It’s February and we’re already thinking of sorbet and Scrub Jay fledglings.
Yes, it’s early February and the Wild Plum outside our kitchen window is in full bloom. It’s always the first tree to bloom on our little homestead. It grows on the shady North side of the house and gets it’s water from the underground spring that also feeds the giant Redwood further back in the yard. It is always the indicator of approaching Spring. It has served as the sunning spot for the resident Scrub Jays for years and years. It was here when we bought the place and was probably planted by earlier generations of these same Birds. It’s smack in front of the “garage” doors and no human in their right mind would plant it there.
We feel blessed by this tree in so many ways. The blossoms, the birds, the fruit, a beautiful natural dye from it’s leaves, plum jam and… sorbet!
A couple of years ago my Wild Plum jam did not set and as disappointing as that was it lead to a new discovery. I realized I could simply pour it into the little Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker (a Recycletown find and easily found in thriftshops) and make sorbet. I add some dried ginger but you could add fresh grated too. Plum Ginger Sorbet is a huge hit around here. We always make it during our Spring Herb Camp and the kids love it.
“Thank you” little plum tree for being so giving…
At our house we make two and a half quart jars every two weeks. We are blessed here in Petaluma to be surrounded by organic dairies. The Clover processing plant is literally a few blocks away. We pick up a half gallon of organic milk at the grocery store. My friend Karen has a cow-share here in town so she’s getting raw milk. I keep meaning to look into that. That would be the way to go.
So, most recipes have you heat the milk to 114 degrees. The milk we buy at the store is already pasteurized. So, I only heat it to 80 degrees just to get it warm enough to warm up the culture I’m putting in it.
I take a few tablespoons of my previous batch of yogurt and put it in each jar. Into that I pour my 80 degree milk and stir. I then put the lids on the jars and stick them in the oven overnight. We are blessed to have an old stove with a pilot light. It stays 150 degrees in the oven all of the time. I know that if you search for alternative methods of keeping the yogurt warm you will find many options. My friend Karen heats towels in the dryer, wraps them around her jars and puts them in a cooler.
It all takes 5-10 minutes to do. In the morning we have fresh warm yogurt for breakfast. I often do this in the evening before bed. It only needs to stay warm for 8 hours or so. I’ve forgotten it in the oven for up to 18 hours and it’s just fine.
I have heard that if you use the same culture strain too many times it will eventually be unable to culture the milk fully. I have not had this happen but every month or so we end up eating all of the yogurt in the fridge and I buy a small container of plain yogurt and start over. Straus is very tart, Siggie’s is sweet, Nancy’s has the largest variety of cultures and is recommended following a round of antibiotics. We like the mild taste of Clover’s organic yogurt so that’s what we usually pick up.
I make yogurt for my neighbors and their kids like it thick so I add some powdered milk to the yogurt I’m using as a culture. It works. Yum!
By request here’s my recipe:
I use 1 1/2 cups of organic ‘raw’ almonds. Put them in a four-cup glass measuring cup filled with filtered water. Then place them in the refrigerator overnight. I have left them in for up to three days and they are still fine. It’s nice to have them well sprouted.
Pour the soaked almonds and water into the blender and hit ‘liquefy’. I let them blend for about a minute.
Pour the milk and pulp into a straining cloth laid over a strainer set on top of the big measuring cup. You can use a flour sack towel or a nut milk bag. I use a non-absorbent honey-straining cloth. It’s not shown in the picture but I use the strainer just in case almond pulp escapes the straining cloth somehow. I don’t want to have to re-strain it. Bundle it all up in a sack and squeeze out the milk.
Pour it into a quart sized airtight container and top it off with water. Save the pulp to use in oatmeal, desserts, bread or (ever-popular with the kids) Carob Nut Balls. I’ll post that recipe next.
The fresh almond milk keeps for a week or so. It’s so naturally sweet it does not need to be sweetened. I am now addicted to Almond Milk Lattes. I can’t even describe how good they are. I got the idea from the Cafe Gratitude cookbook called I AM GRATEFUL. In it they say, “Almonds are the only nuts that are known to alkalize the blood, while all others acidify blood. Almonds are also highest of all nuts in arginine, an amino acid that boosts the immune system and inhibits tumor growth”. I thought, “If coffee is acidic why not use almond milk to counteract the acid?”. It works for me!
The kids discovered the soaked almonds in the refrigerator and asked to try them. Needless to say I was unable to make almond milk with that batch since they ATE THEM ALL! They taste like young coconuts and are a great sweetish fresh snack. I didn’t figure this out. They did. As I took the pictures for this post they all had a glass of fresh almond milk and then couldn’t keep their hands out of the pulp when I was finished!
Today was fun and it tasted good too!
We made our first batch of Mozzarella! First we had to heat the gallon of milk, the recipe had a strange process for heating the milk, we had to put it in a pot in a sink that was full of hot water, and stir it and watch the temp. until it hit 90 degrees. After that we added the vegetable rennet and let it sit. Then — IT CURDED! : )
after that we strained it and heated it and put it into balls and refrigerated it.
For lunch we had sprouted wheat bread toasted with, green garlic pesto, mozzarella, and sun dried tomatoes (made in a dehydrator). It was DELICIOUS!!!