How To's

Many years I have attempted yogurt and have been successful in as much as you would cook with it, but never made yogurt I could just eat straight out of the jar.  Most of the time it was kinda runny and or thin.  I would us it instead of buttermilk in biscuits, cornbread, etc.  I bought a yogurt maker last summer, and while it is nice having one, it isn't necessary for successful yogurt making. My yogurt was still the same consistency as before.  So in frustration and ready to give up I went to the internet to get the answer.  So without further adieu, here is how I did it.

HOMEMADE YOGURT

4 cups of milk (I have used dry; reconstituted, whole, or 2%)
1 6 oz container of store bought plain yogurt (Make sure it has active cultures. I like Dannon or Stonyfield farms.  Fage is great too) Once you make your first batch of yogurt, you can set aside some in your freezer to be your culture next time and you wont have to buy any, SAVINGS!
1/3 cup of sugar (gives the bacteria something to eat)

So first of all you want to heat your milk up to 180 and keep it there for 30 min.  This alters the makeup of the milk to make it more receptive to the culture.  About half way thru the 30 minutes, you need to prep whatever container you are going to use.  I have little 6 Oz glass jars in my yogurt maker, but a glass Mason Jar or any glass jar capable of holding 1qt yogurt; 2 pint jars work as well.  Make sure these are clean and then totally submerge them in water and boil them.  I boiled them about 15 min.  This kills off any unseen germies that could attack the good bacteria. When the 30 minutes is up, remove the milk from the heat and let cool to 110. This won't take long.  When it has cooled to the 110, add your culture.  Mix it well.  Wait a few minutes and mix it again just to make sure the culture is evenly distributed.  Pour the mixture into your now sterilized container.  If you have a yogurt maker, Kudos.  Set it up and off you go.  But like I said before they are not necessary.   I used to take a Playmate cooler (Any cooler will work, but keep it small), fill up a couple of pint jars with very hot water and put them and the yogurt in.  Then I would put hand towels all round.  I once saw a lady who very shrewdly inserted a light bulb into the lid of a Styrofoam cooler and used that as a heat source.  I also have good results if I put my yogurt in the oven with only the oven light on.  Just make sure the yogurt is sitting more towards the door of the oven and not right up against the light.  That light can get warm.  The idea is to incubate your yogurt keeping the temp above 80 degrees but not so hot that it kills the bacteria.  Once it is in whatever incubation technique you have set up for it, leave it for about 4 hours.  Check it out and if it has set up, then refrigerate.  It usually takes about 6-8 hours for mine.  You can let it sit for up to 8 hours, but the longer it sits the more tangy it will be.  It will set up more in the fridge.  Mistakes in yogurt making are still great for a substitute for buttermilk.  So give it a try.  It is something that is not very labor intensive.  My cost analysis for this initial batch, culture included, is 32 oz for 1.49 and that is because I used a greek yogurt culture and they are more expensive.  Now that I have made my yogurt and therefore my culture for the next time, my cost for 32 oz of yogurt will be .68.  Compare that to the cost of a 32 oz container of yogurt on sale at the store.  The cheapest I have seen is a sale price of $1.99.  Even buying the more expensive yogurt for a culture still put me cheaper than store bought.

NO WHEY!  GREEK YOGURT!

Big FYI here.  You can make your own greek yogurt by simply straining your homemade yogurt.  The whey that is drained off is a great source of protein and it also aids indigestion.  You can add it to biscuits, corn bread, quick breads muffins, etc.  If you are making oatmeal, put your oats in the bowl the night before with 2 TBS of Whey and the water to cook them with  let it soak overnight then cook it up the next morning. A good resource for using the whey is the book " Nourishing Traditions"  by Sally Fallon.

YOGURT CHEESE!

Got some cheese cloth or  other type cloth that will allow you to strain off even more?  Put your yogurt in the cheese cloth and hang it up over a bowl ( of course) to catch the whey.  Once all the liquid has drained off you will have yogurt cheese.  Use it like cream cheese.  You can add fresh herbs to it and have some awesome spread.

So what are you waiting for!  Go for it!



