How to make the best homemade yogurt

Homemade yogurt recipe
After many failed homemade yogurt attempts I was delighted to finally discover this method.
Process:
  • Heat the milk to at least 180°F/82°C.
  • Heat milk slowly and gently, with frequent stirring to avoid scalding.
  • It is possible to omit this heating step and make raw yogurt, never heating the milk above 115°F/46°C. But raw yogurt will never be as thick as yogurt from milk that has been heat-treated.
  • Holding the milk at this high temperature, with constant stirring, will result in evaporation and concentration of milk, further contributing to a thicker end product.
  • After heating the milk, you must allow it to cool before adding the starter culture.
  • Once the temperature reaches 115°F/46°C, remove a cup of the milk into a cup or bowl, and stir in starter. I use 1 tablespoon of starter per quart/liter.
  • Thoroughly mix the starter with the cup of heated milk; once it is fully dissolved, mix it back into the full pot of heated milk. Then transfer cultured milk to preheated jars, seal, and place in the incubation chamber, leaving it to ferment undisturbed.
  • Incubated at 115°F/46°C, yogurt will coagulate within about three hours, but if left too long it can easily curdle. I prefer to ferment it a bit more slowly at a slightly lower temperature, four to eight hours at a more forgiving 110°F/43°C. Even longer fermentations can yield more tangy flavor and fuller digestion of lactose.
My Tips:
-My favourite live commercial starter is Mossfield’s organic yogurt. I buy this and then freeze it into smaller portions.
-Less is more! I use only 1 tablespoon of starter to every litre of milk. Many recipes recommend a cup or more. I’ve found better results and a thicker yogurt with less.
-I find a huge difference in flavour of the finished yogurt from using different commercial bio-live yogurts. Some are more tart, some more smooth, etc.
-Use the best quality milk you can find. Full fat is always best. Organic. It need not be raw milk though as you are effectively pasteurizing it before you inoculate it with the new bacteria.
I personally do a large batch at a time and fill a 5 litre cast iron Le Creuset heavy pot with the milk. It helps to hold the heat in, and doesn’t burn the milk on the bottom easily. I then put this into my food dehydrator to incubate, keeping the temperature at around 110°F/43°C for 6-8 hours.
If you don’t have a large food dehydrator, it isn’t necessary and you can use an insulated cooler, a thermos, an oven with just the pilot light on, etc. Many other options available online.

How to make milk kefir

Basic How to make milk kefir
Add 1-2 tablespoons of milk kefir grains to a litre of milk. Or less grains for less milk. Use the best quality milk you can find. Organic full fat cow’s or goat’s milk is best.
Your grains will multiply quickly with pasteurised milk, so give away or compost the excess grains. Or experiment with them!
I always keep some excess grains in a jam jar in the fridge covered in milk, with a secure lid. In the fridge the cold slows down the fermentation and I change the milk once a week. I strain out the liquid kefir and drink it and cover again in fresh milk. This way I’ve got some grains backed up should anything happen to the ones in use!
If I am not ready to make or use the freshly made kefir I add it to a litre bottle in the fridge. I top this up each day with the kefir I’ve made until I am ready to use it. But a good idea would be to make the amount you or your family would like to consume each day.
I use milk kefir most often:
-to soak my porridge oats the night before breakfast the next day. I add some dried cherries, coconut, banana, or maple syrup.
-to soak in flour for pancakes the next day.
-to use in a smoothie
-to make kefir ice cream
-to make kefir cheese
-as a face mask mixed with oats and clay
Although many people seem to like just taking a shot of it when needed, or mixing with juice.
I have also dehydrated some grains to preserve them and have them as back up. They are easy to re-constitute.

Fermented Mung Bean Pancakes

I can’t stop raving about this recipe. Its become a staple in my diet. Its so healthy and versatile and once fermented it seems to keep very well in the fridge. Perfect then to mix with whatever herbs or veg I have to hand and cook up!

Most of the time spent it in soaking and waiting and fermenting. So this isn’t a recipe you can cook for dinner tonight unless you’ve started the process 2 days ago.

Give it a try though, I’m sure you’ll love them too!

fermented mung bean pancakes – revisted

How to make milk kefir cheese

Ever wondered how to make kefir cheese? I bet you haven’t! But won’t you be so glad to know 🙂

It’s easy to make this live probiotic soft cheese. A perfect replacement for Philadelphia Cream Cheese or Boursin.

