Saturday, 31 October 2015

Yogurt Cheat - Part 2

So we covered the basic method to make yogurt using the cheat's method with Easiyo powder in the last blog. But there are oodles more ways to play around with making yogurt.
Some folks like the "pot set" type of yogurt with more of a tart taste, so here is a way to make it.

When your yogurt container is almost empty and contains a dessertspoon of yogurt in the bottom and around the sides, don't wash it out. Put milk in it again, add some milk powder (a dessertspoon or maybe two) and shake it like crazy for approximately half a minute. 
Put the container into the canister with the boiling water surrounding it and leave for 12 hours.
The yogurt that was remaining will contain enough culture to inoculate the milk and turn it into yogurt again. If you like you can add a dessertspoon of Easiyo powder. Try both methods to find out which you prefer.  

Once you get into yogurt making, not only are you going to start saving lots of dollars, you will also let your imagination drive you forward to start experimenting.

Wait until the yogurt has set before adding fruit and sweetener, ie honey or sugar. 

To turn your yogurt into cream cheese strain it through a loose weave cloth over night to drain off the whey. There you have a delicious cream cheese as a base for dips, cake icing, a spread or cheese cake.

Do you make tzatziki?  What else can we do with yogurt?
I love learning new ways to use my home made products and to stretch my dollars further.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Yogurt Cheat

I've been working at making the perfect creamy yogurt for years and have had varying success.
Part of cow ownership makes it necessary to utilize the milk in as many ways possible and to stop the necessity to walk down the Dairy Products aisle at the supermarket. I'm pleased to say that I can now saunter down that aisle and tilt my chin at all of the expensive items there. Or I can choose to avoid that aisle  and save shopping time as well as lots of dollars.
So back to yogurt.
There are as many fancy utensils out there for the consumer to buy as there are methods of making yogurt.
The basic method of yogurt is to add some yogurt culture to fresh milk, keep it at body temperature for 8 - 12 hrs, after which the milk should have turned thick.
This is easy, but these days we are all spoiled by those creamy textured yogurts, with added sugars and fruits which really are quite removed from the real principal of yogurt.
I needed to find a compromise so that my family would eat the yogurt that I make with our cow's milk. It's all very well to make all this stuff, but is counter productive if no one will eat it.
I don't want sugars and Frankenstein fruits added to my yogurt. I want my family to eat unprocessed foods made from ingredients that have been grown organically, and preferably, locally.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know what I think of Frankenstein foods and my definition of what they are. They are foods that have been played around with genetically, grown with pesticides and herbicides, filled with sugar and numbers, and have been transported across the world.

Most people know about Easiyo yogurt and love to make their own yogurt from the packets available to buy at the supermarket.
I'm a bit slow at catching on to consumer items, so I only discovered what these things were a couple of years ago. I saw them in op-shops quite often but had no idea what they were used for.
So I was researching the perfect yogurt technique on line late one night and happened upon a forum that was so enlightening.  It was a real ahaa moment.
I went back to the op-shop next day and bought the outer canister for $3. Then, from the supermarket I bought the inside container which comes with two small lunch box size containers for just over $20.
With a packet of the yogurt mix and some powdered milk in my basket I headed home to give this idea a try.
The yogurt mixes of various flavors all cost between $4 and $5 which I believe is still rather expensive for a litre/kilo of yogurt.  We can buy ready made yogurt off the shelf for that price, without the need to buy the equipment to make it up at home. What's the point of that?
The instructions on the pack are to just add water.
This is my frugal yogurt method.

HALF FILL the 1 litre inside container with whole milk. I use raw milk from our cow, but you could use any milk. When on caravan holidays we use UHT Full Cream milk which works just fine.
Add .. 2 heaped desert spoons of powdered milk,
and  2 heaped desert spoons of yogurt mix from the packet.
** Dip the spoon right into the bottom of the bag of Easiyo powder and stir it around a bit because the culture may have settled on the bottom of the bag. The Esiyo bags contain powdered milk and culture, so you need to make sure you stir it around well to get a consistent end product.
Put the lid on and shake like crazy for about half a minute.
Take the lid off and fill to the top with more milk, leaving approx 2 cms of head space.
Shake well again.

