Friday, December 30, 2011

Bone Broth

A poet is someone
Who can pour Light into a cup
and raise it to nourish your
beautiful parched holy mouth

Tis the season folks to be preparing and using your bone broth.  Winter is a good time to give yourself some extra nutrition, building up your immunity while you're at it.  Found in many traditional cultures throughout the world as a mainstay of the diet and as a base for traditional dishes, bone broth or stock, is not only extremely healthy but also greatly enhances the flavor of your food.  Sally Fallon, the author of Nourishing Traditions writes in detail about the constituents and properties of bone broth which can be prepared from fish, poultry, beef, goat, venison, or any left over bones you have on hand.  The key is the gelatin that acts as an aid to digestion and can sooth and treat many disorders of the digestive tract.  So here are the basics of how it's done...

Bone Broth (see Nourishing Traditions specific recipes)
1)  Start out with the bones and any other leftover meat, or parts from the animal, several sorts of bones are best.  The feet, hooves, knuckles, gizzards, or shells (if using shrimp) all make a good hardy stock.  Remember you want the gelatin to be released into the stock so using those knuckles, marrow bones, and feet yields the richest broth.
2)  Place the bones in a very large pot with 1/2 cup of vinegar, cover with water and let stand for 1 hour.  Meanwhile if you have any meaty bones you can roast them in the oven until browned then add them to the pot. 
3)  Bring to a boil, remove all scum that comes to the top.  After skimming reduce heat and add any herbs you like, peppercorns, thyme, sage, etc. 
4)  Simmer stock for at least 12 hours or as long as 72 hours.  I have heard of some people making stock in their crock pots.  As the stock simmers all week long they dip in, here and there, for a mug full or to cook in their rice, then adding water again so the stock liquid does not diminish. 
5)  When you are ready to use your broth remove from heat, strain, cool, and store in glass jars.  Take a moment to notice the bones in the pot.  They should crumble easily showing the marrow.  (This is a great moment to share with children to show them what is inside their skeletal system!)  It is really convenient to freeze the stock for future use. 

As for you vegetarians out there, I know how very foreign this may all sound to you.  I was once in your shoes, but making bone broth gives me a sense of satisfaction that I am providing my family (mostly my growing children) with some essential components of nutrition they can not get elsewhere in their diet.  But if the idea of bone broth is just way too nauseating for you, here are my suggestions...

1)  Either have someone make it for you and use it in your cooking instead of water or,
2)  Make a vegi version which will not have the same constituents as the bone broth but is still full of healing properties ...

Nutrient Dense Vegi Broth
In a large pot of water add the following,
-lots of fresh ginger root
-one or two chopped onions
-fresh chopped garlic
-fresh sliced burdock root
-2-4 large strips of kombu seaweed

Bring to a boil and simmer for a couple of hours making sure the water level doesn't drop too much, you can always add more water.  The stock will become a dark brownish-green color.  Strain and store in glass jars in the fridge or pour some in a mug and add a spoonful of miso to enjoy immediately.  This broth is very good with lots of vegis, mushrooms and udon added then cooked as a soup! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Window Farming

I stumbled across this inspirational video and link about window farming that I had to share with you.   There is no end to what the creative mind can produce.  So no more excuses, even if you have little or no soil to plant in where you live you can still grow your own food (for almost free).  Watch and find out how!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Goat Cheese and Whey Bread

Cheese making is a whole world of it's own as I am beginning to discover.  I've been making cheese weekly with our goats milk.  Two out of the four of us in our home are enjoying it.  I suppose there are many ways you can use fresh goat cheese but the only way it has been consumed at our house thus far is spread on freshly baked bread, lightly toasted with olive oil.  It almost makes your taste buds explode.  I have mainly been making chevre and fromage blanc, although I did try mozzarella, which did not turn out aesthetically pleasing but tasted good and melted successfully on our pizza.  We are very interested in trying the harder, aged cheeses in the near future.   A great resource for supplies, recipes, etc. is New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.
If you want to try a soft, fresh cheese yourself, it is pretty easy.  There are basically only four steps involved. 

Start with at least a gallon of unhomoginized milk of any kind (cow, goat, sheep, yak, whatever you have)...
1)  In a large non-aluminum pot, heat your milk to between 86-92 degrees.  You don't even really have to use a thermometer, if you don't have one just heat the milk until warm but not so hot it burns your finger (in the old days this was called blood warm).

