Food Miscellanea

I’ve been snapping a few photos during the last week of things I thought might be of interest to those of you who spend time in the kitchen.

We’ve been making our own yogurt for more than a year now. I bought a Tribest yogurt maker which comes with seven little jars. However, we found that we were making yogurt every night. The yogurt maker comes with two lids; one shorty that covers the jars and a taller one that will cover containers of your choice. I’ve been struggling to find a fairly large container that would fit in the tall lid but last week I found one!

I started making yogurt using the powdered culture from a health food store. It was disappointing; very runny. Homemade yogurt is not as thick regardless, because thickeners (cornstarch) are not being added.

My friend Irene put me on to using commercial plain yogurt as a starter and this has worked very well!

So I start with a gallon of milk (my new container can take a gallon). I heat the milk to a point where my honey will melt. Most people will heat the milk to past 200 degrees F to kill any supposed bacteria.

I then add honey to the sweetness we like. I should note here that we buy our honey in bulk from an apiary in Vernon, about 200 kms away. We buy our oatmeal in bulk from Rogers mill at the same time and make a day of it. If we happen to go in the winter, we spend the day x-country skiing at Silver Star.

For a big pail of honey (I think 30 kgs) we pay about $90. I re-package it in quart sealers and we store it in a cool dark place. It lasts us most of a year and it is our primary sweetener.

After the sweetened milk mixture has cooled to lukewarm (I’m sure there’s an optimal temperature but I can’t remember what it is) I add two really generous dollops of Astro Original Balkan style plain yogurt (6% fat content, no thickeners added). The key to the temperature is to make sure it is cool enough not to kill the bacteria in the yogurt starter. If it kills your yogurt starter your milk will not turn into yogurt. As you will notice we do not worry about the fat content of our dairy products. We don’t eat processed foods and very little meat so we know our diet is naturally healthy so we don’t mess around with products that have been tampered with to make them low fat/low salt/blah, blah blah.

In the spring, Katie and Irene’s daughter, Christine, did a district-winning 4-H demonstration on how to make yogurt. They will tell you that chocolate flavoured yogurt is the best (just add some cocoa) but that you can add fruit, too, as long as it is already pre-sweetened. Fresh fruit should not be added to the yogurt at this time, as the low heat as it “cultures” can grow bacteria on the fruit. Our family likes to add apple butter just before we eat it. The apple butter is made from our own apples!

Here is the yogurt mixture in our yogurt maker. Eight to 12 hours does it! Then cool in fridge or you can eat it warm. I’ve been told you can take your home made yogurt and use it as a starter for the next batch but most of what I’ve read says that each successive batch will be progressively less successful. Because yogurt keeps fairly well, we just buy the starter from the store. My estimate is that it costs us $4.00 for a gallon of yogurt.

Here’s a picture of some of my spices. I use canning jars and the white canning lids that are sold for about $4.00 for eight. My friend Lee-Ann got me on to this. The little 1/2 pint jars (wide mouth) just happen to take an entire package of no-name spices (no leftover spices in the bag). I then label the lid. Sometimes I’ll need a larger jar and then the lid travels to the larger jar, rather than having to soak a label off a jar. Lee-Ann has a spice rack that takes the jars with the lids facing out. Instant identification! Sadly, during my spice container revolution we decided to build an earthship and felt that we shouldn’t put time and effort into the pantry in the wee house. So my spices end up all higgeldy-piggeldy. But it’s still a lot better than it used to be.

Just wait until we get our new pantry!

Potato Famine

This summer I planted potatoes in six stacks of tires.

The hope was that in each stack the potatoes would grow to the top tire and start potatoes in the entire stack of tires instead of just below the surface of the top tire in the stack. I was giddy with excitement as I hoped for over fifty pounds of potatoes per stack!

I have dug through the first two stacks and removed maybe five pounds of potatoes in each one. I am crushed!

I did get potatoes in the top tire, but very few anywhere else. I am suspicious that the soil I used had too much clay in it. It packed down in the lower tires and it was almost impossible to dig without a shovel. I think the soil needs to be much more loose for this to work.

Next year less clay!

Apples!

After a day in Kamloops meeting with some coaches from the Overlander Ski Club–Chris and I are head coaches of our Barriere Club — we came home and processed more apples.

The apple juice was so good, we made more. This time Chris used our potato ricer to recover apple sauce and it worked much better. We made 8 quarts of apple juice (about 2 gallons) and recovered about 10 quarts of apple sauce. I seem to still be having some issues with head space/tightness of rings as inevitably I have at least one jar pop open in the canner, letting loose apple goo.

I’m not sure what we will do with so much apple sauce but the kids do like to eat it all on its own…

I swung by Wal Mart today and took a picture of all their crushed cardboard. When I was there months ago they wouldn’t let us take any and I was quite struck by the irony of this as we were parked by their bales of crushed cardboard. T his is a much smaller pile than when I was there before…to be fair to Wal Mart (cack, did I just extend fairness to them???) other big box stores also refused to give us cardboard.

The pictures in this blog posting will be the last ones I’ll post using the kids cameras! Today we bought a new digital SLR camera (yay, yay, yay!). After 6 months of research and questioning need vs. want we decided it was time.

I bought a manual SLR back in the late 80s when I was still in Journalism School and I simple loved it. I took it everywhere until the repair bill for it in early 2000 made its maintenance uneconomical. Since then we’ve had a series of campact digital cameras but I’ve yearned for more ever since.

I compared prices on the Nikon D-90 for several months and discovered the prices were no better in the U.S. Plus, a Canadian repair shop would not honour the warranty on a U.S. purchased unit. I checked ebay and look at used units. But today The Future Shop put many of its cameras on sale (open box, which meant we didn’t get a box for it). We’ve purchased many open box items over the years and are quite happy to save hundreds of dollars to leave the box behind (which we usually throw away as soon as we get home anyway). For the camera and a universal lens we ended up paying about $250 less on these two items than was priced several days ago. And Chris asked for an additional discount for buying the “package”. He pushed it a little further by asking for a camera case thrown in but that appeared to be the threshold! We were offered a discount on that too, but Chris remembered I already had my old camera case. So the sales person gave me a bit more of a discount on a high transfer memory card.

Chris has learned over the years that the big box stores have a lot more room for profit and that it is acceptable to ask for a lower price (something we do not go for at smaller, independent stores). I have been amazed at how much lower a salesperson will go and how quickly. I am still not good at this. We are quite polite when we venture into bargaining and are always conscious of frugal vs. cheap.

As we left the store, Chris turned to me and said, “How are the effects of that endorphin rush? Run out yet?” Nope, nope, nope! I had a full caffeinated coffee right after the purchase, too so I’ve been pretty happy all afternoon and evening!

I hid the camera tonight to avoid the kids putting fingerprints all over it but might sneak a few minutes later tonight to put it together. Here’s the body of the camera.

Check out the blog late tomorrow night to see some of my new photos!