First you must make milk kefir. (See my post here about how-to).

Milk Kefir Cheese
Strain the finished milk kefir through a square of muslin or cheesecloth. I line a strainer with the fabric and a bowl below it (to catch the whey), and pour the kefir directly into the muslin atop the strainer. Strain from the strainer into the bowl below. This can take many hours. It strains quicker if you hang it. For example tie the corners of your cheesecloth into a loose knot around a wooden spoon. Dangle the wooden spoon over the inside of a large pot. Or hang it from a kitchen cabinet doorknob.
It does help if the kefir you’re adding to the muslin has been fermented for a little longer, or whey pockets are visibly forming. Either way it should be ok. You want the muslin or cheesecloth to be thick weave enough that just the whey slowly drips through. The milk solids will remain in the cheesecloth.
I like to add chives, parsley, garlic and salt. If you’re using fresh herbs instead of dried the cheese will have to be eaten within 2-3 days maximum. It should last up to a week if stored in the fridge.
*Note I clean my muslin directly after use with cold water first then warm soapy water in the sink.  Just before using the cloth for straining cheese or yogurt- I then boil the cloth with water with a little bit of vinegar or baking soda in it, to remove any odours and to sterilise it.
water kefir grains

Ginger Lime Water Kefir Recipe

I finally got some more water kefir grains today from Healthy Habits in Wicklow Town.

I had water kefir grains in the past but quickly felt overwhelmed from too many cultures on the go. I am now superhuman (ha, you should see my countertops!) at balancing all of my cultures, so I decided to give it another go.

If you’d like to learn more about water kefir grains and read loads of recipes, one of my favourite websites is Cultures for Health.

This recipe is slightly adapted from Bar Tartine’s Cortney Burn’s of San Fransisco. I highly recommend this cookbook.

 

Ginger Lime Water Kefir recipe

Makes 3 cups/ double the recipe if desired. 

Ingredients:

 

3 cups/ 750ml filtered water, preferably non-chlorinated

¼ cup/ 50 gram sugar

½ teaspoon molasses, preferably blackstrap

a washed, organic eggshell (for added minerals)

pinch of sea salt

2 squeezed lemons or limes, including the peel if organic

a couple pieces of dried fruit such as raisins or apricots

1-2 inches of organic fresh ginger, sliced finely.

¼ cup/ 45 grams water kefir grains

Method

 

In a 1 litre non-reactive container, such as a glass milk bottle, dissolve the water and sugar. Once mixed, add in all of the other ingredients: molasses, eggshell, sea salt, lemon peel, (save the juice for later) dried fruit, sliced ginger and lastly the water kefir grains. If you add the water kefir grains loosely in a small muslin sack or bag they are much easier to remove after.

Screw the lid on tight and give it a shake to mix everything. Then (importantly) leave the lid on, but unscrewed so that the carbon dioxide can escape. Or use an airlock if you have one. Bottles can and will explode if you don’t take care! If you’ve screwed the lid on, be sure to release the carbon dioxide every 6-8 hours by opening the container.

Let stand in a warm place of 68-72F/ 18-22C for 48 hours. 72 hours if the room is cooler. It should be gently fizzy.

Remove and discard the fruit (you can eat it) and lemon pieces and eggshell. Remove the kefir grains. Strain the liquid through a sieve to catch any other bits or kefir grains.

Stir in the lemon or lime juice using more or less to taste. In Cortney’s recipe, she also adds fresh ginger juice.

Transfer the liquid to flip top bottles such as glass Grolsch bottles with the rubber gasket. Leave at least 1 inch/ 2.5 cm of head space to allow the carbon dioxide to expand. Let stand at room temperature until pressure builds, about 24 hours. You can use a plastic bottle if desired to remove the possibility of explosions, but also to gauge that the pressure has built up sufficiently. Once the bottle feels hard, move to the refrigerator. Refrigerate for up to 1 month. Serve cold straight out of the bottle.

I’d recommend opening the bottles with care. I open them over the sink and with a plastic jug over the top of the bottle in the event of a surprise geizer!

