making yogurt from powdered milk

The Damsel hopes you will forgive her if she confesses she has tried to make yogurt many times. It worked occasionally, but most of the time, it turned out pretty runny.

She tried to convince the husband it was “drinking yogurt” like he had when he lived in Denmark but he had a crush on Miss Yoplait. Besides, it was super complicated, involving thermometers and doing things at precise moments. Even when she hovered over the project like a vulture, sometimes it didn’t set. She was left to second-guess whether she was quite precise ENOUGH, and just got frustrated with the whole thing. Even when it did work, the sprog didn’t lap it up willingly, and the husband had his nose in the air.

She gave up years ago and completely forgot she ever used to cry over runny yogurt. Then last week she bumped into a different method on the internets, and she wondered if perhaps her wounds had healed enough to try again. It didn’t involve thermometers or turning three times under the light of the waning moon, so she said, well, okay.

Preheat your oven to 275 F. Mix 6 cups cold water and 4 cups non-instant powdered milk. It has been a long time, because the Damsel forgot that mixing it this way doesn’t work.  Ha ha! This way equals lumpy disaster. Use the blender, please.

Add three tablespoons of yogurt. It doesn’t have to be the mistress Yoplait. Any kind with active cultures. You can put it right into the blender. Pour into an ovenproof container/bowl/thingy.

Loosely cover the container in whatever way seemeth you best. Put in the oven and then turn the oven off. Walk away. Don’t come back for 8-12 hours.

The Damsel was exceedingly skeptical but felt she wasn’t risking much. Just some powdered milk, and she hates powdered milk, although she uses a ton of it in baking. Still, she hoped.

In the morning the blasted stuff was perfectly liquidy. Not even KIND OF set up. She noticed the instructions she was using said if the product was “a little soupy” to repeat the process by heating the oven to 275 F again and putting the container back in for a few more hours. The Damsel had no expectations.

But…there was a glimmer of hope. Because the Damsel has a convection oven, she routinely sets her temperatures 50 F less than the recipe calls for, according to the manufacturer’s direction. But she suspected perhaps that wasn’t hot enough for this purpose. So she set the oven, put the stuff back in and went about her business.

Four hours later the stuff was set. The Damsel was shocked, to say the least. It was set even more than she wanted it to be. Very, very firm. Success at last!

The Damsel feels her yogurt demons have now been vanquished. Thanks for coming along.

Oh, and don’t forget to save a little back for the next batch’s starter.

term research project–buttermilk and other cultured thingies

When the Damsel ponders things Grandma used to make from scratch, a few dairy items come to mind.

The sour cream we made, for example. There’s yogurt. There are also a few soft/farmer style cheeses we could learn. But in order to do that, there’s a couple of things to be clear on.

Some of these things require buttermilk, and apparently there’s two kinds of buttermilk. There’s “old-fashioned,” which is the liquid left over after making butter, and there’s “cultured,” which is something completely different. The Damsel is annoyed they named the cultured kind “buttermilk” because she is easily confused.

Okay, “buttermilk” sounds nicer than “milk left out on the counter until it’s thick and sour” but it’s still confusing.

The Damsel will go as far as to say if a recipe calls for buttermilk, they mean cultured buttermilk. But to make it more confusing, unless there is going to be microbial stuff going on, it doesn’t matter. So if you’re making something that will be baked or cooked, thereby killing said microbes, you could use either type–like in bread or chocolate cake.

But if you are trying to make anything that requires little organisms to grow, like the sour cream thing, it’s gotta be cultured buttermilk. And yes, you can make your own, but it takes some to make some, unless you have access to an unpasteurized milk-beast.

1. Put one part cultured buttermilk in a container, like a quart jar with a lid.

2. Add three parts fresh milk. It can be store bought, pastuerized, right out of the jug. It has no microbes yet, because the pasteurization killed them all, but you’re adding them by mixing in the cultured buttermilk. Bwahaha!

3. Shake or stir.

4. Countertop it. Wait 24 hours or so, but not longer than 36. If it isn’t thick like cream by 36 hours, your bugs were dead. Start over.

5. Refrigerate. It’ll keep well. But don’t use it all…save some back to start the next batch. You can create a never-ending supply of buttermilk throughout the years to come. Just knowing that makes you feel cozy inside, doesn’t it?

Fluffy pancakes will not be denied you.

rose petal sachet

The Damsel has a few rose bushes at her cottage. She loves her pink one, and her yellow one, and her minature rose, and her old-fashioned rambling rose.

Of course she loves the old-fashioned one.

But her red one, an Abraham Lincoln, is the only one that really has a nice rose scent. Apparently, when rose growers hybrid the plants to get beautiful colors, it breeds out the scent. So if you’re in the market for a rose bush, keep that in mind. Do you want color or scent? Check the label…sometimes you can have both.

