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Weasel’s bug farm

yogurt

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?

thermometer

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!

cabbage

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.

dunno

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

Hahaha…uh, no

tayberry

A tayberry is a cross between a raspberry and a blackberry (some sources say loganberry). Uncle B used to grow heaps of them in London and they were very nice.

I had forgotten how nice until we picked up a jar of tayberry jam at a church fete this Summer. Honestly, I think it’s the nicest jam I’ve ever eaten. We both raved over it. We have made sad face at every jar of jam since.

So, naturally, I thought I’d try to get us some for Christmas. Turns out, I got one Google hit on tayberry jam, and it was this one at Fortnum and Mason.

A 200 gram jar is £9.95, plus £5.95 shipping. Folks, that’s like twenty-five bucks for a little jar of jam!

Heh. Check out the rest of their Christmas stuff. Must be nice to have monies.

December 4, 2017 — 11:07 pm
Comments: 8

The miracle of bacon

newbacon

Wednesday afternoon, ’bout a quarter to four
I heard a knocking on my front door.
Run to the door just as fast as I can
Standing in the doorway is the bacon man.

Hallelujah, it’s the Oscar Mayer bacon man.

My neighbors went to the States and brought me the Miracle of Bacon. How they got it back — “in a cooler” they said — eh, it’ll be fine.

They also brought me saltines and paper towels. Truly, I am blessed.

p.s. that’s paint under my fingernails, not filth. Wednesday is Art Day.

November 29, 2017 — 9:54 pm
Comments: 24

Drumroll please

warrant

We’ve got the electrician coming tomorrow for a couple of odd jobs, so I’m cleaning house. As you do. And I found this thing (look up).

There’s a baker who has a booth in a local market, from whom we occasionally buy sausage rolls. He was forever telling me he used to be sausage roll maker by appointment to Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

One day, he flagged me down on the street as I went past on my bicycle and gave me a laminated copy of his Royal Warrant. (I happen to know, from professional experience, that a lamination pouch of that size costs 50p, so I was flattered).

I don’t even particularly like sausage rolls. Have a good weekend, everyone!

November 10, 2017 — 10:31 pm
Comments: 22

Newton’s apple. No, really.

apples

We went to an apple fayre this weekend.

You know you’re in for an authentic British experience when they spell ‘fayre’ with a ‘y’.

Over 200 varieties of apples were there. Which is nothing. There are thousands of cultivated varieties (and many thousands more of not very useful wild apples).

They have sequenced the apple’s genome and found an apple has nearly twice the genes of a human being. That means apples are complicated and don’t breed clones. I saw this program on apple genetics several years ago, so bear with me if my memory is generic.

If you eat an apple and like it, and plant the seed in your garden, you will get a tree that bears a fruit that almost certainly bears no resemblance to that apple you liked so much. Also, it will be tall and awkward, because natural apples are. If you see a grove of natural apple trees in the wild, they will all bear different apples. There might be a hidden star in there with desirable characteristics. On the other hand, you’re more likely to find sour and awful fruits, as the modern apple shares more of its genome with the crabapple than its true wild ancestor.

For commercial apples, they take cuttings from the successful tree and graft them onto other rootstocks with desirable traits — like, usually dwarf rootstocks that make little, pickable trees. All the modern Granny Smiths, for example, come from cuttings from the original Granny. So really, when you think about it, that apple from Newton’s garden really is from Newton’s garden, if probably many intermediate trees removed.

Yes, I bought an Isaac Newton. It’s in a bag with four other ‘heritage’ apples, though, so I don’t know who’s who. This could be a problem because it’s a cooking apple.

October 23, 2017 — 9:18 pm
Comments: 24

Not that, you bastards! Anything but that!

bacon

Food is one of the hardest things for an immigrant to cope with. This immigrant, anyhow. It’s one thing to visit a country and immerse yourself in the local cuisine; it’s another when, five years later, not love nor money can buy you a freaking saltine cracker for your freaking soup.

Bacon. Bacon is the cruellest food. British bacon is even weirder than the Canadian stuff. I mean, it’s pretty nice in its own way, but it’s some kind of salty country ham thing. It ain’t bacon. Nome sane?

For years, there was one supermarket (not a chain, a single supermarket) that sold Oscar Mayer bacon. Sure, it was made in Spain, but somebody from OM must have overseen the process, because it was what I call proper bacon.

Then, a couple of years ago, they dropped the “Oscar Mayer” branding and relabeled it “American style” bacon. That’s an actual packet of it in the picture. Well, fair enough – the name was probably costing them a lot of money and didn’t mean diddly to Brits. It was the same true blue American bacon.

And then the quality began to slip. First the packet wouldn’t peel open properly and had to be cut up the side. Then the bacon stuck together and wouldn’t come off in cohesive strips. It was more like baconfloss. That comes from losing the American quality control, I guess.

And today? Gone from the shelf. Nowhere to be found. Not even the thin comfort of bacon strings for weasel.

It’ll have to be pancetta. Dammit.

October 17, 2017 — 7:40 pm
Comments: 41

While we’re tearing down statues

juan

And Juan is on the left side of the door at the bulk spice company. Pretty sure this would be a hate crime in the US of A at the moment. It probably would be a hate crime here, if we had any Mexican presence at all.

If a statue promotes bigotry and no-one is offended, did it make a stereotype?

Carl wins the dick(™) with Bruce Forsyth, a man who holds the Guiness record(™) for the longest-running television career for a male.

NB: this is Carl’s sixth or seventh win. Do not fuck with Carl.

Too late for this week; come back next Friday for Dead Pool Round…who the hell knows. Rick Rostrom (whose records are better than mine) says it’s not really #100, it’s #97. Because I not math at good.

Have a great weekend, all!

August 18, 2017 — 9:08 pm
Comments: 29