The kefir grains need to be fed, so once removed from the mixture feed them again immediately in a sugar water mixture of ¼ cup sugar/ 50 grams to 1 quart or litre of water. Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Drain and add fresh sugar water every 7 days. Or repeat the recipe and start again!

ginger water kefir

Making tofu from scratch

For health reasons, I normally try not to eat too many soy products. However I had a bag of dried organic soy beans sitting in my cupboard so I decided to do something with them. My dear friend Patricia Quinn had written in her book about how easy it was to make homemade tofu, so I decided to give it a go. I enjoy tofu from time to time but until making it myself I was never such a fan. This has all changed now and I shall make tofu more often after tasting how amazing it is fresh from the press. Well worth the work, and most of the time spent was actually just letting it soak and then after, letting it strain.

Ever wondered how to make homemade tofu? I took photos of the process and I’ll try to explain clearly here.

How to make tofu from scratch

First I soaked the beans overnight in water. They expanded to double their size. I used dried organic soy beans.

I strained them the next morning.

Homemade soy milk

I made soy milk by blending and then boiling the beans in fresh water and bringing it to a boil. Actually, thats a lie- this is what you can do though, its not hard!  I actually cheated and used the SoyaBella which made the soy milk for me in about 15 minutes. An unnecessary but handy tool. A gift from the other half many christmas’ ago and something I have put to good use. You can use it to grind herbs, coffee beans, nuts or to make your own flour from grains. It makes it even easier than it already is to make homemade almond or rice milk, as it strains it for you in the metal strainer. I’ll post a photo of the SoyaBella later in case any of you should like to see it?

I made about 4 litres of soy milk for this batch of tofu.

Here’s another link which describes with photos how easy it is to make soy milk and then tofu. http://www.lafujimama.com/2009/09/how-to-make-tofu-no-fancy-equipment/

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Strain out the soy bean paste, also called Okara. I put mine in the freezer to use later to make vegetarian sausages. Or you can feed it to the hens. There are lots of things you can do with it if you do a quick google search.

how to make homemade tofu

Take the soy milk and heat it up to 180F if it isn’t that hot already. You can use a few different agents to curdle to the milk. All of these are recommended: Gypsum (Calcium Sulfate), Nigari Flakes (Magnesium Chloride). I don’t know about you but I hadn’t heard of any of these things. I read that you could also use Epsom Salts, lemon juice or apple cider vinegar- I had Epsom Salts so I used what I had. It worked perfectly. I dissolved 1 tablespoon of Epsom Salts with about a third of a cup of water. (this was added to about 4 litres of soy milk.) I added this into the hot soy milk in batches, first half of the glass, and one quick short stir through the milk to mix it in. Apparently over-stirring can disrupt the curd formation. I waited 10 minutes to see if it had curdled sufficiently to see plenty of amber liquid with the formed curds separating. It had curdled a bit but not enough, the liquid was still quite milky white, so I added the other water-epsom salts liquid along with another quick stir. This time it finished curdling quickly and as you can see in the photo below there was plenty of largish curds with amber liquid.

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I strained the curds and whey through a sheet of muslin or cheesecloth. You can use a clean dishtowel or pillow case if thats all you have.

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I let it sit in the strainer for about 20 minutes, then I lifted up the corners of the muslin and transferred the ball of curds in muslin to a smaller strainer. I put a small plate on top of it to press down and help it exude more whey from the curds. I added a very heavy cast iron pot on top of the plate to add further pressure. I let it sit out overnight like this.

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In the morning I took of the weights and turned the pressed tofu curds onto a chopping board.

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Chop chop chop

If you aren’t going to eat it immediately, cover it in fresh water and put in the fridge. Change the water daily and eat soon.

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Finally I fried the tofu in some sesame oil with shoyu soy sauce and some turmeric sprinkled over it.

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I didn’t know tofu could be so delicious. Try it! Let me know how you get on.

 

Here are some other links you might find helpful:

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/how-to-make-tofu

Here’s the link I followed during this first time that I made it -about how to make homemade tofu:

http://www.brendajwiley.com/making_tofu.html

Cajeta recipe goats milk caramel

Since becoming a goat-keeper of dairy goats I’ve had the pleasure of discovering all of the ways to use goat’s milk.

