Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Make your own Curd Draining Bag

Artisan quality curd draining bags can be expensive. Even though you can use a pillow case to drain soft cheese it is nice to have professional equipment. These curd bags are easy and inexpensive to make.

Make your own Curd Draining Bag


.36” wide Bleached Muslin (or a looser weave fabric if you prefer)
Cotton Draw String Cord
Single fold 7/8” Bias Tape

1. Cut 13 ½” of muslin. Fold is at the bottom, salvage is at the top.
2. Sew a ¼” seam on each side. Turn and press

3. Sew a 5/8” seam on each side enclosing the first seam.


4. Cut 2 12” lengths of bias tape


5. Open and press ends

6. Sew top of bias tape to the top of the bag, turn bag wrong side out

7. Fold the bias tape down and press


8. Sew the bottom edge of the bias tape


Repeat with the other side

9. Cut 26” of cord


10. Thread the cord through the bias tape


11. Turn inside out to finish


Finished size 12 1/2" X 17"

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rustic Cranberry Pecan Boule

This is my Rustic Sourdough Bread recipe with the addition of dried cranberries and toasted pecans. Perfect shared with good friends on a crisp fall evening with aged farmstead cheddar and a big glass of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Rustic Cranberry Pecan Boule
This recipe is done by weight, not volume
Day 1
12 ounces Rye Starter
34 ounces bread flour
18 ounces cool water
1/2 cup whole grain flour (rye, wheat, spelt etc. or a combination)
2 Tablespoons sea salt

Combine all ingredients, knead 5 minutes, rest 20 minutes

Add 4 1/2 ounces lightly toasted pecans and 4 1/2 ounces of dried cranberries

Knead 5 minutes

Turn into an oiled bowl, cover and ferment at room temperature 4 hours

Shape boules, turn into floured basket cover with plastic wrap retard overnight in the refrigerator

Day 2

Remove baskets from the refrigerator and replace the plastic wrap with a proofing cloth to avoid condensation

Proof at room temperature 6 hours of until internal temperature of the dough is 66F

Turn basket onto a cornmeal dusted baking sheet, score the top of the boule with an X

Bake in a 400F oven for 35-45 minutes until well browned


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Folklore and Fancy

One thing I look forward to in the fall is collecting hedge apples in the woods. The brilliant chartreuse color looks like something found only in a fairyland. Hedge apples are the fruit of the Osage Orange Tree. The large grapefruit sized inedible fruit has been placed in households for ages. Folklore touts the hedge apple as a holistic way to ward off spiders and creepy crawlers through the early winter months. The Hedge apple's average lifespan is about 3 months when gathered fresh off the tree. Even though they lose their scent after a few weeks fresh ones smell like oranges and pine.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Goat Parmesan

Goat Parmesan Aged 10 Months

Since the early middle ages Parmigiano-Reggiano has been the pride of Italy. Prized as highly as gold, today there are Italian banks that have temperature controlled vaults specifically designed for aging Parmigiano-Reggiano. Huge 80-85 pound wheels stacked 33 feet high are cared for by specially trained bank employees for up to two years. No wonder the banks are willing, Parmigiano-Reggiano retails in the U.S.A. for $26.00/lb so each wheel is worth approximately $2,000. Artisan cheese makers offer up to 25% of their cheese inventory as collateral to keep cash flowing while the cheeses age. So you see, cheese in the cave is like money in the bank!

Goat Parmesan

Warm 4 gallons of fresh goat milk to 90F

Sprinkle 1/2 tea of thermophilic DVI culture onto the surface of the milk, allow it to rehydrate a few minutes then incorperate it into the milk

Cover and ripen 40 minutes

Dilute 1 teaspoon of rennet in 1/2 cup of cool water add it to the cheese milk, stir well

Maintain temperature for 45 minutes until clean break is achieved

Cut curd to 1/4 inch, rest 10 minutes

Stir curd with a large whisk while raising the temperature to 125F over an hour, let curds settle

