Tag Archives: subsistence

Rhubarb Curd 2019

It’s SUMMER!
The sun is bright, the breeze is a huge relief, and we’ve been having thunder storms!
My squash are already flowering! Woohoo!
It’s hot! It’s humid! What better time to boil 3 gallons of water at a time and make preserves? 😀
 
I know, right?
 
But I’m doing it, anyway.
As per usual, we’ve got a tonne of rhubarb and, in the interests of getting our garden to feed us just a little bit better every year, I harvested an armful of it (not reeeally an armful, but a sizeable bouquet none the less), stewed it with a little water (and no sugar – yet) with the goal of making a LOT of rhubarb curd.
Rhubarb curd being the rhubarb version of lemon curd, obviously – you use pureed rhubarb instead of lemon juice and you get a sweet-and-tangy, super-rich preserve that can be readily turned into a cream pie later on in the year, when the thought of baking things is horrifying to contemplate.
 
Anyway. This recipe is for a (relatively) large batch and, using the equipment I have in the kitchen, it takes two mixing bowls AND two pots, outside of the huge one I use as a canning bath (and/or for making crushed tomatoes and salsa). If you’ve got multiple vast, deep bowls and pots, you can do this with fewer receptacles involved, which does make things slightly easier, but if you’re like me… just make sure you separate things from the get-go rather than trying to figure out “three eggs by volume” once it dawns on you, mid-way through a dozen-and-a-half eggs, that you’re not going to be able to fit all of this in one pot.
 
And now, the recipe:
 
~*~
 
 
Rhubarb Curd 2019
 
INGREDIENTS
2C + 4C rhubarb puree, separated (this starts as about 12C raw, diced rhubarb + a little bit of water)
2C + 4C sugar, separated
1C + ½C butter, separated
+
1C + ½C sugar, separated
12 eggs + 6 eggs, separated (as in 12 whole eggs in one bowl and 6 whole eggs in another)
 
 
DIRECTIONS
 
Sterilize 8 pint jars (+ lids) in the biggest canning pot you have
 
In a BIG pot AND a sauce pan combine the rhubarb puree, butter, and sugar (bigger amount goes in the bigger pot, etc)
 
Start heating it (on low, so the sugar doesn’t burn), and let the butter melt, while stirring occasionally
 
In two bowls different-sized mixing bowls, blend the heck out of the eggs and sugar (bigger amount goes in bigger bowl, etc) – I use an electric hand-mixer to do this
 
Once the butter is melted in the rhubarb mixture, and everything is well-mixed:
Add the egg mixtures to their respective rhubarb mixtures, and blend on LOW with the electric mixer until things are well-incorporated
 
Increase heat to medium
 
Stir each pot occasionally, to keep the sugar from burning to the bottom, cooking until the mixture is good and thick AND the colour has changed slightly (it will look a little more opaque)
 
Pour into sterilized pint jars
 
Cap and process in a boiling water bath for 30 minutes
 
DONE!
Makes ~8 pints.
 
 
~*~
 
NOTE: You can replace the 6C rhubarb purree with an equal amount of choke cherry or cranberry puree if that’s what you’ve got and/or you want to make a curd that is a rich purple OR a bright pink colour. Rhubarb curd ends up being kind of beige… Which is fine, just not too fancy-looking.
 
My biggest pot will fit seven pint jars, so I sterilized seven jars and put the remaining 8th pint worth of finished curd into two clean 1C jars, which have since gone into the fridge. (The ones in the water bath have another 10 minutes or so to go).
 
The plan is to use one of those 1C jars to make yoghurt pops… once we run out of ice cream and/or when it’s time to take another loaf of bread out of the freezer to thaw. (We don’t have an ice cream maker – though that’s something we’re looking at doing fairly soon – but I’ve got a popsicle mold and I know how to use it. 😉 )
 
 
Other stuff I’m doing in the kitchen:
 
Steaming and freezing greens – specifically radish and mustard greens, so they’ll be on the bitter side, but at least I remembered to label the bags this year, which should be an effective way to remind myself to go easy on the bitter greens when I’m making stews.
 
Making rhubarb-mint simple syrup (it mostly smells minty, tbh, but we’ll see how it does) for cocktails
 
Drying raspberry leaves – and, in the near future, feverfew – for over-the-winter teas
 
Making rhubarb-mint iced tea (usually with some additional herb – anise hyssop, raspberry leaf, and creeping charlie have all made appearances) with a little honey in it, just to have on hand
 
Attempting to make “cooking wine” out of frozen “grape punch” from concentrate… It’s… okay? It’s was still a little sweet for cooking with, when I decanted it into a clean bottle and chucked it in the fridge, about two weeks ago, but hopefully what’s left of the yeast will make short work of that, and I’ll have a flat, sugar-devoid, complexly-flavoured thing that I can use in dressings and marinades and (eventually) soups and stews, without having to have shelled out for Actual Wine.
 
Trying to Eat More Vegetables – and relying on hothouse bell peppers and greenhouse tomatoes & cukes to do that, still, even though the garden is giving us heaps of herbs and I landed some field zukes from the grocery store this morning. We’ve been eating somewhat vegetarian meals around here for the past week – if only because it’s easy to cook enough chick peas and quinoa to fill a liter tupperware (respectively) and then just keep them in the fridge and add veggies and cheese to the mix. Tonight I think there’s going to be a pasta salad with tuna in it, though, because variety is a wonderful thing.
 
 
Anyway. That’s what’s up with me.
TTFN,
Meliad, the birch maiden.

In Which I Talk At Length Climate Change and (Eventually) what “Eat Less Meat” Looks Like for a Household that is Not At All Vegetarian

Okay, kids. So here’s the thing. I’m freaking the fuck out about climate change. As I said to my lovely wife, this morning, I’m scared as heck about it and, while I’m taking steps to mitigate/reduce our households personal carbon/climate impact (more on that in a minute), I’m also painfully aware of exactly how little that will actually accomplish in the grand scheme of things, and how little the people who can actually effect the kind of nation-scale sweeping changes that will Save Us All are willing to do (because it will piss off their donors and threaten their hold on political power and high salaries, basically).
And I’m freaking out.
My wife said, basically, that she thinks it’s going to go like: The shit is going to get very real, very fast (…more so than it is already?) and then there are going to be some very big changes that happen extremely quickly – like Emergency Measures Act quickly.
And… I don’t want it to go that way.
I want to to be going that way NOW, when there’s still a few years of buffer to make those big energy transitions a little less bumpy.
I want my legislators to actually fucking legislate rather than approving oil pipelines that poison the ground, destroy native territories (acknowledged and unacknowledged, you guys), and put literally everything we rely on for survival at risk.
 
