Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Its a whirly time....

....what I mean is that there are lots of things happening which make my mind feel more in a whirl than it is ordinarily.

Goats Milk. We are finding that the lovely creaminess of goats milk does something to our heads when we use it as a drink to have before bed time. Cows milk used to knock us out, but goats milk seems to inspire our minds to gallop all about the place when they should be quiet and relaxed. Also, I have no more room in the freezer to store any more milk, so need to turn towards other ways of long term milk storage, as in making cheese and butter.

I have had a go at making soft cheese, and it is quite nice if a little on the bland side. The milk is heated almost to boiling, then apple cider vinegar is added and hey presto! Curds and whey form. Magic!

But now I need to investigate more advanced forms of cheese making, so on to the Internet to source things I need. Came across a gadget called a cream separator.
Cool gadget! Separates cream from milk. Would make the milk skimmed, but not thin and watery as in skimmed milk from the supermarkets. But.....cream!!!!!! Something which is expensive to buy here, and is in silly little pots, not like those lovely big pots of cream you can get in the UK. So, should I buy one? However, they come either from the Ukraine or India and apparently the English instructions are not particularly readable, or understandable, and that the inside parts of this machine are like assembling a jigsaw puzzle, and that this has to be done after every time it is used. Something to do with centrifugal forces, or something or other. 

And then there is the bit of kit to make butter......

.....fill jar with cream and then you whizz the handle round and round and round and round and eventually butter is made, that is if your arm doesn't fall off first! But I could use a screw top jar and keep shaking that up and down. Ah the joys of DIY butter making!

Anyway, onwards with learning about the conversion of goats milk into longer term storage options, and there is still the cheesemaking cultures I need to sort out. 

Hay Making Project for 2013. It won't be happening! Went out at just after daybreak this morning to start cutting this years hay. It was a lovely morning. I was happy to be outside, swinging the scythe, cutting the damp grass as the day woke up. Magic. Sun came out. 29 today, so hot. Managed to remember to turn the grass once, then forgot about it as the Potato Planting Project took hold of my time. 27 more spuds planted, five rows done. 

We had an altercation, me and Lester, not over much, but I went on strike with it all. I love scything, but it is the raking up, and turning several times, of the drying grass, then the final raking, then the baling, then the carrying of the baled hay to the barn for storage, that is what takes up the time. 

And I thought of the weeks ahead, between now until late September, weather permitting. So no, it is either the veg plot or hay making. Last year it was hay making and the veg plot did not amount to much, so this year I shall concentrate on the veg plot. 

And the tiff? What was that all about? Well, Lester's tractor broke, and it has been parked up in the Courtyard, looking like a rusty old heap, well that is what I think, but Lester loves his tractor, and mourned the fact that it was not working properly. Then along came a local farmer, who had a chat with Lester, who then returned a day later with another man, and this man took Lester's tractor away and is going to mend it. This led Lester into thinking that if it was indeed mended, then he would be able to cut the fields 'properly', unlike my efforts at scything last year. This put a fire of outrage in me, hence me then going on strike. 

But there are a lot of other things going on at the moment as well, so something had to give, so although I shall still scythe, the grass which is cut shall go towards feeding the pigs and not be put through the lengthy process of being turned into hay. 

Fast Food Project: I get fed up with producing meals every day. I like cooking, but not every day. Also, our freezers are getting full, and we need to find space somewhere to accommodate the meat which is still to go in them. 

So, I have connected with canning, or rather, with keeping food in sealed jars for long term storage, the idea being that I would cook up a big pot of something which would then be divided up into canning jars, then into a canner (which is like a pressure cooker but isn't) then hey presto, meals in a jar, which is fast food smallholding style. 

And this is what I have on its way, hopefully, from America:

Crikey, what a huge thing! It is an American 21 Quart canner. Why so big? Because everyone said to get the biggest that one could afford. Why not an ordinary pressure cooker? Because they are not big enough to get several jars in. Why not use an ordinary sterilizer? Because info on the Internet said to be careful of botulism when canning meat and low acid foods like vegetables. That fruit is alright in a sterilizer, because that is high acid. 