Drain curd, place in a cheese cloth lined press

Press at 5lbs for 15 min, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 10lbs for 30 min, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 15lbs for 2 hrs, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 20lbs for 12 hrs, remove from press, submerge in a 20% brine solution 20hrs

Dry at room temperature for 3 days turning daily, when dry coat with olive oil every few months
Ripen at 53F for 6 months or many years,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bohemian Rye

It really hasn't been until resent history that baking ovens could be found in every home. In fact the village oven can still be found throughout the Middle East and North Africa. For centuries the village oven was fired every other day and women would come from outlying hamlets bringing their baskets of dough ready to rise on the hearth. Gypsies and vagabonds would join the townswomen bringing news from afar. Baking was a festive, social event. This rustic loaf has its roots in ancestry such as this!

Bohemian Rye

Day 1 ~ Preferment
1 cup Rye Starter
1 cup luke warm water
1 cup bread flour
1 cup freshly ground rye

Combine and ferment at room temperature overnight

Day 2 ~ Final Dough
Proof Yeast ~ add 2 teaspoons of instant yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
     2 cups  freshly ground Rye
     2 cups  bread flour
     2 Tablespoons brown sugar
     2 Tablespoons oil 
     1 Tablespoon salt
     1 Tablespoon caraway seeds
     Preferment from Day 1
Knead for about 7 minutes adding more bread flour as needed to achieve a light elastic dough that is not too sticky.
Rise 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size
Divide into three round loaves, proof in basket about 30-40 min
Turn basket onto a cornmeal dusted baking sheet
Bake at 375F for 35 min.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dolly Freed: One Awesome Possum!

The summer I graduated from high school, in the shop-till-you-drop era of consumerism and Reaganomics, I read a book that saved me from the yuppie expectations and showed me how simple life could be. The timing was magical.

Though it might be difficult to present Dolly Freed as an artisan she is so inspiring that I can't help but mention her. Dolly wrote Possum Living in the rescission area of the 1970's. She was18 and had left school in the 7th grade at the age of 12.

This is a survival guide, but not for the reasons you might think. Dolly's brand of survival is of the 'Bloom Where You're Planted' sort. It posses the question, if you were to strip away all the trappings of your life who would you be? Could you survive? Could you be happy?

There is a sad, troubling thing happening between the lines. Aside from Dolly's pluck and cheer there is the underlying truth that she is living in poverty with an alcoholic father who seems at once overly permissive and possessive of his daughter. Dolly fully adopted his desire to live outside the money economy and at times, even the law. She is passionate but still very young and idealistic.

After writing Possum Living Dolly put herself through collage without a student loan and went on to become an aerospace engineer at NASA. When Dolly decided that she wanted a career closer to nature she went back to school and got a masters in environmental education with a specialization in biology. Later, when there was no funding to start an environmental education program she developed a pilot program on a shoestring budget that was an overwhelming success.

In the 2010 reprint Dolly includes an afterward that explains how she moved forward from Possum Living keeping her love of nature and simplicity while living within 'the system'.

You don't need to go the whole Possum, raising rabbits and chickens in the basement and distilling moonshine in the kitchen, to benefit from Dolly's wit and wisdom!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Goat Milk Swiss

My Goat Swiss

 The green rolling hills of Emme Valley of Canton Bern in west central Switzerland are home to a culinary wonder. A wild propionic shermanii bacteria settles on the clover growing in the high alpine pastures. Historic cheese mongers would gather the clover blossoms and make a tea to inoculate their cheese milk. The action of the propionic bacteria forms CO2 and as the cheese aged it would swell forming large holes.

Very few home cheese makers can achieve the classic large eye formation. For that, you need to make very large wheels. The bigger the cheese, the more CO2 becomes trapped forming eyes. On small cheeses, the CO2 escapes through the surface without making the classic big eyes. So, while french milkmaids were making their petite soft fresh cheeses in the villages, men of the Alps made huge 200 pound wheels of this hard cheese that could survive the rugged journey down the mountains.

For home cheese makers the Emmental class of cheeses are best made in the spring or fall when the air temperature tends to be ideal for eye formation. Although this cheese is traditionally made with milk from local cows such as the Swiss Brown, Simmental, Fribourg and Eringer, I find it works equally as well with my goat milk. I usually double this recipe but still use just 1/2 tea propionic shermanii.

