Cultivate Simple Podcast in iTunes Chiot's Run on Facebook Chiot's Run on Twitter Chiot's Run on Pinterest Chiot's Run on Flickr RSS Feed StumbleUpon

Making Infused Vinegar for Non-Toxic Cleaning

March 5th, 2012

The Non-Toxic cleaning series will be coming up soon. I’ve been taking photos of my cleaning products, writing down the recipes I use and researching answers to some of the questions that were asked in the Q & A Post (there’s still time to get questions in). Until that happens, I have a quick project for you that you can use in some of the recipes that will appear during the series.

Making infused vinegar is so simple and easy you won’t believe it. Simply add citrus peels to a jar or your bottle of vinegar. Yep, that’s it. I know so easy. For the photos I used a quart jar, but you can simply add the peels to your gallon jug of vinegar if you want to.

I’m guessing lavender, mint, or other herbs would work just well, perhaps roses would too. I’m not much of one for floral scents so I’ve never tried that. I stick to grapefruit since I buy them by the case this time of year and have grapefruit peels coming out of my ears.

You won’t believe how the vinegar smell simple disappears. This is perfect for those of you that want to use vinegar to clean but don’t like the smell of plain vinegar (my sister being among that group). This would even make a great febreeze alternative. Did you know that vinegar will mitigate odors? Mix this 50/50 with some water and spray on and around furniture to keep them smelling fresh & clean.

What scent would you like best for cleaning? Are you a floral or a fruity kind of person when it comes to cleaning products?

NON-TOXIC CLEANING SERIES
Stocking Your Non-Toxic Cleaning Kit
Learning to Love Castile Soap
Make Your Own: Foaming Soap
Make Your Own: Infused Vinegar
Make Your Own: Multi-Purpose Cleaner
Make Your Own: Color Safe Oxygen Bleach
Friday Favorite: Charlie’s Soap
Friday Favorite: Twist Sponges
and more to come

I Spy With My Little Eye…

December 2nd, 2011

Yesterday afternoon was really beautiful; the sun was shining and it was in the high 30′s temperature wise. Perfect for digging up the back hillside and planting some of the tulips that have been waiting in the garage. About dusk, I wandered back into the maple grove to look around and much to my surprise I noticed some of the my mushrooms logs had started to produce mushrooms!



I guess all that warm rainy weather we’ve been having the last couple weeks made them decide it was time to start fruiting. One of the ‘Pearl Oyster’ logs was producing huge masses of beautiful blonde mushrooms. They were a bit frosty because the temps dipped down into the mid 20′s overnight, but I picked them anyways. The texture might not be quite right, but they’ll still be flavorful in a venison stew.

These logs were inoculated way back on April 21st of this year. I ordered these spawn plugs from Grow Organic this spring, they’re also available from Fungi Perfecti.

Inoculating logs with mushroom spawn couldn’t be easier. Basically you drill holes in the logs 3-4 inches apart in a diamond pattern, pound in the spawn plugs, cover with wax and let sit in a shaded area. After a few months you can start watering the logs to encourage fruiting, or you can let them fruit naturally during spring and fall rains. (since folks were asking in the comments I figured I’d add that the logs are supposed to continue to produce mushrooms for 3-5 years depending on the size of log used and the type of wood used).


I used three different kinds of spawn plugs to inoculate logs this spring, Pearl Oyster, Hen of the Woods (Maitake) and Shiitake. I also inoculated some wood chips in the garden area with Garden Giant and Elm Oyster mushrooms spawn.

After plugging your logs with spawn you’re supposed to put some wax over the holes to keep bad fungus and bacteria out. I will use beeswax next time, but I didn’t have any when I did these logs so I used some extra cheese wax I had in the pantry. I’m not keen on using a petroleum product but it was all I had. I have since purchased some organic beeswax to use this coming spring when I inoculate more logs.