This recipe is the Mexican version of ‘dulce de leche’ it is pure decadence- and traditionally it uses goat’s milk instead of cow’s milk. Cajeta is a caramel made by slowly cooking and caramelizing sweetened milk. It is a common confectionary in South and Central America, especially Mexico.

It’s a bit of an indulgence to say the least as it takes quite a bit of milk, sugar, fuel and time! But I think you’ll find it’s worth it. Perhaps on a rainy Sunday morning when you’ll be near the kitchen for a few hours!

Cajeta

Start off with a quantity of goat’s milk (or cow’s milk if you prefer, or a mix!). Remember that the final product will be approximately 1/5th of what you start with. Add the milk to a heavy bottomed pot (I use an enamelled cast iron pot like Le Creuset) and turn it on to a medium heat. Keep at least 2-3 inches of space at the top of the pot in case the milk boils over. Stir regularly. Add 1 cup of brown sugar (organic and fair trade if possible) to each litre of milk and a half teaspoon of baking soda. Stir as its heating to avoid it burning on the bottom. Keep it at a steady simmer, not an angry boil or it will boil over or burn. I add vanilla extract and cinnamon to taste. Some might add rum.

Keep an eye on the mixture throughout, as it can easily boil over if left unattended. You may need to occasionally remove the pan from the heat to prevent the cajeta mixture from foaming over the sides of the pan.

After hours you can see how much the mixture has reduced and the more it reduces the more the simmer will increase even if you maintain it in the same level of heat, so you have to moderate and reduce the heat.

You know the Cajeta is ready when: It achieves a caramel brown color; it is thick as liquid caramel or syrup; it envelops the back of the spoon; when you gently stir across the pot with your wooden spoon, a slightly delayed trail behind the spoon appears, revealing the bottom of the pot if only for a few seconds; as you slowly lift up the wooden spoon or spatula, Cajeta takes it’s time to drop and lastly, the sides of the pot show how the Cajeta has cooked down and if you run your spoon across that side, you get a fudgy (and delicious) residue.

When the mixture coats the back of a spoon, its ready. Bottle it up immediately hot into warm sterilised jam jars (I use small ones as its so rich) turn it upside down to create a vacuum seal.

Let it cool, and take note that it will thicken as it cools.

Cajeta is not only decadent and luxurious, it is also ideal for using with… everything! crepes, pancakes, ice cream, yogurt, to dip fruit in, (try with strawberries) or even just smeared on a slice of toast. I’ve even added a spoonful to a coffee to be used like sweetened condensed milk or like a caramel latte. You can make tiny banoffee pies by covering a graham cracker or digestive biscuit in caramel and topping with freshly cut banana rounds. I top it off with some thickly strained goats greek yogurt. Amazing! The best way of all: just dip a big teaspoon and lick straight from the spoon!

Austrian Pear Bread- Kletzenbrot

I was given a small loaf of this very special and delicious bread at Christmas from a lovely Austrian friend Bettina. I hounded her for the recipe. I still haven’t made it yet myself, but I did dry some pears in my dehydrator to have them ready for when I do.
Austrian Fruit Bread – Kletzenbrot  Kindly shared by Bettina Winkler

300 g Dried pears (Kletzen)

250 g Prunes

250 g Dried figs

100 g Raisins

150 g Nuts (e.g. Walnuts, Hazelnuts)

1 tsp. Allspice

1 tsp. Pimento

1 tsp. Ground cloves

1/2 cup Rum

5 tsp. Sugar

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tbsp Vanilla sugar

500 g Rye flour

200 g Wheat flour

1 sachet Dried yeast or 100 g
 Sourdough

1 tsp Salt

This is a recipe from my beloved Grandmother. I initially intended to keep this recipe in the family, but I feel good things need to be shared in order for them to survive and live on. I treasure this recipe and carry it on, as it gives me great memories of my childhood. And not only mine, but also my father’s, mother’s and brother’s memories from our lives as a family. I bake it every year around Christmas time as this was usually the time when my grandparents would make it. Whenever I have the first bite, the same image comes back to my mind: Me being a little girl, sitting on the lap of my grandfather, eating Kletzenbrot with unsalted butter on top. I hope you enjoy this bread as much as I did and still do up until this day. Please refrain from using it in a commercial sense in order to value this recipe for what it is, a family treasure.