I want to see building codes updated across the country so that every new suburban (or otherwise) housing or industrial development has to basically be wallpaper its roofs with photovoltaic panels, and every new high-rise (apartment, office or mixed use) has to come equipped with a load-bearing green roof planted with wind-pollinated crops – wheat, corn, barley, rye, oats, for sure, but also stuff like super-dwarf chestnut, walnut, and heart-nut trees and hazelnut/filbert bushes. I also want to see requirements for extremely efficent insulation, passive solar heating-and-cooling, and the escape from reliance on Air Condition to keep offices and apartments comfortable during the summers, because that will reduce both HFCs (used in fridges, freezers, and A/C units) and the fuel requirements for heating our homes and workplaces during the six or seven months of the year when we need to have the heat on.
I want to see oil rigs and refineries and nuclear energy phased out and wind farms and solar farms phased in, and phased in QUICKLY.
 
I want to see cities adopting biochar as a way to deal with their carbon-based waste (everything from the plastic that lines tin cans & the paper-and-plastic mix of those damned window-envelopes to polyester rags & mixed fiber clothes, to human and animal poop, to grease-saturated cardboard pizza boxes, to kitchen compost) to produce both (a) enough methane to run its own water treatment plants plus, ideally, enough extra to run every gas grill currently relying on fossil fuels[1], while also (b) sequestering a huge volume of carbon in the resulting charcoal which, (c) happens to also be usable as a hell of a good soil amendment thanks to it being made out of bones and coffee grounds and human piss and kale stems and dry leaves and grass clippings and dog strangling vine and giant hog parsnip and animal poop and a million other things besides just fucking wood chips (which… biochar made only out of wood? Is not the most useful thing on its own, and I gather it can be slightly detrimental in a situation where the soil is already pretty depleted).
 
I want the laws around agriculture in my country to require grass-feeding and grass-finishing for meat animals (like everything from small/”small” stock like turkeys, meat and laying chickens, rabbits, and cavias, to Large Black pasture-finishable pigs, to ostriches and emus, to beef cattle, sheep, goats, bison, and elk) AND for dairy-and-fiber animals (cattle, sheep and goats, but also odd critters like alpacas and llamas), and to more quickly outlaw things like battery cages (Canada is in the process of phasing these out[2]), farrowing crates, and finishing feedlots (CAFOs). I want our cattle farms – beef and dairy – to be contributing to carbon sequestration through “bio-mimicking” (rotational, “adaptive multi-paddock”) grazing[3].
 
I want to see flocks of chickens and turkeys, and even rabbits, in moveable hutches, grazing under the semi-shade of solar arrays (you can do this with sheep, too, but not goats – ’cause they like to climb – and not cattle, just because cattle are HUGE). I want to see dairy and beef cattle, Large Black pigs (and any other pasture-finishable breeds) chowing down on grassland under the graceful, if slightly noisy, dance of enormous wind turbines[4]. I want the transition of farms from single-crop to multi-crop AND (more to the point) to mixed veggies + grains + legumes + orchards + livestock + green energy harvesting, to be government-subsidized for a decade or two while people get the fucking hang of it. And I want a lot of Canadian farms to be OWNED and run by the same people who are doing the farm labour. I want to see Six Nations farmers and Jamaican expat farmers and southern-Scottish-extraction farmers (yes, I mean my relatives here), and Metis farmers. I want to see Japanese, Lebanese, and Somalian born farmers growing hothouse veggies and running mixed orchards. I want it all.
 
I want big companies like Loblaws and Canadian Tire (and whoever owns fucking Loblaws and Canadian Tire) to be FORCED to change up the packaging of their store brands so than random shoppers like me get to choose between the feel-good, actually environmentally ethical option of a 12-pack of TP packaged in flimsy cardboard sleeves (think cracker-box weight), a jar of mayo in a glass bottle, a kilogram of pasta in a non-glossy, biodegradable paper envelope and – tbh, I would legit take this, even if I’d want it to be the extreme minority option and only used for freezer-case items – polylactic acid (fermented cornstarch based) “bio-plastic” bags[5] of frozen veggies and perogies in the freezer case… or taking the petroium-plastic-packaged everything from a non-store brand. Because I think both the grocery stores AND the non-store brands would quickly find out exactly how happy random, distracted, grocery shoppers are to HAVE the option of Actually Not Horrible ready to go at their stressed-out, in-a-rush fingertips, and then everybody would get of the fucking bandwagon because they want our sweet, sweet consumer dollars and brand loyalty.
 
I want an affordable, electro-magnetic, green-energy-run bullet train that can shuttle me my place to Montreal, and then from Montreal to NYC, and then from NYC to DC, in a speedy six hours (with, okay, a one hour layover here and there, maybe, because I’d have to change trains at least once). Because even though it would take twice as long, and have a crappy effect on my back, hips, and knees, it would also take a mere one third of the time that the train currently takes, and I’d still get to see my girlfriend on the quasi-regular while having a lower carbon footprint (AND less exposure to radiation) than flying.
 
I want MASSIVE reforestation projects to happen, with an eye to both re-wilding AND sustainable logging, and I want them to be led and run by indigenous people in their returned-and-acknowledged territories. I want my country to work out something where we are actually paying indigenous people WELL for short-term logging rights in their territories and where we’re required to follow High Sustainability Practices, and hire a lot of indigenous people, when doing that logging. So that Canada, as a nation, can still have a logging industry, but it works very differently, and a whole lot BETTER, than the one we’ve got right now. Ditto any kind of mining.
 
…But you guys? I’m not holding my breath on getting any that stuff.
At least not outside of the “farmers of numerous racial and national backgrounds” part, because we already have at least some of that.
 
As this article from Forbes says, “We know what we have to do to avoid a climate catastrophe: eat a plant-rich diet, change our energy mix, electrify transport, [and] reverse deforestation.” But also: Educate girls, restore indigenous territories and land-stewardship to indigenous people (and follow their fucking lead), and capture refigerants (see above re: stop relying on air conditioning units and start using good insulation and passive solar for heating and cooling).
 
So what can I personally do?
 
As a renter, rather than a landowner? Not tonnes. I can’t switch my furnace from natural gas (fossil fuel) to a pellet-fueled wood stove with catalytic converter and a thermostat-run-hopper to feed it (still burning something carbon-based – pellets made of compressed coffee, sawdust, and other plant-based agricultural waste – but at least it’s renewable, plus the catalytic converter ups the efficiency, and lowers the particulate-based air-quality-destroying pollution of a wood stove by a very substantial margin). I can’t dig a very deep well and get some geothermal heating put in. (I’m not even sure I could do that if I owned the place, tbh). I can’t cover the roof in solar panels or return indigenous territories to their rightful stewards. As a single individual without a tonne of political power, I can’t reverse deforestation – beyond what I’m doing now, which is essentially guerilla orchardry, but which isn’t very effective over the short term – or up the availability of education for girls.
BUT.
I can – provided our income gets significantly better – switch our electricity provider to a company like Bullfrog Power which adds green energy sources to the ones supplying the power grid to offset (and, in theory, eventually replace) the not-so-green stuff that is currently the majority of our energy supply here in Canada.
 
