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Then there’s this stuff…

This is (someone else’s) picture of kefir grains. I bought me some (local Sussex grains) on eBay and I’ve switched from yogurt to this. For now.

It’s basically the same organism(s) as yogurt, plus a few more. It tastes like yogurt, but it’s a thick liquid like a milkshake and it’s incredibly easy. No pre-heating the milk or keeping it at a stable temperature or anything.

Pour milk over grains, leave out overnight, swizzle around occasionally — TADA! The only downside is, you kind of have to make it every day. It is a living beast AND IT MUST BE FED.

I think I like thick yogurt better, frankly. But this stuff is so easy and so similar. Also, I kept a wodge of my old yogurt in the freezer for when I change my mind.

Anyone else make this stuff?

August 1, 2018 — 10:06 pm
Comments: 19

Pop Tarts!!!!

Uncle B buyed me some. It’s amazing how cheering it is to bump into an old, disreputable friend like this. Though I’m so old, I still think of frosting as a newfangled impertinence. I think you can buy them in some supermarkets here, too, but they’re in heretical flavors like chocolate marshmallow.

We bought these from Amazon Pantry. First we’ve ever used it. I assume it works the same in the States.

You buy “a box”, but they don’t really tell you what means. Only, every time you put something in it, they tell you what percentage of the box is full. I suspect it’s by volume, not weight. We bought six six-packs of a fizzy lemonade we find hard to get in the stores, so ours was super heavy without filling “a box”.

A tiny woman carried it to our door, which was somewhat shaming (I found it hard lifting). The famous box was plenty sturdy, I must say.

Eh. We’d probably do it again.

July 31, 2018 — 9:58 pm
Comments: 10

Effing gooseberries

Now the harvest. I hate picking fruit. I come from a long line of people who got other people to pick their fruit, by force if necessary. I guess this is karma.

Some things have done very well this year, despite drought (the raspberries). Some, just okay (respectable yield on the red gooseberries, but they’re awfully small). We’re just beginning, but it’s an early beginning.

They began harvesting the hay on the 30th of June this year – the earliest on record.

Gooseberries are a bit of a hate object. Sour as a bastard, nasty thorns, and you gotta ‘top and tail’ them before they go in the freezer.

Uncle B did that last bit. Troo luv.

July 5, 2018 — 9:43 pm
Comments: 11

Yeah, I was s’posed to post this last night

Okay, then…how about a six foot tall copper meditation pyramid?

This is a custom made 100% copper pyramid with French doors. It measures 6 foot at the base and has an overall height of 58.26 inches matching the proportions of the great pyramid at Giza. Materials used are 16 gauge textured copper sheet,1/8 inch hand wrought copper piano type hinges with copper pins, 1/8 hand wrought copper riveting brackets (second to last photo), 1/8 inch x 1 1/2 inch hand wrought backing strips, 3/4 inch thick wall copper tube frame TIG welded with copper filler (last photo during construction), and copper rivets. This item is made to order.

Only $8,500!

I didn’t realize pyramids were still a thing, but eBay lists dozens of the boogers big enough to crawl into. Huh.

So — changing the subject — I just had my first ever yogurt #fail. After six hours on heat, it has totally neglected to set.

I thought my culture was starting to drift a little, so I went back to the storebought packaged starter. Third time I’ve used one of these, with great success every other time.

My only departure — I usually add the culture where I mean to carry on, about about 110°. This time, I let it cool to about 90°, added the culture and brought it up to 110°.

The hell? Being cold doesn’t hurt the bugs, otherwise you couldn’t make yogurt from last week’s fridge yogurt. Any ideas?

p.s. Next day. Still not set, it’s as loose as milk. Tastes a little sour, so I’m sure there’s a lactobacillus in there. I bought another liter of milk today, but you think I dare try re-cooking this one?

p.p.s. Lester III wins the Dead Pool with Joe Jackson. Quick, but not the quickest ever. You know what that means…back here, day after tomorrow, 6WBT, Dead Pool Round 111.

