With that in mind, I've given a lot of thought recently to the things I enjoy. For a time I was afraid that all my crafty homestead endeavors were more of a "have to" than a "want to." And as I thought more about the "wants," I discovered I wanted to be more "homesteady" (yup, I made that up) and less "crafty." In that vein, I've recently accomplished a few things that I'm excited to share.
Included: The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, a gorgeous necklace by the incredibly talented and inspiring Andrea Scher, and a jar of delicious gooseberries in syrup and another of homemade pickles.
I am so lucky and grateful!!
While I haven't attempted anything from the Home Preserving book, I have ventured into a different homesteading activity this week...cheesemaking.
Several months ago while picking up canning materials at the local Farmers Supply, I spied this cheesemaking kit.
I had read about Ricki Carroll and her cheesemaking skills in the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, and had often thought about seeking her out seeing as she lives here in western Mass. But the kit seemed relatively straightforward and a better alternative to stalking so I bought it.
This week we finally got around to making our first batch of cheese. I think I had been hesitating because I was scared I would suck at it. In the end the most difficult part about it was keeping a close eye on the temperature of the milk...seriously. While I thought the directions looked daunting at first, in the end it was so easy I could have kicked myself for not trying it sooner.
This was our end product, 1 lb of fresh and insanely tasty whole milk mozzarella.
The kit comes with supplies to make 30 batches of either mozzarella or ricotta. Even if you aren't into the homesteading thing this kit is totally worth it, and more economical when you factor in the general cost of fresh mozzarella compared to the cost of the kit ($25), the cost of a gallon of milk, and the sheer number of batches you get out of it.
This week I also busted out my excalibur food dehydrator for the second time this year. I had been drooling over this dehydrator earlier this year and decided to bite the bullet and buy it. Well, I had a pretty rotten first experience with it this summer trying to dry basil from my garden. The instruction book(s) I have list herbs as taking 6 hours total for drying. Now, I know that's a guideline and not a hard and fast rule, but after 13 hours my basil wasn't anywhere near dry. In all, it ended up taking 36 hours over three days for the basil to dry.
I emailed the company, wondering if it was operator error or if I got a defective machine. They replied that basil takes at least 24 hours to dry because of the high oil content. I iterated that that would have certainly been helpful if they had indicated that in either of the two books I had (which they wrote/published) under the basil sections. : /
So this week I picked up my new pampered chef apple peeler/corer/slicer and decided to see if I could make some apple rings in the dehydrator. The peeler part of the peeler/corer/slicer really leaves something to be desired, but the corer and slicer did a great job making thin apple rings. I soaked the apples in pineapple juice to help retain their color, and popped them into the dehydrator, setting the timer for 12 hours (per book instructions.) About three or four hours later they were done. I'm guessing it took such a short time because they were so thin (the book instructions call for 1/4" slices) and I only used three trays worth of apples. The excalibur has redeemed itself...for now :)
I'm not sure when or what my next adventure will be, but it sure feels good to do the things I love.