The remaining procedure is as written in the instructions that come with the Easiyo containers but I'll write it here in case you have bought yours second hand without the instructions.
There is a red plastic bit that sits inside the outer canister in order to hold the yogurt container at the correct level. (That sounds confusing, but you will know what I mean when you are looking at it)
Fill the canister with boiling water to the top of the red plastic part.
Put the yogurt container inside the canister and screw the lid on immediately.
Leave it for 12 hours before checking. After that time it should be firm and turned into yogurt.
Take the yogurt container out of the canister and place in the fridge where it will firm up more and be of a creamy texture if you have used full cream milk.

So, we have made delicious yogurt for a fraction of the cost. I can get three litres of yogurt from one packet of Easiyo.
We each take a small re-useable jar of it to work for morning lunches mixed with home grown raspberries and a dribble of honey. I see others eating their purchased pots of yogurt in the little disposable containers. More rubbish for landfill.
We use lots of yogurt here and I like to have two pots in the fridge. Oh no, I didn't buy another Easiyo container, because I found a suitable size plastic container at an op-shop for a few cents.

How do you use your yogurt besides eating it as yogurt?  Have you got a great recipe for making your own?

At this time of year we are eating lots of coleslaw and creamy noodle or potato salads in which I use yogurt as the base for the dressings.

In my next blog I'll share my Mum's recipe for boiled Mayonnaise which lasts for months in the fridge, and mixed with yogurt, is a delicious and healthy salad dressing that's versatile and popular in this house.

Making our own salad dressings and mayonnaise is easy. Maybe this will be the next aisle we don't need to walk along next time we're doing the food shopping?

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Shearing the Alpacas

Each October we await the phone call that tells us when the alpaca shearers with be in our area. Husband and wife team, Kay and Brian, make a day of it whilst in the Barossa so we notify our friends with small lots of alpacas who transport theirs to our place. Here we have everything in place for ease of loading, holding and shearing and is easy for the shearers to set up their specialised equipment in one place, rather than travelling to three different properties.  This in turn makes it more cost effective for each of us.
Our little guys, Turner and Gramp, are well mannered and quite easy to catch so we can put halters on them.  However, we are always sure to have some kind of yards or shed to run them into before attempting to catch them. Once they are cornered it's quite easy to get an arm around their long neck and gently ease the halter over the nose and then over the head.
So onto the trailer they walked with me leading them one by one. Such beautiful gentlemen they are.

Brian shears while Kay gathers up the fleece.

Kay trims the feet.

Vaccinates with a Five in One.

Turner is quite relaxed despite all hands holding his neck still so he is not nicked by the sharp blades.

He is restrained carefully for the safety of all involved. A kick from an alpaca is a mighty force.

The table is tilted back and he is released. 

Now they are ready to face the approaching heat of summer.
Another one of the annual events is ticked off the list.  Next will be the shearing of the sheep. Meanwhile other spring jobs are never ending.
Bee hives have been moved to make use of the Salvation Jane growing over our hill in neighboring properties, swarms of bees are being gathered to boost the hives and Brian is busy working at cleaning up the frames and replacing some of the foundation in readiness for the big honey flow when the weather heats up. Fingers crossed there is a good flow this season.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Hay is Baled and Stored

The contractor baled our hay on Saturday.  What a wonderful feeling it is to get it cut and baled after working hard for many months to grow the best crop of meadow hay that we can produce.
We never plough our land and although Brian direct drilled some oats into the pasture crop, the Galahs appeared in huge numbers and ate nearly every grain.  We had less than average rain during this year so the growth was shorter than usual.
At various times during the last twelve months Brian has put out his bio-dynamic preparations and liquid fertilizers made here on farm using all natural ingredients. When he's putting out 500 he mixes in some of his weed teas, liquid manure and molasses so he gets the whole cocktail out there into the soil without the need to drive over it more than necessary, thus causing as little soil compaction as possible.

When aiming for a high level of self sufficiency, this is one of the best sites we could possibly see on our little farm.
This stockpile of hay is security. It will feed our animals throughout the coming year giving us meat and milk for ourselves and a small income from sales of meat and dairy products.
According to other farmers in our area this year's harvest is lower than average and hay will be expensive to buy for those who are not able to make their own.  If we are careful and frugal this harvest will be enough for us until next season's cut.  I hasten to add, that contractor's fees for our hay are not cheap either, but the price that we pay the contractor per bale is approximately one third to one quarter the cost of buying the same quality hay.
Another plus for cutting our own hay is knowing that the quality and nutrition level is very high, and  has no foreign grass seeds and prickles that would impact our weed control program.
Our animals are fed totally on bio-dynamic and organic pasture and hay.
The new (to us) tractor was our major purchase this year. It should last us for many years to come and although Brian loved his 1956 Fergie TEA, this newer Ford tractor can out-perform dear old Fergie in so many ways.