2)  Either add your packet of culture for the cheese you want to make (fromage blanc, chevre, etc.) or add 1/2 cup of white vinegar per gallon of milk.  Stir for about a minute or two, cover and set in a warm place overnight or for half of the day.

3)  Uncover the pot and you should see that the curds and whey have separated.  Strain the curds into a cheese cloth (I always use a cloth napkin or a piece of clean cotton fabric).  Catch and save the whey to use later.  Hang your cheese to drain in a clean place for another day or so depending on how hard/dry you want your cheese to be. 

4)  Unwrap the cheese and turn it into a large bowl.  Add cheese salt or sea salt to taste and whatever herbs you prefer, our favorite is with lots of dill.  Mix well with a fork and refrigerate, eat right away, or label and give to friends as a homemade holiday treat.

As for the by product, I have been very satisfied using the whey we have left over after hanging the cheese.  I usually get quite a lot from each batch and have been either mixing it into the chicken feed or using it to make bread.  The chicken's egg production goes up significantly when they are fed whey and the bread comes out moist, as well as with a higher protein content. 

Both of these are jars of whey are from the same batch of cheese. 
The milkier jar is from the first 12 hours of straining, the clearish jar is the second 12 hours.

I finally found a great bread recipe using 100% whole wheat flour.  I know lots of you out there are going gluten free so this is obviously not for you, but for those of us that like to grind our own wheat berries into flour or are just averse to using white flour, this bread comes out surprisingly moist and light. 

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread (adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, by Deborah Madison)

The sponge                                                                      The bread
2 1/4 c whey, warmed                                                    1/3 c olive oil
1 tbls. active dry yeast                                                    2 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c unsulfured molasses                                              3 1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c gluten flour
2 c whole wheat flour

Stir warm whey, yeast, molasses, gluten flour, and 2 c whole wheat flour until smooth.  Scrape down sides of the bowl, cover, set aside in warm place for an hour until foamy and double in volume.

you can buy yeast in bulk and store in the refrigerator

Gently stir down sponge, add oil, salt, and one cup of the flour and beat until smooth.  Add the remaining flour in one cup increments until you have a shaggy, heavy dough.  Turn out onto floured counter and knead in flour, a few tbls at a time, until dough is smooth but still a little tacky. 

Place dough in an oiled bowl, turn it to coat the top, cover and set in warm place until doubled, about 1.5 hours.  Punch dough down, divide into two loaves, shape and place into greased bread pans, cover again and set aside until dough has rises to edge of pan, about 45 minutes.  Preheat oven to 375 and bake in center of oven until browned, 45-50 minutes.  Cool completely before slicing. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Babies

 "There is a privacy about winter which no other season gives you…
Only in winter … can you have longer, quiet stretches when
you can savor belonging to yourself."
 –Ruth Stout

Our first litter of bunnies was born Friday.  Only one of the two does we bred ended up pregnant, delivering eight little bunnies.  They are now 4 days old and it is clear by their markings they are not pure American Blues like we thought.  Not to much of a disappointment since we are so excited to welcome them to our farm and watch them grow.  They couldn't be more adorable and Mama seems to be doing a great job. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Not for the Faint of Heart

In humble gratitude for those whose lives nourish us.

Even though I would say that this past Friday was one of the top ten most transformative experiences in my life, I thought twice about doing this blog post.  What convinced me to post these pictures and to tell this story was my strong desire to share with you how amazing, profound, and empowering, as well as, physically and emotionally exhausting this experience was for us.  Two days ago we harvested animals for food for the first time in our lives.  Let me begin by telling you that the only meat my husband and I eat is fish.  We do prepare chicken and turkey for our two children on occasion (when they ask for it), but for the most part we subsist on mainly a vegetarian diet.  So with that said this process was even more intense for us.  The main reasons we decided to harvest one of our goats was that we did not want to breed her and I wanted to provide some clean wholesome meat for my sons who really want to eat meat and seem to have constitutions that benefit from it.   

We had some very generous friends come and help with the slaughter, they basically did most of the work, the blessing, skinning, cleaning, and removing of the fat.  (We did not record or take pictures of this process because it seemed wrong and out of respect for the animal.)  Our very experienced friends told us it was a really good thing we chose to slaughter her now because she was so fat she may have become diseased in the near future.  You can see above the fat hanging on our walnut tree after it was removed from the carcass.  It's important to us to try and use as much of the animal as we can, so we plan to research making tallow and hope to turn this glob into soap. 