I can continue to not have a car – Which, tbh, is not likely to be how this goes. I feel pretty conflicted about this because, on the one hand? Enormous growth in our household’s carbon footprint if we do this[6]. And I don’t want that. On the other hand? A car would give us some significant freedom of movement, buy my wife an extra 2-3 hours of personal time (time for sleep and time to interact with me and her other partners) every weekday, from November through to April, and the degree to-which that benefits her mental health, her physical health, and her relationships is pretty fucking huge. So she and one of her partners are looking at potentially buying a car together. I have no idea how to off-set this, other than through the whole “have one less kid than you were planning to” thing… given that we’re all child-free, that one’s a given. But this is definitely looking like a thing that will be part of our future, and a shared car is still a car.
 
I can continue to not have an air conditioner – though the fact that I have a chest freezer, even a small one, is also contributing HFCs to my environment. (I have not done the math on the difference in Emissions between keeping a chest freezer full of food that was locally grown and put up in season versus not having a chest freezer and buying fresh produce flown in from Argentina and New Zealand – or even just California and Florida – for six or seven months of the year, but I suspect I’m coming out smelling a little better in this, even with the HFCs taken into account). That being said I can also pay attention to what local, non-frozen veggies are available from hothouse producers here in (or very close to) town during the winter months and continue to rely predominantly on non-frozen veggies like long-keeping winter squash, beets, potatoes, cabbage, rutabaga, and parsnips over the winter, so that the freezer space I am using is being used efficiently.
 
I can Eat Local – whether that’s from the garden or the grocery store or a farm that raises pasture-finished livestock that I stuff into the above-mentioned freezer to use it efficiently. And I can grow/buy/forage fruit and veggies in season and freeze, water-bath-can, dry, and/or pressure-can them so that I don’t have to rely on imported frozen veggies from a grocery store (yep… those bags of kale and squash I was so enjoying this past winter were… mostly not from around here. Dammit), let alone the fresh-and-flown-in versions.
 
I can eat less meat – Yes, even though I don’t want to. And even though, as per the links about farming and carbon sequestration through AMP livestock grazing, a locally and humanely raised Large Black pig is a heck of a lot closer to carbon neutral than industrially raised barley and lentils trucked in from Saskatchewan, let alone almonds from California and quinoa from Bolivia, despite all that, I can still eat less meat.
 
Ugh. Okay. This is going to be a bit of rant, but bear with me.
Most of the times I read about “eat less meat” or “eat a plant based diet” it’s either people who are vegan, and want everybody to eat ZERO animal products (which… if it works for you, go to it, but I’ve been eating vegetarian food for most of this week – not even vegan, just no meat – and I’m hungry to the point of being shaky, even though I know how to combine fats, beans, and grains to get accessible complete proteins, and even though eggs don’t actually take that much thinking, so… given that this is always how vegetarian eating goes for me? Probably not the best plan for my body)… OR they’re writing to an audience of people who are so wealthy they can eat beef – like actual steaks – multiple times per week without having to think about it, because the articles in question literally say things like “Eating steak one less time per week will make a significant difference to your personal carbon footprint”.
Which… You’re not wrong. It definitely would. But I’m already eating close to ZERO beef per month, never mind per week, so what even are you talking about – looking at you, Michael Pollan – when you tell your readers to “eat less meat” because I think I’m already well over your particular bar on that one. /RANT
 
ANYWAY. Either way, the “eat less meat” people don’t seem to be talking about my lived experience or my body’s particular needs, so I get to kind of make my own way about this.
AS SUCH: What does “eat less meat” mean for me and my household:
 
It means getting half a hog all at once from one of those local, humane farmers, so that (a) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from exactly one death, and (b) most of our meat for the next two years will be coming from within an hour’s drive of our home, and (c) most of our meat for the next two years will have had a decent life where it got be an Actually Piggy Pig and got to eat food that was good for it and didn’t spend any of its life in a shit-choked prison feeling nothing but despair.
On a related note, It means getting a couple of turkeys at Thanks Giving and relying on them for non-pork meat for most of the rest of the year. Those birds don’t get a good life. I’m not under any illusions there. But 2-4 of them in my freezer is slightly less blood and misery on my hands than a dozen+ roasting chickens, so… not less meat, exactly. But fewer lives.
 
It means making good use of those lentils and barley from Saskatchewan, but cooking them in bone stock and frying them in bacon grease, so that we get the flavour from meat[7], and – in the case of the stock, at least – some of that sweet, sweet bio-accessible protein, without relying on it for a substantial part of the meal’s calories.
It means taking a shot at growing grain amaranth in the back yard, and using that – plus those Saskatchewan red lentils and/or some milk (see below) – to provide the protein in a soup or stew, whether or not there’s bone stock and bacon grease involved.
It means buying the free run eggs even though they’re twice the price.
 
It means, since I know damn well I’m not going to stop relying on dairy, finding ways to get my milk (and cheese, and yoghurt, and ice cream, and, and, and…) from local sources, ideally ones that are humane and don’t involve completely screwing over the cows. Right now, that means I’m buying foodland ontario milk in plastic bags. But getting the organic milk in glass bottles – even though that basically means spending 4 times the money[8] – is a possibility. Most likely how this would work is I start switching from getting a gallon at a time to getting a 2L carton of “normal” homo milk at the beginning of the week, and then suplementing it with 1L glass bottles as needed. Not my favourite way to go, but definitely feasible. Once I’m (financially) used to doing it like that, I can (a) track how many glass bottles I’m getting on top of the 2L carton, and (b) start switching over to only getting the 1L bottles. This is sort of how I did it with organic fair trade coffee, so I think it would work with dairy, as well.
It means eating more organ meats and less muscle meats when we are eating meat that doesn’t come from that half a hog. This means a lot of chicken liver pâté (actually liver mousse) and marinated chicken hearts, I suspect.
 
It means making falafel patties and waldorf-esque or nicoise salads for summer dinners, and making hummus and “artichoke asiago” (or, more likely, leafy-greens-and-parmasan) dips to go along with the brie and blue cheese rather than (or in addition to, there-by allowing us to cut down on the serving sizes of) the dry sausage and liver mousse we usually have on our Wine And Cheese date nights. It means having thick-hummus-and-sour-kraut sandwiches as often as we have chicken/pork or cheese sandwiches for lunches. An “eat steak one less time per week” situation where “steak” is pork shoulder and shredded turkey.
It means eat more vegetables, meaning I need to aim for 3-4 servings of veggies per person (about 2C, cooked) per dinner, plus some pasta/whole grains/potatoes/bread… and then worry about Where We’re Getting Our Protein (which might be chickpeas, lentils, a tablespoon of parmasan cheese + 2 tablespoons of diced dry sausage, or a cup or so of shredded frozen turkey split between three+ servings of stew. Not “fewer meals ft meat” but “less meat per meal”.
 
