Thursday, 21 January 2010

Homemade Butter

I came to have 3 large pots of cream in the fridge from the last few weeks. One was dated a week ago, (still sealed and tasted fine) so I decided to make butter. It was only generic Black and Gold with whatever additives and gelatines but it did say it was 35% milk fat. I used my hand mixer and it didn't take too long to separate. At that stage, I googled to see what else to do. This link promising homemade butter in 5 mins sounded good.  I was pretty confident of curdling the butter, having done it unintentionally more than a few times lol. The draining and rinsing parts were pretty straight forward.  The kids were all impressed and had sandwiches with homemade butter and homemade apricot jam.

I just wish I had home baked bread to go with it. I am definitely going to make more. I will try and pick up cream when it is reduced in the supermarket. The cheapest double cream i could get would work out much more expensive than the price of butter. Being able to use the generics is good. I usually buy generic butter for baking anyway. I didn't add salt as I only had coarse cooking salt.

Here is what is left. There would have been around 300g of butter originally. Having 6 teenagers and 7 assorted aged children (visiting cousins) in the house makes everything disappear fast.  It is soft as it is rather warm today. I am about to make a roux for cheese sauce with this. (Ham and cheese macaroni with veg for tea tonight.) If I don't get a move on, there will be none left, there is a little girl with licky fingers who has acquired a taste for sweet creamy butter.
If you haven't tried this before, I recommend giving it a go.
As soon as I get eggs, Beccy is making waffles with the buttermilk. I found some good info about making cultured butter and real cultured buttermilk so they are on my agenda to give them a go.
Cultured Butter

I still need to work on my blog but didn't want to neglect posting while procrastinating the re-construction.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Oops! Work in Progress!

I am giving my blog a little facelift and it seems I have blundered around a bit a lost some things. So excuse the dust and mess while I try to put it back together again. That might take me a week or two! I hope it will be better and easier to navigate and allow some more flexibility.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Hot Summer Nights and hot sauce and jam report.

We are in the midst of our second heatwave for the season already with todays temperature expected to reach 43oC. The same tomorrow. Luckily we do have airconditioning. I know it is not as hot as some country areas of Australia are and that they think we are a bunch of whingers, but it's all about what you are used to. I think we are going to have to get used to this kind of heat.
Where is the best place to sleep on a hot Summer night? Not inside in drying airconditioning. It's better than no cooling but I think my boys had the best sleep last night with temps ranging from a balmy 26-32 degrees.
Under the stars, on the trampoline! (covered in bug spray)
Apparently it was cool enough to roll up in a thick blanket!

When we were kids, we slept on our front lawn which had the best grass. In the morning I remember the milky having to pick his way between us to deliver the milk to the front door (there were 7 of us). There was no air-con and if we were inside, the only relief was a wet towel or flannel. I spent the night moving from one slightly cool spot on the mattress to another, or leaning up against the wall beside the bed. Some siblings preferred the floor.

I am pleased to report that despite some glitches like forgetting to stir the jam and a heavy spice hand with the sauce, the apricot jam and sauce making endeavors were successful. One critic said the jam was "the best jam I ever tasted in my life", high praise indeed. I was just happy they were eating it! The bottom of the pot caught just as the jam was setting which made it turn more of a golden brown than apricot amber but it still tastes good. I am sure the next batch will be better.

