Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homesteading FOR REALZ, Duggar-Style

I finally have a teeny tiny bit of a summer break, and though I don't have grand plans (other than a dear friend's Hudson Valley wedding), I do have time to devote to little projects that may not be earth-shattering, but that I have been meaning to try.

First up, making yogurt. Yes, yes. I have made yogurt before, but not since I've had an eye-opening experience. When we went to the Vermont Cheesemaker's Festival, I tried some yogurt from a vendor called Narragansett Creamery. It was nothing short of a REVELATION! I used to think that yogurt should always be silky smooth and creamy, but this was light, ethereal--the stuff angels and fairies would eat--but it had different textures, from soft little curd-like bits, to custard, to areas of almost liquid milkiness. I LOVED IT! And the flavor was very mild and slightly sweet, not sour like some yogurts can be. So we bought every container of vanilla yogurt that they had left, but the company is from Rhode Island, so what was I going to do after it was all gone?

Naturally, I had to learn to make it for myself. And the secret to a yogurt with those different textures? You have to start with raw, non-homogenized milk. Don't worry--it will be pasteurized as soon as it hits 165 degrees. And as a special bonus, you'll get that delicious cream layer on top that's rich and yellow and CRAZY GOOD! Also, since you won't want to stir in vanilla and sugar after the fact and ruin that lovely, soft, lumpy texture, you are going to have to add it ahead of time. Worried it won't set up if you add sugar before fermentation? Don't be. I tried it, and it works fine. In fact, I am now considering investing in a local "cow share" to get a gallon of raw milk a week!

Raw Milk/Non-Homogenized Vanilla Bean Yogurt
(Source: adapted from National Center for Home Food Preservation)

1/2 gallon whole, raw, non-homogenized milk
2/3 cup powdered milk
1/2 cup sugar or honey, optional
2 vanilla beans, split and scraped
1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt with live cultures

Place cold milk in a large pot or in the top of a double boiler. Stir in the nonfat dry milk powder. Add sugar or honey, if using, and the two split vanilla beans. Heat milk to 185°F, stirring gently, and then hold for 20 minutes at that temperature. Do not boil. Be careful and stir constantly to avoid scorching if not using a double boiler.

Place the pot in cold water to cool milk rapidly to 100°F. Remove one cup of the warm milk and blend it with the yogurt starter culture. Add this to the rest of the warm milk. Pour the entire mixture through a strainer into a pouring vessel to remove any stringy or curdled bits, then fill containers as desired. (I got 7 small 6 oz. yogurt jars and one pint-sized Mason jar.)

Cover and place in prepared incubator* for about seven hours, then remove and refrigerate. Yogurt will keep for about 10-21 days if held in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower.

*My preferred incubator which works EVERY time is a chest cooler with two gallon milk jugs filled with hot tap water placed in either end, and the prepared yogurt jars covered with two thick beach towels. Try it!

My second Little House on the Prairie (more like 19 Kids and Counting) project was, once again, to be blamed on Pinterest. I have been wanting to try making my own laundry soap for some time now, and I finally got around to it. I made a small batch (a little over two gallons), and so far, I am very pleased. The ingredients (a bar of Fels-Naphtha soap, a box of washing soda, and a box of Borax) cost about ten bucks, it probably took 10-15 minutes to make a small batch, and it actually cleaned better than commercial laundry detergent! It got out a persistent oily stain that I had washed twice with regular detergent, and it cleaned a dog urine smell that I often have to pre-wash or run a second time to smell truly fresh. And the best part? It costs a penny and a half per load (=1/2 cup)! WINNING!

P.S. My friend, Terry, told me that she has been using a similar laundry soap recipe for a few months, and that she noticed her whites getting dingier. So I might consider adding a scoop of bargain brand/generic Oxy-Clean to each load just in case. It's still WAY cheaper than buying name-brand laundry detergent.

Liquid Laundry Detergent (Small Batch)
(Source: The Rachel Berry Blog)  

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda!)
1/2 cup 20 Mule Team Borax (powdered)
2 gallons hot water

Mix grated Fels Naptha soap in a very large stock pot (I used my 12 quart, and it was just right) with six cups of hot water and heat on low until dissolved. Whisk in washing soda and borax. Continue to whisk until thickened, and remove from heat. Add four more cups hot water and whisk again. Add another five and a half quarts (22 cups or a gallon plus six cups) of hot water, and whisk again until it's as uniform as you can get it. Set aside for 24 hours. Whisk it all up again. You may add additional hot water if the mixture becomes too thick. Funnel into laundry detergent bottles or empty milk gallons. Shake well before each use. Use 1/2 cup of mixture per load.

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