It means, essentially, that my whole grocery bill (as opposed to just the coffee and chocolate parts of it) is going to double (but slowly – for a given value of slowly – as I have the liquid cash to actually do this) in order to lighten the burden my particular household’s food-ways place on our home. Ye gods, I am NOT looking forward to that.
But here we are.
 
Anyway. That’s my long, loooong post about Eating Less Meat and other things I can do to not wreck the planet (as much). Thanks for sticking with me.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Yes, I’m very aware that this is, in itself, not actually helping anybody’s climate change initiatives.
 
[2] We stopped manufacturing battery cages two years ago, but using them won’t actually be illegal until 2036. Dammit. Go get those free run eggs, folks!
 
[3] Yes, this kind livestock raising DOES result in more methane-due-to-animal-farts. But it also offsets 100% of that methane (apparently) through carbon-sequestration in the grasslands that are regenerated (and the root systems that get super deep because of it) through the frequent movement of the herds from one grazing area to another to another to another. You can find a blog post – with a related podcast – about it here.
 
[4] I live downtown within spitting distance of a highway on-ramp. They’re currently tearing up my nearest major intersection using a giant pneumatic hammer. Don’t @ me about the alleged health detriments of fucking wind turbines, okay?
 
[5] These aren’t ideal. Corn (or similar) used to make this stuff does contribute to the mono-cropping hegemony and, as we’re seeing with the demand for ethanol-based fuel for cars, frequently results in food-production land in The Global South being converted into fuel-production land for export… which leaves already-vulnerable and exploited populations that much worse off and more likely to face famine conditions. So, like… this is preferable to a sea of petrolium-based products, but it’s not ideal and I would rather we were able to come up with something like… I don’t know… Aluminum envelopes for frozen goods or something. I really don’t know what to do about this on an industrial scale.
 
[6] I did the math – some time last Summer, I think – and found out that, while we do have a motorcycle, which does put our footprint (as two adults) above the sustainable line per person… it doesn’t put it over that line by much. We could slide back under by replacing our last three incandescent bulbs with compact florescents, and by turning our heat down by two degrees celcius when the furnace is running. A car – even a hybrid or a fully electric one (and it’s more likely to be the former, tbh) – would squash that possibility entirely.
 
[7] My Traditional Foodways include getting a LOT of a dish’s flavour from ferments, including cured meat (such as bacon and dry sausage) and cheeses, as well as the more obvious wines, beers, ciders, vinegars, and various mustards.
 
[8] Seriously, I could get 3L organic homo milk DELIVERED to my door, in glass bottles… but it would cost me $21. Whereas a gallon of organic milk in a big plastic bag, would run me about $11 and what I’m getting right now is just shy of $6/gallon. That is a HUGE jump in price, and I’m balking at it pretty hard. Am I ready to spend $85+/month on milk alone? Because, right now, that’s more than a week of groceries. O.O

New Moon – Rampion Moon Begins (Cancer Season, Partial Solar Eclipse)

Creeping Bellflower Super invasive BUT the roots are edible and (in theory) taste like parsnip. This is the Rampion from Rapunzel's story. Photo is from Ruth's Tree Farm.

Creeping Bellflower
Super invasive BUT the roots are edible and (in theory) taste like parsnip.
This is the Rampion from Rapunzel’s story.
Photo is from Ruth’s Tree Farm.


 
We’ve had almost no rain for a month.
My front yard, with its pink bee balm, purple bellflower, and orange day lilies, is crispy as fuck because I barely water it.
My back yard is doing better, because there’s a hose back there. But we’re not doing super well on the food-production front.
I think I’ll be digging up some of those bell flowers – along with the various sunchokes/as’kebwan’ that Danger Squirrel et familia have re-planted in my raised beds, which I suspect I’ll just ferment from the get-go in multiple jars – to help us save on groceries, because my zucchini and cukes are not really producing (or, if they are, they’re being eaten by the squirrels).
In theory, my potatoes (yukon gold) are getting close to harvest-ready, though I’ll probably let them get a bit bigger, if I can swing it. I’m not sure how to cure potatoes, so I’ll have to look that up.
The fava beans that I grew entirely as a nitrogen-fixing crop are producing beans, so I can harvest those as well, and we can have fava beans on toast or something.
Basically, Ontario’s Yummy Season has arrived. And also my garden isn’t doing a whole lot, beyond giving us some amazing herbs and trying not to die in what I’m pretty sure is actually a drought.
 
This is where I really, REALLY notice the difference between the perennial plants and the annuals. The perennials – even the crispy-fried flowers out front – are still actually growing, getting bigger, managing to do more than survive out here. The annuals, on the other hands, are straight-up suffering, and they’re getting watered once, usually twice, a day (in the cool of the morning, and again at twilight).
It’s also dawning on me just WHY my neighbour, who gardens very intensively and very successfully (I am in awe of her, tbh), brings in 20+ bags of top soil and manure compost every year.
 
I’m well aware that my soil is very depleted and, while I did top it up with some manure compost early in the growing season (which helped significantly), it’s not helping enough. My compost heap, itself, is cooking along quite nicely (and is now receiving human hair and toilet paper tubes along with the more typical kitchen waste, because I’d rather feed the ground that’s feeding me than send this stuff to a landfill or even a recycling depot), but it’s not enough to feed the whole garden. Not as it stands right now.
 
Our garden has mostly given us leafy greens, so far. And many of those have been “weed” greens – dandelion, crow garlic, sow thistle, purslane, lambs’ quarters, and other related plants. This is fine – I let those plants go to seed in our yard on purpose, because they are food plants – but the goal remains to get enough cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, and winter squash (along with, maybe, some root crops) from our garden to not have to buy groceries as much as we currently do. And, frankly, we are not making enough big, healthy leafy greens to freeze for winter alongside what we eat day to day with our meals.
 
You can take a look at this post for a run-down of the various mostly-fermentation-related kitchen things I’ve been up to. I’d originally planned on walking through all of them here, but it was eating a LOT of space, so I made them their own post.
 
