March 2011

Make your own yoghurt

Posted on March 29, 2011 at 12:55 pm in

It’s stupidly easy, laughably cheap, and takes next to no hands-on time.

  • 1 quart (946ml) milk (any kind but not “ultra-high pasteurised”/UHP or “ultra heat treated”/UHT)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup non-fat dry milk (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons existing yoghurt with live cultures
  • You can easily scale this up – I made a gallon batch, added 1 cup dried milk powder, and 1 cup of starter.

    Toss the milk into your slow cooker (crock-pot). Hit the setting that cooks hottest for the least time. Go to bed.

    Next day cool the milk to under 120ºF (49ºC). I just unplugged the slow cooker and wandered off for a couple of hours while it cooled down. Don’t do anything else until the milk is below 120ºF (49ºC)but keep it above 90ºF (32ºC) for happy bacteria.

    While you are waiting for the milk to cool you can bring the starter (live yoghurt or cultures) to room temperature.

    Add the dried milk if you’re using it – it increases the nutritional content of the yoghurt and allows it to thicken more easily.

    Add the 2 tablespoons of the existing yogurt, or add the freeze-dried bacteria. Stir it in.

    Cover the slow cooker with several towels and just walk away from it – leave the bacteria to do their job for 8 hours. Bingo, you have rich, silky, delicious home-made yoghurt!

    What next? Portion out the yoghurt, chill it, and eat it with fresh fruit, a spoonful of jam or honey, or just eat it straight up. Put some in a sieve / colander with several thicknesses of cheesecloth and allow it to drain for half an hour or so and you have Greek-style yoghurt. If you allow the yoghurt to drain overnight in the fridge, you have yoghurt cheese – kind of like a spreadable cream cheese. Use the drained whey from the yoghurt in cakes, or to kick start your next batch of yoghurt!

    My total cost for nearly 1.5 US gallons / 5.6litres of home made, natural, live culture yoghurt? About $4. Laughably cheap, really easy, and delicious? I believe we have a winner!


    Cheese straws and obesity

    Posted on March 11, 2011 at 10:51 am in

    You should make this recipe as soon as possible, because it is that awesome. But I will identify why I think this sheds some interesting light on the obesity problem:

    Cheese Straws
    1 1/2 cups (about 6 ounces) grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
    4 tablespoons (1/2 stick or 2 ounces) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
    3/4 cup flour, plus more for dusting
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1 tablespoon half-and-half or cream or milk

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt and red pepper in five 5-second pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, or use a pastry knife if you lack a food processor. Add the dairy and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 seconds.
  • On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8-by 10-inch rectangle that is 1/8-inch thick. With a sharp knife (or a pizza wheel), cut the dough into thin 8-inch strips, each 1/4- to 1/3-inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut).
  • Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet leaving at least 1/4-inch between them. The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.
  • Bake the straws on the middle rack for 12 to 15 minutes, or until the ends are barely browned. Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. Serve at room temperature. Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container, for two days. They will not last an hour at a party.
  • Recipe from smitten kitchen, which is a great website – you should go there and read for a while, I’ll be here when you get back ;).

    So, why do I think that this sheds some light on the obesity problem? Because, as utterly amazing as these cheese straws are, they are a hyper-palatable food.

    Wait, what’s a hyper-palatable food? In a nutshell, they are foods that are laden almost – but not quite – to the excess point with fat, salt, and sugar. They fall just short of being sickeningly sweet, inedibly salty, or leaving a puddle of grease behind. The effect of this is to over-stimulate your brain’s pleasure/reward system which leaves you craving more even when you are already full.

    To deconstruct this recipe, it has fat (cheese, butter, dairy); salt (salt and cheese); sweet (lactose in the dairy and caramelised proteins in the browned bits of the stick); and protein (also known as umami) – cheese again. Add in the crushed red pepper and you have capsaicin, which activates all your taste buds.

    Putting it simply, if you eat one of these you will reach for another while still chewing the first mouthful. This explains how so much junk food, burgers, pizzas, and so on get sold every year – people are almost addicted to the “rush” they get from ingesting the hyper-palatable, fatty, salty, sugary food-type-substances that are being sold with billion dollar advertising budgets.

    I am serious when I say “make this recipe”. It tastes awesome, but it is also deeply educational when you start paying attention to what is going on in your mouth and in your brain. In my case, it is helping me avoid junk foods, which will reflect itself in my waistline in due course.


    Seasonal Eating – March

    Posted on March 1, 2011 at 8:27 am in

    Continuing my ongoing series on eating and canning seasonally, what’s new for March?
    As the weather is still treacherous, only robust stuff is coming into season. Thankfully there’s more to choose from this month:

    * New this month
    Green Cabbage
    Fingerling carrots
    Scallions / green / spring onions
    Greens – turnip and mustard
    *Bok Choi
    *Swiss Chard

    Arugula / Rocket

    Going out of season after this month:
    Collard Greens

    From a canning perspective, a lot of these are not really worth canning (over cooked spinach anyone?), but you can pickle turnips, make onion relish, and freeze others to carry you through to next winter.

    Recipe from Ashael Raveh

    1.5 kg / 3.3lbs fresh medium turnips
    1 small beet
    2 stalks of celery
    1-2 green chili peppers
    0.7l / 3 cups of water
    3 teaspoons salt
    3 spoons vinegar
    Half a teaspoon citric salt (Sodium citrate)
    1-2 dry bay leaves
    A few whole allspice cloves
    Pickle jar with a tight lid – sterilized

    Mix all the ingredients but the turnips, celery, chili peppers and the beet in a pickle jar. Peel the turnips and the beet, quarter and cut into slices, about half a centimeter / 0.2in thick. Chop the celery stalks into 5 cm / 2in pieces. Cut the chili peppers in half and remove the seeds. Add the vegetables to the jar. If the liquids do not cover the vegetables, add more water with one teaspoon of salt and one spoon of vinegar per glass. Close the jar tightly and leave in the shade for 4 days [Turn the jar upside-down every day or so – just to mix well – while it pickles] before moving to the fridge.