Honey Roasted Pecans

Half a Pecan

Back in April our Pecan nut shade trees on the farm produced their usual huge crop of nuts. Most of the nuts were eaten by our resident Cockatoos and time was short so we were only able to harvest a few bucket loads. This year we decided to try a new recipe. Honey roasted Pecans (hopefully one day from our own honey too).

This is how it went:

– Enough Pecan nuts were shelled and halved to fit onto a roasting tray, which was then warmed up to 120°C (250°F) for 10mins

– The warm Pecans were then tossed and coated in honey and a very small amount of salt was sprinkled in.

– The nuts were placed back into the oven and baked for about 45mins – 1.5hrs or until slightly caramelized.

– Once cooled the nuts were eaten/stored in an airtight container (once they cool they become crunchier).

“Yellow Box” honey sourced from the local farmers markets.

Pecan shelling equipment

Chalk board fridge

The whiteboard marker wasn’t working for us.

Last week I started writing some of our cheese/dairy recipes on our fridge, however the whiteboard marker that I was using didn’t want to wipe off very easily (our fridge is pretty ugly and old anyway) so I thought I would turn it into a chalkboard. All you need is some fine grain sand paper (about 70c a piece) used to roughen the fridge surface, a can of chalkboard paint ($12), a paint brush, some sponge offcut, masking tape and mineral turps for wash up.

Cheap and Simple

Sponging the second coat

Happy New Year!

Buttermilk Pot Cheese & Biscuits

Fresh Buttermilk Pot Cheese

I still had left-over Buttermilk after drinking some and making Quark so I decided to try Buttermilk Pot cheese. Pot cheese is half way between cottage cheese and farmers cheese and is similar to Cream Cheese and Ricotta. I ended up using it as a base for an Avocado dip. Buttermilk Pot Cheese consists of only Buttermilk and salt and varies from Quark in that it is heated to a higher temperature, which seemed to separate the curds and whey to a greater degree than in the Quark making process.

Make it!

1. Obtain or make 2L (2 quartz) of buttermilk and a little salt and heat slowly to 93°C (200°F), stirring to ensure the milk doesn’t boil.

2. Remove from the heat and pour into a heat resistant clear tub (see photo).

3. Let sit for 2 hours until the curd has separated from the whey. The whey will look like a yellow watery substance and the curds will be kind of chunky and white.

4. After 2 hours pour the curds and whey into a double layer of butter muslin, draining the whey into a container to be used later. Let the Pot cheese sit and drain for 1 hour at room temp or 5-6 hours in a sealed container in the fridge.

Pouring into the butter muslin

It ended up getting late during the time I made this so I let it drain over night, which created a drier cheese. Hint: Dont over-drain unless you like dry cottage cheese ;).

5. Salt can be added at this point to reduce the risk of spoiling and to add flavour. Refrigerate and keep for up to 1 week.

Whey: Lots can be done with the whey that is left over from cheese making. I dilute it with some water and use it to feed my plants, in particular the tomatoes, which tend to tolerate a little acidity (lemon juice was used to make some of the buttermilk). Be careful if using whey from acidic sources (Any cheese making where acid was added to aid the curdling process) as some plants don’t like acidity. There are many other uses for whey and there is a great blog post by The Prairie Homestead that lists 16 of them.

Using whey to water pot plants

Buttermilk Biscuits (Cookies)

I STILL had left over buttermilk after making the Pot Cheese so I decided to make some Buttermilk biscuits. Buttermilk is great for baking. It has acidic qualities, which react with baking soda (an alkali) in a flour based batter. The reaction that occurs causes carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles give whatever you are baking a fine, moist, yet stable texture. These bickies are best eaten when they are warm straight out of the oven, however you can freeze them. This is a really simple recipe, it takes about 20 mins to make and yeah its a little unhealthy, but its not intended to be eaten all at once.

The Ingredients are:

1/2 cup butter (made during an earlier post)
1 cup sugar
1 egg (will hopefully one day come from our own chooks :))
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 cup buttermilk (made during an earlier post)
2 cups plain (all purpose) flour

Cook it !

Buttermilk Biscuits

1. Mix the sugar and butter together with an electric whisk

2. Add Soda, Vanilla extract and Egg

3. Mix in the flour slowly while adding small amounts of Buttermilk to keep the moisture up.

4. Form small dollops of biscuit mix onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 180°C (350°F) for 10-15 mins or until lightly browned.

Dairy – Yoghurt & Quark

Heavy based pots help with heat distribution

Many of the soft, un-aged cheeses and dairy products are very easy to make. Yoghurt is one that is particularly easy. Yoghurt is produced by adding a yoghurt culture to milk, which can come in either a packet form or you can use store bought, living culture yoghurt. The introduction of yoghurt culture leads to the bacterial fermentation of the lactose in milk, which then reacts and leads to the production of lactic acid. Lactic acid is what gives the final product its tangy flavour and lumpy characteristics. Buying a commercial yoghurt maker is a good idea if you are going to make a lot of yoghurt as it regulates the yoghurt to the correct temperature throughout the incubation period, however I will explain another option.

