Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dairy Dance

My children run over to collect a bucket of milk, and the Dairy Dance begins. The sequence of the steps depend on my mood, but the dance is choreographed to use every last drop of the milky goodness. My Elastic Mom philosophy of USE IT, DON'T LOSE IT is all about milking every lost drop from my resources. This time it is literally milking the milk. 

 We are blessed with buckets of creamy unpasteurized, unhomogenized jersey milk. When a fresh bucket arrives, I stand it in the fridge for a few hours to allow the cream to rise to the top. Them I skim off the CREAM to use for butter, whipped cream or ice-cream.

Butter is so easy to make, even without a churn. It took me a year of farm living to even give it a try. Now I wonder why i waited so long.

Here's how I make BUTTER:
1.  Beat the cream in a food processor until it forms tiny yellow globules floating in a whitish fluid, buttermilk.
2. Press the globules together with a wooden spoon, and pour off the buttermilk. A bit of ice in the bowl helps the butter to stay in a lump.
3. Work the butter on a wooden board with a wooden spoon. Press out every last drop of buttermilk which can make it go rancid. Rinse repeatedly under a running cold tap.
4. Add a pinch of salt. Then press into a dish and refrigerate your butter. 

As for the BUTTERMILK, I USE IT within a day. I doesn't keep well. It is delicious in baked goods, such as buttermilk rusks, flapjacks, bread and whatever you like. 

Then there is ice-cream. My generous husband gave me an ice-cream machine for my birthday. 

Here's how I make ICE-CREAM:
1. In the morning - Make an egg custard on the stovetop with milk and/or cream.
2. Stir the cooled custard into some fresh cream along with pureed fruit or your favourite flavouring.
3. Chill the mixture all day.
4. Pour the well chilled mixture into the ice-cream machine, and run it for around half an hour while you are eating dinner. Serve the soft ice-cream immediately and hope there is enough leftover to keep some in the freezer. 

If you don't have an ice-cream machine, then freeze the mixture, beating the crystals down every so often while it is solidifying.

Now that just about completes the the cream part of the dance. If it happens to go sour before I can use it, then it goes into my baking, or into a pasta sauce. I make sure not to LOSE IT.

Next it's the MILK. I use it in white sauce, porridge, puddings, smoothies, and in baking too. But the best of all is when my husband makes me a creamy cuppachino with that morning's milk. Hot and frothy foam, sprinkled with cocoa, floating on delicious espresso... mmmm

I make yoghurt with the milk too. It is also really so easy to make, and I wonder why I found the concept rather daunting. 

Here's how I make YOGHURT:
1. Heat the required amount of milk to just below boiling point.
2. Cool the milk to blood temperature. Test it on your wrist, like a baby's bottle.
3. Pour the warm milk into a clean jar, or jars, over a dollop of live yoghurt, from a previous batch, or from the shops to get you going.
4. Keep the jar warm overnight. I have a small warmer, but you could use an insulated box wrapped in towels, or a thermos flask. I have even heard of using a crock pot on its lowest setting.
5. Chill and serve with honey, fresh fruit, or your flavouring of choice.

Then there's my 'CREAM CHEESE':
1. Simply suspend some yoghurt in  muslin / cheesecloth / hessian / clean tea towel over a bowl.
2. Leave it for a good few hours. The contents of your 'bag' become the 'cream cheese', and the WHEY collects in the bowl underneath.

WHEY is protein-rich  and good for us, and so to USE IT, and not LOSE IT, it goes into soups, breads or sauces.

And those are the basic steps of my dairy dance. It is a dance of thankfulness for food on our table, and happy satisfied tummies and taste buds.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

On My Mind Today...

Aren't these booties just gorgeous. So far I have made three pairs. Two babies are on the way. We are waiting with bated breath for THE CALL from my farm friend who is already a few days overdue. The second baby will be my long awaited nephew, due in April. I just love to knit and crochet. As a busy home educating mom, a TIME TAMING TECHNIQUE for me is to work my crafts sitting alongside my studious children. In this way I am available when they need help, and I am rested rather than restless when educating my precious people takes longer than I had hoped. If we have a glut of a harvest to process, I can also often be found chopping and stirring in the kitchen, sharing the kitchen table space with maths or language books as I pickle, process and teach at the same time.

