Sunday, August 30, 2020

Making Yogurt at Home

I have some equipment and have tried this in the past with marginal success. So I started to do a bit if research on this subject to see if I could be more successful.

Issue one was Scalding Milk. Why? I found out that scalding the milk changes the protein to make it set better with the yogurt culture. Great! no Raw milk yogurt. But it is not about killing bacteria. It is about changing the protein.

What is scalding really? Most references said to "boil the milk". Or bring the milk to scalding. Or look for bubbles at the edges of the pan. Or 180 degrees F. I know that high degree sterilized milk does not get to 180 F. And the proteins are altered. So that would mean that 180f is not exact.

I have a food thermometer. I started by scalding at 170F. Worked great. Terrific thick yogurt.

 Cultures. You can buy commercial yogurt with active cultures. You can buy powdered yogurt cultures. You can use some of the last batch of yogurt you made. I started with one package of yogurt culture, 1/2 cup of commercial yogurt mixed together. Great, thick yogurt. Second batch cultures were from that home made yogurt. 1 Cup yogurt for 3 quarts of milk. Take the yogurt out of the refrigerator before you start to heat the milk. Let it come to room temp. Heat milk to 170f. Skin starts to form at 140f so stirring becomes necessary. At 170f turn off the heat and take the pot off the stove. As the milk cools down it will continue to make skin. Stir often until the milk is down to 120f.  At about 130f you take a 1 cup scoop of the hot milk and slowly stir it into the 1 cup of room temp yogurt. When pot of milk reaches 110 to 120f you stir the yogurt culture into the milk. Stir slowly and gently for a couple of minutes. Milk is now ready to become yogurt.

Heating and how long. I have a dehydrator that goes down to 95f I use sterilized 1 quart jars and a funnel for my canning. I measure a quart of cultured milk into each jar and cover with a press n seal plastic wrap with a canning ring. I set them on the lowest tray, not on the direct bottom, so that there is circulation all around. 3 to 5 hours, maybe more, but mine have been 3-5 hours in the dehydrator. .Some say that the longer you let it heat the more sour it gets. Also, some say that each successive batch is slower or more sour or less active or some other such thing. Yogurt is a living thing. It has its own agenda. Temperature makes a big difference but so does the social nature of mixed cultures. Be patient and look at 3 hours. Maybe need longer? don't sweat it. Let it keep going. But I would not let it go overnight. 10 hours might be too long.

Additives. I am not a fan of thickeners or gums. Some commercial yogurt has gelatin or pectin or other gum type thickeners. But I do add 1/2 powdered milk to my milk before I start heating the milk. I like the flavor and thickness without being chewy or cloying in the mouth. I do not flavor mine either. Plain is my thing.

To strain or not to strain- Greek style  yogurt is strained which means you line a strainer with thin muslin like for cheese but not cheese cloth like at the store. Place the strainer over a large bowl. Pour the yogurt into the strainer. One quart of yogurt makes 1 pint of strained yogurt and 1 pint of whey. Approximately. The longer you strain the yogurt the thicker it will be. Place the whole thing in the refrigerator to drain. At this point I tie the ends of the muslin up together so they don't lay on the shelf of the refrigerator. They will leave lots of whey inside the shelf. When tied up, they leave lots of whey inside the bowl. At 2 hours check the bowl to see how much whey you have.  First batch was strained for three hours and was thicker than sour cream. Second batch was two hours and very nice for lots of things. But I also like the not strained yogurt. Just so you know, strained yogurt still has active cultures and can be used in the next batch. It takes up less space in Pint jars instead of quarts. 