June 27, 2018 — 10:00 pm
Comments: 16

What herbs you growing?

Uncle B bought my Summer herbs today. He keeps asking if I want anything else and I can’t think of anything.

I have oregano, thyme, sage, rosemary, several kinds of mint, borage, hyssop, fennel, dill, something called winter savory, chamomile. Catnip. Growing randomly around the garden: chives, lemon balm, lemon verbena, several varieties of lavender, ground elder. Erm, nettles. Elderflowers. I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

Oh, the thing in the picture, which is called cotton lavender or lavender cotton and is related to neither cotton nor lavender. You can eat it.

What’s missing?

June 5, 2018 — 8:53 pm
Comments: 16


I should mention that my yoghurt-making is doing spendidly. I am making — and eating — an improbable amount of the stuff.

My veggie fermentation is also doing very well. I got some nice big vessels (well, essentially Mason jars) and other kit for my birthday, and I’ve filled the bottom of the fridge with my experiments. I love science.

It occurs to me that it is possible — not likely, but not entirely the stuff of science fiction, given the speculation at the moment — that my high lactobacillus diet is due to my high lactobacillus diet. By which I mean my gut bugs may be teaching me to eat a gut-bug-friendly diet.

Like directly communicating with my brain via…well, those mysterious ways they’re starting to think gut bugs interface with human brains.

I am strangely at peace with this.

May 23, 2018 — 10:02 pm
Comments: 7

Weasel’s bug farm


I’ve since made a second batch of yogurt using a tablespoon of the first. After the cooling off, I decanted it into a Pyrex measuring cup and used the slow cooker for the long-term heat source. I was easily able to keep it between, say, 108° and 115° (just about optimum). It occasionally sneaked over, but that didn’t seem to do any harm. This is, honestly, one of the most forgiving processes ever.

After less than four hours, it was very hard set. I took it off heat and let it cool to room temperature overnight. The result was as thick as cream cheese, sweet, with almost no whey. It’s gorgeous. Some variation of this method will do me for the foreseeable. Though I really should get a better thermometer, I’m rather skint after my last self indulgence, so I’m trying not to by any new gear.

In the big supermarkets here you can still buy Jersey milk (I buy this one). It’s homogenized, so no separate layer of cream on the top, but it’s a lovely golden yellow from all the milk fat. And not at all expensive. Last batch I made with a pint of ordinary supermarket whole milk. It was very nice, but I decided to try the hard stuff this time. I don’t know if it contributed to the final product, but this stuff is really more dessert than breakfast.

I pinched the picture from this fascinating article (yeah, you didn’t think I put all that effort into a post, did you?). If you’re interested in yogurt-making, do read it. Upshot is, this woman decided to see what the optimum amount of the previous batch you needed to make the next batch. Much against my expectation, the less of an inoculation she used, the thicker the result with less whey (up to a point, naturally).

Even the 1/4 teaspoon (the smallest she tried) set to a firm yogurt, as long as she gave it closer to six hours than four. Can anyone think of the mechanism?

Well. Billy Graham.

My father sat next to Graham at a luncheon once. Not really his milieu, but my dad was a mid-level GOP fundraiser and fancy lunches with famous people is one way they thank the footsoldiers. He instantly took a dislike to Graham. A really intense one that he wasn’t shy about sharing. I shall withhold details in the immediate aftermath of the man’s death (and in deference to any readers who were admirers), but it’s naturally what comes to mind when I think of the man and I had been dreading having to write him up for the Dead Pool.

HOWEVER, I think I’m going to call Dead Pool 106 jointly for RushBabe (who picked Dr Graham) and Carl (who carled his way to another win with Morgan Tsvangirai). At this point, I owe Carl something like the Sistine Chapel Ceiling in dick drawings (there’s a sentence I never expected to type), and Graham was one of the epic picks. I think that needs some acknowledgment.

I reserve the right to be arbitrary and capricious like this. You guys are going to love it when I take over the world.