After removing the head and hooves and then burying the innards we left the carcass to hang for several hours and turned our attention to the hide.  

freshly skinned hide on the fence

The hide was washed then moved into the garage and carefully scraped.  It took a long time to remove all the extra fat and bits of meat left attached. 

Our eight year old was a very brave helper, as the hide will eventually be his in the end.  He agreed to help after he realized that wearing latex gloves was an option. 

  When the hide was clean and smooth, we poured salt all over it to draw out the moisture.  We will move it into the sun to dry and try finishing the tanning process when we have extra time. 

As if that wasn't enough of a big day, our friends offered to come back later that afternoon to help cull two of our roosters.  This time I really wanted to participate and was excited to learn the process start to finish.  I have to say it was surprisingly simple and not as gross as I expected.  The smell of the boiling water on the feathers was stomach turning, but once I got over that it was actually easy.  We talked at length about how amazing it is that we as humans have this innate way of seeing and accepting animals as food, something I have not been physically able to do until now that I have been part of the process.  It is a wondrous blessing to be able to have a hand in the food you consume, to be connected to the plants and animals that nourish you, to truly understand and appreciate the full cycle.  

Once we got most of the feathers off we came inside to the kitchen to wash the birds and clean off the feathers that were sticking.   

I was educated on how to remove the feet and head, how to remove the organs, and which organs are good to save and cook--heart, liver, kidneys, neck. 

I was then shown how to cut and prepare the heart, liver, and kidneys of the goat, Moroccan style.  They were washed, cut in inch sized cubes, and cooked in olive oil with cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper, and tomatoes.  Those that tried it said it was quite flavorful. 

The two roosters were marinated in olive oil, salt, pepper, lots of garlic, and lemon juice.  We put them in the fridge to sit for a couple of days.  Today I roasted them with potatoes, butternut squash, leeks, and carrots in a slow oven for several hours.  The result was fantastic, and was served for my Mom's birthday dinner along with some roasted goat which I seasoned heavily (with cumin, ginger, turmeric, onion, salt, red pepper, and lots of olive oil) and cooked for a very long time. 

So after cooking a little and sharing some with friends, the rest of the goat harvest is simmering on the stove, slowly becoming bone broth while some meat is hanging in the garage.  I am planning on seasoning it to make jerky this week.  And that's it folks, the story of our incredible first animal harvest.  Slaughtering our own animals for food is not an experience I would want to have very often but it feels really good to learn how and to know that we are capable.  The best part of it all is that our boys participated and really appreciated the meat.  That makes it all worth while.   

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Bruno caught in the act
It's finally breeding time around here.  Three weeks ago we bred our two American Blue rabbits for the first time. If all goes as planned, with a gestation period of 28 days it looks like we only have a few more days to wait for little bunnies.  I just finished making, larger more comfortable quarters for the ladies. 

And even more exciting, the bucks have arrived!  Welcome to the boys, our guests for a month, from Green Faerie Farm in Berkeley.  Ellis and Bruno are pure bred Oberhasli, a very old dairy breed originating in Switzerland, also known as Swiss Alpine.  Oberhaslis tend to be quiet, sweet natured and hardy, have high milk production, and are fairly rare in the U.S.  Only six months old but fully equipped with the right parts,  they sure have been entertaining us all with their hilarious antics.  And what's all the hoopla I've always heard about how stinky the billies can be?  These guys are actually pretty mild smelling.  Dare I say, their scent is almost reminiscent of patchouli.  Did I also mention how adorable they won't be easy letting go of these two in a month.   Gestation for a goat is five months and their heat cycle is every three weeks.  We originally planned to breed only Bella and Rosemary, but since the boys are here and good breeding stock is hard to come by, we may go ahead and breed all four of our ladies.   After observing the herd for a few minutes it's clear that Bella and Rosemary have been waiting for some male attention their whole lives!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Yogi Chai

"Hospitality consists in a little fire, a little food,
and an immense quiet."
-R.W. Emerson