Whey- what is it good for? Liquid for bread. Liquid to mix up concentrated fruit juice. Liquid to add to soup broth. I started using whey when I was making cheese. It is pretty useful. Keeps about 1 week like milk. It may have cultures in it but it would be rather thin. My favorite use is in fruit smoothies.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Hummingbird Issues

When I was down in San Diego, I had lots of flowers that hummingbirds liked. I abandoned the nectar feeders and went native. But up here, in the PNW, I am a bit unsure about the plants and the seasons. Nectar freezes in deep winter. Hummers have migrated south. Exactly when is it time to put out the feeders again? So I started in late march. I heard a hummer buzz me and knew they were around. This property doesn't have lots of flowers, so feeders needed to happen. I bought 2 at the local Lowes and went home to research nectar recipes.
The basis nectar recipe is 1 cup sugar, 4 cups water, heated or boiled or not. My birds were completely uninterested. 2 weeks went by with almost no noticeable reduction in the liquid level. I decided to adjust the mix to 1 cup sugar and 3 cups water. All of a sudden, I had the most wonderful displays of hummers. They love this mix. They are sucking it up so fast, I am making more every 4 days. (I make a quart at a time). Noisy, colorful, suspicious, and beautiful, I have a full selection of the available birds. It is keeping me busy cleaning and filling feeders, and of course just sitting and watching the action. I don't have another post or feeder, but I am considering putting out more.
So why is this mix better than the other one?
Information on the internet is full of holes. There is missing information. I think what has happened is that this recipe has been repeated on every site yet is lacking a specific fact. Nectar mixes from a store are super fine sugar so that it will dissolve quickly. Home sugar is not super fine. So when you measure by Cup instead of weight, you don't get as much sugar as the commercial products. Ease of the recipe may actually up the water to make it easy to remember. Instead of 3 1/2 cups it is 4.
For the products to be easy for humans doesn't necessarily make them good for the hummers.
I have found that 3 1/2 cups water to 1 cup sugar keeps them pretty happy. 4 cups and they ignore it. 3 cups and they are ecstatic.
The Birds will tell you by their actions what they want- usually more sugar.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Surprise extra stuff

When I first got into my new digs in Pacific Northwest, I decided that I wanted to fill my freezer with beef. I planned to buy 1/2 a grass fed steer. I ended up buying 1/2 steer and a whole veal. This totally filled the freezer and will probably last over one year.
When I picked up my order, I also received about 50 pounds of fat trimmings. That is a lot of fat. And now I had to figure out what to do with it. The freezer was full of meat.
This is what I did. I thawed the fat and ran it through the meat grinder to make ground fat. I then simmered most of it to extract the oil to use in cooking. The remaining suet (connective tissues, meat, and skin) was packaged into zip bags and scattered in nooks and crannies in the freezer.  I had about 12 jars of fat for cooking and about 12 bags of ground suet. As winter approached, I realized that this ground suet would make perfect bird food for my jays, robins, flickers, thrushes, and juncos. We sprinkle it on the ground under the bird feeder and enjoy the show.
It was a lot of work to get everything packaged up. But the butcher tossed in the 50 pounds for free. That means my birds are getting fed for free. That is a good deal for everyone. We are more than 1/2 way through the winter and I still have food for them. I have started mixing some seed in with the fat, just in case some of the smaller birds return, but the meat and fat are for birds who normally eat bugs.
There are other birds who would benefit from additional meat/fat in their winter diet- chickens, guinea hens, turkeys, etc. And we have had an occasional cat. I have not noticed any rodent activity. The feeder is far enough from the house that there is no real way for rodents to get comfortable (think owls and hawks). But it might not work out well for a close patio or condo.
I would like to get one of the wire cages and shape the suet so that I can hang it, but most of the birds are ground feeders here, now. Maybe in the spring, when they still need extra food, I will have some left over to try the suet cage.

