The Miracle Cure

I apologise for my few and infrequent posts this week. When we got back from vacation, I came down with a cold. Not just any cold though. The type you can only get from the stale recycled air of airplanes where your lymph nodes swell to the size of golf balls, your head throbs, your body aches and all you want is a nice rock to crawl under until it’s all over. So my blog (not to mention my children) suffered from more than a little neglect over this past week. Which brings me to my post for today. I happen to know of a wonderful miracle cure that has been accredited with nothing less then resurrecting the dead. What is this wonderful stuff? And why did I not have any on hand last week? Well this miracle cure is home made bone broth, and unfortunately I had finished off the last of ours just before we went on vacation.

Bone broth is one of the most nourishing foods available. It is full of minerals in a for that the body can easily utilize, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and many trace minerals . It also contains all of the broken down material from the bones connective tissue and cartilage. Things like glucosamine and condroiton, which you’d pay an arm and a leg for as pills at the drug store. It also contains gelatin, which aids digestion and is high in protein.

I roast a lot of whole chickens at home, and I always make broth after picking all of the meat off the bird, so I almost always have home made bone broth on hand. I had turkey bones in the freezer from the turkey I roasted for Thanksgiving (only half the bones would fit in my crock pot at a time, so I threw the rest in the freezer for a second batch of broth) but bone broth is a 2-3 day process, and I just really didn’t feel up to it last week. So here is my bone broth process. It’s very easy, and is very worth the time.

I start with my crock pot. It can be done in a pot on the stove, but I like to cook mine for about 36 hrs, and I feel more comfortable leaving the crock pot on over night. Some people simmer all day on the stove, cover and turn the stove off at night, and then return to a simmer in the morning and simmer the rest of the day. Do what ever works for your situation. Into my crock pot goes 1 whole chicken carcass (or half a turkey carcass), veggie scraps, a splash of vinegar, a stick of kombu, a small handful of whole pepper corns, and one or two bay leaves. I put the lid on and set it to low, and let ‘er go. I usually start the broth in the evening after I’ve roasted a chicken for dinner, let it cook all night, all day, all the next night, and then strain and bottle it the next morning.

I keep a Ziploc baggie in my freezer for veggie scraps. As I’m cooking during the week, I throw all onion skins, carrot peels, celery tops, and sometimes potato peelings into the bag in the freezer to wait for when I’m ready to make stock. This way I get all the vegetable goodness into the stock with out having to use up “new” vegetables, and much less goes to waste. The vinegar helps to draw the minerals out of the bones and into the broth. Kombu is a kind of kelp seaweed, and is high in minerals including iodine. When I switched from iodised commercial salt to sea salt, which does not contain added iodine, I worried a little bit about my family getting enough of this important mineral so I started including the kombu in my bone broth to give it an iodine boost. After some more research I am no longer concerned about our iodine intake, but there is so much good stuff in the kombu that I still use it. I’ll do another post soon about iodised salt and our need for iodine. I do not salt my broth until I’m cooking with it. I find it easier to control the amount of salt this way. So here’s my broth after it’s been merrily simmering for about 18 hours:

Once it’s been simmering for about 36 hours, I strain it into a pot on the stove, and then boil it down to reduce the volume by about half. I do this mostly for space reasons. I reconstitute it when I’m ready to cook. Then I put it into canning jars, and into the fridge. Occasionally I can it, but usually not. It gets used pretty fast in my house. One crock pot full of bones usually yields about three quarts of stock for me. Here’s my stock after it’s been in the fridge for a few hours:

I remove the layer of fat on top right before I’m ready to use a new jar. It makes a nice seal over the broth and keeps it fresh longer. I stir all the sediment back into the broth. I figure it’s just the good stuff from the bones and connective tissue, and after a quick stir you can’t even tell it’s there. Notice how rich and brown this broth is. In comparison, the canned broth from the grocery store looks remarkably similar to pee. So don’t waste those precious bones from roasted chickens. You can even use the bones from the rotisserie chickens you get at the grocery if you’re not up to roasting your own. Grandma knew what she was talking about when she said chicken soup can cure anything that ails you.

