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Making Butter (step-by-step instructions with pictures)

November 19, 2010

After Thanksgiving, we realized that two people really didn’t need an entire pint of whipping cream (no matter how good Chris’ pumpkin pie is). Instead of throwing it out, something in the back of my mind remembered that while you can’t freeze cream, you can turn cream into butter, and then you can freeze butter!

Simply pour your whipping cream into a jar; if you have a marble or something like it (I used a polished jade stone), throw that in. It will help you move through the heavy foam stage into clumpy butter ball stage.

Drain off the whey, put the butter balls in a bowl and then rinse in cold water.  Use a spatula to “knead” the balls, releasing any other whey that may be trapped inside; do this under a thin stream of cold water.  Drain off all water, knead in some salt or other herbs/spices if making a compound butter.

We packed our butter, seasoned with a little fleur de sel, into ramekins lined with cling wrap.  We froze these, and were thrilled with the slightly sweet, pale yellow butter.

2/3 of a pint of whipping cream in a jar

Post-whipped cream stage - deflates & starts separating

Butter bits clump into balls; whey becomes thin

Rinse butter balls in cold water

Kneading butter, rinsing with cold water

Kneading done, drain all water

Pack into mould

Finished product! Enjoy or Freeze!

Gingerale!

August 24, 2010

I never really thought about soda as being something you can make at home.  But when a confluence of signs made it clear that I should definitely try this, I was surprised by how easy it is to actually make gingerale from scratch!

Equipment:

1 clean 2-Litre pop bottle (or as folks like me from out East call them – Torpedo bottles!)

Microplane or fine grater

Funnel

Ingredients:

2 to 3 tablespoons of fresh grated ginger

1 cup of sugar (seriously!)

Juice of 1 lemon (I used the bottled stuff – 3 tbsp equals 1 lemon according to the bottle)

1/4 tsp of baker’s instant yeast

cool water (called for filtered, I used tap water and crossed my fingers)

Step 1

Instructions:

  1. Put the funnel into the empty pop bottle, poor sugar, yeast, and grated ginger into the bottle.
  2. Add some water, swish, then add more water until nearly full (leave 1 inch of “head room”, or fill until bottle start to narrow again).
  3. Cap tightly, swish to dissolve sugar.
  4. Leave at room temperatures for 48 hours.  The bottle will get quite hard as the pressure builds.  Swish gently once or twice a day to ensure residue gets mixed in (there will be “pulp” like stuff that stays in the bottom of the bottle)
  5. Put in fridge to cool down.
  6. When ready to drink, very slowly open cap, let it vent if needed.  It may be smart to do this outside, in your sink or bath tub!
  7. Poor (you can strain this into glasses, as I have).

Step 3

Step 4

Step 7!

It’s hard to describe the taste of the gingerale – it’s subtle but then again the ginger flavour is much stronger than conventional soda.

In future batches, I would definitely reduce the sugar, and/or add more ginger.

I am sold on homemade pop – I can foresee a mojito-inspired version in my future with lime and mint!

Resource: Crumpets & Cupcakes Website

Growing Ginger

August 18, 2010

After reading that you can grow ginger in a pot, I was quite excited to try this.  After all, I always over buy when it comes to ginger (how can you possibly judge how big a piece you need to get a tablespoon of grated ginger, after peeling and such are taken into consideration?)

Ginger - about 5 weeks after planting

Following the instructions in the book I read, you simply plant a piece of ginger that’s starting to sprout in loosely packed soil and keep the soil wet.  You can either find a piece at the grocer that’s starting to have potato-eye like nubs, or you can hope your leftover piece grows these before it dries out/goes moldy🙂

I uncovered some of the ginger I had planted to show you what I mean by the “sprouts”.

Ginger uncovered, "sprout" on right knob

Be patient – it took about 4 weeks before anything happened – I felt very silly watering what looked like a pot of dirt.  Once the green shoot came up, it grew quickly.  From a tiny compact stalk to a shoot about 4 inches long.

Ginger - approx. 6 weeks

It seems that the shoot is composed of layered leaves that eventually fold out into more-standard horizontal leaves.  The ginger root itself seems to have grown too, specifically getting more “bulbous” where the shoots have grown.  There are definitely other roots growing too (though I didn’t dare uncover more of the ginger than I did for the previous picture) – it has become quite firmly rooted into the ground.

Resources: The Backyard Homestead (book)

Getting Slugs Drunk

August 12, 2010

There’s nothing more depressing than seeing your new tiny zucchini or other fleshy veggies being slowly eaten by a slimy slug.  Even if you catch ’em in the act, it’s impossible for the little veg to recover after having little holes eaten into them (not to mention the mucous!)

I used Irish Cream Ale😦

A tried and true solution is to put a small container into the ground near the most delectable plants filled with beer.

Dig a small hole big enough to burry a disposable container.  Make sure that the rim of the container is at ground level (not below, or it will get filled with dirt; not above as it will be too high for the slugs to get in).

Then, sacrifice a beer (or most of a beer – as I did), putting enough in so that a slug that gets in will be fully submerged.  Refill as necessary.

I put this particular slug trap out yesterday afternoon.  So far 3 slugs (and one spider) have perished.  Make sure the dog doesn’t drink this nasty sludge.

While it’s a sad thing to give up a beer, I’m hoping this saves my poor zucchini and butternut squash which are already suffering with a pretty nasty mold case.

Squash Mold

August 10, 2010

Squash Mold

Remedy?

I’ve grown zucchini and other squashes very successfully for several years now, but this is my first garden in Vancouver.

Unlike the super dry climate of Edmonton, the humidity in the West Coast seems to be a perfect breeding ground for mold.  As a result, squash mold is taking over my zucchini and acorn squashes😦

While there are tons of chemical solutions, I wanted to try something more natural.  While there does seem to be agreement on a dilute milk or baking soda solution applied by spray, I wanted to try the option a coworker suggested: chamomile tea.

I’m hoping it works.  Update in a few days!

Resources: E-How article

Training a grape vine

August 10, 2010

There is nothing unromantic about a grape vine – the shady leaves, the curly tendrils, and then grapes – pretty amazing.

I got started on my garden really late this year.  We moved in late May, then had a bunch of trouble getting the ground ready for plants.  In any case, I was very excited to find a 6-inch pot Bath grape vine from Canadian Tire.  The plant was already crawling out of the pot – they had staked it, but the vine was sending out tendrils all over dying for some kind of trellis to grab on to.

Instead of paying big bucks for a fancy trellis, I used some sticks from a tree that got cut down previously, and some jute twine.  I also took advantage of the fence and the stake the plant was already attached to.  After planting two sticks deep into the ground, I ran 5 taught lines of the twine horizontally at various points across the plant’s height, then began winding the grape vines gently around the lines.

After a few weeks, the vines became nicely trained along the lines and had grabbed on tightly.  I made sure to pull the vines further along the twine to really enhance the horizontal growing pattern.    I’ll update with another picture in a few days🙂

Update:  Here’s what it looks like now!

Resources: Bath Grape description; The Backyard Homestead (book)

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