Now I thought long and hard about this  because I know of many people who use the sterilizer, which is a hot water bath, for everything including pate, and they don't get sick. But I want to put meat into these jars so the pressure is taken off the freezers, so I decided to go along with the Americans and learn how to use a canner. By the way, milk can be processed in jars in a canner, so that might help with milk storage.

So why am I going to so much trouble, if there is only the two of us to feed? Because I need to have my time freed up. I need for Lester to go to a jar, open in, heat it up, and hey presto, fast food. I need to be able to come indoors after a morning out on the farm and do the same. If I want to spend the day writing, then I need to have fast food available. If I want to stay in bed all day, which is unlikely I hasten to add, then we need to have fast food in the larder. 

Does it take a lot of time to prep several jars of fast food of the same type? Well, if you are making a small amount of something like a curry, then it is not going to take a huge amount of time to make a larger amount. The other day I cooked a leg of lamb, and we had seven meals out of it: two days of a curry, five portions into separate bags in to the freezer. If I had the canner, I would have put those five portions into jars together with veggies, processed them, hey presto (yet again), DIY fast food. 

Potting Project: I am useless at watering pots. Every year I put seeds into pots, and a lot of them don't survive because of my lack of attention to watering. 

Several days ago I planted some tomato seeds in compost I dug up from the soil upon which once stood our compost heap, which became deceased because the chickens scratched it to pieces. Anyway, I put into pots this compost and these seeds. But the compost had seeds in it already, and they have sprouted ahead of the tomato seeds, and are now flourishing despite my tendency to forget to water. 

And so, this year I am not going to waste my time fart-arting about with pots and potting compost. All the seeds are going straight into the ground, in seed beds, in the small veg plot, and if they don't survive, well, tough! And that includes the tomatoes as well. I am not going to fuss about with our mini greenhouse, trying to remember to keep checking it because it can cook little seedlings in no time at all, trying to remember to water the pots, trying to remember to close the mini greenhouse up at night. Out into the ground they are going. 

And if none come up, then I shall purchase veg plants from the local market. And if they are slower in starting to grow, then they should catch up eventually. And if a frost comes along and kills them stone cold dead, then I shall just have to plant a few more. 

So, no hay making, no pots, but canning definitely, possibly cream and butter making if we can afford the separator. 

To make a start with all of this, I spent the afternoon under the oak tree, lazing in the shade, enjoying the heat of the sun. Then I spent ages watching the sheep. Then I shouted at Blue who had wandered off down to the river for a swim. Then I made friends again with Lester. Then I wrote all about it to you!


Horst in Edmonton said...

Wow, what a long story. Glad that you and Lester made up, and are still friends. A cream separator would be great, we had one on the farm. Never tried to have Goat cream though. We had 12 cows that gave us lots of milk. We also had 12 milking Goats. We mixed the Goats milk with the cows milk and won awards for the great milk we sent to the cheese factory.

John Gray said...

Do you cloud watch Vera?
I watch the clouds all the time

The Broad said...

I once over beat the whipping cream and it went all funny and curdy. I was about to throw it out when my German Farmer's daughter friend grabbed the bowl from me and said -- no no no I can make butter from that. She took the stuff up out of the bowl with her hand and ran the cold water in the sink. The 'muck' hardened up and she squeezed it together into a ball while washing it under the running water -- before my eyes it turned into a large mass of delicious unsalted butter!

You really do amaze me with all your energy. Good luck with the canning. I have friends in France who live off the land as much as they can and they do a lot of canning. But they don't bother with seeds -- rather get small plants -- as do the farmers in the area.

Your temperatures are unbelievable! I am totally jealous -- high of 11 here today :-(

The Squirrel Family said...

I have a pressure canner and it is great for making ready meal type stuff but stick to recipes as changing them slightly can affect their safety theres quite a few utube vids which are really good and get hold of a blue ball canning book if you can.