And just for fun, here's a very short clip of the pigs with snouts in the trough. Growing so fast.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Early October 2015 - Farm update - Chickens, Honey and New Things to make life easier

I am on a quest to de-clutter and make the limited space in our home more practical instead of picturesque. As no magazine editors have ever actually knocked on my door requesting to photograph my  decorating, I'm beginning to wonder why I have all these "things" placed about like a picture from a magazine collecting dust and cobwebs.
As anyone who loves "things" will know, it's not such an easy task, but having listened to an expert speaking on ABC radio during the past week about this very topic, I'm taking her advice and starting slowly.
Now I should let you know that my "things" are mostly collected over the years from Garage Sales and Op-shops, have little monetary value, but are lovely to look at and bring me pleasure.
Yesterday, sitting with a cup of tea and thinking about this, I moved the recipe books that sit on the bench to this little nook in the large kitchen dresser. I had to remove the decorative items from the dresser to other places, but a couple of pieces went onto the clearing out pile.
This pile I will photograph and place an advertisement on "Barossa Online Classifieds" Facebook page. Some items have gone into the pile to go to one of my favourite Op-shops. Yes, I know, I'll probably bring something else home when I go in there to deliver my donations.
I feel a sense of achievement already as my Kombucha jars have a little place of their own now, where the recipe books used to be, and that bench has more space for me to work at.
The plan is to clear some other shelves in the kitchen, but I'll wait for a scorching day when I'm confined indoors.

 Early this week it was warm enough to extract some honey from the hives and to try out our new electric four frame extractor. It worked like a dream and I no longer need to wind the handle like I did with the old one that we used ever since we first started with bees in 2004.
Crikey, a few hours of honey extracting in the heat of summer was quite exhausting, but now it's a pleasure.
Brian researched on line and bought ours from on this site on Gumtree  The follow up service from Sally Middleton was first class. She responded quickly to any of our questions and couldn't have been more helpful.
The tap had been broken during transit so Brian informed Sally who had a replacement tap sent to us within a few days.
A couple of phone conversations followed, and we have became great friends since. Hoping to visit her and husband Brian at their property at Woollombi in NSW some time in the future. (Another Sally and Brian team).
Some wonderful friendships have been formed over bees and honey sales.

An incubator full of seventy something eggs hatched successfully last week. This hen had gone broody so Brian had her sitting on a golf ball and was ready to accept the chicks when they hatched out. The chicks will grow and learn about being chickens from their surrogate mother. She can't cover them all to keep them warm, so inside their shed there is a globe with large light shade hanging a few centimetres above the ground for the excess chicks to sit underneath to keep warm.
The roosters will be for our table and the hens will be our replacement laying hens, with a few for sale as well.

The hay contractor was called two weeks ago to cut our hay paddocks. This year has become warm much earlier than usual. In previous years our hay was cut in mid October. The number of bales will be well down this year as the crop of mixed pasture grasses was not very tall. We have a few bales remaining from last year's cut and we will just have to use the hay sparingly and hope it sees us through until next year. Now we're waiting for the contractor to return and bale it into large round bales.

This small kitchen garden was completely overgrown with weeds and plants gone to seed so I got stuck into it last weekend. It's always quite a dilemma at the end of the seasons when I'm waiting to collect the seeds but also need the space to start planting the next crop. Any suggestions?
This bed is my "self seeding" garden where chooks are banned so the seeds can fall and grow where they are happy.
However, there is such an over abundance of the pesky earwigs here, it makes growing anything a real challenge, so we caught three hens and left them in this garden for two days. There are a couple of lettuce plants and some silver beet that I wanted to protect so I put up-turned buckets over them. It got quite hot so we moved the market umbrella to create a shady spot for them.
They scratched and gobbled up earwigs busily, each laying an egg among the rhubarb.

Thanks for visiting today and don't forget to leave a comment so I can look at your blog too.

