Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2013

We’ve posted before about how to make your own buttermilk, butter, and yogurt… but there’s more, and this one is even easier!

I love real cream almost as much as I love butter. It makes my occasional cups of coffee or chai much more enjoyable, and it factors into some delicious desserts and other treats. I delight in my homemade whipped cream, making it as thick as I want or flavoring it as desired. The canned kinds (or heaven forbid, Cool Whip) do not compare at all. The only thing I’m lacking now is a cow to give me my very own cream source…

Thankfully, there are plenty of dairy farms around, and I ordered some good Evans Farmhouse cream from my Wholeshare group. It’s a very good quality cream from grass-fed Jerseys, and you can see the difference just by looking at the color.

Even in a shoddy picture like this.

I normally make a batch of awesome butter with this cream, or add it into one of my Norwegian cookie recipes. I have also used some for whipped cream that I try to put in/on things, but sometimes I can’t resist eating it straight.

This time, though, I wanted to do something different.

Stonyfield used to produce cream-top whole milk yogurt that I loved. Now they no longer do, and I have to switch between the widely available Brown Cow or any number of lesser known in-state dairies such as Maple Hill Creamery, Hawthorne Valley Farm, or the previously noted Evans Farmhouse Creamery.

I got the idea that I wanted to make something that was sort of similar to that cream on top of the yogurts, but in more quantity so I could cover things with it or get really happily fat eating it on its own.

Upon reading a little about its uses, I decided that crème fraîche seemed like it might fit the bill. I’d never made it before, but happily, it’s extremely easy. It’s more about patience than anything else. This is a soured/cultured product, but it’s less tangy, thicker, and much fattier than regular yogurt. It is less sour and a little thinner than standard sour cream.

Supplies you will need:

  • – Container to hold the cream. Can be any size desired, according to the amount you want to make. Needs to be something non-reactive and clean (though it isn’t necessary to sterilize it). Glass or plastic bowls are what I use. If you live with animals or anything that might disturb the cream, make sure you have a hiding spot or a good cover for the container.
  • – Source of starter culture. This can be buttermilk, sour cream, or any reasonably good quality yogurt that doesn’t have too many additives.
  • – The cream itself. It’s best to use cream that has NOT been ultra-pasteurized, because it tends to thicken up faster if it isn’t. However, contrary to what you might hear, you CAN make very successful crème fraîche with ultra-pasteurized cream. I have done both and can’t tell much difference between them in the end.

You may also want measuring cups and spoons, though it’s not an exact science so it’s not entirely necessary.

The tray is actually an old container from Chinese takeout... ;>_>

The tray is actually an old container from Chinese takeout… ;>_>

It’s so easy…

  • – Pour out the cream into your container.
  • – Next, mix in your starter source, be it any of the three choices. You want about 2 tablespoons of the starter source for every 1 cup of cream.
  • – Stir gently with a clean spoon, knife, stir-stick, or whatever else you have around. The goal is to evenly combine the cream with the culture. I just try to make the mixture smooth so there’s no ‘chunks’.
  • – Set it in a warm-ish place where it won’t get knocked over. If you use a lid, some say it’s best to leave it partially open so the good bacteria can ‘breathe’, but from my experience, it works fine even with the lid completely sealed.
  • – Just wait anywhere from 12-24 hours and you should have your crème fraîche.

That’s right – there is no extra work, no extra heating, nothing. My kitchen is about 70-75 degrees and it works just fine in about 22 hours. If your area is warmer than that, it might be done faster. If its cooler, it might go slower. If your cream is ultra-pasteurized, it may take a few hours more than my given time frame as well.

You want to look and see it becoming more solid. If you’re like me, you peek at it during the process. It starts out liquid, and is liquid for much of the time. When it’s done, though, it gets thicker and more like yogurt in appearance. It doesn’t ‘flow’ when you tip it, it tends to ‘slide’. If you spoon some up and drop it back into the container, it sort of holds the shape you dropped it in. That means it’s done. You can also leave it out longer for an even thicker, tangier product. Don’t be afraid to taste and see what you like.

It’s safe and fine to eat it as is at at this stage, although I like to refrigerate it first, because that thickens it up even more. You can mix or dip things in to your heart’s content. It’s also good for cooking, as it tends to resist curdling/separating.

I like to stir in a couple spoonfuls of honey before sticking it in the fridge, and it comes out ready to be put on fruit or enjoyed out of the bowl in all of its butt-expanding glory.