Mint Extract

What you will need:
Vodka (80 proof. Not for drinking now!)
Mint leaves
glass jars( I used wide mouth pint jar

First off you want to take your mint leaves off the branches and wash them well under cool water.  Let them dry completely before you start.
While you are waiting on your leaves to dry, go ahead and take your jars and have them in boiling water for 20 minutes.  I also boiled my lids and rings so everything was sterile.  It is important to keep the work area clean.
Once your leaves are dry, chop them coarsely.  This give a lot of area for the vodka to work on extracting the oils.   Once your jars are done, fill them about half full of the chopped mint.
Then you want to take the vodka and pour it over the leaves.  Leave about 1 inch head space.
Then top with your lid and store in a dark area for a week.  I dated mine so I could make sure I left it long enough.
I ended up with 20 oz of mint extract.  That is worth about 10 bottles of extract at the store.  Walmart sells the mint extract for 2.98 for 2 oz.  This cost me the cost of prep and the vodka.  So about $8.  Which compares to Walmart=.80 for 2 oz.  Nice.  I have plenty more mint where that came from.  I am thinking I will add more mint to my extract and let it steep another week just to strengthen it a little, but all in all I would say this is a good investment, and so easy to do.


T-Shirt Yarn

Anyway, I know everyone has had this moment were you are going through your families clothes and weeding out what is good enough to wear, sell, or give away.  Well that is all fine and good, but what do you do with t shirts that are faded, holey, and otherwise ratty.  Not good enough to keep, sell, or give away.  Then there is the ever present guilt now associated with throwing things into the land fill.  Bad, Bad, Bad.  Well, for those of you who suffer from this and want to know what you can do about it, I might have an answer.  Re purpose those t shirts into something else.  Here is what I do:
THIS
Use to be these:
This is what I do while I am watching TV or just vegging on the bed after working in the garden etc.  I can't do this whole pile at once.  It makes my hand a little sore after a bit mainly because I am left handed using right handed scissors.  See what I have to put up with in this right handed world?  Just not fair....anyway, I digress.  First of all you want to lay the t shirt flat and cut off the hem at the bottom.  Use the hems for tomato tie ups if you want to or something to that effect, but they are no longer needed with this shirt.
Then you want to cut the bottom half of the t shirt off.  Some people want to make sure they cut off below the decal, but I don't care if it is there.  It will add a bit of color to my next project so I keep it.
Next you will cut the T shirt into strips coming to withing about a inch of the other side, but alternate sides to leave un-clipped.  If you accidentally cut to far you can always tie it back on so now biggie.
Now you can shred this bad boy all the way to the top and then roll it up into a ball, stretching the material as you do so..  This is how I learned how to do this from another site.  Wish I could remember the site, but here tis.  This does work, but I prefer the lazy method and that is to just cut the hem off and then begin trimming from the bottom to the top around and around until I run out of shirt.  Like this:

Kind like peeling an apple and keeping the peeling whole.  That same idea.  Once rolled up this t shirt material can be used where you would use yarn, just make sure you use a larger size needle.  What can you make from something like this?  Well here is a hot pad I made from an old t shirt of mine



Wheat bread(1/2 white 1/2 wheat flour)

2 cups slightly warm water(about 105 degrees)
1 TBS yeast
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup olive oil(or oil of your choice)
2 tsp salt
5-6 cups of flour(1/2 and 1/2 or whatever you want)