Homemade yogurt

I love yogurt, but it can be expensive. Especially if you buy it in those cute little individiual serving cups with the foil lids. Store bought yogurt often has preservitives, stabilizers, thickening agents and loads of sugar. And talk about excess packaging. Thankfully yogurt is very easy to make at home, and no, you don’t need any fancy equipment. Just a quart sized jar, a few tablespoons of prepared yogurt (either store bought or from a previous homemade batch) and a place to keep it warm.

If you’re using store bought milk, you’ll want to pasturize it first, to make sure there are no organisms present to compete with the yogurt cultures. Put 1 qt of milk into a small sauce pan and heat to 180*, stirring frequently. If you don’t have a thermometer, this is not rocket science. Just heat it to just before it boils, and then turn off the heat. Let it cool down to about 110*. If you’re using raw milk, just heat gently to 110* so as not to distroy the benificial enzymes in the milk. Once the milk is at about 110*, stir in about 1/4 cup of prepared yogurt. For your first time, it’s fine to use store bought yogurt. Just make sure you get one with live active cultures. Dannon is a good brand that’s easy to find. I like to use Brown Cow, found in Whole Foods or the healh food section of a regular grocery store. It’s easiest if you stir a little milk into the yogurt first, and then stir the thinned yogurt into the rest of the milk. Then pour it into your quart sized jar, and rubberband a towel or coffee filter over the mouth of the jar.


Now all that’s left is to find a way to keep it at about 110* for the next 8-18 hours. There are several methods for doing this. I have a gas oven with a pilot light, so I just pop it in there and leave it. Similarly, if you have an electric oven you can put it in with the oven light on. Beware with using your oven, if you need your oven to cook dinner, remove your yogurt before preheating your oven or you’ll kill your culture. In my last apartment my oven didn’t have a pilot light or an oven light, so I had to get a little more creative. I bought a heating pad (like for a bad back) for about $9 at a drug store. I would put my yogurt on the heating pad on low, and cover the whole thing with a dishtowel for insulation, and this worked fine. Some other methods are to use your crockpot on the warm setting with water surrounding your jar, or using a small insulated cooler with warm water, of find a yogurt maker at a thrift store and let it do the incubating. I haven’t tried any of these, but have heard good results from people who have.

The yogurt needs to stay warm from 8-18 hours. The longer you incubate it, the thicker and more tart it will be. I usually aim for about 10 hours, but the process is flexable. When it’s done, just pop a lid on your jar and toss it into the fridge. I like to flavor my yogurt as I’m eating it, so that I always have plain yogurt in the fridge for starting my next batch. I like to stir in maple syrup (as in the first photo) or honey. You can also use jam for fruit yogurt, and it wouldn’t be bad with a little chocolate syrup if you’re feeling particularly naughty.

Applesauce Adventure

I love fall. I love apple season. I love apples. I know the harvest season is now over, but I discovered that one of our local orchards still has Gold Rush apples in storage so I picked up 20# for apple sauce. If I had to choose one tree to plant on our land when we buy a house, this would be the one. I love things that double task, and there’s nothing better than a plant that provides both shade and sustenance. These apples are the best tasting apples I’ve ever tried. They are very flavorful, sweet and tart. And properly stored they keep until June of the next season. I also picked up some Golden Delicious from the grocery to round out the apple sauce. I was looking for a sweet apple so I didn’t need to add much sugar, but if I were to do it again I would opt for a more flavorful apple like Jonathan.