Yoghurt

1. I used 1L of whole store-bought milk and 1/4 cup of store bought yoghurt which contained living cultures for my first batch and it turned out well. It is a very cost effective way to make yoghurt as you only need a small amount of bought yoghurt to culture milk.

Adding yoghurt culture using store bought yoghurt

2. Firstly heat and stir your milk to 85°C (185°F). A heavy bottomed pot is ideal for this purpose as it will reduce the risk of scalding your milk.

3. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to about 45°C (113°F) before adding 1/4 Cup of yoghurt (containing live cultures), this will ensure the bacteria have ideal conditions to function.

4. Place the mixture into your yoghurt maker or an insulated cooler with a few jars of hot water and leave for roughly 8-12 hrs (depending on how tart you would like the yoghurt) I found that 10hrs in a commercial maker produced good results.

5. Turn the yoghurt maker off and allow the yoghurt to cool a little before refrigerating.

Breakfast time tastes so much better 🙂

Quark

Quark is an unripened German cheese that is similar in consistency to sour cream. The Quark I made contains nothing but buttermilk and has quite a bland, and at the same time refreshing taste. Quark is hard to find in Australia therefore it usually has to be home-made, which is very easy as it requires no additional ingredients (rennet, etc). Some dairy producers, mainly in eastern Europe, do add a small amount of rennet to make a firmer quark, however the German Quark is usually smoother and creamier. Note: to make Quark from store bought pasteurised milk you must add a live buttermilk culture to your buttermilk or see my earlier post on making your own buttermilk.

The process

Fresh Quark can be a nice substitute for sour cream

1. Start with 2 L (2 Quartz) of buttermilk from the butter making process or homemade buttermilk (I used 1L for my first batch and it only made a small amount of Quark so I suggest that if you can, use 2L).

2. Pour the buttermilk into a ceramic, oven-safe pot and place in an oven for 24 hours. The oven will not be turned on, however if you can keep the pilot light on it will help to maintain an ideal temperature for the Quark. Because I don’t have a pilot light on my oven I placed the Quark into my yoghurt maker for about 12 hours, which produced good results.

3. Strain off the liquid through a double layer of butter muslin lining a colander. Wrap the sides over the Quark to cover the top and let drain for over 2 hours and under 6. Place a small plate on top of the Quark to encourage drainage of the whey.

4. The whey can be used for cooking, watering your plants or feeding the cat :). Refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Sniffing out the whey

Dairy – Kefir

Kefir (pronounced Ke-fear) Ingredients. The green stick is an airlock for the culture sachet.

Kefir is a probiotic, fermented milk drink. Sounds kind of gross doesn’t it, but it is supposedly one of the healthiest cultured dairy products that we can make in our kitchen. Kefir originated in the Caucasus mountains in Russia where shepherds carrying fresh milk in their leather pouches would occasionally find a fermented beverage after their days work. It is prepared by inoculating milk with Kefir grains (small tapioca like grains that grow and produce additional grains during fermentation). Traditional Kefir was made in skin bags, hung over a door way and purposely knocked by passers-by to help with the fermentation process.

Let sit at room temp, in a dark place/dark containers for 24-36 hrs

The Process

I decided to start making Kefir with a Kefir culture rather than Kefir grains. The culture also reproduces and can be used up to 3 times per packet/half packet, etc.  I plan to use Kefir grains in the future to give the traditional way a go.

Note: All utensils should be very clean before use. That means either sterilized or washed in hot water with detergent before air drying.

1. Obtain Kefir grains or Kefir culture sachets.

2. Stir in the culture to the recommended rate or 1/4 cup of Kefir grains to 2 cups of milk.

3. Leave covered in a dark spot or a dark jar for 24-36 hrs at room temp depending on how strong you would like your Kefir. At the end of this time your drink should be thick and some whey may be present on the surface (just stir it back in).

Straining the thicker Kefir off for re-culturing.

4. I strained the kefir through a fine strainer to catch about 1/3 cup of thicker Kefir culture to re-culture the next batch.

5. Pour your Kefir into a clean/sterilized container and refrigerate for 12hrs before consuming. I used some old spice bottles (see photo) so we can have a small Kefir ‘shot’ each day. Mmmmm 🙂

Half a litre of Kefir was made for the first batch, but I found that 1 litre would have been better so I just used the thick Kefir that I collected and added it to another 1/2 litre of milk. It ended up re-culturing well (I kind of wasn’t expecting it to work) and it should be ok to use once more.

Re-using spice bottles for Kefir 'shots'.