Good day to everyone who reads this blog. Last night we had SNOW and it was beautiful. I say "was" because it is just after 10 a.m. and it is raining so the snow is almost gone. There is still a good bit of the white stuff in some protected places around the Farm, but now the mucky looking stuff is prevalent.
I got up at 5 a.m. today to take the puppies outside and I wish I had gotten my camera. They are always more than ready to go out in the mornings and this morning they were feeling the call much earlier than usual, for some unknown and never revealed reason. I took them out the kitchen door, which opens onto the back porch and when I opened that door, which leads to the outside, it was covered with a cold white blanket. They started to run out like they usually do, which is kind of like those shots of kids running out of school when the final bell rings (you know the ones).
They literally skidded to a halt and slid and tumbled out the back steps. Then they immediately turned around and ran back insde. They stood at the threshold barking and looking up at me like I had done something to their yard. It was hilarious. If I had been just a little more awake it probably would have been even funnier. I had to pick them up and take them outside one at a time and sit them down in the snow. Once they figured out they could walk on this new stuff, they ran around like usual, did their thing and then we went back into the house and went back to bed for a couple of hours.
By the time I got up for good at 8 (yes, we slept in...not much to be done outside today so we took advantage) it was raining and the snow was turning to slush. We didn't have quite as much drama on this trip out as previously, but watching 5 Jack Russells trying not to get their tushies wet and cold was yet another round of hilarity. Diva almost stood on her head, Turtle ran around in a circle about 40 times and Piglet got under a bush where there was a patch of bare ground still available. Maggie and Callie are a little more accustomed to adverse weather, but until a that first time it rained back in late December, the pups had only experienced dry ground and they were not all that keen on the whole concept of getting wet at first. They will stand still for their baths, but I guess they figure that the outside should always be "puppy friendly" which in their case, is warm and dry.
Today is going to be a great day to cook up some goodies in the kitchen although I don't know what it will be yet. Probably some kind of flat bread or foccacia.I need to find some easier recipes for this type of bread so it will be like a laboratory in our kitchen today. The Farmer's loves it when I am in my mad kitchen scientist mode. At least most of the time. I occasionally end up with something that even the dogs won't eat. Which is another project I am working on...the ultimate organic dog cookie! I am getting close because I have a panel of 6 experts to test my concoctions.
This past week, I did something I had never personally done as a cook. I made my own butter, using organic sweet cream. I have participated in living history demonstrations in the past but to have ever made butter for our personal consumption was a thing I had wanted to try for a long time but just never did it.
Anyway, the process is not that hard...a little time consuming but the results are FABULOUS!!! I have never eaten butter that tasted like the cream it was made from, even the best organic butter I have had. If anyone is interested in how I did this, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you the instructions. This would be a great project for homeschoolers and another way to help connect your kids to their food supply/source. I did it because I was curious and because I know EXACTLY what was in the stuff. I am going to make some more and then make "ghee" with it so I will post how that goes later on.
The butter didn't last long because I shared it with some other family members. Oh and it didn't hurt that my mother-in-law was making her delicious sour dough bread the same day. Now that was a combination. For breakfast yesterday, we had homemade bread toast, the butter I made, honey from our hives and eggs that our hens laid.
The eggs, by the way, were the same color as the OJ we had with this breakfast. Next time I crack some, I am going to take a picture of them next to "store bought" organic eggs. Even those pale in comparison to these.
Back to what I was talking about with making some goodies today...I have a whole lot of organic strawberries in the freezer from our 2006 harvest that need to be used and to make some more room in the freezer. I am going to make a round of strawberry butter (not jam or jelly because I want to omit the added sugar as much as possible).
Making fruit butters is a very simple process. This particular recipe only requires that I cook the berries down for a couple of hours on really low heat. I cook them down until they are mushy at first and then use my emersion blender until the pulp is a smooth consistency, with no large pieces of berry left. Then I add a couple of fresh lemon or lime slices, so that the pectin in the peeling and pith can help thicken this up a little. I remove the flesh before doing this because I am not going to add much sweetener and don't want the butter to be too lemony/limey.
This project requires that you be home to stir unless you want to do it in a crock pot, but that takes at least overnight with the lid off and you run the risk of scorching the product. Once the cooked berry pulp is at the exact thickness I want it (it will thicken slightly as it cools but not "gel" like a jam or jelly. At this stage, I add about 2 tablespoons of organic cane sugar or honey to every 2 cups of pulp.
Mostly I taste it until it has the proper sweetness. Butters don't require the chemistry of sugar, pectin, etc. to create the product so you can experiment a little with soft fruits like apples, berries. Pears have a lot of water in them and hardly ever get to the consistency of a butter, but you can make "pear honey" the same way, just expect it to be "runny". Pear honey is actually my most favorite one and we use it on waffles/pancakes/ice cream/French toast/etc.
Butters should retain the flavor of the fruit, not be sweetened to death. I can't stand jelly for that very reason. Even the jams I make tend to be made with recipes that are a low in sugar as possible, but I lean toward butters because of the sugar thing. If your fruit is a little overripe and too sweet to eat, it will probably make a fine butter as long as it is not bruised or damaged in some way. Or you can add some ripe banana, although you will taste the banana flavor. The most interesting butter I have made in a while was cantaloupe butter. It tastes exactly like a ripe cantaloupe. Because I used melons that were too ripe to eat the butter is incredibly sweet and has not one grain of sugar added.
If you want to make just a pint of this it will keep in the fridge for about 2 weeks.
To make butters for the long term, find a recipe with isntructions on how to process for storage. It is really easy to find them on line or in cook books. You don't need fancy equipment to preserve like this.
Gotta go now, I hear the kitchen calling.