Butter Making Adventures

Butter Making Adventures

Fueled by my homesteading spirit, I am currently dreaming of getting a dairy cow. I just love the idea of having fresh, homemade, and preservative- and additive-free dairy products.

Well, I had to promise DH that I would hold off on the cow for at least another year and until I have a better handle on everything currently requiring my attention. I can completely understand his concerns. In the last 18 or so months since moving to the farm, I have taken on a massive load of extra work.

Just dealing with a house that is about 3 times the size of our old house has been an adjustment. We have to keep up with mowing the 7 or so acres of pasture and lawn (thanks mom for all your long hours on the mower this summer!) Learning how to manage pastures in a real setting as opposed to on paper has been an adventure. We also put in a gigantic 32×30 foot garden that I attempted to work that all summer (at least until the bermuda grass got so bad that I couldn’t stay on top of the weeds anymore – more on my new garden plan is coming soon). Plus, I have also started homeschooling DS & DD. Both are still learning to read so school time is still very hands on for me.

So, with all of that and more, I have more than I can handle and have reluctantly promised DH that I will wait on my cow.

Okay. Sorry about the crazy long introduction to my adventures in butter making. 🙂

I figured that if I want to eventually get a cow, I needed to practice and get in the habit of regularly making dairy products that we normally use. I decided to start with butter, which seemed like the easiest first step.

To make butter, you basically beat up heavy cream until the butter and buttermilk separate. First, I tried it in my KitchenAid mixer. That was fun and pretty easy but had two major negatives. 1. It made a huge, greasy mess! 2. It took close to an hour. But, the butter was really good! Plus, the buttermilk pancakes that I made the next morning were really good too.

Next, in an effort on contain the mess, I tried making butter in my blender. It was all going wonderfully until just after it started to separate when the heat from the blender softened the butter up so much that it blended into the buttermilk. I moved it to the KitchenAid, hoping to undo the problem and just made a bigger mess. Since I had been at it for over an hour and didn’t really feel like sticking the mixer bowl full of butter in the fridge for a while then trying again, I threw in some salt and mixed it for a few more minutes. I ended up with very tasty whipped butter.

Well, I started looking for a contained butter churn and found an old fashion, hand crank one. It said that it made butter in 10 min. I figured that it was worth a try, so I bit the bullet and ordered on. I tried it today.

The instructions said that the cream needed to be left at room temperature for 1-2 hours. After my experience last time, I was hesitant to let the cream get too warm so I tried it after about 45 min. Twenty minutes of hand cranking later (quite a workout) and still liquidy. I left it for another hour and tried again. Another 20 min of hand cranking (Ouch!) and still nothing. Another hour. Another 20 min. By this time, my arms felt like I had been carrying water buckets all day. Still just cream. 🙁 (Did I mention that I pulled the cream out of the basement fridge that is set on super cold?)

In desperation, I just left it alone until the entire thing felt close to room temperature and tried again. 10-12 beautiful minutes and 3 YouTube videos on using a hand churn later, I had about a stick’s worth of butter and over a cup of buttermilk! DD helped me sample as I added salt (1 tsp for a 1 pint container of cream’s worth of butter). She also was a big help churning, but, at 4, her arms got tired quickly.

So that has been my tasty adventure in butter making. I am going to try the hand crank churn again tomorrow or Saturday and will definitely leave the cream out for 3-4 hours first.

So, to any on you out there who are interested in making butter, I would say give it a try. It tastes so much better and really is a lot of fun to make!

Summer Time Batch Cooking

Summer Time Batch Cooking

Summer time, has become batch cooking season around here.  For anyone who is unfamiliar with the term, batch cooking is making food in large batches and preserving it (usually by freezing) for use at a later date – think soups, stews, etc.  With school starting up in August, I will be twice as busy as I have been.  When taking farm work, house work, and school time, I have no time (and probably not much energy) left for fixing full dinners during the week.  I started thinking about how to make that easier and came up with summer batch cooking.

In late May, I made a list of the dishes that 1. my family likes, 2. were easy to cook on a large scale, and 3. froze well.  (Thankfully, with 1 large stand-up freezer, and two fridge freezers, we have plenty of freezer space.)  While making this list, I also listed out the ingredients, including quantity, required so that I could buy them when they were on sale.

Here is my list (if you want any of the recipes that aren’t posted, just leave a comment or email me and I will make a post for it):

  1. Burgers (done with ground venison, ground beef, and ground bacon)
  2. Chili and Kids’ Chili (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  3. Taco Meat (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  4. Taco Soup
  5. Meatballs (done with ground venison and sausage)
  6. Meatloaves (done with ground venison and ground beef)
  7. Lasagnas
  8. Shredded Pork
  9. Chicken Stew Meat see my Chicken Stock Recipe
  10. Prepacked Raw Chicken Boneless Skinless Breasts (yes, I know that this is not technically batch cooking but they so versatile, often on sale, easy to vacuum seal in 2 meal size portions, and it takes 5 minutes to throw them in an oven safe dish with some BBQ sauce for an easy main dish)
  11. Chicken Pot Pie Filling
  12. Chicken Stock (see the above link)
  13. Tortilla Soup
  14. Beef/Venison Stew
  15. Minestrone Soup
  16. Spaghetti Sauce (finally have a good recipe!)
  17. Potato Soup
  18. Bean Soup
  19. Split Pea Soup
  20. Vegetable Soup

In June and July, I cooked. Then, I vaccuum sealed (yes even soups) using my Food Savor Game Saver (awesome product by the way – the moist food setting is great!)  I freeze things on the top shelf of my upstairs freezer on a baking sheet sow they stay flat.  Then they are easy to stack in the big freezer in the basement.

