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Cooking Over the Fire

June 4th, 2010

Mr Chiots and enjoy cooking this over the fire. It’s fun and relaxing, not to mention the food is great and it doesn’t heat up the house. Earlier this week we roasted a chicken on the fire out back. We BBQed it, shredded it and enjoyed it on some freshly baked sourdough bread with some homemade mozzarella cheese. Now that’s a delicious summery meal!

We find ourselves using the fire in any way we can, roasting peppers for canning as well as boiling down our maple syrup in the spring. We’re lucky that we live in an area where open fires are allowed, I know many towns have rule against them.

Do you ever cook over a fire? Do you have any weird rules about open fires where you live?

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?

Another Reason to Go Local

January 28th, 2009

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time you know I’m a dedicated localvore. I try to eat as locally as possibly for health, economic, and environmental reasons. The main reason we eat locally is for our health and safety. When you read about tomatoes, spinach, peppers, some peanut butter is tainted with salmonella, and that high fructose corn syrup contains mercury, it makes you really want to know where your food is coming from. I’m surprised more and more people aren’t searching out locally grown and raised products the more we hear about tainted food.
peanut-butter-on-knife
I know that the peanut butter I grind at the health food store isn’t tainted with salmonella. I know that the peppers and tomatoes I pick in my garden aren’t full of bacteria or pesticides either. I know that the pastured beef and chicken from my local farm are not filled with hormones, chemicals, antibiotics and other weird stuff.
basket-of-tomatoes1
Daphne Miller, MD is a family physician and associate professor at the University of California San Francisco, she wrote this great article on Civil Eats. Give it a read, I’m sure you’ll be heading to the health food store for your next jar of freshly ground peanut butter! Here’s a quick quote from her article:

Who knows. Perhaps this latest outbreak of salmonella, along with a will for change, is finally the catalyst we need. We will become a much healthier nation if our community health programs and community food systems team up, if our family doctors and family farmers link arms and, most importantly, if the two Toms, our Secretary of Health and our Secretary of Agriculture, take each other out for lunch and discuss ways to collaborate—hold the chicken satay, please.

Do salmonella outbreaks make you consider eating more locally or growing your own? If you already eat locally or grow your own, what are your reasons?

Not So Appetizing

October 25th, 2008

After reading this article, a CAFO beef steak doesn’t sound so appetizing anymore. This line really got me: Animal feed legally can contain rendered road kill, dead horses, and euthanized cats and dogs.

Give me pastured please!
Happy cows = happy people here at Chiot’s Run.

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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.

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