We are very fortunate to have a multitude of friends from all over the world.  Spending time with these friends throughout my twenties I received a wonderful gift and lesson, the gift of hospitality that comes so naturally to so many other cultures.  There is nothing like visiting with kind people, feeling nurtured and cared for, feeling loved.  Hospitality is very important to us, so one small way we like to make our guests feel at home, especially on cool autumn or blustery winter days, is by serving a sweet, warm cup of homemade chai.  Now if you are looking for a recipe for authentic Indian chai, this is not it.  This is more of a modified version I made up, a cross between my desire to use medicinal herbs as food and my love of sweet, warm, creamy, drinks.  I have been told by many that it is quite good, so I hope you enjoy.  And don't be discouraged by the lack of precision in my recipes.  Just try it and make it the way you like.  I guarantee you will fall in love with the spicy way your home smells from the all day brewing, not to mention how good the ingredients are for you.

Yogi Chai (adapted from Recipes For Living In Big Sur)

Herbal Ingredients and some of their properties:
Cinnamon bark- aromatic herb, stimulates digestion, relieves indigestion, useful in early stages of flu, relives sore throats
Black pepper- digestive tonic and liver support, relieves flus/colds, sore throats, stimulates circulation, combined with clove/cinnamon boosts immunity
Fresh ginger root- stimulant of peripheral circulation, promotes perspiration in fevers, promotes gastric secretion, relieves flatulence and colic, an effective gargle for sore throats
Whole cardamom pods- useful in reliving colds/flus, coughs, sinusitis, aids digestion, respiratory problems, poor circulation, and boosts immunity
Whole cloves- relives stomach ache, indigestion, flatulence, nausea, toothache, useful in colds/flus
Fennel seeds- relieves flatulence and colic while stimulating digestion and appetite, increases flow of mother's milk, calming effect on bronchitis and coughs
Astragalus root- immunomodulator, helps anemia and chronic immune deficiency

 half of a handful of green cardamom pods

Add half a handful of cinnamon bark (or several cinnamon sticks), black peppercorns, green cardamom pods, whole cloves, whole coriander, fennel seeds, a generous amount of fresh ginger root cut into slices, and a few slices of astragalus root to a large stock pot filled with filtered water.  If you are serving this for guests, start the chai in the morning or several hours before you plan on serving.  Bring to a boil and let simmer all day. Enjoy the heart warming aroma that fills your home.  As the chai simmers it will turn a rich, dark color.  Eventually you should taste for desired spiciness because the black pepper and ginger can give a really strong kick.  This is also the point where you would add your black tea bags if you must.  Before serving, sweeten with honey and add the milk of your choice.   I use whole milk or (half and half) but if you're vegan or lactose intolerant I think almond milk is good in the chai too. 
Yogi chai will keep in the refrigerator for several days if you haven't added the milk yet. 

Enjoy your cup of happiness!

Thursday, November 17, 2011


I have always had a passion for wild foods, fungi in general I find quite mysterious.  However, the warnings about those species that can be fatal have been a deterrent for me to gather wild mushrooms myself, even after taking several classes and reading a handful of books.  I still feel the best way to harvest mushrooms is with an expert!  A recent hike in our local parts with a new friend and neighbor of ours (who happens to be a mycologist) led us on an expedition to find chanterelles.  These delicious wild mushrooms have a wonderful scent some say smell like apricots but I think they are sweet and earthy with a delicate meaty flavor.

We learned that any and all edible mushrooms should be well cooked before consuming, as raw mushrooms have carcinogens which over time can be toxic.  (So much for those white button mushrooms in your salads.)

To prepare the chanterelles first gently wash the dirt off, being careful not to rub the gills to much since all the flavor is in there.  Then remove any brown parts, cut or tear the remaining clean mushrooms into small pieces and saute in lots of butter with an onion.  It is important to saute them for a long time, until the water is all cooked out and they start to look very meaty.  They also need to be cooked right away after being harvested.  I washed and cooked a huge basketful then put them in pint jars to freeze.  I will pull them out here and there for omelets, quiche, pasta dishes, or whatever we like mushrooms with (except these are way better than any grocery store mushroom).  You can really eat them with any meal they are so yummy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Creating Traditions

 Our first annual harvest party took place last weekend.  Give thanks for delicious food, great company, games, crafts, really good pizza...and we finally fired up the cob oven.  As the sun went down we enjoyed hot cider, caramel apples, popcorn and the bonfire.  It was wonderful to see so many local folks come out. 