Sunday, February 3, 2019


In 2008, I went to BSG (Black Sheep Gathering) for my first time. I bought some fleece. As I remember, there were two and some alpaca stuff.
The following year, Eduard went with me to BSG. Then I missed a year. Then I went with some friends. It is now 2012. After that I went every year and it seems that each time I bought a fleece. I had brown, morrit, gray, and white. I stopped going in 2016 because I had many other pressing things happening. But in that year, 2016, I bought 1/2 of three fleeces- Cool and the gang.
I had sent some of the fleeces to be commercially washed and combed. Some fleece I do myself. But over the years I have built a rather large "stash" of washed fleece and yarn.
I am just now finishing spinning the 2009 and 2010 white fleeces. I did the dark brown and morrit fleeces awhile back. And I have partially spun the Cool n the gang group.
I have been spinning about 1 pound of fleece per month for 6 months. I have made a dent in the fleece pile. At the rate of 1 pound per month I will possibly complete all the spinning in my lifetime. But there is also the cotton, the luxury fibers and the weaving. And Sewing.
What was I thinking...infinite time and energy? Like a teenager?
So I have set completion goals. When I am done spinning this bag of white wool, I will start weaving it. I have enough for several blankets. When I am done weaving the blankets, I can spin again. I will finish up spinning Cool n the gang and make a blanket of that one too.
As much as I love buying fleece and spinning it up, I just can't do it without making something from the yarn.
The confession is that I am addicted to fleece. I love it raw. I love it washed. I love combing and spinning. I love fondling the yarns. I just love wool. And I love cotton also. I still have about a year's worth of home grown cotton to spin. I don't knit fast enough to make much with the yarn. I have numerous projects started and not finished yet.
So I am going to use my blog space to keep track of my progress on spinning and weaving. It will keep me honest.
Current knitting project- socks, teal, commercial yarn, gift from friend. I need to finish the rib cuffs, about 4 inches.
Swirl shawl- commercial yarn, green, has cashmere in it. Slow project with lots of little ends. Could finish in about a month if I tried.
Hex blanket using left over yarn- intended to last forever on the needles. Eventually it will be too large to continue.
Cashmere shawl in beige- need to rip it and start over.
Sewing- finish the Christmas table runner (part 2), reindeer quilt, dresden quilt, and two baby quilts.
Weaving- blue rug, silk placemats, first white blanket.
There are more, but we will start with these.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Where I left off

I was going through my lists of stuff we needed to do and what we had done. Then, for some reason, I got sidetracked and didn't write again. So here is the next bunch of stuff:
We finally got driver's licenses, car registrations, car insurance, and hair cuts. I have a doctor now and have had an eye exam. We celebrated Thanksgiving and ate one of the ducks. I have decorated for Christmas, mostly and baked cookies.
But the most wonderful thing for me right now is that my sewing, weaving, spinning studio is up and running. There are still boxes in the other room that need unpacking. There are bags of fluff on the floor in a pile. But I have been able to complete one table runner and two blankets, with a third blanket about to go on the frame. I have spun the cotton crop for  2018 and am spinning some wool roving I have had for three years. Slowly, I am working the piles down and getting through the projects I had planned.
We had the dead tree cut down along with some other near dead trees and have a giant pile of wood in the yard that needs to get split into fireplace size pieces. I have been very busy and the list is getting shorter, but I am no where near the end.
So, now that we are settled in, we are planning a trip down to San Diego. Just can't seem to stay away. I am having a party for my mother's 92nd birthday, visiting my son and daughter in law, and spending time with some friends. It is a long drive and we will take pictures along the way.
I have worked really hard to get to this place. It seems kind of weird to go back and visit as a tourist, but I still have many people I love and adore there. It is worth the time and effort to go for a visit once or twice a year.
And it will give me a break from all the work here.
Still no winter weather- 50f today and a slight drizzle in the evening. Maybe the weather will get cold in January.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Run over by the Moving Van