Was it worth it? In money terms, Coles brand of jam costs around $5kg and that includes whatever pectin or gelatine they use. My jam was strictly fruit and sugar. That's it. Equal quantities. There's no need to make it complicated. It does taste a thousand times better than most supermarket jams if I do say so myself. The cost? 2kg apricots $5kg, 2kg sugar $2.30kg so a total of $7.30 for 6 500g jars of jam, making it $2.76kg. That's even cheaper than homebrand! So totally and completely worth it for the results. And that was with shop bought apricots, not backyard apricots which are even more flavourful. Of course there are incidental costs such as cooking fuel and cellophane covers but another bonus is, I can recycle the jars myself reduce recycling of glass costs. (and space in my recycling bin). A winner all round!
The sauce was more work for sure. as I said I was a bit heavy handed with the spice and as a result, it has earned the name of Pa-zang! Still, it gets the thumbs up of approval with it being preferred for use on last nights tea without prompting from me. We had a simple tea of French toast (using up more stale bread) some with Pa-zang! and some with apricot jam. Very tasty!
Cost wise, the box of tomatoes cost $9.00. From that I made 3lt of sauce and 2lt of pasta sauce (using onions and capsicum). Plus spices, onions, garlic etc. $2.10 for the onions for both, $3.00 for the capsicum. Spices were from my cupboard and I won't count those. So a total of $14.10 for 5lt of product. The pasta sauce I normally buy  would cost on average about $2.00 a jar, so say $6.00 worth of pasta sauce (though of course mine is superior). That would leave $8.10 cost for 3lt of sauce. I usually buy Rosella 2lt containers which cost me  around $6 so $9 for 3lt. So you can see I am ahead, but not by much. It was more time and labour intensive. Was it worth it? I think so. I have a superior fresh made product (though I won't knock Rosella sauce as such) and am reducing recycling. Pasta sauce in particular annoys me. For each meal, I need to use 3 jars. It seems such a waste of resources for a single use. I have frozen the pasta sauce I made and it will be used on Tuesday. I think I will make it from fresh in future, though I may keep some jars on hand when I need it fast. It didn't take too long to make and the flavour is so much better.
I might try for cheaper tomatoes next time. Although it was a 10kg box, there were only 5 or maybe 6 kg max in the box as I discovered when it came to weighing them for the sauce.
The muesli I made last week is going great as the preferred cereal in the morning.

Friday, 8 January 2010

What I'm up to..

There is a thread on Crafty Mamas forum asking how many garments you sew in a year. I have no real idea. I thought it would be interesting to keep tabs on my productivity this year. It will also be motivating in those times when you feel like you are getting nowhere to be able to see what has been achieved.
I decided to add a section for recycled sewing and also cooking from scratch for more accountability there too. I might also add things like what I am reading.
All of this is to help me see my progress in my desired self improvement for the year.

I just bought 10kg of tomatoes for saucing!

Also 2kg of apricots for jam. It doens't look like much but I do have a jumbo sized colander. Bought from Gaganis Brothers. They have all sorts of jumbo sized cooking, pickling, catering, BBQing, pasta making supplies as well as wholesale food products. Very handy for big families. Love that place, I'll take some pics for a guided tour one day.

Hopefully there will be pics of the finished product later :) It is very hot today, but that's how it should be. My memories of jam making are all on stinking hot days. the smell of hot jam boiling on the stove is the smell of Summer!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Fresh nutmeg on bread and butter pudding mmmmm..

This morning I got a reminder phone call about a dinner date I had forgotten about. Luckily I had a big 2.6kg chunk of beef roast in the freezer. I also had a shopping bag full of uncut, unbagged loaves of bread leftover from the bakery which my sister had dropped off. They were starting to get rather stale as none of them were wrapped. The solution for one loaf of white crusty Vienna cob? Bread and butter pudding.
Here is my method (I call it a method rather than a recipe as it is pretty basic and you can adjust quantities to suit).

Slice enough bread to cover the base of a baking dish. Butter each piece.I use real butter for flavour and richness. I put mine angled against each neighbouring slice to create depth and interest plus a nice pocket underneath for the egg custard to lurk. Sometimes I sprinkle a little sugar over the top at this stage, other times I just add sugar to the egg mixture. A variation is to sprinkle sultanas or raisins through the sliced bread. Try not to let them sit on top though as they may burn.
To make the egg custard, add one egg for each cup of milk and roughly a tablespoon of sugar for each 2 cups of milk. add vanilla essence to taste. whisk until combined and the sugar is dissolved.
Pour the egg mixture over the sliced bread. I like to have enough to still have plenty of mixture around the bread after it has soaked in so there is some eggy custard.
I love to grate fresh nutmeg over the top. It really is worthwhile using a whole nutmeg and grating it yourself. It doesn't take long and the aromatic difference is amazing.

Bake in the oven on a lowish to moderate temp, around 150celsius  until the top puffs and the middle is no longer runny. It will still be a bit jiggly but usually if the centre is cooked it will be puffed evenly.

It will sink again as it cools.

If you try and cook it fast and too hot, the custard will curdle and separate. (How do you think I know this?)
Serve warm in winter or cool in summer with preserved fruit. We love it with tinned peaches or stewed apricots.