The above picture is a great example of the franken-fruit developed by the commercial grower. I happen to know that these Golden Delicious were shipped to Ohio all the way from Washington state. And that is rare, because usually you have no idea where fruit in the grocery is from. Compared to the Gold Rush, the Golden Delicious are frankenishly huge, and unnaturally pristine. And wouldn’t you hate to be the person who’s job it was to put that little sticker on every single apple? The Gold Rush apples are smaller, and not nearly as pretty, but in all the chopping I did I really came to appreciate the natural beauty in the imperfect apples. And the difference in the flavor is amazing. Biting into a Gold Rush apple is like taking a swig of fresh apple cider. The Golden delicious were very bland, with a bitter skin and almost no flavor. So buy local and organic when you can, it really makes a difference.

So here are three batches of apples all going at the same time. I had my three largest pots on the stove, and I still had three batches after these were done. I need to keep my eye out at the thrift store for a larger stockpot. I’m really not one for recipes or measuring. I’m a “fly by the seat of my pants” kinda girl in the kitchen, but I can give a general run down of how I turned these beautiful apples into yummy applesauce. After all of the apples are cored and sliced, they went into the pan with some water in the bottom, a stick of cinnamon, a dash of salt, a squirt of lemon juice (really brightens the flavor of the apple sauce) and some Sucanat (natural cane sugar). The lid goes on and they simmer for about 20 minutes, until all the apples are good and mushy. A quick turn through the food mill, which you can see in the second picture (thanks Rachel for letting me borrow it) and you’ve got this:
A huge pot of applesauce keeping hot while waiting for the water bath to come to a boil. If instead of canning it you let it continue on the stove, you get apple butter.
This stuff is so good it really should be illegal.

Thirty pounds of apples and 14 hrs later and I can sit back and gaze admiringly at my apple sauce. I turned out 7.5 quarts of applesauce, and 3 pints of apple butter. I think I’m in apple heaven. This process wouldn’t have take nearly as long if I had a canner that could handle more then 4 pint jars at a time. One more thing to keep an eye out for a the thrift store.

Sweater: Deconstructed

And then reconstructed to fit much better.

I get 99% of clothes for myself and the boys at the thrift store. I love my thrift store. I have so many good things to say about thrift shopping that it deserves it’s own post. Soon. But today we’re talking about a sweater.

It’s a beautiful sweater. The colors are so earthy and warm, perfect for fall. I love the rolled neck line. I hate the fit. I can never try things on at thrift stores because I always have a baby on my back and a preschooler in the cart and honestly, for $.50 I can afford for a few things to not fit quite right. Usually things that don’t fit get turned around and immediately re-donated, but I thought this sweater deserved one last chance. It’s a size Large, and I need it to be about a medium. I had already taken in the side seams by about two inches, but it fit very poorly in the shoulders. It really needed to be taken apart and overhauled. So here is what I did:

First I took out the serging from the previous attempt at taking in the sweater. Then I created a new arm scye about an inch inside the old one.

Next I trimmed the excess from the sleeve. Here are all my pieces once they’ve been cut down to size:

I also opened the sleeve about half way down the arm. The sweater was baggy under the arm too so I made the new arm scye a little smaller. When this is sewn up it will blend gently into the rest of the arm. Then I opened the sweater flat, and pinned the sleeve to the shoulder, right sides together.

For most projects that use the serger, I don’t bother to sew before I serge. It’s an extra step and I have very little patients. But for a project like this I do sew first. That way I can try it on before I serge. A single sewing machine seam is a lot easier to rip out then a serged seam if for some reason it’s not quite right.

I tried it on at this point, to make sure the shoulder seams were in the right place. You want this seam serged before you sew up the side seam and underarm, so better to make sure it fits now. Once you’re sure the seams fall nicely, go ahead and serge or zigzag stitch this seam.

Next you’ll sew and then serge the side seams. Start at the hem and sew toward the armpit. Once to the point where the body meets the sleeve, line up your seams and sew on into the arm seam. Side seam and under arm seam are done in one long seam. Again you may want to try it on before you go back and serge this seam.

To finish your seams, thread all of your loose threads through a large eye needle and thread back through the first half inch of serging.

And you’re done!!