Thursday, June 19, 2014

Easy Cheesy!



With the abundance of milk that our refrigerator now holds, it is time to start making cheese again! My go-to recipe last year was a simple vinegar cheese, usually pureed with flavorful additions to make a creamy spread. This is by far one of the easiest recipes I have come across in the extensive history of my cheese-making career. OK, so I have just been making cheese for one year. However, that just proves how simple this is!


Ingredients
Whole milk
Vinegar (white or apple cider)
Salt
Additives (optional): roasted or raw garlic, rosemary, red pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, honey, berries, etc. Get creative!

Method
1. Heat milk in stainless steel pot to 195 degrees, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon

2. Once milk reaches 195 degrees, add a glug* of vinegar. Milk will separate into curds and whey.

3. Strain out the curds and salt to desired taste. Save some of the whey if you will be making a cheese spread.





If you want, you can stop the process right here! Crumble this cheese over salads in place of feta, or use on tacos as queso blanco. You can also press this cheese and slice for use on sandwiches. However, if you are feeling more adventurous, continue to step four.

4. Throw your additives and salted curds into a food processor and blend until creamy. You can add a splash or two of the saved whey to make it more creamy, if needed.

5. Slather the resulting spread on a slice of toasted artisan bread, serve with some cut raw veggies, or add a scoop to finish off your favorite cooking recipe.

*glug is my highly technical term for about an 1/8 cup. I hate measuring, though, and this recipe is pretty forgiving. Just add a little bit of vinegar until the milk separates.

I will warn that the residue from this recipe clings fiercely to everything it touches. Make sure to douse every pot and utensil in warm water immediately after use.

This summer, I hope to conquer mozzerella. There is an easy mozzerella recipe on the Pioneer Woman's blog that I have used exactly one time with moderate success. It uses a microwave to streamline the process, which is not my favorite kitchen aid, but I find myself a little more willing to cut corners this year.

I have a friend who uses this recipe regularly, and she recommended adding a full two teaspoons of salt just prior to the third microwaving and also cautioned against overworking the cheese.

Happy cheesemaking!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Milking Does and Chasing Kids

Well, we are well past Nibbles' due date and have come to terms with the fact that she was never pregnant. Fortunately, Cupcake and Moon are producing a combined 3/4 gallon per milking, which is plenty to keep my refrigerator fully stocked. Meanwhile, Nibbles is rather joyous to be free of my prodding hands on her belly, checking for signs of a kicking baby or filling udder. She frolics with the growing kids and continues to be our most comical and complacent goat.

The kids are getting fairly large now and are always creating mischief.  We finally blocked all escape routes from the pasture, much to the delight of my orchard, herbs, and vegetable garden. Previously, the babies could squeeze through the gates and found intense satisfaction in keeping my yard nicely pruned. We secured them just in time, as my body has recently decided it is quite tired of chasing goats up and down these hills.  The twin boys are up for sale, so hopefully we will be down to a herd of five in the near future.




Monday, May 5, 2014

Kids, Kids, and more Kids!

The farm has burst into spring with a sudden flurry of activity. After months of silent plodding through the final throes of the harshest winter in recorded history, life is blossoming once again. Goats have given birth to frolicking bundles of curiosity, mallards grace the corner of our pond, and early spring flowers accent a virescent landscape. It is time to shake off the dust of winter and get outside!

Just Kidding!

Our goats gave birth to two sets of twins earlier this month, a process which is referred to as "kidding" in the goat world. With a high level of fear and excitement, Husband and I ran through darkness on a chilly April night. We opened to barn door to discover that during the few minutes it took for us to arrive, Cupcake already delivered two precious little doelings. We were thrilled with a quick birth and healthy kids! After making sure both babies were dry and nursing, we stumbled happily back to the house and fell into bed well after midnight.

Precisely 24 hours later, Moon went into labor. Moon was the only goat I bred to another full-size goat, and I was very excited about the prospect of a large doeling to add to our herd. When we arrived at the barn, I could tell she was struggling and needed some minor assistance. After a few minutes of pulling, the first kid arrived and a second followed minutes later. Moon delivered two beautiful, healthy.... bucklings! However, I was happy that everything went as well as it did; I had been pretty worried during those first few minutes.







Another Kid on the Way

We have one more goat yet to give birth, but this is a kid of another kind. We are excited to announce that we are expecting child #3 in October! I am thankful that the nausea is lifting just in time for the increase in farm activity, and I think my husband is fairly relieved, as well. He has been such a help these past few months--patiently enduring my many complaints and getting up early to do chores every morning before work while I lay sprawled on the couch. I am finally functional again, and we couldn't be happier! I blame the aforementioned nausea for my complete negligence in updating this blog, which also forced me to temporarily give up my blog with Mother Earth News. I have high hopes of rejoining their team in the future, but I have to admit that I am enjoying the break. Pregnancy brain does not encourage the flow of creative energy!!

I hope all of you are enjoying the (rather overdue) arrival of spring. Let's dig our hands into some dirt, soak in the tentative rays of sunshine, and rejoice in the flowers brought forth by rain.












Monday, January 20, 2014

Winter Homesteading: Keepin' Warm and Stayin' Busy

Winter is our time to refresh. During the rest of the year, we are constantly engaged outside with projects, gardening, and animal care. Winter is a special time; a period when no excuse is needed to curl up with a book near a dancing fire. Life becomes more home focused, rather than farm focused. School, baking, and crafts constitute our daily work, while farm chores require little more than trudging out to the barn a couple times a day to check food and water. I treasure the simplicity and solitude that falls on our home with the snow...