The Damsel cries when she deadheads her red roses, because they smell so, so, so wonderful and she can’t bear to throw the petals in the trash. So she thought back about what Grandma would do with rose petals. One thing she’d do is make sachets.

So what’s a sachet? Sachets are little pillows filled with dried flowers. Lavender is popular along with roses. Say “Sa-shay,” as in, “I’m going to sa-shay out to the rose garden and pick some flowers.” The usual use for them is to stick them in drawers, to make everything smell nice.

Gather some past-their-prime roses, pull the petals from the flower heads, and set them out to dry.

IMG_2990There are ways to hurry this process along, but if you don’t have an immediate pressing need, you could just put them out on the counter in a pretty dish, taking whiffs whenever necessary. Stir them with your fingers a couple of times a day. Feel fancy while stirring rose petals with your fingers.

IMG_3086After a few days (four or so) the roses will be dry and a bit sad looking. But they still smell wonderful.

To make a sachet, you need some sort of loose weave cloth, so the scent can escape. The Damsel first tried cheesecloth, because it’s the loosest weave cloth she has. UGLY WARNING: cheesecloth will work but oh my ugly.

Next she found a hunk of lace fabric in the bottom of the scrap box. It’s open enough for our purposes.

IMG_3094Cut a rectangle from the lace. It doesn’t matter what size, but remember that sachets are usually on the small side, so they don’t crowd your drawer.

IMG_3095Fold in half, trimming the edges if necessary to straighten. Don’t fuss.

IMG_3096Put right sides together, if there is a right and wrong side to the material. With lace fabric, there often isn’t. Sew up two sides. With the fold, you will have one side remaining open.

IMG_3097Turn right side out. Now you have a little bag.

IMG_3100Stuff it with petals. Don’t be shy.

Now all that remains is to sew up the remaining side. You could handstitch this to make it extra nice, or do it this way on the machine:

IMG_3101Hold the bag with the open side at the top, and settle the petals to give you room. Fold a half inch or so of the cut edges to the inside. Pin it if you’d like.

IMG_3102Topstitch across the open end of the bag.

IMG_3103Add a ribbon if you like. Sachets make sweet little gifts. Tie one on top of your next present to a rose-loving friend.

making mayonnaise with a stick blender

The Damsel’s mother has long sung the praise of homemade mayonnaise. Making her own is an especially useful skill while on a mission to Spain. Apparently a person can’t easily buy it there.

It’s nice to know that when Armeggedon comes and the grocery stores are emptied, we can still have mayo. Whew!

Provided we have the following:

1 egg, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp dry mustard, 1 1/4 cups oil. Electricity would also be handy, although not required. There are dozens of methods for making mayo…this is how to do it with a stick blender.

First about the egg. Set it out of the refrigerator for an hour or so, allowing it to come to room temperature. This recipe does contain raw egg, so if you’re worried about salmonella, you could heat the egg, vinegar, and lemon juice in a double boiler, until it comes to 150 degrees, taking about one minute. Let cool.  Or use a pasteurized egg.

What the heck is a pasteurized egg?

No, never mind. The Damsel doesn’t want to know.

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Crack the egg into the cup that came with the stick blender, or any tall, narrow vessel the stick blender will fit inside.

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Add the vinegar (it can be any type…just keep in mind that the flavor of the vinegar will influence the flavor of the mayo)

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and the lemon juice (forgive the ReaLemon felony. Actual lemon juice from an actual lemon would be great)

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…the salt…(everything but the oil can be added in any order) …and the dry mustard. By the way, you can use prepared dijon mustard instead. Curiously, although the Damsel is okay with fake lemon juice today, she doesn’t want to hear about anyone using hotdog mustard.

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Put in the stick blender and whirl stuff around a bit. Turn it off and leave the stick in place, but the Damsel sadly and sincerely warns you to be careful not to knock it over.

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Pour the oil in on top of everything.

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Turn the stick back on and hold it at the bottom for about 12 seconds. You will see mayo forming at the bottom of the cup.

Slowly raise the stick while still blending, mayo forming magically as you go. Slosh it up and down a few more times. That’s it!

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Beautiful, smooth, creamy mayo. Now just taste it and adjust it to your liking. The Damsel added a few more shakes of salt. Some people add sugar or more lemon.

IMG_3071Add less oil next time if you’d like a less-thick result. This recipe produces a Best Foods type consistency. Eat! and eat it fast. Since it has no nasty preservatives (and a raw egg) it’s best to use it within a few days.

