Thursday, 23 August 2012

A Little Layer

Our new hen, Custard, is just a little bantam hen and there was concern that she may feel a little overwhelmed by the masses of larger hens, not to mention the cockerel! But it appears that she has settled in perfectly and is happy enough to lay us a little show of appreciation. I have never seen a bantam egg before and they are very cute! I am kind of keen to add a few bantams to our collection, although I am also after quail too! I shall become 'that crazy woman with all the birds'!

The other hen has had to be separated unfortunately. The cockerel was getting too aggressive and she was getting stressed. She now has her own run, within the main run, and has settled right in. I return her to the coop at night for safety and back to her run during the day. This is hopefully not a permanent arrangement, I am hoping that with slow, careful steps we can make a better and successful introduction down the road, and harmony shall reign again!!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

It's Buttering Time!

There has been some interest in the butter making, many people like me who thought it would be a whole lot harder than it was. I can assure you it is easy and I am going to show you exactly how easy it is!

You only need three things to make butter, and one of those you could probably live without! I have here one tub of double cream, one jar and one spatula. For nice quick results I would recommend leaving your cream out of the fridge overnight before starting this. It is possible to make butter from cold cream straight from the fridge but your shaking time will be longer.

Pour your cream into your jar and put the lid on tight. Now just shake it! You don't need to be violent, just regular. Obviously if you want to shake it like a crazed person then go don't let me stop you! But if you are using cold cream then you could be churning for a while!

The cream will gloop about for a while and then all will go quiet and it will feel like you are shaking a small brick. Keep going! After a while you will begin to see yellow flecks in the cream, this is the first of the butter. Keep shaking!!

The final stage happens suddenly. There will be a sloshing and the butter will quickly appear, floating in its own little sea of buttermilk.  Give it a few extra shoogles for luck and your butter is formed.

It is now necessary to wash your butter, so you can either head down to the cool mountain stream that meanders at the foot of your garden or, failing that, the kitchen tap is fine.  The aim of this stage is to remove any buttermilk that remains, from the butter.  Buttermilk in the mix will cause your butter to go rancid quickly.

Washing it is just as it sounds.  Use cold, cold water, else your butter will melt and disappear!  Take the butter in one hand and squash it gently with the fingers of the other hand, under the running water.  You want to keep this up until the water runs clear.  I found putting a bowl under the flow as this made it easier to see when the water went clear.

Once you have clean butter you are essentially done, you can add salt if you wish, just knead it through, I didn't bother.  Butter freezes well, I popped the butter into a small block shaped mould I had and froze it in there, then I take it out, wrap in baking parchment and back in the freezer.

This isn't a money saver if you buy the cream full price BUT if you want to save money with your efforts then the thing to do would be to watch the reduced aisle of your supermarket.  Cream that is 'on the brink' can be radically reduced and is perfect for butter making, you can then freeze the butter and ta daaaa saved money! Hopefully!

Enjoy your butter making!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

It Always Tastes Better...

Monday and Tuesday this week have been filled with two small bursts of pleasure.  On Monday I decided that it was time to get back to basics and make some bread.  I have a bread machine, my striving for a more traditional way of life is not without its need for speed and convenience.  And, come on, even when using a machine you are still making the bread yourself, no additives and no 'what's in this' concerns.  

But this Monday I decided to go back even further and do the whole thing by hand.  While I was kneading away at the dough and staring out at the lashing rain (we had some sun last week, what's the complaining!) I was taken, not only by how sore my arms were, but that in the not-so-long ago people got up near enough every day and made bread, just like this!  

I have to admit to a certain pleasure in looking out at rain, particularly when there are people in it, knowing that I am nice and warm inside.  And that day I had the added feeling that while others worried about buses, trains and deadlines I was just kneading and staring, there was no hurry in this it would be done when it was done, I couldn't hurry it even if I wanted to.  This had its own deadline and I was just along for the ride.

My attempts at hand made bread have been hit or miss in the past and I was quite nervous about the rising stage, that's when I murder a bread loaf!  I have rising issues!  So for the hour and a half I left it to rise I couldn't help but keep peeking over at the bowl with its damp cloth hat.  Finally, the feeling of relief, and a little pride, that came upon me when I saw that the cloth was forming a little mound in the centre! Huzzah!

Then the slightly nerve racking but fun procedure of punching out the air, after all my success in the rising I have to destroy it.  Hour and a half up, 5 seconds down.  I made two loaves, a standard loaf and a fancy plait thing which I brushed with herby butter before cooking.  After the punching and forming another hour was required while they rose again under their cloth.  This time it was harder to see the rising - was it that high before?

I had no need to worry it was perfectly risen and ready for the oven.  After cooking the house smelled great and we had fresh bread for snaking and dinner!

The full procedure from cupboard to bread board took about 3 hours, if I had been wanting this for breakfast I'd have been up at 5am!  4am if Farm Guy had wanted some for his breakfast! I couldn't do it, not every day!  Hats off to the people of the past.

My desire for the perfect homemade snack was not over however.  A call to farm guy to buy double cream on his way home was sent forth and duly he returned that evening with it.  One carton was placed on the kitchen side and to bed we went...

Next morning our room temperature cream was placed into a jar and the shaking began.  I had feared a morning of jar shaking, rolling, flinging with no result but in only a few minutes the butter was there, floating in a little sea of buttermilk.  After some rinsing and patting we had butter!  The whole process was so fast, I knew the theory but apart from an experiment in Primary 2 (about 6 years old) I had never tried it myself.  I didn't bother to salt it just left it as it was, yellow and yummy!  I know have a reason to use the beautiful butter dish my mum gave me, no butter so far has quite been good enough for it, but this shall take pride of place! 

I had asked Farm Guy to remember the price, which was 60p, for the tub of cream and we managed 74g of butter, nope no saving there!  But we don't use butter often, I use marg-y stuff for cooking so this butter would do us for toast and sandwiches, times when we can enjoy the butter for itself.  It came out at snack time with the loaf of bread.  There is something quite satisfying and, as a mum, comforting in watching your little one eating, and thoroughly enjoying with fistful happiness, something which you have not only made yourself but you know what is in practically everything she is eating.  Now, if I could just get cream from a cow then it would be 100% known ingredients.  Here.. mooey mooey mooooo.....!