I recently spent a lovely evening out with a friend in Gatineau Park, nattering about all sorts of things, and I wound up lending her Starhawk’s Earth Path and chatting with her about earth based spirituality stuff, and I’m excited for that kind of shop-talk to continue.
I like shop-talk about religious stuff. Especially with other people who tend to be a bit DIY about it. I love chatting about land-connection and animism – figuring out How To Animism, when you were raised in a religion that didn’t have a lot of immanence going on; figuring out how to navigate recognizing the personhood of your food, or the made objects around your house; figuring out how to recognize the overlapping physical and not-so-physical worlds without (a) totally reinventing the wheel, OR (b) appropriating practices from cultures whose traditional animism is considerably more recently-interrupted (or uninterrupted) than your own. All that stuff.
So it was nice to get to do with someone in person. 🙂
 
Tarot Card Meditation:
It’s Cancer Season, as-you-know-bob, and there was a partial solar eclipse yesterday evening. I have to tell you, we’ve been having a stressful couple of weeks here at House Of Goat, and I was a little nervous about what I was going to pull for my meditation card today.
 
Tarot of the Silicon Dawn Egypt Urnash Maya (Card 8.5) An intersex babe having some fun D/s sexytimes with her two lovers/submissives. My kind of card.

Tarot of the Silicon Dawn
Egypt Urnash
Maya (Card 8.5)
An intersex babe having some fun D/s sexytimes with her two lovers/submissives.
My kind of card.


 
So it was kind of fantastic to have this card literally leap out of the deck for me.
Maya is card eight-and-a-half, one of the Silicon Dawn’s bonus/weirdo cards. Egypt’s write-up says that this card is the “bastard child of The Devil and the High Priestess”. All the things you’re afraid to meet in the underworld (or your own unconscious mind). All the things you want but aren’t supposed to. What are you trying to tell yourself? What would be fulfilling, pleasurable, connecting right now?
I seriously feel like this was basically “Oh my gawd! Don’t be so gloomy all the time! It’s the weekend! It’s summer! You’re going on a road trip and know how to make your own booze! Have a fucking party for once!”
 
This message dovetails pretty nicely with Chani’s horoscope for Scorpio right now, with its reminder to choose that which stirs my soul, lifts my spirits, and gives me a reason to keep pushing through the hard parts.
And they – Chani and Maya, both – are right. Freaking out isn’t going to solve any problems. And I am going on a road trip (or, well, a day-trip, but still). Heart palpitations about money, and emails to send to the minister of education, will still be there on Monday. I get to have fun, spend some time with my wife, visit my friends and my in-town-for-48-hours brother, eat ice cream and drink home-made wine.
Let this weekend be something beautiful, restorative, and good.
Thanks, tarot cards. ❤
 
~*~
 
Movement: Lots of walking, and a small amount of yard-work in someone else’s yard, but that’s about it.
 
Attention: I have to admit, a LOT of my attention is on the sky right now. Will it rain? At last? Will it not? :-\ Fingers crossed!
 
Gratitude: Grateful for reprieves. For a break in the heat (a bit). For the hope of rain, even if it hasn’t fallen yet. For friends who send money, treat us to meals out, drop off spare food, pass on hand-me-downs and boots-to-good-homes, or otherwise help us make ends meet, and make life feel like it can still be something more than austerity-all-the-time, when things are hard. For friends who listen and help us keep some focus when we’re freaking out, too. Grateful for pink and purple and blue and orange and yellow flowers. For bumble bees in the morning sun. For coffee with my wife on the steps. For a borrowed car and the chance to get out of the city for a day. For summer warmth and sunshine. For new library books. For reminders to pay attention to the pleasurable, the holy, and the joyful.
 
Inspiration: Resilient weedy greens. Flowers that bloom despite the sun that’s kind of frying them to a crisp. (I know. They’re blooming all the harder for it, and I know why. Don’t spoil my happy though, ‘kay?) Also finding inspiration on other people’s blogs, folks who are canning, fermenting, making salsa and wine out of excess rhubarb, or dying fibre using red cabbage, onion skins, hibiscus flowers, and the soaking water from black beans… and also using koolade and vinegar, because that works, too.
 
Creation: A little bit of knitting. Some clothing repairs. Writing a few thousand words on my “spite fic” of an attempt at a YA novel. A couple of new poems. Nothing huge, but things are in the works. 😉

Eat From the Larder Challenge 2018 – Week 0

So. Spring Equinox has come and gone (and it’s clearly past time for me to change up my Seasonal Decorations…). Meltwater Moon is only days away from full. I’m cautiously starting to think that maybe Spring Has Sprung (barring, y’know, an April dump of snow, which usually happens even if it generally gets gone in short order again) and I’m eyeing Preserves.
I have something close to two dozen pints of crushed tomatoes, put up last September, that I have yet to use.
I’ve also got sweet preserves (goblin fruit jam, chokecherry curd) and a LOT of frozen veggies – especially sunchokes, which my wife’s been having trouble with this year – still to eat through.
As such, I think it’s time for another round of the Eat From the Larder Challenge.
 

A collection of half-cup and one-cup mason jars full of savoury preserves, made by me.


 
As you may recall, the Eat From the Larder Challenge was invented by Erica, over at NWEdible, as a way to clear out some pantry space (and also prove that it could be done) before the impending influx of garden produce that, for a chick living in Seattle, was already starting in April and would only take off further once May hit.
I’m not in Seattle.
My growing/foraging season starts a solid 3-4 weeks later than hers does. But the challenge, itself, is a good way to remind me that actually, yeah, I know how to cook.
Which I haven’t been feeling, of late.
Honestly, I’ve been feeling like a crap home-maker lately – the place is a mess and I think I’ve made bread all of twice in the past six weeks when I’m used to thinking of it as a thing I do every week. I’m hoping that throwing a bit of a creative challenge my own way will – in addition to clearing out some freezer/cupboard space – get me excited about, AND back in the habit of, cooking from scratch in ways that go beyond boiling rice or roasting a chicken.
 
Right now, I’ve got a new batch of soup stock on the stove. Usually, when I make stock, it’s bones and maybe a few herbs and water. This time I’ve added a couple of branches of garden sage (dried), the better part of a jar of crushed tomatoes, a cup or so of white wine[1], some dried mushrooms, and a couple of handfuls of papery dried onion skins. I’m hoping to get at least 12 pints of stock out of this, ideally closer to 16, and I don’t think I have nearly enough bones to make a good, thick, “meat jello” stock in that quantity. So I’m adding extra stuff that will bulk up the umami factor (tomatoes, dried mushrooms) and otherwise add some flavour to what might end up being really watery. It’s not ideal but, having drawn up 30 dinner plans using what I (am pretty sure I) have in the cupboards and the freezer, I know a solid six (minimum) of those meals will be tastier (by our standards) if I cook the grain and legumes in meat stock.
 