At this point, some of you may be cringing at that amount of cooking.  It really isn’t that bad and doesn’t really take much longer than fixing a full meal for dinner.  Most batch cooking sessions took around 3 hours from start to finish (including time for grinding venison and for cleaning up).  Prepping meals for freezing later usually took about 30 min, if I didn’t need to rearrange for better freezer space usage.  We also eat some of whatever I batch cooked for dinner that night, so I cut out dinner prep work for that day. Score!

I put the soups in a large stock pot after doing the morning farm work and let them simmer with an occasional stir and taste test until dinner.  For shredded pork, I either put it in the Instant Pot (for pork shoulders) or the slow cooker overnight (for pork loins).  I also double up and make recipes that use similar ingredients at the same time.  Some examples are: taco meat and taco soup, bean and split pea soups, chicken stock and tortilla soup or chicken pot pie filling, and meatloaf and meatballs.  I can’t do burgers at the same time as anything else involving ground meat, because my Kitchen Aid will overheat if I try to grind more that about 9 pounds of meat at a time.  I buy ground beef, but I have to grind the venison and bacon myself.

Well, there you go.  Happy cooking!

Onion Free Tortilla Soup

Onion Free Tortilla Soup

Like I have said before, I can’t eat onions, in any way, shape, or form.  I have had to invent and tweak recipes to work around that. This is my version of chicken tortilla soup.  It makes a LOT of soup, so be sure to have plenty of hungry people to feed or freezer room to save some for later. Ingredients:
  • 1 quarts of my home made chicken stock (another onion free necessity)
  • The dark meat off of a stock chicken (shredded or cubed) – the white meat never gets as far as soup around here :)*
  • 1 28 oz can of Rotel original tomatoes and chilies
  • 1 28 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 10 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans of corn
  • 3 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2-3 bay leaves (depending on size)
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • Ortega taco seasoning
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Half and Half
Toppings:
  • Sour Cream
  • Shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • Tortilla Chips
*If you don’t have any stock chicken on hand, you can substitute 2-3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Just bake those in a covered baking dish with some water to keep them moist. Directions:
  • In a large 5-6 qt crockpot, combine the first 7 ingredients.
  • Add a generous helping of both cumin and garlic powder (I rarely measure seasonings).
  • Add 1/2 packet or a more than generous helping of the taco seasoning
  • Add salt and pepper to taste (I prefer fresh ground on both.)
  • Add several splashes of half and half
  • Top off the crock pot with water
  • Cook on high for 2 hours then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 6 hours
  • Remove the bay leaves.
  • Once done, top with the cheese and sour cream (if you want to cut the heat down).  Crush up the tortilla chips and add to the soup or eat them along with it. Enjoy!
 
Onion Free Chicken Stock

Onion Free Chicken Stock

I can’t eat onions in any way, shape, or form.  I get 72 hour migraines if my food gets anywhere near them, and I stop breathing if I actually eat them.  I have not been able to find a ready-made chicken stock that is safe, so I started making my own.  Happily, this is a super simple recipe.  The other great thing is that you can reuse the chicken to make multiple batches of stock.  I usually make 1-2 batches with the meat on the chicken then debone it and make another 2-3 batches with just the bones.  The only thing is that you have to change out the veggies with each batch.  After they have cooked for a couple of hours, they have shared all their goodness with the stock and need to be recycled.  I usually pull out the carrots and celery and give them to my chickens and toss the garlic.

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 3 celery stocks, rinsed
  • 3 whole carrots, rinsed
  • 1-2 whole clove(s) of garlic

Directions:

  • Rinse the chicken inside and outside, discard any “extras” that came inside of it.
  • Put everything in a large pot.  I use a pasta pot – the kind with strainer baskety thing that sits inside of it – because then you just lift all of the solids out and are left with the stock in the bottom pot.
  • Fill with water to about 2 inches from the top.  If you are using a pasta pot, don’t fill past the top strainer holes or it will boil over and make a huge mess.  (Been there.  Done that – several times.  Finally learned.)
  • Cook on medium heat for 2 hours.
  • Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 min.
  • Remove solids and separate stock into freezable containers.  I use the 1 quart containers with the twist on lids.
  • Debone the chicken and use the meat however you want.  I usually freeze the dark meat for soups, and we use the white meat in meals for the next couple of days.

You may be wondering why I didn’t add any seasonings.  I prefer to make my chicken stock completely basic, then season the things I use it in.