Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Make Your Own Cheese

About a year and a half ago, I did a post on my other blog about how to make cheese from powdered milk. We were living in the Philippines at the time and they do not have dairy products like what we have here. They mainly have powdered milk or milk that is processed for a long shelf life, and both are pretty pricey. I was really interested in making yogurt and simple cheeses like cottage cheese, or "farmers cheese", and some spreadable cheese. Well, I was never able to make any before we returned to the states, so I just posted the recipes that I had found. So now that we are back, I thought a post on making your own cheese would be fitting.

We are starting to receive an abundance of goat's milk from some of the families that we fellowship with here, so Joanne has started making things like yogurt( made with the crockpot) and herbed farmer's cheese. I have 2 quarts of goats milk in the fridge right now and was looking up some information about liquid rennet and found this useful site-Fankhauser Cheese Course

Wow, this website has so much useful (besides my most favorite word when it comes to this kind of stuff)practical information, plus the next best thing- great step by step pictures:) Here are some links from this site for:
I think I'm going to make yogurt first then experiment with some other cheeses. Let us know if you make any of your own cheeses and if you have links to some of your creations, great!

- Becky

{Photo of cheese board courtesy of the web site}

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


The other day, Brian introduced us to a new favorite - a Peruvian dish called Ceviche.  YUM!  I was a little skeptical at first since the fish is not cooked, however I'm always up for trying something new and I'm sure glad I did.

This is not a very good picture, but it's the only one that turned out good enough ...

- 4 potatoes
- 4 sweet potatoes 
- 1 red onion, sliced VERY thin
- 1 cup fresh lime juice (~12 limes)
- 1/2 rib celery, sliced
- 1/4 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
- 1/4t ground cumin
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 habanero or jalepeno pepper, seeded and minced (use as little or as much as you'd like)
- Salt to taste
- 2 pounds of fish, cut into 1/2" pieces - today we had salmon, so that's what we used.  Brian said it does not matter at all what type of fish you use. Also, shrimp, crab, &/or squid can be added.
- Leaf, romaine, bib or other type of lettuce.

1) Cover the potatoes with water and cook till tender.  Set aside till easy to handle.
2) Blend/process till smooth - lime juice, cumin, celery and cilantro.  Pour into large bowl and add 3/4 of the onion, and all of the garlic, pepper, salt and fish.
3) Let it marinate for 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  It is done when it turns firm and opaque.
4) Peel (opt.) and slice the potatoes.
To serve: cover plate with lettuce, top with fish mixture, fresh onions and potatoes.  Can spoon the marinade over all for extra flavor.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Bulk Cooking ... OH deer!

This is a very simple, tasty, versatile and cheap recipe ... I don't have a name for it, but it's made of ground meat, beans and rice.  I season it 'Mexican-style' (???) - onions, garlic, salt, cumin, chili powder, etc.

The recipe is really whatever you want it to be, but I'll tell you roughly what I used [all measurements are approximate]:
*4 pounds of ground deer meat (fry with onions and garlic)
*6 cups of brown rice, cooked (turns out to be a big pot of cooked rice)
*2 gallon freezer bags of cooked beans (I cleaned out my freezer and found garbanzo and navy beans, so that's what I used this time)
*Season to taste; add water to help stir it.
[can omit the meat and add more beans or lentils for a vegetarian option; we use meat if we get it for free, otherwise we leave it out]

Allow to cool, and then store in serving size freezer bags.  I'll get about 4 gallon freezer bags out of what you see in the picture - it's a very large bowl!  I store in gallon bags, thaw one out and then use it over several days for various things.  Some ideas are taco stuffing, casseroles, taco soup, nachos/haystacks, burritos, or whatever else suits your tastes.  Enjoy!

Cost break-down
Meat - $0 (free deer from friends)
Rice - ~$1 (buy in bulk for about $.80 a pound)
Beans - ~$2 (buy in bulk for about $1 a pound)
Seasonings - ~$1 (??? maybe I'm being liberal here?)

Total cost - ~$4 ... and it will last for many meals.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Plum Jam & Jelly

The children and a brother from church we walking to the thrift store the other day and came across a plum tree in someone's yard.  Later on they knocked on the door and asked the man if they could pick the plums.  He was more than happy to let them have it.  That evening we had several gallons of plums ... we already had an abundance of fruit flies, so I wanted to make sure they got taken care of as soon as possible.