Anyway. Rules for this year’s challenge:
1) Focus on using up the meat and frozen veggies hiding in the deep freeze, where I consistently forget about them now that I’ve got bags of beets and onions crowding the top (aka: the door) of the freezer.
2) Try to include lentils or other legumes in as many dishes as possible because (a) fibre, and (b) stretching the meat components of the meals that much farther while still making filling, delicious dishes.
3) I am allowed to buy milk/cream, eggs, wine, and Ethical Coffee (though I miiiiiiiiiiiiiight not need the coffee) during the month of April, though I should still try to limit these items (like: don’t make every dinner a quiche, right?). I can stock up on cheese ONCE, if (and only if) it’s on hella discount. I can also buy Ethical Chocolate, but not more than one bar per week. Restaurants/coffee-shops for socializing are allowed, but really REALLY need to not be relied upon.
4) Focus on making sweets at home! I have tonnes of flour and a lot of different sweeteners, including the above-mentioned sweet preserves. Oatmeal mixed-berry muffins, fruit-curd pies with shortbread crusts, peanut-butter & chocolate-chip cookies, rhubarb-cranberry crumbles/crisps/etc!
 
My April is looking pretty lean in terms of modeling work right now. That’s normal, and I’m lucky to have a week+ of temp work lined up to help make up the income I need. But it means I’ll have lots of time to get creative in the kitchen.
Thank goodness.
I’ll need it, but I’m also looking forward to it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Leaf Moon Crests

I planted Motherwort in my garden this morning. 😀 A friend of mine gave me three dug-up plants from her garden, and I gave her some culinary sage from mine. It’s been gentle-raining, off and on, all day, which should do it some good. My hyacinths bloomed this year, and my tulips are looking like they might manage a bloom or two as well. My Crane’s Bill (Wild Geranium) and Violas are about to flower, maybe the Lamia, too. The Lungwort, of course, has been going great gangbusters for weeks.
Things I would like to add to the front yard: mugwort, lily of the valley (the friend who gave me the motherwort has some she’s willing to part with, once the blooms are done), blood root, Siberian scilla/squills, grape hiacinths, blue crocuses, dark purple tulips (think Queen of the Night), sweet william, bee balm, Russian sage, more bergamot, and more columbines.
In the back, my peas are (just barely) coming up, and the self-seeded cilantro is too. I have self-seeded mustard greens coming up all over the place – which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand: Greens! On the other hand: No root space for my rainbow chard to take over, and I want LOTS of rainbow chard this year! I have a new raspberry plant – a gift from another friend, who contributed roughly half of my front yard garden plants last year – in the perennial bed, too, and need to start harvesting my rhubarb. Time to make some pies!
What would I like to add to my perennial bed? Sorrel (which I’ve seeded, but which may or may not come up this year), chives, and maybe a red currant bush.
In the neighbourhood, the service berries have started blooming, and the apples, pears, cherries and, y’know, lilacs aren’t too far behind (give it another week, probably). The maple and birch trees are in flower. The leaves are bursting forth all over the place.
 
Hilariously, or not, I’m back to sewing dog harnesses. All that job and money stuff that the recent New Moon touched upon? Well, I got an easy-out in terms of dealing with them – at least for the time being.
I needed to find a part-time job to make sure I had some reliable income, and the gal who runs the dog harness company lost 2/3 of her brand new staff inside of the first week, so I said I could go in and do what I’d been doing before, and we worked out a deal. As of the Full Moon, I’ve been getting paid to sew dog harnesses (YAY!) plus, while I’m still going to need to take the bus into work, at least some – probably most – of the time, I’ve worked out with a co-worker that she’ll give me a lift home on the days that I’m in. I’ve offered her preserves and/or garden produce as a thank-you for this because food? I always have enough food to share. ❤
 
Anyway, with regards to the actual moon phase… Ha. Unsurprisingly, I'm writing this about three days late, and the full moon in Scorpio is actually waning through Sagittarius and into Capricorn. Still, I'm working from the perspective that the astrological house that the Moon is in at Full and at New have a certain amount of sway over, well, things I might want to be paying attention to at the time, if you will. (A bit like writing prompts for you brain/life?)
So here we are:
 
The Hoodwitch (who also offers some suggestions for herbs & stones to work with at this time) tells us that: one can use the energy of a Scoprio Full Moon to get to the heart of, and excise (hello, waning moon!), intense stuff around guilt, lust, and obsession.
 
Chani Nicholas reminds us that “Power must be claimed” and suggests that the current full moon energy can be used to tap into the intense, transformative power that comes from actually checking in with your feelings and sorting them out.
 
Mystic Mama points out that Scorpio Full Moon is a time when we can get a good, long look at what we really want, and who we really are – both the stuff we like, and could be proud of if we’d only let it out, and the stuff we don’t like and try to pretend isn’t really there. She asks us to check in with ourselves about whether our goals are really OUR goals, or if we’re wanting things that we think we’re supposed to want due to what we were taught to value in our families of origin, what we think we need to “want” (or present as wanting) in order to get our (secret, unspoken – Scorpio Time is the time to take a look at those) needs met, or just due to swimming in the societal kool-ade our whole lives.
 
Sarah Gottesdiener over at Little Red Tarot offers wisdom from Liz Migliorelli, saying that “noticing is not enough”, not only are we called to tune into our deepest, most intense emotions and intuitions, not only are we called to step up and do the hard mental, emotional, and physical work of transformation, we’re also called to release and let go, to “let the old dreams die, let the wrong ones go” so that we can let the right ones in. She asks “How can we ease our physical tension around true embodiment of our full range of emotion?”
 
Tarot-wise, Scorpio Full Moon is a High Priestess kind of time, but also a Moon kind of time. A diving deep and surfacing kind of time. A feeling ALL the feelings time. A hard-look-in-the-mirror time. It’s a time to heal ourselves. A time to rise from the ashes of whatever Tower needed to be burned.
It’s a good time to do rituals and/or exercises to help heal your sexual/reproductive organs and – Scorpio being the sign of Go Deep or Go Home – to heal your emotional Stuff around same. So, Scorpio Full Moon energy is good to harness around things like getting over the ex who broke your heart, easing the heartache of infertility or the hurt, rage, and confusion of sexual trauma, as well as for untangling the internal knots that keep you shame-spiraling around wanting, needing, or feeling things in a big way. It’s good energy, too, to harness if you want to get your second chakra (Pluto) AND/OR your third chakra (Mars) spinning on good bearings.
 
This is a time to get to the roots of what needs to re-balance, within yourself, in terms of:
– Money Feels
– Sex Feels
– Guilt or Shame around the concept/accusation of “selfishness”;
– Where (and why, and how much) you’re offering your energy versus what’s coming back to refill that well;
– Creativity Feels;
– Sorting out where you are really being victimized or taken advantage of, versus where you are martyring yourself, or shooting yourself in the foot, by hiding your desires, down-playing your needs and waiting for others to guess and provide
– Guilt or Shame around taking time for art, pleasure, beauty, and other stuff that gets dismissed as “frivolous”;
– Blocks around your sense of Self;
– Blocks around creating change in your habits and behaviours
– Feelings around your Personal power (Do you give it away in order to secure something you fear being without? Do you practice building the courage to be direct about asking for what you want?)
 