Continue reading at Mother Earth News.



chicken

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Update: Baking Artisan Bread

It has been six months or so since beginning my bread baking adventure, and I need to update my recipe! The recipe in my original post  is not that different, but I have made a few minor alterations and clarifications in the directions. The no-knead method is unbelievably quick and simple; I usually double the recipe and keep it in the fridge ready to bake as needed.

Master Recipe for Basic Boule Bread

(Boule is a fancy French word for round loaf.  Use this term when guests come over and your bread will decidedly improve in taste before a bite even reaches their mouth.)

3 cups warm liquid*
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6 cups flour**

Directions

1. Mix ingredients. Dough should be wet and easily stirred, but not liquidy or hard enough to form a ball.

2.  Let rise until doubled, 2-5 hours.

3.  Put in fridge for up to 10 days. Flavor will improve over time, as the sitting time replicates a sourdough style bread. It is important to refrigerate the dough for at least a few hours before baking, as it will be very difficult to shape if the dough is warm.

4. When ready to bake, pull off a grapefruit sized chunk and dust with flour. Stretch the dough around the top of the ball to the bottom, making quarter turns as you go. You will end up with a smooth, uniform top and four bunched ends on the bottom. Shaping the loaf takes some practice and doesn't affect the end result too much, so don't stress if you don't get it right the first time!

5. Place on pizza stone and let the dough rest for 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 425.

6. Slash top of loaf with serrated knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until top is very brown. This recipe produces a very moist loaf, so the crust must be very dark to ensure that it is baked all the way through.

7. Let cool on rack. Or consume immediately with ample amounts of butter. The latter is my preferred method.

Notes
* I use a combination of milk and water.
** I bake with sprouted wheat flour. This produces a dense loaf, so I usually add 1/4 cup raw honey and a tablespoon of molasses to the batter, as well as a splash of olive oil to produce a better consistency.

To Make a Seeded Loaf
There is nothing better than a loaf of crusty bread speckled with seedy goodness. When getting ready to bake my bread, I sprinkle my stone with a combination of flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and poppy seeds (or any seeds I happen to have in my pantry). After shaping my loaf, I roll it in the seeds before letting it rest on the stone. I promise you, the result is rather delightful.

This recipe is loosely based on a no-knead bread recipe found in the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.  I found the basic boule recipe from this book posted on Food.com, as well, though I highly recommend getting the book.  There is a wealth of information in it, as well as yummy variations on no-knead recipes.









Friday, January 3, 2014

A Dairy Goat Homestead: Our First Breeding Season, Part 2


Well, it’s been a few months since I complained about our woes at the start of our first breeding season. We do not have a buck on our property, and figuring out when my does were in heat proved to be a larger challenge than I originally anticipated. Breeding season is now drawing to a close, and I am happy to announce that all of our does have been bred!

Continue reading at Mother Earth News.



Saturday, December 28, 2013

Archibald


Our roosters got into a fight this morning. It was not the usual barnyard scuffle, but rather the kind which one of them was not going to leave alive. We came to the realization that we had to make that choice for them; the younger, friendlier rooster got to live, while the oldest and meanest rooster had to go. It was not an easy
choice--choosing when an animal will die never is. This was not my first chicken slaughter, by far. This last fall, we killed 70 meat chickens in one day, and I wielded a machete at the butchering block. However, slaughtering an animal that was not originally slotted for the freezer was different. I played with the dog so that his barking would drown out the sound of the gunshot.

Archibald came to us as a tag along. We paid for a flock of chickens, and he was thrown in to the mix labeled as "one old rooster that I didn't have the heart to kill." I don't know what that makes us. But, he was happy during his time here. He had his small harem of cast-off hens that the younger rooster, Henry, did not bother with. Archibald and Henry would occasionally get into crowing wars and, though Henry was always the clear winner, Archibald would still strut proudly after its conclusion. He had beautifully iridescent tail feathers, but the rest of him exuded a somewhat scrappy appearance.

We were going to be late for our family Christmas party. It was scheduled for this afternoon, but the rooster 
ordeal set us back. The husband had to chop wood, the goat had yet to be milked, and I was left
standing in the kitchen holding a feathered carcass among gift bags waiting to be filled. Upon spotting the headless bird, my toddler pointed and cried, "uh-oh!" I quickly sent her upstairs. As my dining room table disappeared under a pile of downy feathers, I could hear her running through the bedrooms. She was supposed to be taking a nap.

Eventually, I finished dressing the chicken and filled the slow-cooker with ingredients for stew. We originally
planned on discarding the carcass; however, I have a hard time letting food and life go to waste. If we are
going to kill an animal, we are going to use whatever we can. So, Archibald simmered in the slow-cooker, and a pile of his exquisite tail feathers was saved for my oldest daughter, who collects them.

We arrived at our gathering an hour late and somewhat frazzled. The morning had been full of setbacks. My
husband missed a shot at a deer due to an ill-timed bark from our dog, spent longer than expected trying to cut wood with a dull chainsaw, and was unable to get our 4x4 truck up our slick hills to pick up the wood after it was finally cut. My homemade gifts were assembled in a way that would make Martha Stewart blush, and I dug out leftover cranberry sauce from the fridge to present as a side dish. We were hungry and somewhat cranky, but happy to relax with our family and devour some ham and apple crisp. Our dinner-table conversation turned to the intimate details of chicken slaughtering and goat breeding.

By the end of the day, I came to a few different conclusions. First, we are blessed with a very gracious and
supportive family. They regularly put up with our farm schedule and all of its demands, and they laugh at our rather inappropriate stories. They bless us with homesteading and goat related gifts and appreciate my simple, homemade ones in return. Second, we can do this. We can make the difficult decisions and make the best of it. There are tough days--but not impossible ones--and plenty of joyous moments in between. And finally, I need a new filet knife. And a slaughtering table. Fortunately, we are going to Cabela's tomorrow.