I’ve declared my love of mushrooms before, so being able to grow my own makes me a very happy camper! If all continues to go well with this experiments I’ll be inoculating many more logs this coming spring to keep up enjoying mushrooms by the bushel! My harvest tally for this picking was 3 pounds – not bad indeed!

Have you ever grown mushrooms? Do you think you’d like to try? Yay or nay on mushrooms in your food?

Make Your Own: Brown Sugar

February 12th, 2010

There are lots of things you can make at home for much less than you can buy them at the store. Not only does it save money, but it saves time as well. No more quick trips to the store to get brown sugar when you start baking and realize you’re out. I’ve been making my own brown sugar for quite a while, mostly because it can be difficult to find organic brown sugar when you live in a rural area and it’s pretty expensive when you do actually find it! I definitely couldn’t get organic brown sugar for less than $1.50/lb, which is about what this costs me.

To make your own brown sugar all you need is white sugar and molasses. I use organic evaporated cane juice sugar (not Sucanat) and unsulphered organic blackstrap molasses. The general recipe is 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of molasses. You can adjust the molasses amount or use a different kind of molasses to suit your tastes. I’m partial to blackstrap or sorghum molasses. I also like to use at least 2 Tablespoons or a bit more, since I like dark brown sugar.

After adding the molasses to the sugar all you have to do is mix. This can take a while, you can use a mixer if you’re making a large amount, the whisk attachment works very well for this task. Mixing by hand is quicker I think, that’s what I do. Using a fork seems to work best. Don’t worry if you have small lumps of molasses in the final product.

Another added benefit to making brown sugar at home, is that it’s always fresh. It smells wonderful and it’s always nice and soft. It has a much deeper flavor than store-bought brown sugar, which I really appreciate!

Now you can add this to the growing list of things you can make at home. You’ll have a constant supply of fresh brown sugar for baking all kinds of delicious goodies.

Have you ever made brown sugar at home? Any other great things you make at home you’d love to share?

Make Your Own: Ghee or Clarified Butter

January 7th, 2010

We’ve been trying to find local alternatives to things we buy from far and wide. One of the things I purchase regularly is organic olive oil from California. I won’t quit buying and using olive oil since it’s a healthy and delicious, but I have been trying to find something to replace it in some recipes. A couple years ago I read about ghee. Ghee is basically clarified butter or pure butter fat. Because the milk solids have been removed it has a higher smoking point (won’t burn as easily as butter) and it is shelf stable, so it keeps much longer than butter. It’s super easy to make and it’s a delicious addition to many dishes.

Since you’re all making your own butter after yesterday’s post, I figure you’d need a way to use it up. To make ghee you need unsalted butter, you can use fresh homemade butter or store bought butter. I’d recommend finding some good quality local pastured butter of course, but you can use the regular stuff from the grocery. The final flavor and color of your ghee will depend on the quality of your butter. I generally use at least a pound of butter, usually two.

Put the butter in a large heavy bottomed saucepan, it will sputter a bit so you want some extra room and a taller pan. Then place the pot on medium heat and melt the butter without stirring.
When you first melt it, foam will appear. The butter will sputter a bit, this is the water boiling out of the butter. Gradually as you boil the butter the foam will disappear and you’ll end up with a beautiful golden liquid that smells wonderfully buttery! Keep an eye on your ghee, you don’t want to end up with browned butter ghee. It usually takes between 20-30 minutes depending on the temperature and the amount of butter you’re melting.

It’s time to remove from the heat when you see golden brown milk solids on the bottom of the pot. You can use a spoon to move some of the foam aside to keep an eye on the milk solids. You want to remove from heat before the milk solids become too brown. Pour through a strainer fitted with some several layers of cheesecloth to strain out the butter solids (which our pets love). Then pour the ghee into a jar or container of your choice, I prefer a wide mouth mason jar.

You’ll end up with the most beautiful golden liquid. This liquid will harden when it cools becoming opaque. Depending on the temperature of your home you final product can be between the consistency of a thick liquid that you can pour to a scoop able thickness. Your ghee does not need to be refrigerated, but you can if you want to. You can use ghee like you use oil, for frying eggs, making popcorn and sauteing veggies. It makes a wonderful addition to just about any dish.