Questions you can ask yourself during Scorpio Full Moon and its waning period:
What can I let go of
and allow to pass on as the moon wanes through determined Capricorn, stubborn but open-minded Aquarius, and sensitive, cathartic Pisces?
What can I compost into something new and fertile in the roiling cauldron of the coming dark/balsamic moon (one that will be characterized by a bold and sensual energy that matches Scorpio’s own intensity)?
 
 
What am I working to let go of? Scarcity-Thinking. Resentment. Anxiety around my ex (ha, see above…) who will be moving back to town in less than two months. The assumptions I make about what I surely must want in terms of personal interactions and expectations. The heaviness of my metaphorical foot on the brakes when it comes to opening up to pleasure and desire (yes, even still, even after all the progress I’ve already made, this continues to be A Journey).
What about you?
 
~*~
 
Movement: Tonnes of walking. A lot of time on my feet, too, which is less great. Modeling work. Digging (and squatting, and bending) in the garden!
 
Attention: I am trying to Science my way through decoding my own Relationship Assumptions, and notice (but it’s not enough to just notice) the points where I’m defaulting to a rote reaction (the irritation I feel when I think I’m being ignored or punished; the frisson of fear that shows up when a crush talks about relationship developments with other folks) rather than checking in with how I actually feel (See both Chani’s and Hoodwitch’s Scorpio horoscopes for this week – linked above) and/or where that feeling might be coming from. I am also paying a TONNE of attention to my garden right now. It’s so exciting to watch things sprouting, greening, growing, and coming back to life! Ditto the numerous (more have been planted since last year!) neighbourhood service berries and my favourite alley-way cherry tree as they bloom and – hopefully, eventually, fruit!
 
Gratitude: Thankful for fresh greens in the garden (they are dandelions, but I am A-Okay with that!) and for my seeds germinating and pushing up through the ground. Thankful for a gentle walk with my wife this morning, and also for the guts to ask a cafe-worker if they ever have tarot readers working at their shop (I now have an email address to ask about coming in and doing for-pay readings once a month. Fingers crossed!) Grateful for friends who bring me plants and food. Grateful for a part-time job with co-workers who are game for ride-sharing. Grateful for plant trades and fermentation-supply trades and a broad community of people who share what we have.
 
Inspiration: Lots of Femme Poetry coming in the mail, and in through the library, too. All the green and growing things giving me hope.
 
Creation: Planting in the garden, but also thinning and weeding, putting a little more effort into “curating” the garden and making those spaces grow what I want to grow. Still working on the stocking extensions, but I’m on the last push and will, with any luck, have a finished pair of stockings by this time net week! Taking myself on writing dates (sometimes with other people, sometimes solo) and working on my Lip Gloss manuscript. Pushing for a focus on femme inter-reliance and also on magic and witchcraft, as there are SO MANY witchy femmes out there, and I want to touch on what we do and how we do it.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.

Full Moon – Tomato Moon Crests

Thunder Moon was the wrong name. I said, a mo(o)nth and a half ago, that the minor drought conditions seemed to be lifting.
I was wrong.
It’s been weeks and weeks of oppresive, heat and almost zero rain. Things have been so dry that one of my tomato plants tastes like… the tomatoes taste like salt and bananas, if you can believe it.
I’m pretty sure part of why I’m writing this today, after weeks of no updates, is because (yes, it’s Full Moon today[1], BUT) the heat broke, just a little bit. It rained over night, and I don’t feel nearly so exhausted.
 
I cut down most of my mustard greens today. They’re a cold weather crop that bolts much faster than I expected. Between the tiny leaves on the bolted stalks and the general heat-wilt, we just haven’t been eating them. Late August is coming, and I am hoping to plant out some rainbow chard (again – I have about two rainbow chard plants, and they are struggling. The rest never even jerminated, that I can tell) for an autumn harvest. Considering using a totally-threadbare tank top, stretched over a dollar-store trellis, as a sun-shade so that the seeds will jerminate, instead of cook, this time ’round. (I have a LOT to learn, folks. You should see my neighbour’s crops. They’re all doing just dandy!)
I have bought zucchini and curly (Scotch?) kale at the market. My plan is to process that stuff for frozen veggies over winter today. That and, hopefully, drag my ass out to harvest choke cherries.
 
I feel like “nothing is getting done”, even though that’s not really true.
I started my Life Coaching sessions (just barely), about 10 days ago, and did a lot of soul-searching / psyche-digging (more psyche-digging) to answer my coach’s initial questions (more on that in another post).
I went to Queer in the Kitchen and learned how to make sour kraut (which is now sitting, doing its Fermentation Thing, and should (in theory) be ready to eat around Labour Day Weekend) and offered to do a water-bath-canning class for them (we’ll see if that actually happens, but I’m excited at the possibility)
I’ve gone dancing a bunch of times, and started chatting about tarot cards with someone who DJ’d one of those dances and then went to the sour kraut workshop.
I’ve written more poetry for “How to Cook a Heart” and (finally) did a little bit more work on The Novel (yesterday).
 
And yet… I feel like all I do is make dog harnesses and eat ice cream while wilting in the heat. The thought of turning the oven on is enough to make me want to Never Cook Again (or at least not until we get our usual cold snap in early September). I feel like buying vegetables from the market, when they are the same kind of vegetables I planted (zucchini, cooking greens, eggplants), is cheating. Like we should just live off of grocery store root veggies + the roma tomatoes I was planning to buy and can anyway this winter, rather than giving us some minor variety in our diet by paying for things I was expecting to successfully grow myself. The house is a constant mess, and I don’t even know where to start with it.
 
When I look at where I was, this time last year, I was so hopeful. And what I feel now is tired. Like a waste. Like “why do I bother” and “why am I here”. When did I stop being hopeful and start feeling like I needed to justify my continued existence?
…And yet, when I cut the cards on my new tarot deck (the Mary El one), the card I pulled is the Queen of Cups, cancer’s crab – all feelings, all the time – climbing from her heart to her throat.
The questions my life coach asked me, two weeks ago, were to get a handle on what I want to accomplish through the coaching. Unsurprisingly, the single word we boiled things down to is Receptivity. Maybe I could have gone with “worthiness”, but – like my coach’s preliminary suggestion of “self-sufficiency”, it’s too easy to turn that into something that will hurt me rather than help me. Too easy to turn that into the “shame dance” of trying to prove to someone else that I’m worthy (of love, of care, of anything other than a kick or a curse), rather than teaching myself not to brush off kindness like it’s something I shouldn’t need.
 