Well, not exactly, but I feel pretty tired and achy.
We managed to get moved. Total stress, total fatigue. And we are still unpacking. The house closed on Aug. 24 with the tenting for termites. We had already moved the furniture and camped in the house until we packed the last stuff and stayed in a local BnB until we were ready to drive.
We took the long way home, via the coast route, 101 north, until we just needed to speed through at the end. It was beautiful.
We are now unpacking and getting repairs done. The fireplace works, the water system works, the water heaters work, the heater works, the kitchen works, the garage door works, the septic works, the ....list has been long and we are working slowly through it. We have internet, and a phone signal enhancer. We have made some friends and are working toward finding what we need- Doctors, dentists, hair stylist, driver's license, car registration, insurance... the list is long.
So the question is, "How do we like it?" All the rain, dreary overcast, cold. We so far love it. There has only been 4 inches of rain so far this fall and summer. The driest year on record. So much sun, warm days, the warmest year on record. We got here just in time for the California heat to move north with us.
I have managed to get some of my personal goals met. I have 1/2 cow and a whole veal in the freezer from a local butcher. I have 2 ducks cleaned in the freezer for the holidays. I have canned some apple butter and made apple sauce. I have gotten us set up for a long and lusty winter. I hope it shows up. We have had two fires in the fireplace and the wood pile is full. It just has not been cold enough yet.
So hopefully all this planning will actually pay off. We plan to hang out at home most of the winter until it is time to chase the birds. I will keep you posted about what that means, but it is around Christmas time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Things Are Moving Fast

We are now in Escrow on a contract for sale of our house. I have been wandering down memory lane as I sort and pack, but now I have to get really focused and let stuff go. No more time to goof off and wonder about whether or not I will eventually use stuff. STUFF must GO. Our original plan was to move the furniture and boxes out, clean up the house, and then show it. New plan now. Package every thing as fast as possible and get the hell on the road.
We are still trying to determine the best way to get both cars up there. The end of August is looming large. We may have to park a car here, somewhere, for a couple of weeks so that we can get Stuff moved. Or drive separately for three or four days.
This post will continue as things develop.
So we have a plan, I think. Furniture is moving. We are boxing almost everything. There will be a bunch of stuff going in the Green van first. We will follow the movong van by two days to head up and meet the furniture. Then we will leave the van there and take the train to the airport. Well, to the city and then the light rail to the airport. Then fly home and ask my son to drive us from the airport to the house. It is a plan. It sounds tiring and long. And involves many steps.
The last phase of the plan is to clean the house and pack the small car with all the remaining stuff, have the junk guys haul stuff away and go to a party.
Sometime during this plan, my computer gets disconnected, or moved onto the top of a box in a different room. It is a plan, even if it is a really inconvenient plan.
I have hauled toxic waste away. I have had junk hauled by the Junk guys. There will be at least one more load. I have worked to clean out the garage of stuff and hauled 4 more loads to the Goodwill.  I have taken papers to be shredded. I have cooked down lots of food. I have cleaned out the garden shed. It still looks like there is two weeks of work and not two weeks left. I must work faster and toss more stuff.
The kitchen is not empty yet. We have at least 4 boxes of food items to pack. And I have not even started the sewing room. I know I will get this part done, but I am fighting the panic anxiety. 18 years in one house is about 10 years too long.
Ok, we are on the final countdown. Today, Aug 4, Moving van Aug 9 instead of 10. I have started packing the food items. The laundry room cabinets are cleared and cleaned. Wooly room is packed out and I am starting to clean it. Sewing shed is packed and waiting for large items to move. House is so full of boxes I can 't find any place to put more. We are taking more stuff to the shredder today. I am still on course to pack 4 or more boxes every day and have done 3 already, before breakfast.
It is so hot I can only work in the early morning and late evening. Sweat pouring down, multiple showers.
Eduard was funny today. He said it is so much easier to put things away in the cabinet when there is lots of room. He put away one thing and left the rest on the counter. Apparently, no that much easier.
As we pack out stuff, we have a pile that will travel in the van with us and a pile that will travel up at the last minute in August. The van will be packed to the max. THe list is long and the items large. TV, computer, and valuables. Need a bigger car. I will look into it when we get up there. But I suspect, I will have the van for another 5 years.