I'm off to plant some beans and cucumbers now.
Happy gardening!

Monday, 5 October 2015

The Pigs with No Name

We drove to Saddleworth to buy our pigs last Sunday. Peggy and John Stewart have a wonderful free-range piggery that I've mentioned in a previous post.
We buy our pigs in October every year and they are ready for butchering approximately five or six months later. They don't get named because they're destined for the table.
These little ones have settled in well. For the first six days I fed them commercially made "Pig Weaner Pellets" and introduced small amounts of scraps gradually over the past week.
From today they are completely off the pellets and eating only scraps which we collect from two restaurants in the town, 2 kms away. They also get weeds and excess vegetables from the garden and later in the season they will eat lots of fruit that I collect from under the trees in the orchard.
During this past week they have also been introduced gradually to the yogurt and whey that I make in buckets from our excess milk.
A quick refresh about the animal yogurt that I make.
If you have excess milk it is tempting to feed it to the chooks and other animals, ie pigs, BUT do be very careful feeding milk to animals. 
I have known people who have killed their pigs and chooks by feeding them milk.
** Some animals can adapt to milk in their diet, but it should be introduced slowly and carefully.**
As we know, milk is difficult to digest for some people, but fermented milk products are tolerated quite well.
Animals are the same.
It may seem like a lot of bother to make yogurt for your pigs and chooks, but it's really very easy, provided you have access to lots of free or low cost milk.
Put milk into a bucket with a fitting lid and place it where it will get lots of sunlight.
Stir in a cup of yogurt and leave it for a few days until a solid mass forms on the top. During the warmer seasons the activation will only take a few days.
This is the yogurt that I feed to the pigs, mixed in with their scraps.
The chickens (chooks) get it too. Either in a bowl or mixed in with bread and scraps.
Yogurt is very high in protein and the animals love it. Our dogs also get a little each day.
It's so good for our gut because it's fermented which means it's (pre-digested) and it's good for the animals too.
The whey is also good for them but it's very watery so it needs mixing in with other more solid foods. Or you could put a bowl of whey in the animal's yard for them to drink.
** Keep an eye on the bowel movements of the animals and adjust the feeding of milk if diarrhea is apparent.
I put whey into my compost heap to activate it and also tip it onto the garden, fruit trees etc.
Continue to add more excess milk as you use it from the bucket. The yogurt remaining in the bucket, no matter how small, will inoculate the fresh milk and turn it into yogurt in time.
                                       The top yogurt will look like this. Thick and lumpy.

          The yogurt lower in the bucket looks like this. The clear, yellowish liquid is whey.

We are still waiting for some new calves that we have ordered from one of our local dairy farms, so until then we are still milking Daisy twice daily.
What to do with 25 litres of milk each day?
Lots of cheeses of all description.

                               Each of these cheddars is made from eight litres of whole milk.

Brian made this cheese press from pictures we saw on some cheese making sites on line. I made the cheese hoop from a donated plastic container and use a solid plastic lid as a follower. (Inside the hoop).  It doesn't require modern expensive equipment to make cheese if one of you is a bit handy and you know how to be resourceful.
I have since purchased (from an op-shop for $2) another solid plastic round container with straight up and down sides. Brian drilled holes up the sides and in the bottom. It's perfect for my eight litre cheddars and four litre fetta cheeses.
I also bought some butter muslin from Spotlight on one of my recent, and rare, trips to the big smoke.

Half of a four litre Fetta cheese that I took out of the brine today after making it three days ago.
Oh my, it is so delicious.  This section was sold to the lady who called in and purchased all of the butter that I made this morning (six pieces), but the other half is safely tucked in the fridge. Tomorrow there will be a spinach and fetta quiche.

                                             This morning's Butter....Sold thirty minutes later.

I made this cheesecake from some soft cream cheese that I made earlier in the week. It needed to be used up otherwise the dogs or chooks would get it.
The recipe called for a half cup of icing sugar which I duly added.
Later while rummaging about in the pantry I discovered a packet of icing sugar at the back. Upon checking the bag that I had used for the cheesecake I discovered I'd used cornflour instead!
One of those moments when I'm reminded that I'm turning into my Granny.
The cheesecake was slightly grainy in texture and not overly sweet! But dangerously edible.
            Draining another batch of soft cream cheese. The jug is holding some of the whey.

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