Thank you to all who attended and for helping us create a new autumn tradition.  Now that the party is over it's time to get to work, turning our attention back to the garden.  We have lots of starts that need to go in the ground (a little late), a huge pile of manure to work into the soil, compost piles to build, ponds to finish, and more seeds to start.  The list seems never ending but the weather has been beautiful.  We will get in what we can before the rains arrive. 
Happy harvest season to you all!

lettin' the pizza dough rise

firing up the oven

our first wood fired pizzas
autumn inspired crafts

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Milk Flow

It's been a busy week and what's new you ask?  Three more lovely goats..we are excited to announce.  Two Sable Sanaans (currently in milk) and one Kiko meat goat.  As a first time milker, I can't express the satisfaction I feel in greeting these ladies each morning with an empty pail, and walking back to the house with it full.  I never thought of myself as much of an animal person but I am finding such solace and pleasure in tending to and playing with these goats.  They each have such distinct personalities not to mention that they are supplying us with the creamiest, most nutritious raw dairy products.  I know it is an adjustment for our family to use goat milk in our diet.  It definitely has a different taste so I'm starting out disguising it in other foods that I know the kids will eat (typical momma move).  We have used it in our morning pancakes, smoothies, made some yogurt, paneer cheese, and on the list for cream of course!  I have the feeling I might quickly develop one of those cheese making obsessions I've read so much about.  Chevre and mozzarella are on the list for this week.  Can't wait.  Here is an easy paneer recipe adapted from William Sonoma's Savoring India, by Julie Sahni.  (You can use store bought cow's milk too.)  This was so yummy, it barely made it to the dinner table with hungry hands snitching off the counter. 

I started with a little under a gallon of milk.  Poured it into a pot and gently brought it to a low boil. 

I then added 1/2 cup of white vinegar, you can also use lemon juice.  Stir until the curds separate from the whey, about 1-3 minutes.  Remove pot from heat, then use a fine mesh cheese cloth or a cloth napkin to strain the whey out.  (You can save this and water your plants with it, use it in your compost, or feed it to your chickens.)  After you have successfully strained the whey out and the curds are fairly dry, pour or dump them into a square or rectangular casserole.  Use the back of a spoon or a spatula to flatten the curds down.  Cover with the cloth napkin and press them down with something heavy like a pot full of water.  Leave the curds like this for an hour or so.  They will become firmer and easier to handle. 

When you return to your curds they should look like a brick of extra firm tofu.  Cut the cheese into small squares or triangles and dust them with flour.  For you gluten free folks out there, any type of flour will do, I have tried sweet white sorghum flour and it is super yummy.

Next fry your cheese in coconut oil or the high heat oil of your choice until golden brown and there you have your own homemade paneer.  Serve with any saucy, spicy dish.  It's really good. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Delicious autumn!
 My very soul is wedded to it,
 and if I were a bird
 I would fly about the earth
seeking the successive autumns.
 - George Eliot

Autumn is my favorite time of year, a time when we celebrate the bounty in our lives and a time when we begin to slow down, move inward.  The change in season brings so many beautiful colors, the air turning cool, butternut squash, fresh pumpkin pies, crisp tart apples, onions and bubbling stew on the stove, the smell of cider brewing all day long.  I suppose that's enough but really, I begin to feel more grounded, a sort of settling in.  This year I have immensely enjoyed stocking our makeshift pantry with as much of summers goodness as time allowed.  Some of the last jars to go on the shelves are filled with honey from our resident bees. 

I waited and waited for this honey.  The beekeeper in the family decided to change his philosophy and follow the Warre beekeeping method (which is supposed to be more bee friendly), so there was alot less human honey harvesting going on around here.  But I have to say it was worth the wait.  Above is a super from one of our hives.  Each super is filled with eight frames and each frame is full of honey.  This year however we used top bars instead of frames, which just means that instead of giving the bees an already built rectangular base to start with they had to build their own comb in any shape they please. 

Since the top bars are frameless we couldn't use our homemade extractor.

we soon discovered another method of extraction.......packing the honey comb into jars.....


covering with wire mesh............


and inverting over a larger glass jar so the honey filters through the mesh but the beeswax stays behind.  The process goes especially fast when jars are placed in the warm sunshine...(just beware of robber bees!)

Walter William's "Harvest"