Plum Jam!  First I washed them all in the sink.  Then a few of us cut a slit in each one.  These went into two large pots.  I added enough water to cover, brought to a boil, and simmered for about 5 minutes. 

The result (this is not all of it though)...

I decided to try and smash them through a strainer ... this worked pretty well.  We got all the stones out and it did not take too long, all things considered.

The smashed fruit went back into a large pot with seasonings (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves).  I use Pomona's Universal Pectin ... this allows for less sugar (a lot less).  For 21 cups of jam I used 5 cups of sweetener [we did not have enough of any one sweetener, so I used a combination of things]; if anyone knows about making jam, they know that this is a significantly lower amount of sugar.  I looked up Sure-Jell recipes online; their 'Triple Berry Jam' calls for 5 cups of prepared fruit and 7 cups of sugar.  If I would have used Sure-Jell, I would have needed more than 28 cups of sugar for my 21 cups of prepared fruit!!!  WOW. 

So now what to do with all that liquid from the water and the fruit?  JELLY!  I put it all in a large pot, along with the stones (there was a little fruit left on the stones), and simmer for several hours. 

It reduced a lot more than this, but this is the only picture we have of it reducing.  I should have stirred it more often ... some of it burned to the bottom and produced a smoky flavor in the finished jelly :) no one minds though (it just tastes unique!).  I added sweetener as well as a little almond and vanilla extract.

The reward for all our hard work ... 32+ pints of FREE jam and jelly!

Here's a picture from another angle - I wanted to show that you can use other jars and re-use lids several times.  Notice the front two jars on the left; one is a bullion jar and one is a fancy canned fruit jar someone gave to me.  I re-use canning lids 4 or more times; it just depends on if the seal is hard or not (if it's a little soft, it still has some life in it).  I will caution however that it is NOT recommended to re-use lids, so don't blame it on me if you do this and your jars do not seal right ... although so far I have not had a problem with this.

A breakfast favorite

Lentils are SO CHEAP and very delicious!  We order them through Azure Standard; a 25 pound sack costs ~$15 ... that's $.60/lb. The corn tortillas are ~$3.00 for 88 of them (~3.5 cents each), and the eggs are free.  Here's the 'dollar menu' breakdown:

Lentils $.30
Corn Tortillas $.28
Eggs $0
Bananas $.50

A breakfast meal for 4 ... ~$1.08.

For the lentils:
I cook 4 cups at a time, use what we need for breakfast, and then save the rest for whatever.  (it usually lasts a few more meals).  Place 4c of lentils in a larger pot, rinse, drain, and cover with about 7c water.  Bring to a boil, cover & simmer till done.  Add more water if needed.  I like my lentils to have extra water :)  Cook till done.  I add salt and italian seasonings.  That's it. Nothing fancy. 

Now I need to get a good corn tortilla recipe so I can save money that way too.

EDIT: I just went to the store where we get the tortillas and noticed that some of them were past the date on the package.  I asked the manager if he would give me a discount and he did.  He sold them to me for $1 a pack (that's $2 off).  So now instead of ~3.5 cents each, the tortillas are ~1.13 cents each :) 
I was a little hesitant to ask for the discount, however I had gotten them for $1 before when they were past date (the store puts the past-date/must go items in a basket at the front so you see it right when you come in - I always check the basket).  I am so thankful for this blessing.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Brewing Kombucha Tea

We have been making kombucha tea for a while now and are really enjoying it.  KT is a fermented drink filled with good stuff for your gut :) mainly - probiotics.  It also has good things for your body, but that can vary from brew to brew.

A friend of mine gave me one of her scobys (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) a few months ago, and we already have a new jug going.  The original scoby you start with is often called the 'mother'.  Some call it a 'mushroom' [though it is not a mushroom]; it's a solid mass of yeast and bacteria that produces more solid masses of yeast and bacteria.  Eventually there will be a baby scoby on top of the mother that you can peal off and start another jug with.  Scobys kind of look like funky pancakes.

