Category Archives: Food

Posts about our adventurs in food, particularly slow, natural, fermented, old-fashioned health foods.

Meatloaf and Cabrito

This day has been approaching for some time now, and finally arrived… A gaggle of goat kids, barely over the trauma of having their horns or other body parts removed (as was the case for the males), have been traumatized again. Having reached adolescence, it was time to wean them from their mothers by forcibly separating them.  I’m such an evil man.

Today has been a day of musical goats so to speak.  Atticus (Cocoa’s baby), Patricia, and Stephanie (Nippa’s girls) had to go away today so their mothers could rest and I could get more milk.  At the same time, Meatloaf (Laura and Banny’s only goat kid this year), Dasher and Flash (LInda’s male kids this year) needed to find new homes for the same reason.  Atticus went on an extended holiday to Banny’s place, Stephanie found a permanent new home there in exchange for Meatloaf (who came back here), Patricia went to Linda’s in exchange for Flash (renamed Cabrito),  and Dasher went to Linda’s neighbor.     I’ll go get Atticus back in a few weeks after he’s fully weaned and add him to the flock of future hamburger.

DSCF0491 Say goodbye to Patricia and Stephanie, and see ya later to Atticus.

And, with the caveat that nobody is to get too attached to them, say hello to Meatloaf and Cabrito (Meatloaf is the cream-colored one between Coca and Nippa, and Cabrito is the white and black one behind Nippa). DSCF0493

Good Ideas

The weekend after Thanksgiving we took the family up to Waco to a harvest festival put on by a group of anababtists who farm using traditional (non-mechanized) methods, teach traditional crafts, and generally do things a bit slower than the general population.  Along with selling their wares, they teach a series of seminars on self sufficiency, skills like blacksmithing and beekeeping, animal husbandry, etc…  It’s interesting and fun to spend a few days wandering, watching, and listening.  This year, Liz came home with a few “good ideas.”  Good ideas generally mean work… lots of it.

We’ve been meaning to put in a garden since we got here, but the holdup has been putting up enough fence to keep critters ranging from chickens to deer and wild pig from eating the fruits of our labor.  In preparation to put in the garden and with her interest to learn new methods for gardening and natural pest control Liz attended a seminar that piqued her interest.  That’s where the work comes in.

Apparently, grasshoppers and similar pests don’t fly or jump nearly as far or as often as they crawl.    One suggestion for ways to minimize damage due to bugs was to surround the garden with an eight-foot wide chicken run.  Chickens LOVE bugs, and will scratch and peck their run down to nothing but dirt, leaving a barren wasteland of death for any bugs brave enough to attempt to cross it.  I guess the odds of a bug getting across an eight-foot wide no-man’s-land filled with ravenous predators are pretty bleak.   Sounded great… until I did the math.

Something I learned a while ago is that most of the work putting in fences goes into getting the corner posts and braces in.  For every corner I have to dig three post holes (2 1/2 feet deep into hard clay) and tie in two braces.  Given how hard the clay is once you dig down more than about six inches, it can take up to an hour to dig a single hole, and in the end you end up with a gloppy mess because the only way to get through it is to use a combination of water and a 16lb digging bar to break up the clay before scooping it out with a post-hole digger.  That pile of goopy glue sticks to my shoes, gloves, tools, etc… making everything about 5-10 lbs heavier than it would normally be.  Then you get the pleasure of putting the post in the hole, backfilling the dirt you just took out, and using that 16lb bar to tamp and pack the dirt down by repeatedly pounding the flat end of it against the ground.  Building fencing sucks…  But it’s a great workout for your upper back.

When we put the fence around the 1.2 acre “yard” I ended up with about 30 wood posts including posts and braces for three gates.  The rest were T-posts that are quick, cheap, and easy.  It took me several weekends to get it done.  With that in mind, consider the following:

chicken_yard If you subtract the six posts that are already there from the earlier fencing effort, that still leaves 27 posts if I did the arithmetic correctly.

The holes are done, posts in the ground, and now I get to finish bracing and stringing the fence fabric.  I guess I’d better quit writing about it and get busy doing it.

Making Mozzarella & Butter

Nippa, the milk machine, generally produces almost exactly the amount of milk we tend to drink every day as a family.  However, when one or more of us aren’t here, the milk can begin to pile up in the fridge.  Recently I spent several days out of town for work, and Sydney had spent a week at summer church camp.  That translated into a couple gallons that were threatening to go bad if we didn’t do something useful with them. To add to the problem, Liz had bought a half-gallon of cream from the dairy down the street, but had only used about half of it making Ice Cream and Creamy Tomato Soup.

Liz has been meaning to try making cheese for quite a while, and had even bought the rennet to do it with.  However, circumstances never aligned until this last Monday.  We decided to make cheese and butter for “Family Night.”   The kids each got a mason jar half-full of cream to shake while I used the opportunity to teach the science of cheese making (yes science… I’m quite the geek).  In the end, we ended up with a delicious ball of fresh mozzarella, ricotta, and braunkase (reduced carmelized whey).  All of it tasty and none of it from the store.  Nothing went to waste.

Just as luck would have it, we had run out of butter that day, and the butter we made got us through until the next in-town shopping trip where we could re-stock on grass-fed organic butter (man… that makes me sound like an uppity food snob, but there are good reasons for it).

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Whole-Wheat Sourdough Kefir Bread

I love bread.  However, with the nutrition approach Liz has adopted you’re supposed to soak all grains overnight in an acidic liquid before consuming/cooking them to break down phytic acid.  The conventional (if you can call it that) method is to add a few tablespoons of cultured whey to act as a starter and get lacto-fermentation going to generate the acid.  However, I don’t like the flavor the whey adds.  To make it worse, most of my recipes for homemade bread don’t include an overnight soak/rise.