Take a look at Rhonda's blog:  Down to Earth for loads of elastic living inspiration.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Shopping Savvy

There are many more fun things to do in life than grocery shopping.  The art of Savvy Shopping is an easy way to stretch your budget, and is another TIME TAMING TECHNIQUE.

Choose one day a week to shop. Remember, the best way to save money at the shops is to stay away. Once a week is better than once a month because running out of sugar is a minor inconvenience for a day or so at the end of the week. On the other hand, running out of sugar for a week at the end of the month can be rather challenging.

Follow these easy steps to learn the art of Savvy Shopping. 

STEP ONE - all week
Keep a running list of essential items that you run out of. My list is on a pretty wooden memo block in my kitchen. Train your family to write up that peanut butter, borax for the science project, or whatever else they need. If it's on the list I will buy it on Shopping day. If my family forget to write it, I forget to buy it. They remember next time. It has to be empty, or almost finished, to be written up. If we already have two bottles of shampoo and my darling daughter desires a different brand, she will need to develop the art of Delayed Gratification and wait a while before I will buy a new bottle.

STEP TWO - the day before shopping day
Take a quick visual tour of  your bathroom, fridge, pantry, and vegetable patch (if you have one) the day before you shop.  Are you running our of toothpaste? What needs using the most? Look for the oldest things in your fridge and freezer. I mean, not scary potential microscope specimens, but what has been there for the longest time. Do you have a glut of marrows or tomatoes in the garden? Do you have a bit of leftover meat from a BBQ?

STEP THREE - still the day before shopping day
Look at your diary, and your plans for the week. Are you having a date night out where your kids can survive on a simple dinner, like dippy eggs? Is Granny coming to stay for a few nights? Jot down ideas in your diary for breakfast, lunch and supper on each day up until the next shopping day. Remember to plan the first few meals using those urgent items from STEP TWO, and try to plan meals using as much of what is in your freezer / pantry as possible. Remember to plan some meals as LEFTOVER PLAN-OVERS. How about a pasta dish made with diced meat from that BBQ and a tomatoey sauce from that glut in your garden. Jot down special instructions in your diary, like "defrost chicken" the day before you plan to serve it for Sunday roast, or "soak beans" the day before you plan to try out my delicious BUSTING BUTT BAKED BEANS.

STEP FOUR - again the day before shopping day
Add to your list from STEP ONE: any missing ingredients needed for the meals you have planned as well as bathroom or cleaning items that need replenishing. Group similar items together on your list - fruit and veg, meat, dairy, cleaning materials, etc. The goal is to see how few items you can put on your list, and still feed your family well.

STEP FIVE - Shopping Day
Make sure you and your children are well fed. I like to shop after lunch. Grab your trolley, with your list and pen in hand. If your kids are joining you and are big enough, let them push it or run to find items on your list. I prefer to shop while they are doing music lessons. Whizz up and down the aisles grabbing only the items on your list, and cross them off as you toss them in the shopping cart. See how fast you can go. This is the reason for grouping similar items in STEP FOUR. The faster you go, the less you are tempted. Think of it as a replacement aerobic workout, get that heart pumping. Play fast music on your ipod if you're alone. Lifting bags of groceries strengthens those biceps. I have been known to do a few extra lifts when I think no one is watching me.

STEP SIX - Shopping Day
MAKE THE MILEAGE MATTER. Use your shopping day to run errands, fill your car with fuel so that it runs on full instead of empty, visit the post office, pharmacy and the library. In Summer it's best to make shopping the last errand of the day so the ice-cream doesn't melt.

STEP SEVEN - After shopping
Unpack the bags as soon as you walk in the door. Put your feet up alongside your man, if he is home. Enjoy a delicious, refreshing cool-drink or cocktail and take a well deserved rest before tackling dinner.

No thinking is required. Just open your diary each day and cook whatever is on that day's menu. If something else crops up, like your husband surprises you with take-aways, or you are invited out, or it is too hot for the cooked meal you had planned, then be flexible and go with the flow. You can smile sweetly knowing that you have enough meals to cover your week, and now, maybe a few for the following week too.