I read – or tried to read – my most recent tarotscope (via Siobhan’s Mirror, ‘scope itself done by Marianne at Two Sides Tarot), which said… I don’t actually know what it said. Because I read this bit:

Before we get into that, though, can you take a moment to recognize just how capable and skilled and creative and worthy you are?

 
…And just stopped. Like: Nope. Can’t do that right now. Can’t do that at all. Why are you lying to me, horoscope-person? I can’t deal with this crap.
 
Like, if I say that I’m worthy, and mean it; if I say that I’m capable and skilled and creative… then why have I not done more than this? Why am I not pumping out poetry – good, well-crafted poetry that only needs some polishing to make it worth publishing – every day? Why am I just sad and tired all the damn, stupid time? Why is my novel still languishing in it’s half-finished state? Why is my house so filthy and over-stuffed? Why is my larder so full of things I bought, instead of things I made?
 
I’ve been reading Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey (a book of very short poems and lots of doodles), and she has one that says “How you love yourself is // how you teach others // to love you”.
And I don’t love myself.
If I did, I would probably treat myself better, not brush off someone’s “how are you” as a formality, not beat myself up so much.
I don’t have a clue were my self-inflicted nastiness came from. I guess… some part of me thinks that being worth caring for is entirely bound up with how much abuse I’m willing to take?
I don’t know. It’s dumb, and I need to cut it out.
I don’t love myself, and I need to learn how.
Life Coach is showing me The Plan for this on Wednesday.
I hope I can make it work.
I am so sick of feeling like this.
 
 
~*~
 
 
Motion: A lot of walking. A lot of dancing. One really, really long bike ride (2 weeks ago, 27 km round trip – with 7 hours of harness-making in the middle) followed by barely being able to take a single (long, fairly big, but still) hill on my normal bike the next day. Getting back on the bike on Wednesday, but I don’t think I’ll be riding to work again any time soon.
 
Attention: Paying attention to ripe tomatoes, chokecherries ready for harvest. The water levels in my garden. The sky, praying for more rain.
 
Gratitude: Thankful for multiple modeling jobs this week and into the next; for the way my wife smiles at me in the morning (adn the fact that she wears crop tops…); for hanging on a corner in the Market, watching fireworks, with a bunch of random strangers (and being able to tell them why they were happening, because I am apparently a know-it-all…); for getting some work done on my novel; for the half-cracked pear tree branch that has falling over our yard, sitting on top of my neghbour’s trellis, and the tree-owner telling me to harvest as many as I could reach… just to wait until early September so that they’ll actually be ripe. (So, guess who’s making pear butter this year!). There are good things in my life, and I need to rmeember that.
 
Inspiration: Read Juliet Takes a Breath the other day. Between that and watching queer kids (ages 12-15) get excited about drawing at Manga Camp (I was their model. They thought I looked like Harley Quinn. I’ll take it. 😉 ) I am chock full of “Yay, Adorable Babies!” which feels pretty great.
 
Creation: Was able to dive into my own novel (finally, again) to do some re-structuring. That felt really good. I still have to finish the damn thing, but it’s something.
 
 
Cheers,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] Actually, it’s totally not for another week. Woops. >.>

Kefir – First Attempt

This is getting filed under the “cheese” tag, even though Kefir isn’t technically a cheese[1] but is more like a yoghurt that you drink. Still it’s a fermented dairy product, so I’m tagging it “cheese” and running with it.
 
I’ve been reading about mesophilic yoghurt-like cultured dairy products and decided to try making kefir because (a) I drink, like, two litres of that stuff a week, when I have the chance, and (b) the local Indie Hippy Food Mart had dairy-kefir starters (but nothing for matsoni or filmjolk or other thicker mesophilic cultures). Er… Mesophilic means that it cultures/ferments at room temperature rather than at somewhat-warmer-than-room-temperature, meaning that I can set it up in a warm corner of the kitchen and just let it do it’s thing for a couple of days and then strain it through a mash bag, and voila! I’ve got a drinkable yoghurt-substitute that I can use in baking (the same way as I use the milk that, ah, “wild-ferments”[2] in the fridge with distressing frequency) but that I’m also comfortable using as a breakfast drink.
 
I’m pretty happy with the results, so far. I mean, it’s my first attempt. It’s setting up really nicely, strained well and, while I definitely want something firmer than kefir is ever going to get, the taste of the stuff is pretty good. I want to let it ferment for another day or so – I like my yoghurt sharp, and this stuff still tastes a bit of the mild sweetness of milk left to warm on a counter top.
That said, some of it is going to get baked into muffins tonight (my lovely wife has asked me to make them on the regular because they make a good lunch substitute that can be spread out over the course of a long day in the shop which… is fantastic, but is also (I confess) incentive for me to get myself some whole wheat pastry flour and cut more of the sugar out of the coffee-cake-based recipe I’ve been adapting already[3]). More of it will be sampled tomorrow morning – possibly sweetened & flavoured with some of last summer’s vanilla-nectarine preserves that I can (hopefully) whisk in before serving it up.
I could potentially use some of it to dress tonight Fabulous (if not very fancy) Friday Dinner – basa baked with tomato-peach salsa and rice, but I will probably go with store-bought yoghurt – which has the consistency I want, and which I have hanging out in the fridge right now – instead.
 
I’m using a kefir starter – a powder that you stir into the milk and let do it’s thing – rather than kefir grains (which, as I understand it, are SCOBY-like lumps that live in the bottom of your fermentation jar and that you save and re-use over and over again to keep making new batches of kefir). So I’m not exactly fermenting things “for real” just yet. But it’s a nice way to start, and I’m really excited about the results and the potential used for what I’ve made.
 
 
TTFN,
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 
 
[1] As a mesophilic ferment, that also includes thermophilic beasties, it CAN be used as the bacteria in various cheese-making adventures. This may or may not happen at a later date.
 
[2] Speaking of which, the Unknown Cheese that I made by accident in early January? I let it keep doing it’s thing and… Okay. While I wasn’t brave enough to try eating it, the result when I (urgh…) threw it out was actually… It had a consistency that was just slightly firmer than cream cheese or chevre, smelled somewhere between double-cream brie and blue cheese (meaning: stinky as fuck, but in a recognizable way), and was turning a fairly uniform pale orange.
Part of me wishes I’d hung onto it a little bit longer, just to see what developed. You never know. It might have been something good.
 
[3] I’m imagining a mix that includes extra eggs (AKA: the called-for number of eggs, rather than half of them) plus a couple of tablespoons of pumpkinseed- or peanut-butter, at least some whole wheat flour (probably half-and-half), and maybe some cooked amaranth mixed in with the cocoa, dried cranberries, pumpkin butter, chocolate chips (hell, yeah), and crumbled pecans.