Thursday, December 18, 2008

Homemade Yogurt, Yah

So, I went online and looked at all those fancy yogurt makers cuz I thought I needed one to make yogurt. Wrong. Some kind soul set us all straight in the product review (!) and said all you need is some kind of place that will heat the milk to a temperature of 120 degrees consistently over 6-8 hours. Investigating further, I found out that people made yogurt in the old days on the back of a wood stove (which gets hot!) and in the new days on assorted electronic devices like heavily used DVD players, for example, (which don't get that hot). So, I thought, this can't be that hard. It's not. And so far the only common denominator I have found is some kind of heat source (however erratic), milk and starter culture. I even left the last batch in the cold oven all night (forgot, oops) and it was so fine. Better than fine. It was YUM. The longer it sits, the tarter it gets. Oy. Did I mention you can save a lot of money doing this? I used to pay over 4$ for a quart of yogurt. Now I pay just under 1$ if you don't count the time I spend mixing it up and forgetting about it.

So, get a gallon (or half-gallon) of locally produced milk. It should be pasteurized, so you don't have bacterial interference, but it can be very lightly pasteurized, and you could do it yourself at home by heating raw milk on the stove top if you are so lucky to get some of that good stuff. Take a very clean pint jar and fill it almost to the top with milk. Stir in two tablespoons of yogurt from the last batch or (horrors!) if you have to, store-bought yogurt with active cultures. I use Stoneyfield Farm Organic Whole Milk Plain cuz I like to eat it and they do good things in the world, generally. Place the pint jar (and 3-7 other jars if you are ambitious) in a baking dish, heat the oven to about 200 degrees and pop those babies in. Leave it for an hour or so at that heat, er, until you remember, or after you get that load of laundry done, and then shut if off. I have a gas stove, so I'm paranoid about leaving it on at low heat for hours. But it doesn't need to heat continuously and you can save the energy and the atmosphere by just firing up the oven every couple of hours for about 6 hours to maintain some heat. But like I said, I forgot my last batch overnight and it turned out fine. Resist the urge to poke around and stir it cuz, it seems to resent being disturbed (I don't know why). Anyway, look in on the little white jars of happiness every once in a while and bless their multiplying cultures and in no time you'll be enjoying some yumminess with your local blue berries. Good luck!

Recipe: Black Bean and Kale Soup with Indian Spices

I just tossed this soup together tonight when I got home from the market. I had the cooked beans in the fridge, the tomatoes in the freezer and the kale in my market bag. Not all the ingredients are local for me right now, but in another time and place, I had the onions in storage, the peppers and the stock in the freezer, the tomatoes in a jar, the beans dried in the cupboard and the kale growing through the snow. Use local butter for an (almost) totally local soup. One of my favorite favorite Indian dishes from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian Cookbook consists of smoked eggplant and tomatoes that includes a delicious panoply of spices that you can buy already mixed together at an Indian grocery if you have one. If not, a good source online is I abstracted the spices for the recipe below, but if you can get your hands on MDH's baingan bhartaa masala, you won't be sorry.

Prep time: 5-10 minutes; cook time 5-10 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 medium sweet bell pepper, chopped
1-2 green chilis, to taste
1 clove garlic
2 T olive oil
3-4 large tomatoes, chopped
2 cups black beans, cooked
4 cups pastured chicken stock
1 tsp each coriander, cumin, ginger, black pepper
1/2 tsp each cardamom, nutmeg and cloves
Squeeze of lemon or lime to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
4 cups kale, chopped

Saute the onions, peppers, chilis and garlic in the oil/butter for about 5-7 minutes in a stockpot over medium high heat until the onions start to get a little translucent and release their magical juices. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 3-5 minutes until they get all juicy and start smelling good. Throw in the black beans and give a good stir. Add the chicken stock and when heated to a simmer, taste for salt. Add the spices, salt and pepper and lime juice to taste. Taste early, taste often. Taste while standing over the simmering pot and let the spices fill your head with delicious dreams. When the soup is hot and simmering at a good clip, throw in the kale and give it several stirs. Simmer it hard for a few more minutes until the kale turns bright green and is soft/crunchy enough to suit your palate.

Something old, something new

Starting this blog made me get a little more serious about eating local. So a couple weeks ago I got a local free-range organic chicken and roasted it with some local Yellow German potatoes and sauteed up a bunch of local kale to go with it. This is my old standby. It's 100 percent local and I just pop that bird in the oven sprinkled with some salt, pepper and Herbes de Provence (rosemary, thyme and lavender mostly) and go do something fun for two hours (like ride my horse). Voila, a luscious, local meal when I return. And then there is the multiplier affect of roasting a chicken. Suddenly there are bones for stock and leftover chicken for etouffe or chicken and wild rice hotdish. (yah, I am from Minnesota, ya know). I get wild rice from Native Harvest run by Winona LaDuke on the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota. I figure this is better than local, since they use renewable energy to run their business, use the proceeds to buy back their land and take care of their elders, among other small feats of generosity and goodness. So, this little kickstart with the chicken got me to thinking about my little problem with breakfast...and guess what?! I made yogurt! It was so fun. And easy. There was a little serendipity too...a local dairy just came online with pasteurized milk, and I was able to buy it just in time to try yogurt last weekend. And then tonight I made the most delicious black bean soup from beans I got through Athens Locally Grown ( All the food I get locally at this point (except for the odd radish from my wee patch in the backyard) comes from this online cooperative. They rock. I can't say enough about them. This week I got porridge from Mills Farm, and I'm going to make some good old fashioned granola to have with my homemade yogurt and frozen blueberries. Who says you can't eat local in December?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now is as good a time as any...

Those are always my famous last words when I start something new. I doubt this venture into the blogasphere will be any different.

The first time I decided to start eating locally it was January in Pennsylvania. This time it's November in Georgia. Fortunately, in Pennsylvania, I had already dabbled a bit in this exercise and had some canned tomatoes, frozen fruit, some greens in a cold frame, a good source of meat and dairy products and about 250 pounds of potatoes from my overly-ambitious garden. Really, it's all you need. And I managed quite well. In a time and place when overnutrition is the biggest threat to public health, we all can afford to eat less and more thoughtfully.

This time, however, I have a small back yard, no good source of yogurt and don't even know my way around town yet, much less my way around the local farms. So, I might have to figure out how to make yogurt at home and get out and make some friends fast. Athens seems like a great place to eat locally, and I already stand in a long line on Thursdays to get produce from a cooperative (of sorts) selling local meat, produce, cheese and all the rest. So, stay tuned and see how I fare! (yes, pun intended...)