Sourdough, on the other hand, essentially is an overnight soak because it can take all night to rise depending on your starter.  Unfortunately, I’ve not had great success getting sourdough to produce the results I wanted without cheating and adding commercial yeast, mostly because I tend to let the starter go too long between uses.

However, I’ve found an alternative that seems to work very well for me.  In an attempt to break myself of the Diet Coke habit, I started brewing “water kefir,” aka “tibicos” – a fizzy pro-biotic drink brewed with a Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast (SCOBY) kind of like kombuscha but using a different starter culture and sugar water instead of tea.  The end result of the brewing is a mildly acidic liquid rich in lacto-bacteria and yeasts like a sour-dough starter, but with more pleasant flavors and more than one use (I like to drink it straight, kinda like a carbonated unsweetened or lightly sweetened lemonade).  Because I use it as a regular drink, I haven’t had trouble with killing it from lack of use, and I pretty much always have a bottle or two in the fridge.

Now for the recipe…  Start the recipe the day before you want the bread.  The rise-time for me always seems to take at least 8 hours, and most of the time it’s more like 18.

  • 4 C Water Kefir
  • 1 Tbs unrefined sea salt (should be gray or pink)
  • 3 eggs (pasture raised in your back yard if possible)
  • 1/2 C melted butter (from grass-fed cows if possible)
  • 1/2 C malted wheat flour, 1/4 C maple syrup or 1/4 C rapadura sugar (optional)
  • 9-12 C fresh-ground whole-wheat flour

Start with cold Kefir and mix in the sugar and salt.  Melt the butter and whisk in the eggs until well mixed and add the eggs and butter to the Kefir.  Add about half the flour and stir until smooth, then add the remaining flour (more if needed) and knead to make a moderately stiff dough (I do it by hand because I got tired of repairing stripped out gears in my KitchenAid, but a machine works well if you don’t abuse it like I tend to).

Once the dough is smooth and stretchy, shape it into 2 or 3 loaves and plop them into bread pans greased with lard, tallow, or butter (I don’t like any form of highly processed vegetable oil, and butter tastes better anyway).   Grease the top of the loaves with butter.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap leaving the cover loose enough to let the bread rise and let sit at room temperature overnight.  If by morning the dough isn’t rising, place the loaves somewhere warm (I use my dehydrator set to about 100F) until they have doubled (anywhere from 1-6 hours).  If they still haven’t risen, you have a choice to make.  You can either bake them anyway and eat fairly heavy but delicious bread (what I usually do) or wait for the yeasts to finally take off.  They will eventually, and with the acid in the Kefir, you don’t have to worry much about putrifying bacteria and the like.   Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom of the loaf.  Let it rest on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, cut off a thick slice, smear thickly with butter, and enjoy!

Notes:

Water Kefir: look it up via your favorite search provider.   There are several places that describe it and how to obtain a culture and brew it.  I’ll eventually post something about how I make it, but no promises when.  Sometimes I add fruit juice or pulp to the kefir to flavor it, and that adds a unique and generally pleasant flavor to the bread.

Unrefined Sea Salt:  I use Celtic Sea Salt because I understand that it retains all of the minerals found in the seawater used to make it and that it is an excellent source of trace minerals.  I suppose any kind of salt would work if that is what you have.

Pasture-Raised Eggs: Eggs from pasture-raised chickens have dark yolks and firm whites.  I believe they contain higher levels of vitamins and minerals (particularly fat-soluble ones like A, D, and K2) than the eggs produced by factory-farm raised chickens, and know they taste better either way.  If you don’t have chickens in your back yard, I feel sorry for you.

Butter (from grass-fed animals in particular): Butter is one of the best sources of vitamin K2 (as long as the animals making the milk are eating stuff containing chlorophyl), a substance that science is only just beginning to understand, but Winston Price without knowing what to call it tied it to strong teeth and excellent health including immunity from tooth decay and heart disease.  Furthermore, I don’t buy the saturated fat and cholesterol scare tactics employed by modern medical practitioners.  Their low-fat, low-cholesterol, low-taste diet seems to have gotten us worse off than our ancestors were on a high-fat nutrient rich naturally grown diet.  See for example www.westonaprice.org. The research is quite interesting.  Avoid margarine and other processed vegetable oils like the plague.

Malted Wheat Flour: I make my own by sprouting wheat berries until the baby-plant (not the furry rootlets, but the thing that will be grass if you let it grow much more) is about as long as the grain, throwing them in my dehydrator for a while at temps below 115F until they are crispy and sweet, then grinding them into flour.  it adds a sweet, nutty flavor, and provides sugars for the yeast to digest.

 

Food Faces

I’m not sure why, but Liz and the Kids keep seeing faces in our food.  Just for fun, I’ve decided to share a few that they’ve taken pictures of…

IMG_7711Happy hens make happy eggs apparently.  I don’t honestly know if these eggs were from our flock of backyard chickens or if they were from one of the last dozen or so we purchased at the local meat market before our buzzards started laying.   I think this is just before we started getting our own eggs.  The ones we’ve been getting have yolks so orange it would look unnatural if you weren’t used to seeing eggs from free-range chickens.

IMG_7245Say hello to pickle guy(so dubbed by our kids)…  Last fall we got invited to help glean a pickling cucumber field in the local area and came home with a 5-gallon bucket worth of cucumbers.  This was the first time I’d made pickles in about ten years, and they turned out great.  Along the way, we noticed one jar that had a little more personality than the others.

How’s that for a useless and trivial post?