To make KT, first you need a scoby and 1-2 cups of starter tea (finished tea from the last batch or raw KT purchased at a health food store). You can get a scoby and starter tea from a friend or online (ebay is a good place to start).  If you get it online, be sure you know what you are getting ... some will sell 2 scobys at once that are 6" in diameter (this will be enough for two 1-gallon jugs).  Others will sell one scoby that is only 2"-3" and will only make 1-2 quarts of KT.  So, do your research.

Here is a picture of my big scoby in the starter tea (2 cups from the last batch) - the white you see on top is the baby scoby; it's hard to see the mother scoby in this picture.  The tea to the left is what came from the last batch minus a little we drank - notice the bubbles ... it looks like beer or soda when you are pouring it into the jars. The tea to the right is what was left of the batch before.  The tea in the 2 1/2qt jug in the back is a batch that is not done yet - that was made with a baby scoby and seems to be taking a little longer. 

Next you need tea sweetened with white sugar (yes, finally a use for white sugar!).  You can use other sweeteners, however white sugar breaks down the easiest and quickest. Don't worry about blood sugar levels - the bacteria actually feed on the sugar so most of it is used up by the time you consume the KT.
Bring about 6c of filtered or distilled water to a boil. Turn it off and add 6 tea bags (black or green or a mix of both; I prefer green but will use black from time to time). Cover and let it sit for ~15 minutes.  Add 1c white sugar, mix well.

Cover the pot with a towel so flies or other bugs do not get in.  Allow to come to room temperature before adding it to the scoby and starter tea - adding it when it is hot will KILL it. To hasten cooling, you can set it in a sink of cold water. 
Carefully pour into the waiting jug, add more filtered or distilled water to 1"-2" to the top and cover with a coffee filter secured by a rubber band.  Be sure it's on good so fruit flies do not invade your brew.

Notice the scoby here is a little crooked - it might even be at the bottom of the jug for a time.  Eventually it always seems to level out and lay flat at the top. 

Now let it sit there for 5 days or longer; it will brew faster in hotter weather and slower in cold weather.  Also, it will brew quicker with white sugar, longer with other sweeteners (or so I've read ... I've never tried anything but white sugar (now I use organic cane sugar)).  I don't really know how to tell you when it's done ... it tastes kind of like very mildly sweet sparkling apple cider.  It should not be sweet, yet it should not be sour either.  It will be slightly effervescent at this point; you will see bubble at the top and hear it fizz some when you stir it. Pour all but ~1 1/2c into glass jars with plastic lids (not metal). If you must use metal, add a layer of plastic wrap between the brew and the lid. Leave the jars sit out on the counter; 'burp' them once a day to ensure the jars do not explode due to further fermentation.  (if you are using grolsch-style bottle lids burping is not necessary) Little scobys will form in each jar if it sits long enough.  You can save these and use them, or just drink them ... or give them to the chickens.

The finished kombucha will be fizzy like soda. It is wise to open over a bowl in case it spills out.

It's recommended that you start with a half cup a day (4oz) and work your way up. Some drink a quart a day.  I don't have a lot and there is a lot of us here, so I only drink about a cup a day.  Eventually I hope to drink a lot more daily.

You can add a tablespoon or so of frozen juice concentrate to each quart jar for flavor.  Or you can try adding some frozen berries to each jar or a chunk of ginger.  We mostly just drink ours 'plain'.
Update 5-19-15: we like to flavor ours ... here is a video demonstration: FLAVORED KOMBUCHA

An alternative method of brewing is called the 'continuous brewing method'.  Here is information on how to do that; this link also has other information about kombucha tea.  CONTINUOUS BREWING METHOD FOR KOMBUCHA TEA This is on the Weston A. Price website ... I cannot endorse everything he or his students teach, however I do appreciate and agree with their thoughts/teaching on fermentation and soaking grains.

I had to edit this and add this great website for trouble-shooting kombucha brews.  "Kombucha, The Balancing Act" There is a balance between the yeast content and the bacteria content; too much of one or the other will have an effect on various things in your KT.  This is an excellent resource!

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hello everyone! I'm Becky- my family lives with Joanne and her family at our church. She invited me to join in on her blog to share on different topics dealing with the home and our health. I hope that this blog will be helpful to all who are seeking to have a frugal home and to do it the healthy way. Since this is my first post on Joanne's blog, I wanted to find a great how-to recipe to share with everyone:) Lately, I have been researching about home remedies and ways to use herbs in our daily lives. I get a news e-letter from a website called Herb Mentor. Today I was looking through some of the back issues and discovered this healthy and fun recipe- How to make Blueberry Soda.

