.

That is my Redneck way of making yogurt but there are plenty of other methods:

  • Gas stove with pilot light on overnight (easiest if you happen to have a gas stove).
  • In a large pressure cooker filled half way with water and covered in a blanket (this way you can  simply turn the heat on for two minutes to keep optimum growing conditions).
  • In a yogurt maker (for the fancy shmancy)
  • In a slow cooker (I have yet to try this but it seems like it wouldn't make very much).
  • I also theorize that yogurt could be made with little or no electricity at all in the sun in a dark covered container. I'll try it and then I'll tell you about it.

See that separation on top? It's what makes this so good. The Cream.

It should also be noted that from Greek Yogurt does not come Greek Yogurt. But it's not as complicated as you might like to think to make. Just line a strainer with cheese cloth and pour a quart or so in. Let it drain for four hours or so. Most commercially made Greek yogurt still uses pectin  to thicken it. But it's still creamier and thicker than regular yogurt. Also, it doesn't matter if your yogurt is sweetened or not. The sugar doesn't appear to affect the way the yogurt is fermented and since you are using a comparatively small amount it isn't likely to affect the way your yogurt tastes either. The yogurt I used was some variety of honey strawberry but my yogurt did not turn out tasting of either.
Have you made your own yogurt? How did you do it? What's your favorite way to use yogurt?