 Other variations are to use spicy yeast buns or those big boston buns you often get cheap at the supermarket. Any kind of plainish butter or sponge cake will also work for a sweeter richer dessert.
If you live in Adelaide, SA, you can buy whole nutmeg (and a huge selection of imported and local herbs, spices and delicacies and bread flours) in bulk at Gaganis Brothers on south Rd at Hindmarsh (parking at rear).
I bought a big bag of nutmeg and have had it stored in a tin for over 10 years and it cost me $5.00 back then. They still have a wonderful flavour. I should bake more spicy stuff.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Life is Hot Chocolate

My Mum forwarded this story to me today and it is very in tune with what I am trying to achieve this year. Worth sharing and reading.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A new leaf. Being better.

Why do people say turning over a new leaf? I always thought it referred to plant leaves. From an old oak tree a new leaf grows. I never figured out the turning part. I never actually thought deep about it, it's just one of those sayings that you always hear, particularly at this time of year.
Of course now I realise it is referring to the leaf or page of a book. Another chapter of my life.

Some years I have made resolutions and other years figured it wasn't worth lining myself up for failure, however, after a very trying year, I feel like I need to be in control of the direction my life is heading.

At least when you are tried, you get to know what is important to you and what you do and don't want. The last year I have been pondering lots of ways I could improve my life, my lifestyle and life choices. There are so many things I would like to change or improve upon.
1. Be a nicer person. Smile more, be more helpful and friendlier. Be more patient when driving.
Result - i feel happier and have more friends and get where I am going in a better frame of mind.
2. Don't be bitter, let the bad stuff go, don't let it fester. For a long time I was living day to day, just getting by. I need to stop wallowing in self-pity and misery and leave it in God's hands. I am now more acquainted with my weaknesses and frailties and recognising my limits and when to let it go.
Result - I feel freer, I have energy for good things.
3. Stop acquiring things I have no need for, reduce, re-use, recycle, make it, mend it and make do. I have reduced shopping a lot this past year. I can see that just by visiting department stores and shopping centres, it is so easy to buy buy buy and feel every purchase justified. Until I get home. This past year has seen reduced available income so it was a matter of necessity to stop spending. I have actually been glad to be able to get free from that trap. I still have a long way to go. It is too easy to spend when it comes to justifiable hobbies like sewing for kids clothes. There are too many beautiful prints and patterns that seem very reasonable but in truth I have more than I need and when I have used what I have, there will still be beautiful prints and patterns to buy.
Result - a better bank balance and ability to be satisfied and appreciate the bounty I already have.
4. I want to be more creative and get back to basics. Use my own brain if I need a pattern. Use my own abilities, make things and cook from scratch, maybe even garden a little.
Result - We can eat healthier, save money, reuse and repurpose our excess and reduce packaging and garbage. Gain confidence and self esteem.
5. A very common one. I need to be fitter and healthier. Along with the stresses of the last year I have responded by relying too much on convenience and comfort foods. I have withdrawn a lot from being outside, getting exercise, meeting people, being holed up in my home and the internet. I want to be more active with the kids and get out in the fresh air and sunshine.
Result - A fitter and longer life with the company of my DH, kids, grandkids (hopefully) and friends.
6. Be more organised. Regain more meal structure, get rid of the clutter around me and in me. Learn to use a calendar more effectively.
Result - Less stress and last minute rushing. A calm atmosphere, healthier and more economical meals.

I know that is a lot but I will build on the good things I have learnt over the past year and hopefully next year will find me at least a little better and healthier.

I am going to read more. Make time to read scriptures, to read novels. I enjoy it. It is like taking a little vacation in my own head.
I am going to read while exercising on my stationary bike again. Kill 2 birds with 1 stone :)
I am going to continue to use google mail and calendar. I started using these late last year and the calendar has been a great help to me.
I will go back to menu-planning and shopping lists.
Plan tasks for each day.
Plan free and creative time for each week.

At the moment I am decluttering so I have a clear and level playing field. So far I have taken 9 large bags of books to the Op shop and have 8 bags of clothing waiting to be dropped off. Plenty more things to go. Less is more. More space, more serenity, more organisation, more cleanable.

Finally, an apology to anyone still waiting on a giveaway parcel. Life did sort of snowball on me the last few weeks with court dates and Christmas. Never fear, your parcel will eventually appear.

Wishing everyone a Wonderful and Marvelous New Year in 2010!