After being fridged. This batch was made with ultra-pasteurized cream – proof that it works!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Meyer Lemon Tree BlossomsDespite a warmer than average winter, I’ve been going over my gardening plans for the coming seasons as I focus on my indoor garden. It’s rare for me to talk about what I do and my upcoming gardening plans. I currently live in an urban apartment where gardening space is limited, but have learned to maximize the small space available with container gardening.

I base most of what I do with my garden off of gut instinct and luck in combination with the knowledge I’ve picked up through trial and error over the years.

What Worked

  • Mixing My Own Soil

Living in an apartment, my access to soil and compost is incredibly limited. In the past I’ve relied on a popular brand of potting soil with varying results. My goal this past year was to find a more rich soil mixture that required less maintenance. I ended up using a mixture of potting soil, a high quality compost, sand, and soil conditioner mixed in accordance to the needs of individual plants.

Mixing my own soil turned out to be the best thing I could have done for my little container garden—it retained moisture without becoming waterlogged. To cut down on cost, I looked for ripped, discounted bags at garden centers. The potting soil I used was leftover from the prior year and I would recommend cutting it out completely if possible.

  • OrchidsOrchids

During the winter, mold can be a major problem with indoor plants. My apartment has poor air circulation that created a severe mold problem with the sphagnum moss potting medium used for my orchids. The mold caused root rot, so the decision was made to replant them in bark which has completely abolished the mold problem. While still healing from the mold attack a year later, all have stabilized and look to be healthy.

  • Lizard TerrariumTerrarium

After longing for a terrarium, I finally created a large and nearly self-maintaining eco-system plus an additional lizard. A layer of rocks under the soil help create a self-watering system that the plants thrive on. Beneficial springtails help to tidy the enclosure and decompose waste. Can’t wait to add some live moss!

  • Overwintering Herbs

Currently, our mild winter has made wintering over the many herbs and plants incredibly simple. The hardier plants are unmoved since summer while the more tender are housed in a small pop-up greenhouse for protection from the winter nip.

  • Container PondContainer Pond

Mid-summer, I picked up side project and turned a large, cracked planter into a container pond. This was an especially cheap and simple project—the container was clearanced for $6. Easy to maintain, the pond and goldfish within provided a tranquil addition to an already relaxing jungle. The goldfish have adapted well to overwintering in a tank inside

What Didn’t Work

  • Balcony GardenLack of Space

This past year, I grew both lemongrass and tomatoes; however, both plants grow fairly large and take up a lot of space. Since they shaded out many of my other plants, I have decided I will not grow them this coming year in order to make room for new plants.

  • Various Tropicals

I grow many tropicals that rotate between inside and outside depending on the weather. Both last winter and this current winter, I have found molding soil due to my apartment’s poor air circulation. Currently I have been treating with cinnamon to keep the mold at bay, but would like to find a better solution in the future.

After busting the pot on my large White Bird of Paradise, I attempted to repot it on my own despite suspicions it would be a two person job. I was unprepared for the thick, stiff roots that grew straight down and the three plants separated as I loosened the old soil. In the end, I ended up with leaning plants that were growing into one another.

My cats have done a good job of eating the foliage and even killing a few. I have resorted to placing them in odd places so the plants will have time to begin their recovery.

Looking Ahead

  • Seed SproutingSeed Sprouting

The warmer than average winter is wreaking havoc on my gardening plans as I’ve been cautious of planting seeds with worries they’ll sprout too early. However, I have picked up some new seeds to try of which includes fenugreek, cattails for my pond and cat grass in hopes of distracting the cats from my tropicals.

  • Enduring Soil

When I created a soil mixture last spring, I tried to plan ahead in anticipation of this growing season as I wanted the repotting to be minimal. I added plenty of soil conditioner to each pot in hopes that it would decompose throughout the year, leaving another year of rich soil for each plant to continue growing in. I am eager to see how well (hopefully) this has worked out.

  • Meyer Lemon Tree in FlowerLemon Tree

I will endure the continual wait for the first lemons to ripen on my Meyer Lemon tree. I’m also hoping to see the growth even out a little more this year. The tree is currently in full bloom with a scent that fills the entire room; however, I won’t be leaving many lemons to grow as it’s still a young tree.

After a fairly successful year, this coming year looks to be a promising experience with plenty of room to grow and expand my gardening knowledge. So, how did your garden grow this past year? Got any interesting plans for the 2013 season?

Read Full Post »