Thursday, February 22, 2018

Homemade Yogurt using freeze dried cultures from Natural Probiotic Selection *Sponsored

Ever since we started our cow share over 2 years ago, i've really enjoyed making homemade cheese. We only get one gallon per week, but none of us are big milk drinkers and occasionally we get behind with our milk and have extra. So i usually make a batch of  mozzarella and ricotta about once a month. This week they switched up our pick up days, and i only had an extra quart. Not really enough to make cheese, so i decided to try making homemade yogurt. 

i used freeze dried cultures from Natural Probiotic Selection.   Each yogurt culture packet contains five freeze dried cultures, including streptococcus thermophilus, l Bulgaricus and bifidobacterium spp. Since the yogurt contains active cultures, i can use a few TBSP from this batch to re-culture up to 2 gallons. There are a variety of ways to make yogurt, you can use a yogurt maker, a crockpot or a more traditional method.  i don't have a yogurt maker, so i just did the traditional method.

Start with 1 quart of milk and heat to 149°F.   Remove from heat and allow to cool 30-40 min until the temperature reaches 104- 113 degrees.   Now add the contents of the starter package and mix well. 

Pour the mixture in sterilized jars and incubate at 104°F -113°F with no stirring or shaking.  i used a coffee filter to cover it, so it could breath without getting dust in it. You can use a yogurt makers, but it isn't necessary. i did the more traditional method. In order to keep my jar warm i turned my oven on to the lowest temperature. Then turned it off and let it cool a little then placed my jar inside with the oven light left on. i  was pleasantly surprised how warm it still felt in the morning. You can also wrap it in a thick towel and place it in a warm spot, or use a hot water bottle. It is important to keep the temperature in the 104°F -113°F range.

Using the traditional method, the yogurt need to sit for 24-48 hours without being stirred or shaken.  Once it is set, you can remove 3 TBSP to use as starter for your next batch. Then place your yogurt in the fridge for 3-6 hours to help it firm up. 

The fresh yogurt has a definite tang to it. The longer you let it incubate, the tangier it gets. i added a bit of honey to sweeten it up, and topped it with muesli and frozen berries.  Wow, it was super easy! i'm not sure why i waited so long to try.

How to make Homemade Yogurt using freeze dried cultures.
  1. Heat milk in stock pot to 149 F degrees 
  2. Remove from heat and allow to cool 30-40 min until the temperature reaches 104- 113 degrees
  3. Add contents of starter pkg and stir well.
  4. Pour into sterilized canning jar and allow to incubate in a warm place for 24-48 hours.  It is important to keep the temperature in the 104°F -113°F range.
  5. Check periodically with thermometer (or feel outside of jars) and stir (warm is good but too would kill your active cultures).
  6. Once set, remove 3 tbsp to start your next batch, and then place the jar in your fridge where it will continue to thicken.
  7. Cool completely, If the yogurt is thinner than desired you can then drain the remaining whey using a sieve and coffee filter if desired.  This gives it the thicker consistency of greek yogurt.
  8. Eat plain or add toppings. i like to sweeten mine with raw honey and add fruit and granola.
 These freeze dried cultures can also be used with dairy alternatives to make dairy-free yogurt. My yogurt came out great!  i can't believe how easy it was to make! 

Natural Probiotic Selection also offers cultures for Kefir, Bulgarian yogurt, vegan (juice extracted) cultures, Pure Acidophilus yogurt and more.  Check out the website for more information about the different yogurt cultures and methods for making amazing yogurt at home!

*This post was sponsored by Natural Probiotic Selections. i received a free product or compensation in exchange for my review. It also contains affiliate links. i may earn a small commision if you purchase an item using my link.  My opinions are my own.

Monday, February 19, 2018

What's the Buzz? New things afoot at our little Homestead.

So what's the buzz? This spring we are getting bees!  This is something i've been wanting to do forever, but didn't really know where to start. Kenan has a strong reaction to yellow jacket stings (even took an ambulance trip to the ER) because of it, so i really didn't think keeping bees would be possible for us.  

Kenan took an interest in it recently and attended a free class that was hosted by our library. After the class he signed up for a bee workshop that was offered by the local bee society.  Did you know that bees and wasps have different venom? It is very common for someone to have an allergic reaction to yellow jacket venom, but not react to bee stings or vise versa.  
 Kenan will always be in full suit as a precautionary and carrying his epi-pen, but we realized keeping bees really is possible. Once they are set up the kids and i will be incharge of general upkeep and maintenance. So Kenan's actual interaction with the bees should be quite minimal. 

We ordered our hives from Brushy Mountain Bee farm. We bought 4 hives to start. Two large and two smaller. Kenan got to work putting them together.

Then we all spent the afternoon priming the hive boxes and in a few days we'll paint them.  Our bees have been ordered through the local bee society and will be arriving in early April i believe. This is a new venture for us, but i'm very excited to be doing our part to help save the bees.  We may get some honey the first year, but it's not a guarantee. We do hope to see some benefit from the additional pollinators in our gardens. The last few years we've seen very few honey bees. i often have to hand pollinate the squash due to the lack of bees. So we are really hoping that adding bees will increase our garden yields.
We are looking forward to harvesting honey in the future, along with honeycomb and bee pollen. It's a pretty big investment, with no guarantee Many hives fail the first year due to animal pests, mites and disease. However one of the things stressed at the bee workshop is that you shouldn't keep bees just for the honey. You keep them for the environment and pollination benefits and just to help the bees!  If all goes well, the honey is a bonus.

i'll be updating more as we get our hives set up and the bees arrive this spring.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Harry Potter in concert! Richmond, VA.

This past weekend, Kenan surprised us with tickets to the Harry Potter concert series in Richmond, VA.  Richmond is about 3-3.5 hours away. So it's close enough that we could have just made it a day trip, but we opted to driving out the night before and staying overnight in a hotel. 

The kids were super excited and both dressed up in their Hogwarts uniforms. There were lots of other folks, both kids and adults in costume. They had a small (crowded) table selling Harry Potter Merchandise. They sold out of most sizes pretty quickly, and we were there an hour before the concert actually started.

Kenan had purchased our tickets last minute, and they were almost sold out. He was able to get the last 4 seats together, up in the balcony.   We were totally in the nosebleed section, as far up and you can be possibly be. We could see the stage great though.

The theater was absolutely amazing. i wish i'd gotten more picture of it. i didn't think i'd be allowed to bring my camera in though, and my phone takes crappy pictures.  We were actually up on the second level balcony.  Being up as high as we were it was easy to forget the orchestra was even there. They sounded fantastic, but they sounded exactly like the movie so our focus was more on the movie than the orchestra. i think those with seats down lower would have had the opposite perspective, where the focus was on the orchestra and less on the film. When the film ended and the credits were rolling the orchestra continued to play and that was really neat. It was also neat to be in a place with so many Harry Potter fans. The energy was fantastic.

It was an amazing experience nonetheless, and we are already talking about wanting to see the next one.  We saw Sorcerer's Stone, but Chamber of Secrets and  Prisoner of Azkaban are already playing in different cities.  This may be a new Annual tradition until we have seen them all.