Thursday, January 26, 2012

Make your own Yogurt

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!

Rain! It's about time.

We've just weathered the FIRST storm of the season and it's January 26th. Our area got up to 4 inches of rain in just a few days. Luckily, our rainwater catchment tanks were down to 700 gallons. That amount came from the only other bit of rain we've had this Winter which was months ago. We let the first day if this storm's rain rinse off the roof then turned the valve and sent all that glorious water to our tanks.

We've got two 1350 gallon water tanks and a 150 gallon stock tank (duck pond). The first night of the storm brought us the remaining 2000 gallons we needed and the rest came out of the overflow pipe to flush the duck pond. It rained for two or three more days and we now have a VERY clean pond! The fish are happy, the ducks are happy, we're happy. You get the picture.

We need more tanks!

Our tanks come from Tank Depot. We order online and have them delivered to our driveway. They are lightweight and if you have the clearance you can just roll them into place. We have them on base rock platforms framed with rot-resistant wood.

The duck pond stock tank was purchased on Craigslist. It's the Rubbermaid brand. Whenever possible we buy things used but you can find these tanks at any good feed store.

Remember- The problem is the solution. We used to have big issues with water around our house foundation. Now, we don't and we also save money on water for our livestock and gardens.

Rainwater is precious. It does not belong in a storm drain. Catch it, slow it, sink it.