We have been experimenting with Kombucha tea. It's fun doing it at home and seeing it form new scobys(Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) aka mushroom lookin thingys. When it's done fermenting, it taste like slightly sweetened Ginger Ale or Apple Cider. I really enjoy it and my boys like it too.

I think Joanne might do a post sometime in the future on Kombucha in case some of you are wondering why we would drink a fermented mushroom thingy tea. So anyways, when I saw this recipe, I was pretty excited as it is along the same lines as kombucha; it uses a healthy fermentation to achieve carbonation. So if you are wondering how to make your own healthy, low sugar soda, here is a good one to start with.

For more articles and free herb courses check out Herb Mentor and also their other site Learning Herbs.

Let us know if you make a batch of fruit soda, we'd love to know how it turned out:)

God Bless,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fish Head Soup?

David V., Corban, Tylor and our friend Malachi from Omaha all went fishing the other day.  They brought home 5 fish and saved the fish heads for Brian.  Today he made us fish head soup.  I can honestly say that's something I never thought I would eat ... but now that I've eaten it, I cannot help but wonder why the heads are always thrown out?  There's a lot of meat in there!  Brian eats all if it (the eyes, the brain, the meat) but I only ate the meat ... maybe next time I'll try the eyes and the brain. 
He seasoned it with garlic, onion, cilantro, lime, ginger, salt and probably some other stuff.  It was tasty.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Home Made Goat Cheese / Goat Whey / Farmer's Cheese

A sister here at church gave me a gallon of fresh goat milk today, so I decided to try and make the yummy goat cheese she served us with supper last week.  I followed her instructions and I have to admit, I was very surprised at how simple it was.

First, put the milk in a pot and heat it to almost boiling.  I stood near by and stirred it frequently to check on it.  I waited until it just started to boil, and then I turned off the heat.

Next, add 1/4c white vinegar and stir.  You should see the milk separate almost right away (that's what happened to mine anyway).  Let it sit to cool off.

Drain off the whey.  I got a big pan, put a colander on top and a cloth over the top of that to catch the whey.  I then gathered the cloth to where the whey was a ball and I gently squeezed it.  You can let it sit over night either in the colander with a plate on top of it to weigh it down, or tie a string around the cloth and hang it over the pan to drip off.  This will produce a firmer cheese.  I just gently squeezed it till hardly anything came out.

Last of all, stir in about 1 1/2t salt and store in the fridge.

From one gallon of milk I got about 2 1/2 cups of soft cheese that resembles cottage/cream cheese and spreads easily, and nearly 3 quarts of whey (I used a few cups already, so the picture shows only 2 1/2 quarts).  We'll use the cheese to spread over toast, put on pizza, or spread over tortillas and eat like quesadillas.  YUM.

RAW GOAT CHEESE - Do not heat the milk; put a small bit of a crushed rennet tablet into a gallon of fresh, raw milk.  Allow to sit till separated, then proceed as usual.  

So ... what do you do with all that nutritious whey that's left over? Here are a few ideas:

- We plan to use most of it for soaking grains.  You can soak grains like rice, millet, quinoa, wheat, oats, and so on, for 12 to 24 hours at room temperature in some water with 1-2 tablespoons of whey per cup of soaking water. You can then rinse the grains to remove any acidic taste to them, and then cook in fresh water or just use the soaking water to also cook them in.  You can also do this to flours - we like the taste of our bread a lot when we soak the whole wheat flour for at least 12 hours first.  Just soak the flour in the cooking water with the whey and add the rest of the ingredients prior to baking.
Soaking the grains makes them much easier to digest and helps absorb more nutrients - this was actually a common thing to do not too long ago.

- You can drink the whey if you like the taste of it ... or give it to your animals.  Put in smoothies or make lemon aid out of it.

- Another idea is to use it in place of milk in baking - biscuits, pancakes, breads, cakes, etc.

- Or you could use it in soups as a stock ... we might use some in potato soup.  You can even use it in mashed potatoes to add a bit of flavor and nutrients.

Be creative, don't throw it out.