February 21, 2018 — 10:14 pm
Comments: 14

Q: what do you call a thermometer with no numbers?


A: a stick.

This is our jam thermometer. I can read the 100° mark and the 400°, so math and a Sharpie gave me close enough approximations to make yogurt. I hope.

I ordered a few sachets of starter on Saturday, and they came this morning. Sometimes eBay comes through!

First time out, I’m sticking as close as I can to the instructions on the packet, though I don’t really have a good low heat source for the ferment. One recipe suggested putting the hot mixture into a thermos, so I put it in a steel thermos and put that in a saucepan full of hot water. I’ve changed the hot water on the hour, but I have a bad feeling it’s losing temp too fast. I’m at about the three hour mark, so I’ll go check again in a minute.

One site I read said, “don’t worry, the milk can’t spoil – you’ve already spoiled it!

Ha! Little does she know my skill for spoiling the unspoilable!

Update: IT WORKED! IT WORKED! And it’s honestly the best yogurt I’ve ever tasted (though the starter sachet I used has rosa damascena in it; subsequent batches sill taste different). I thought it would never set, as I could not keep the temperature near 110°, but I did manage to keep it just over 100°. It was a sad and thin business after six hours, but I put it in the fridge. It was lovely, thick and creamy by morning. Lots of whey, though. We have a bread maker, a slow cooker and a dehydrator. I’m’a have to experiment.

February 19, 2018 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 23

Woof! Woof!


Chinese New Year begins today. ‘Tis the Year of the Dog.

Thanks for your input on the fermentation thing. I knew I’d have pickling and fermentation geeks on the blog!

I’ve had the old, old problem with researching stuff on the web: too much information, some of it contradictory. Some sauerkraut recipes, for example, insist that the shredded cabbage be kneaded vigorously to express the water (this must be the ‘elbow grease’ p2 was talking about). But some people just dump brine over it.

Nobody talks about sterilizing containers first. This makes the jam maker in me cringe. Yeah, I get it — you’re trying to grow bugs. But surely only the right bugs.

Unlike canners and picklers, I get the impression fermenters are a freewheelin’ bunch. It either works, or you’ll know it hasn’t, and it usually works.

I think it’s too cold in the kitchen to start experimenting just yet. We don’t have much heat in that part of the house and, this time of year, it’s hovering in the low sixties (or even high fifties) at night. I think I saw seventy as the recommended temp for getting the cultures going initially.

So I’ve just ordered a couple of different yoghurt cultures to play with while we wait for warmer weather. I love yoghurt, but I will have to work out how to scale down the recipe. I can’t eat a liter every 72 hours!

Pro tip: if you search eBay for “starter culture” you’re going to see a LOT of worms. Have a good weekend, everyone!

February 16, 2018 — 8:22 pm
Comments: 11

I guess I get it.


I don’t know about this image. It was the header pic for a FaceBook group called “Chicken Keeping for Assholes” that I was invited to join. For some reason.

As you might expect, there are tons of chicken keeping groups on social media. What you may not know is how bloody and acrimonious they can be. The main divide is between those who see chickens as livestock and those who keep them as pets. It usually comes to a head over culling sick birds. I’m going to guess the “Assholes” group is in the pro-culling camp.

But I don’t want to talk about that. I want to talk about fermenting food. Have you ever?

Sauerkraut? Pickles? Kimchi? Kefir? I’m talking ferment in brine, not pickle with vinegar.

From what I’ve read recently, the vinegar thing is a fairly modern imitation of food that has been fermented naturally — it tastes similarly sour, but is more controllable and consistent for commercial production. Even most of the stuff that has been fermented traditionally in brine is apparently zapped before packaging to kill the bacteria.

Yeah, that’s right. I’m still on my gut bacteria kick.

Don’t get me wrong — I love me a good ol’ kosher dill pickle. But I’m looking to brine stuff at home and eat friendly bugs. The produce season will soon be upon us!

February 15, 2018 — 9:46 pm
Comments: 20