I know I talk a lot on this blog about eating locally, supporting your farmers market and area farms, and reading food labels. I have also started to become more interested in producing much of my own food. I am very much about taking personal responsibility for my diet, health and well-being, and that is what has led me to this point. I have found that living in Florida, if you want to be in control of what you put in your body, you have to be very proactive about it. When I lived in New England it was much easier, I could just shop at Whole Foods (when I could afford it) or Trader Joe’s (which was always affordable) and local farmstands, and I was pretty much guaranteed finding good, quality, and local foods easily and for a reasonable cost. Just look at the labels on many of your organic items, and those that are not from CA are most likely from a New England state. In Florida, where there doesn’t seem to be as much focus on local foods (besides it being a buzzword) it has challenged me to really take control of the situation myself. Which in itself is a good thing.
By the way, if this is a topic you care about, you should really join myself and other food bloggers in discussing the problem of obesity, in our Stuffed: An Insider’s Look at Who’s (Really) Making America Fat, Giveaway that is going on through the month of October. You could win a copy of the book!
Last year, I started with making my own ice cream and bread – foods that are pretty much staples in this house. I have always made my own sauces and really never used much in the way of pre-packaged meals or heavily processed foods. But in this day and age, that in and of itself really doesn’t prevent you from ingesting crap like corn syrup, MSG, colored dyes and a myriad of other chemicals, like artificial sweeteners, that are in more foods than you can imagine, if you don’t take the time to read those labels and educate yourself about what is in pre-packaged foods.
To that end, I decided instead of wasting hours at the supermarket reading labels, I would start making more stuff on my own and I would start with things that we eat a lot of. For me, dairy was one of the first things that I switched over to purchasing exclusively organic. Once I started eating organic eggs and drinking organic milk, I found that chronic stomach aches I had been experiencing went away. So when I decided I wanted to start making some more of my own foods, I decided to start with dairy. I have always been a cheese lover. Besides Wisconsin, which is known for cheese, a serious contender to the title of cheese state, would have to be Vermont, the land of Cabot, and tons of local artisanal cheese producers. I have always had a thing for dairy, and I love working with dairy products. So making cultured dairy products seemed like a good place to start.
I also purchased several different cultures for dairy products that we consume often – yogurt and kefir, as well as things I wanted to try my hand at – fromage blanc, buttermilk and creme fraiche. All of these items can be made in the Yogotherm.
So last week, now that things have settled down after our summer of visitors, I decided to make fromage blanc and yogurt. I was able to get a half gallon of raw goats milk from the farmers market that I used to make the cheese. It was a very simple procedure. Heat the milk to 86F, add the culture, stir to mix and then let cool to a72F and then transfer to the Yogotherm. Twelve hours later, transfer to a cheesecloth and let drip for another 6-12 hours. The cheese turned out very good. It is a bit dry, I think I might have squeezed too much liquid from it, so we have been using it as a crumbling cheese on to of eggs, pasta and salads. It does have a wonderful goat milk flavor and I would certainly make it again and probably monitor the liquid better.
Having that success under my belt, I decided to try my hand at yogurt. This was even easier. Use any kind of organic milk ( I used 2% Stonyfield) and ¼ cup of organic dry milk powder. Mix the two together and heat it to 180F. Let cool to 116F and add the yogurt starter. Place in Yogotherm for at least 6 hours, or until the consistency of thick cream.
This yogurt is really THE BEST I have ever tasted. It is not super sour like many plain yogurts, but it still has that quintessential tangy yogurt taste, yet there is a bit of sweetness. I am really enjoying it in the morning or as a snack with pumpkin butter and peanut butter mixed in and seeds with dried fruit on top. It has also been wonderful to cook with. I think next time I make it, I may try making it with goats milk. I have almost exclusively switched over to drinking goats milk. This is in preparation for making room for goats in my life…a pretty major lifestyle change, I will be talking about in a few months in more detail