Friday, May 29, 2015

Everything From Scratch

Eeeek!  I just read about another grocery store product that we shouldn’t be eating.  There are so many new ones everyday that my head is spinning.  Fortunately, if you are feeling the same way—there is an answer.  Make everything from scratch.  Yourself.  In your own kitchen.  That way, you have 100% control over what goes into your food and into your family. 

I know you are protesting that you can’t possibly do that—way too time consuming and, besides, you don’t know how to make mayonnaise, cheese, yogurt, and crème fraiche.  Not to mention all your own jellies, jams and preserves, peanut butter, sour cream, bread, cooked beans, cream soups, sauces—the list is endless. 

Most of these foods really are not too time-consuming, because you make them in large batches and once made, you have it done for quite a long time.  If you use mixes now but are worried about the preservatives and additives in them, you can make your own mixes.  Not only are you feeling good about the health aspect, but it is incredibly satisfying to make your own ingredients and foods. 

Probably my favorite category of foods from scratch is the dairy category.  I don’t have access to raw milk products, so I have to buy homogenized and pasteurized milk and cream.  But, I do have access to milk from cows that have not had antibiotics and other questionable treatments.  In our area, the best tasting milk is the Polka Dot brand.  I use only whole milk—but you can make all of the following products with lower fat milk.  (I have been reading a lot of information that says full fat dairy is better for you).

Yogurt (regular and Greek)

A yogurt maker is a very handy thing to have, especially if you and your family consume a lot of yogurt (we do!)  You can, however, use an electric frying pan, some slow cookers, thermoses and ovens with gas pilot lights.  I have only tried the first two, but have assurances from reliable sources that the others all work.  The only caveat is that if you use a slow cooker, you test it for temperature, since if it can’t stay at 100 or below on warm setting, it will not work.  My yogurt maker is made by Total Chef and I think it was about $30. on line.  I love it because it doesn’t take up much space and I like the jar size. 

When I use my electric skillet, I put small, half-pint jars of yogurt in it so the cover will fit over them.  I put it on the “warm” setting and leave it overnight.  In the morning, put the covers for the screw-top jars on them and refrigerate.    

To make plain yogurt:

2 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp yogurt starter (from health food store) or 2 Tbsp purchased yogurt

Rinse large saucepan with cold water to keep heated milk from scorching.  Heat milk in saucepan until it barely simmers or shivers—about 180-190 degrees.  Cool in a sink of cold water until lukewarm.  Add yogurt starter or yogurt, stirring well.  Pour through a small sieve into jars.  Put cover on yogurt maker or electric skillet and turn on.  Leave for at least 10 hours.  Depending on the temperature of the room, it can take a little longer.  Gently wiggle one container to see if it is set.  Cover and refrigerate. 

To make Greek yogurt:

2 cups whole milk
1 Tbsp yogurt starter or 2 Tbsp purchased yogurt
1 Tbsp. instant dry milk powder

Rinse large saucepan as above.  Heat milk until barely simmering.  Cool in sink.  Add yogurt starter and dry milk powder.  Whisk until well mixed.  Pour through a small sieve into jars.  Put cover on yogurt maker or electric skillet and turn on.  Leave for at least 10 hours. Cover and refrigerate.  When yogurt is cold, test its thickness.  If you want thicker yogurt, line a sieve with a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter and place over a large bowl.  Dump yogurt into lined sieve and allow to drain until you are pleased with the thickness.  Don’t throw away the whey (the liquid in the bowl).  Add it to the whey you have from making ricotta cheese (next recipe) or pour it into a container (glass jar or jug) and keep it in the refrigerator to use for making smoothies and in place of buttermilk for pancakes and biscuits, etc.  It is super healthy and delicious and lightens baked goods the same way buttermilk does.  (They sell whey powder for astronomical prices in the store and it’s all the rage for health-minded people)

Ricotta Cheese

Technically, this is not true ricotta cheese because that is made from sheep’s milk and this is from cow’s.

However, this replaces ricotta in any recipe and is so superior to the store-bought product you won’t believe it was this simple to make!! We use this cheese in small balls in salads and to spread on home-made bagels or muffins.  On bagels, drizzle with honey—yum!

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp white vinegar

Rinse large saucepan with cold water to keep milk from scorching.  Heat milk, cream and salt in saucepan until it comes to a true simmer.  Allow to simmer for 1 minute.  Remove from heat and add vinegar.  Do not disturb for 2 minutes.  Meantime, line sieve with damp cheesecloth and put over large bowl.  After 2 minute sitting time, very slowly stir mixture with a wooden spoon.  Continue slowly stirring until curds separate from whey and you can see the clearish whey.  Carefully pour contents of pan into lined sieve.  Allow to drip about 10 minutes or slightly longer if you want a firmer cheese.  Remove cheese to container and refrigerate.  Pour whey into jug or jar and refrigerate.  If you want a true probiotic whey, pour a little whey from making Greek yogurt into your jug or add a ¼ tsp. yogurt starter to whey, mixing well.