The separator looks fab you can make butter with an electric mixer (the type with a stand. if you want more flavour in your soft cheese you need to add a culture before the rennet/vinegar you can buy this or you can use some old cheese similair to what you want to make but I have never done this i think you add it to water and ferment but the web will tell you better!

I am not planting brassica seedlengs either this year I can but 20 cheap enough so will stick to less faffy seeds.

rusty duck said...

A bit of contemplation under an oak tree works wonders doesn't it.

Impressed with canning and will look forward to seeing how you get on.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

We used to make butter just by mixing with an electric whisk until it turned to butter. We had jersey cows though so the cream was thick and maybe it just turned easily. We never did try cheese.

I have very little freezer space and last year I pretty much bottled everything. Just washed the jars well, then put them in the oven to dry and stay hot until I used them. Not always easy to handle, but everything looks fine and what we have eaten to date has been perfect. Think our favourite though was the pickled beans. Take care Diane

Vera said...

Horst, I am impressed! Did you taste some of the cheese?

John, yes I do if given half a chance!

The Broad, Useful info about washing the 'muck' and not giving up because it looks not quite right! I'm thinking that baby plants are the way to go as well.

The Squirrel Family, thanks for the advice, what would we do without the Internet and YouTube!

Jessica, think you that you might get into canning as well? And 'under the oak tree' musings are the just the job when one in temporarily on strike!

Diane, thanks for the encouragement. The canner arrived today, and I am feeling a tad on the nervous side about making a start on bottling! No doubt you felt the same when first you bottled!

Denise said...

I don't know, Vera...will Lester EVER learn? Actually, I think it is just men in general. Different species, you see.

Andy said something which upset me a few weeks ago...he didn't mean to and if I had mentioned it to him he probably would have been mortified. BUT I still got a mini-huffette out of it!

Oak trees - strong and solid and dependable and oaky. Lovely things!

Vera said...

Denise, it is necessary to have 'mini-huffettes' sometimes when you are living with a man. In our early years I managed to stay in huff mode for a day or two, but now Lester and me just look at each other and laugh so my huff is no longer sustainable for any length of time!

Horst in Edmonton said...

Hi Vera, no I didn't. I wish I had. I would imagine that they would have only sold the cheese as a complete block or what ever they call the whole thingy. That would have been far to much for our small fridge to handle. We didn't have a big fridge at the time. Your beautiful calf will eventually produce milf and then you can mix Goats milk with it and try to make cheese for yourself. Let me know how it tastes.

Janice said...

Once you get the hang of things you'll love the canner. Here in Canada (the U.S. too) we're told to can everything, even jam. I love seeing all the jars lined up on the counter after a full day of canning. I also make butter in my stand mixer, it takeas all the arm work out of it!

Janice said...

Once you get the hang of things you'll love the canner. Here in Canada (the U.S. too) we're told to can everything, even jam. I love seeing all the jars lined up on the counter after a full day of canning. I also make butter in my stand mixer, it takeas all the arm work out of it!

Vera said...

Horst, I have already starting making cheese with our goats milk, so by the time our cow gives milk I should be an experienced cheese maker, or given up completely! No, I won't do that! Trial and error gives us experience, so I shall keep on learning about how to make cheese. Would send you a sample but I doubt that they would let it go across the borders.

Vera said...

Janice, I keep reading about using a stand mixer to make butter. I have a hand mixer which would not be up the job, so shall investigate the purchase of one that sits on a stand.

I am looking forward to learning about canning, and am surprised that you can't get canners here in Europe. You can get pressure cookers, but they are too small to can in. They use water bath canners for everything here, including pates. Am amazed that there has been nothing said about the risk of botulism!

Jean said...

It's interesting that goat's milk tends to keep you awake if you drink it at bed time. We both have wild dreams, sometimes awful nightmares, if we eat goat's cheese in the evening, especially if it's the stuff with the furry coating!

I will be interested to hear how you get on with you new canning machine. I think I would have taken the easy way and bought a second freezer!

Vera said...

Jean, We do have a second freezer, and that is going to be full shortly! I also wanted to be able to have fast food in the larder and opening a jar with precooked food in seemed to be the way to go!