Have you ever had or made ghee?

Make Your Own: Butter

January 6th, 2010

We’ve been getting raw milk (also called Real Milk) from a local farm for a few years. Actually I should say that we’ve been getting raw milk from our cow for a few years. The sale of raw milk is illegal in Ohio, so we participate in what’s called a “Herd Share” program. We bought a cow and we pay the farmer’s to take care of it for us. It’s legal to drink raw milk if it comes from your own cow. This milk is as fresh as you can get, we pick it up the day after it’s milked, it’s unpasteurized and unhomogenized. Since it’s not homogenized the cream rises to the top, it’s also called cream line milk. If you look closely you can see the cream line in the milk on the right.

We pay about the same price for our organic pastured milk as we would for organic milk from the store. We are happy knowing that the farmers that take care of our cow are getting a much better wage for their work than from an organic dairy. It is really delicious milk, it’s hard to explain; but it tastes like milk, unlike the white liquid you buy at the grocery store. It’s fresh and delicious and slightly sweeter than grocery store milk. It’s also wonderful because I do not have lactose intolerance problems like I do with store-bought milk.

Making butter is super easy, all you need is cream and a jar. Of course you can make it in the mixer or the blender, but I prefer to make mine the old fashioned way. I simply shake the cream in a jar until it’s butter. It really doesn’t take long, between 10-20 minutes depending on the cream, temperature and how good of a shaker you are. I prefer to make mine in half gallon jars, but you can use quart or even pint, although the more cream you use the bigger you final batch of butter will be. Fill your jar 25-50% full of cream, I try to keep mine around 40%. The more cream you have in the jar the longer it takes to form butter because there’s less movement of the cream. I also like to keep the cream at about 50-60 degrees to make butter. If it’s too warm the butter will be kind of a whipped butter and it will be more difficult to rinse and knead later on.

While shaking you’ll notice the cream turn from liquid to whipped cream. It will become harder and harder to shake as it gets thicker. Eventually you’ll notice that it will break, this happens when the butter separates from the buttermilk. You’ll definitely notice the difference in sound at this point. As you are shaking, notice the color of the cream as well, it will start to turn more and more yellow as the fat molecules group together.

It will now be easy to shake and you’ll notice the butter will start clumping together. I like to rinse mine when it formed marble sized pieces. Pour the buttermilk out of the jar, but keep the butter in. Make sure you keep your buttermilk, it makes great pancakes, muffins or biscuits. Add some water back into the jar and shake again, do this two or three times until the water is just about clear. Empty butter into a strainer to strain off water. Transfer the butter into a bowl and knead with a spoon until it form a ball, you’ll notice you’ll be working water out of the butter. If the butter is too soft put in the fridge to harden a bit before kneading.

You can add salt to your butter if you’d like, I prefer to keep mine unsalted and sprinkle some salt on my bread after buttering. Homemade butter is really tasty, it has a different taste than store bought butter. I sometimes let the cream sour a bit before churning to make a cultured butter, this only works with raw cream though, you’ll have to add cultures to store bought cream if you want cultured butter. The first time I made butter I was amazed at the color, the stuff I buy from the store is almost white, as you can see mine is very very yellow. This is because the cows we get our milk from are pastured.

We’ve been making most of our own butter since we started getting raw milk. It has become part of our weekly routine, we make about a pound and half of butter each week. Around the holidays I sometimes have to buy butter from a local dairy because I don’t have enough to make all the holiday goodies. Making butter is a great hands on educational activity to enjoy with your kids as well.

Have you ever made butter? Do you prefer butter or margarine?

Also Find Me At
Reading & Watching
Resources

Shop through these links and I get a few cents each time. It's not much, but it allows me to buy a new cookbook or new gardening book every couple months. I appreciate your support!

Tropical Traditions
Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c
About

This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.

Blogroll
Admin