Thank you & enjoy!

Prepare the fruit mix

Cook the dried pears in water until soft. Cut them into chunks, as well as the figs and prunes. Put all of them into a big bowl, together with the raisins and nuts. Add the rum and leave it to rest for a few hours (over night works well, too). Add the sugar, vanilla sugar, cinnamon, all spice, pimento and ground cloves and leave to rest for another two hours.

Prepare the bread dough

Mix the flours, salt and yeast or sourdough, stir the dry mix with a fork before adding some liquid to cover. Leave the whole mix to rest until it raises (~ 45 – 60 mins). Best is a warm place with a wet table cloth over it. Add the fruit mix and about 3⁄4 cup of lukewarm water, let it rest again (~ 45 – 60 mins). Form into small to mid-sized loafs and bake at 160°C – 170°C for about 1- 1 1⁄2 hours (until dark brown on the outside).

Stored in a cool and dry place it is said this bread should last for months. It will be rock hard, but cut off a slice, add butter- enjoy with a warm cup of tea!

 

Danke Bettina!

Elderberry Shrub

Today I was in Health and Healing in Wicklow town, adding some of my silver jewellery and steampunk jewellery to an empty display case. (thanks Neville!)

While there, I picked up a bottle of Bragg’s Live Apple Cider Vinegar. (As an aside, I’ve heard they have not been able to produce enough of their delicious unpasteurised vinegar to keep up with demand and it can be hard to come by these days!) When I got home I took a few jam jars half filled with elderberries and filled the rest with the vinegar and some sugar (I used Rapadura sugar). I took some parchment paper and folded it under the metal lid, so that the vinegar wouldn’t react with the metal.

I’ll shake this occasionally and leave it to infuse for the next 4-6 weeks.

The properties of the elderberry will infuse into the vinegar, preserving its medicinal properties and at the same time, creating the base for a tasty drink in the coming year. I’ll dilute this with sparkling water, or hot water and lemon to enjoy as a drink.

You can do this with any seasonal berries, herbs or fruit.

“A shrub is made by combining fruit, sugar and vinegar into a bright and complex syrup that delivers plenty of fruit flavour.”

Keep the shrub in a cool place and enjoy diluted with water, club soda, or in a mixed drink. Also nice to take in a shot glass for a concentrated sup of goodness!

Rose-hip infused vinegar

Rose hips are easy to spot in the hedgerows at the moment. Did you know that all types of rose hips are edible?

Rose hips have the great virtue of being high in a number of nutrients and especially high in vitamin C. Rose hip syrup contains 300mg per 100g. This is up to four times more than blackcurrant juice and twenty times as much as the juice of an orange, according to Roger Phillips in his book on Wild Food.

Conventional roses are heavily sprayed with chemicals. Choose organically grown or wild roses only.

You can dry them for tea, make rose hip syrup or chutney or do this easy rose hip infused vinegar:

Collect rose hips in the autumn or early winter. Rosa Canina are the native wild rose in Ireland, but there are lots of Rosa Rugosa around and it’s worth your while to seek them out. They rose hips on the Rugosa are HUGE in comparison with the wild ones. Luckily in Wicklow, the council seems to have planted them in most of the hedgerows and along the motorways. Any rose hips will do, but be sure they aren’t sprayed with chemicals.

Coarsely chop the rose hips no need to remove the hairs or seeds yet (unless you’ve the patience of a saint)! Cover them in vinegar (I prefer unpasteurised apple cider vinegar- but use what you like). Let this infuse for 4-6 weeks and strain through a muslin covered sieve. You want to be sure to catch all the hairs as they cause irritation and are unpleasant. Squeeze the material in the muslin to get out all of the liquid. Add honey or your preferred sweetener if desired, bottle and label.

Drink this as a shot for a hit of vitamins and minerals. Or add a tablespoon to a mug of warm water, or to sparkling water or as a mixer. A delicious way to preserve the bounty of the seasons.

As the raspberries in our garden are often coming out at the same time of the year, sometimes I mix the rosehips and raspberries to make a lovely and naturally sweet infused vinegar or shrub.

 

Wild and Slow do a lovely and very informative PDF file which is free to download here. It has lots of recipes and traditional uses.