Stay tuned for more things to do with mayo besides spreading on bread. (Or as the Damsel’s youngest sprog would do–add ketchup for a “fry sauce sandwich.” Ew!)

homemade peppermint oil

The Damsel went out to her herb garden and shook her head in dismay. As usual, the peppermint was out of control.

Why can’t the cilantro grow like that? The Damsel can think of many delicious solutions to an out-of-control-cilantro problem. But what do you do with peppermint?

The Damsel has used a leaf or two in lemonade, and she’s even made tea with it. That’s nice. But a leaf or two hardly puts a dent in the mint population currently at the Damsel’s cottage.

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Lo and behold she discovered peppermint oil has a lot of uses. People use it to cure nausea, indigestion, cold symptoms, headaches, muscle and nerve pain,  stomach and especially bowel conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome. And that’s just the beginning. Apparently mice and ants hate it, so a person could get rid of the little critters without poison or snapping traps.

It can be expensive. A little 4 oz. bottle costs about $10. So what would Grandma do? Peppermint, meet oil. Oil, meet peppermint.

The Damsel grabbed a few big handfuls, yanked them right out by the roots. A person could cut the mint and let it keep growing, but the whole point of this was to reduce the mint population explosion.

She washed it and stripped leaves from the stems. Another person could have used stems and all, but the Damsel has so much mint she can use just the leaves and feel perfectly good about it.

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Find a handy jar. A pint canning jar will do, or a small salsa jar with a tight lid. Use it to measure vegetable oil into a pan. Heat to 160 degrees. The Damsel discovered that 160 is nothing to a pan of oil. It won’t even act hot yet at that temp.

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The Damsel would like to announce that if you mention the dirty burner felony in the above picture, she will not take it kindly.

Chop the mint a bit. The more cut edges, the more minty goodness will ooze into the oil.

IMG_2924Stuff the cut mint into the jar–the one you measured the oil with. Fill it nice and full. It can be pretty tight, but not cram-packed.

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When the oil is warmed, pour it into the jar, filling it as full as is practical. No need to worry about head space or breathing room. You aren’t going to process it or freeze it or anything.

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Poke it a bit to get air bubbles out but don’t fuss.

IMG_2939Screw on the lid and put it away in a dark place for a month. A MONTH???? The Damsel hates waiting. But some things take time.

If you live local to the Damsel, come on over and get a start of mint for your own garden. Permit her a cruel chuckle as she contemplates the eventual overrun of your garden. Unless, of course, you are smarter than she was and plant it in a pot.

fixing a hole where the rain came in

Today’s class is on patching jeans.

The Damsel has patched jeans a couple of ways, and has a certain method she likes for knee patches. Today’s class is for holes in places other than knees.

This method is . . . how shall we say . . . a utilitarian method. Not a beautiful thing, but it’s fast and it works.

From this picture you can see the Damsel’s Knight acquired a hole in an awkward spot.

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This method will work for a hole in pretty much any spot, if you don’t care too much about prettyness.

Turn the offending garment inside out.

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Now you need a denim scrap. The pieces you saved when you made cut-offs are perfect. If possible, find a scrap that roughly matches the color of the jeans you are patching. Cut a piece a few inches larger than the hole.

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Pin it strategically over the hole. (wrong side)

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Turn the jeans right side out. Lift some weights, and then cram them under your sewing machine presser foot, making sure you have the layers flat . . . the jeans and the patch, with no folds.

IMG_2561Set the machine for zigzag. Start sewing on the farthest edge of the hole, traveling back and forth, working your way across the hole. The Damsel found it easiest to use the machine’s reverse setting rather than trying to turn the jeans.

IMG_2562Liberally cover the area with zigzag stitching. The Damsel tried to catch all the frayed edges into the sewing for a neater appearance. Neato!

IMG_2563Turn the jeans wrong side out. You may see extra patch fabric that isn’t sewed down.

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This can be trimmed off.

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Now still on the wrong side, zigzag across all the cut, raw edges of the patch.

IMG_2567Turn right side out and inspect. Perhaps it will do for gardening around the manor. At least it will keep the rain out.

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old meets new–scarecrows

In the olden days, people made scarecrows to protect their crops from birds. The Damsel thinks that sounds sort of charming but a whole lot of work.

This is what the Damsel’s Knight in Shining Armor put in their garden to scare away the birds: It’s hard to see, but yes, those are old CD’s a-twistin’ in the wind. This is a row of corn–an all time bird favorite.

IMG_2768The Damsel suspects that olden days birds were smarter and required an actual person-shaped scarecrow. She feels lucky that only dumb birds come to peck up the corn from her garden. They are pretty scared of shiny CD’s.

Silly birds! There’s not even any usable data on those CD’s! Ha ha!

Here’s another configuration the Knight used, between two pumpkin plants, where there wasn’t a long row.

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