Emmental (Classic Swiss)

Warm 2 gallons of fresh goat milk to 90F

Sprinkle 1/4 tea of thermophilic DVI culture onto the surface of the milk, allow it to rehydrate a few minutes then incorperate it into the milk

Dissolve 1/2 tea propionic shermanii into 1/4 cup of warm milk, add it to the cheese milk and stir

Cover and ripen 15 minutes

Dilute 1/2 tea rennet into 1/4 cup of cool water, add it to the cheese milk and stir well

Maintain 90F for forty minutes until you reach break

Cut curd into 1/4 inch cubes, rest 10 min

Use a whisk to continue cutting the curd, raise temperature to 120F over 40 minutes

Hold temp at 120F for 30 minutes while continuing to stir with the whisk

Drain curd, place in a cheese cloth lined press,

Press at 10lbs for 15 min, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 15lbs for 30 min, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 15lbs for 2 hrs, remove from press, flip and redress
Press at 15lbs for 12 hrs, remove from press, submerge in a 20% brine solution 12hrs at 70F

Ripen at 53F for one week, wash daily with brine
Ripen at  60F-65F for 3 -4 weeks foe eye development, wash daily with brine
Ripen at 53F for 3 months, wash weekly with brine


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Best Laying Hens for your Farmyard Flock

I love looking out my kitchen window and seeing my chickens, they are so much fun to watch. I used to spend hours going over poultry catalogs choosing  interesting chickens for my flock. I would select rare breeds or those I thought were especially pretty. Over the years I've adopted a few favorite breeds primarily for egg production, ability to forage and longevity. I also insist on birds that don't tend to get scruffy looking and I won't tolerate aggressive breeds that hen peck.

Road Island Red
The Road Island Red is the quintessential little red hen. With deep red plumage, an easy going personality and excellent performance she will lay her dark brown eggs consistently for years. They are cheerful, excellent foragers and one of the most docile hens you will ever meet.

Barred Plymouth Rock
 The Barred Plymouth Rock is beautiful and hardy. They can be broody and are known to be excellent mothers. During WWII  the Barred Rock was the most popular farm chicken. They happily lay their light brown eggs year round and are considered 'the Hereford of the poultry world'.

Black Star
Although I gravitate toward heritage poultry out of principal, I can't help but love the Black Stars. They are a hybrid cross between a Road Island Red rooster and a Barred Plymouth Rock hen. In my opinion they are the total package. Not only do they have a sweet dispossession, they are extremely prolific layers and easy keepers.

This Red Leg is five years old and still laying almost every day!
 The Red Leg certainly bares mentioning. This is another old cross using a Road Island Red rooster and a White Leghorn hen. This plucky  little white flecked hen is an egg laying machine. They are so tame they will follow you around like a pet! I had one that thought she was a goat. No matter how many times I'd put her to bed in the coop the next morning she'd be sleeping on the back of one of my goats. When the goats came in for milking she would come into the milk parlor and proudly lay her light cream colored egg in a coiled up hose! Red Legs are getting hard to find but Central Hatchery has wonderful, hardy chicks and I recommend them.

Monday, October 10, 2011

And the Winners Are....

I want to thank every one who entered the Organic Goat Milk Lotion Giveaway!!! I'm thrilled so many of you are interested in my products. Now, to select the winners...

First I assigned a number to each entry, there were a total of 57. Then I went on over to I set the integer generator to select 3 random integers since I wanted three winners. I set the value between 1 and 57 in order to correspond with the number of entries. I clicked 'Get Numbers' and voila, the numbers appeared!

#52 Vickie Bell
#40 Leann Lindeman
#22 Paula Bowser

Congratulations to the lucky winners! Please contact me via facebook or at providencehillfarm @ sbcglobal dot net with your mailing address and I'll ship your soap and lotion right away. I plan to do regular, frequent givaways so if you didn't win this time watch for the next givaway during the Holidays!