 First of all you take your 2 cups of slightly warm water and your brown sugar and mix them together well.  It should look like the above pic.  Then sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water/sugar mixture.  The yeast will begin to foam a little like the pic below.
 Once the yeast foams well you can add your oil and salt.  Notice I added the oil first then I put the salt inside the blob of oil.  I personally like to keep the salt separate from the yeast until I begin to mix everything.
 Now add 2 cups of whole wheat flour or all purpose if you are making all white bread.  Mix it well with a whisk if you have it or a good spoon.  Then add another cup of all purpose flour and stir it in with a spoon.  If you were using a whisk, you need to switch totally to a spoon now or you end up with dough stuck in the whisk everywhere.
 Add another cup of all purpose flour.  You should be up to 4 cups of flour in the bowl.  Your dough should start to look like the pic below.
 Fill up your measuring cup again with another cup of flour.  Stir in as much as you can with a spoon and then dump it out onto the counter.  Now you are going to only use enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands as you knead the dough.  Just sprinkle some on top.
 You will knead the dough by pushing the dough forward with the palms of your hands.  Turn it a little, fold it back towards you and push forward again.  If the dough gets sticky(and it will) add a little more flour.  You do not want to add too much flour.  I will set my kitchen timer for 12-15 minutes and knead no more than that.  Kneading activates the gluten in the bread.  You want to knead the dough until you start to see the dough tear a little.  You will also be able to test the dough by poking it with a floured finger.  If it bounces back well it is good to go.
 Place your dough into a greased bowl.  I use the bowl I mixed the dough in cause I hate to wash a lot of dishes.  Lol.  Turn it a bit to get a coating of oil/grease then cover it.  I use a plate to cover mine cause I don't want to use plastic wrap that I have to throw away.  Waste not! Let the dough rise only about 25-30 min.  No more or your bread will be dry and crumbly.
 When your dough is finished with its first rising, take it out, punch it down and knead it a bit more til it starts to feel "tight" again.  You know like it will tear again.  Cut the dough in half.  I usually cut mine unevenly cause I have a smaller loaf pan and a larger loaf pan.  So your eyes are not deceiving you.  Shape into loaves.  They don't have to be perfect.  Just tuck the ends underneath until it looks loaf like.
 Cover your loaves and let them rise in a warm place until about 1 inch over the top of the pan. Again I used a wet cloth napkin to avoid plastic wrap.
 The pic below show what the risen dough should look like in the pan. Before you bake them.  I put my loaves into a cool oven while the oven preheats to help the loaves rise a little more.  bake in a 350 oven for about 15-20 min.
 When the bread comes out of the oven and while it is still hot, take a stick of butter or margarine and rub it over the top of the loaves.
 Then cover the loaves with a clean napkin or towel while they cool. Really don't want plastic here.  Let them cool about 10 min then remove them from their loaf pans and let them cool on a wire rack until completely cool.  Then put into a gallon size storage bag or other storage container.




Transplanting Veggies in the garden


First thing you need to remember is that any disturbance of plant roots, regardless of the hardiness of the plant, will make them irritable.  Your goal in all things is to keep the disturbance to a minimum.  Remember that above all and the rest of the tips fall into place.



First and foremost, when I go to move a plant I will first dig the hole where the plant is going.  Dig this hole deep and wide.  I have a hand spade I use for transplanting and I will dig the hole about the depth of the spade and about twice the width.  I would rather have the hole too big than too small.



 Once the hole is dug, go over to your plant.  My plants are moved when they are still seedlings.  They tend to do better that way.  For a seedling I will dig my spade in about an inch or so away from the plant and go straight down.  Go way deep.  You want to miss the roots.  Scoop upwards so you are bringing the plant and dirt with it.  If need be, place your other hand over the dirt coming up to insure it stays around the plant.  Take your plant over to your new hole and place it in.  Pull the dirt around it well, but try and keep the level of soil about the same as it was in its old home.   Also would be a good idea to have the same side facing the sun as was facing the sun previously.





There is no way to move a plant and not disturb the roots at least some.  What you need to do is protect the plants so they can have time to adjust their root system and recover from the roots being disturbed.  There are a couple of ways you can do this: either cover the plant as soon as it is transplanted,( use straw, a planter pot, etc) or transplant on a cloudy day preferably in the evening as the sun goes down.  If I disturb a plant too much I will do both.  Once the plant is covered, let it stay that way for a few days.  Check the plant after a few days and if it seems happy, you can uncover it.  Uncover your plant in the evening around sunset to let it adjust to tomorrows sunlight gradually.   The object here is to keep it out of direct sunlight until it has had a chance to recover from being moved. This is one I transplanted a few days ago.  I checked it last night and uncovered it cause it seemed happy.



Water is essential when transplanting.  As soon as you move a plant and get the dirt around it, give it a good long drink before you cover it.  That water will help settle the dirt around the roots as well as give it plenty to drink on while it is adjusting.

Now I need to tell you that you will lose some.  It happens.  With experience you will lose fewer, but there will still be a few who can't take the pressure!  I always give my plants a stern talkin to when I move them.  It goes like this "  I know this isn't your first choice, but  I am giving you the best chance you have.  It is up to you to take it or leave it".  I have to say the vast majority of my plants opt to take it.  Very smart of them I must say.

For the very adventurous gardener, you may one day try separating multiple plants that have intertwined their roots.  I did that this year with cucumber plants.  The only way I could find them in the store was in one pot and about 4 or 5 growing together.  I took them out of the pots and submerged the roots in water washing away the potting soil.  The water also allowed the roots to untangle themselves.  Very slowly and gently I moved them apart, replanted them in pots with potting soil and kept them in the house a few days.  Once they had recovered from that (after about a week or so) I transplanted them to the garden.  I lost one of the 5 I had, but since I only wanted 4 I was out nothing.  They are thriving now.



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