Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Working my way to homesteadah!

Howdy All,

Well, for some insane reason, 9 days has gone by since I last posted. I am not sure how that happens, but when I looked at this blog this morning, I saw the picture of the pumpkin plants from the last post. That's when I realized it had been 9 days because the peas that the boys and I planted that long ago have sprouted! We've got growing going on like gangbusters, though I do find some poetic justice somehow that they each have more sprouts then mine does. Maestro's "LEO" made the first appearance, and he has 5 shoots coming up in one cup. Little Red's "HENRY" followed quickly on his heels with 4 sprouts and my "MATILDA" is showing a meager 2 sprouts. It will be really fun to have our window covered in vines and blossoms and peas in no time now.

Monday's adventures for me included making my own butter. I have read that this is not a hard thing to do, it just takes some time and a lot of shaking. Shaking? you may be asking. Yes, no fancy equipment needed, you just need to put cream in a jar and shake. Now, this seems easy enough on the surface, but I did have some learning involved in this. After quizzing the woman at the farm who makes her own butter about how exactly she does this, she gave me great instruction. BUT, she failed to mention one crucial thing...the cream needs to have room to move in the container. She told me to take a quart of cream and shake for awhile and it would become first chunky looking milk, then more solid until if finally makes a ball floating in the middle with the buttermilk all around it. Yeah well, here's a known fact about me that those close to me already know...when I set my mind to something, it's very hard for me mentally if I don't accomplish it. So, I shook...and shook...and shook the heck out of a quart of cream. I shook it for over an hour with no changes. My arms were falling off, well the part near the wrists that have the tendonitis anyway. I was getting seriously grumpy, thinking this is something soooo simple in process and I can't seem to make it work. So, I reviewed the steps in my head...make sure the cream is at room temperature, check. Make sure the cover is tight, check. You don't need to go crazy with the shaking, a nice steady gentle shake is all it takes, check. So, my mind is screaming, WHY CAN'T YOU ACCOMPLISH THIS? Pioneer and colonial women made their butter this way all the time, this can't be that hard, right? My mind is very self punishing, yes, I know, I really need to work on that.

So, the next thing I did was pull out my copy of "Made From Scratch" by Jenna Woginrich. In this book, she talks about many homesteading skills that people can learn easily to make a more handmade life for themselves. None of the information is earth shattering in there, but for people who don't know where to start when wanting a more authentic and homemade life, it's a great place to go. Plus, she's funny and that always adds to the information for me. So, I remembered in reading it that she talked about using this method to make her own butter. So, I opened the book, I'm not kidding, right to the page about making butter. I took this as a good sign that someone was appreciating my efforts and also knew how annoyed I was getting over this seemingly simple process gone unfulfilled. I love it when the universe gives me these little gifts, don't you? In this, I read quickly and found that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, she had all the steps listed that the farm owner told me. EXCEPT, when I went back and read it again, I noticed that Jenna talks about putting one cup of cream into a pint size jar...ahh, the light begins to dawn on my sleep deprived brain. Put half as much liquid in the jar as the jar will hold and see what happens. So, I took out half of the cream, and started to shake, really hopeful that this was the answer. Simply that the cream needed more room to get it's groove on. I shook and shook and shook for 15 more minutes, when suddenly, I noticed it was getting to chunky milk stage. I was so excited, I could barely contain myself. This renewed the efforts and in another 5 minutes or so I had the butter ball both helpful mentors told me about.

I scooped it out, and put it in a dish, pressing out the excess milk. It looked a whole lot like butter once I stirred it up some. Whipped butter, you know the gourmet kind. Not only had I made butter, but I made the gourmet kind! I was giddy, seriously, I was. So, I followed another of Jenna's suggestions and kneaded it (well, I stirred it in a bowl, but same difference) while running cold water over it. This got out the excess milk that couldn't be pressed out. Jenna tells us that it helps the butter last longer in the fridge.

At this point, with great expectation, I tasted the fruits of my (well, and Brownie's, after all it's her milk) labor. Hmmmm, creamy, delicate, nothing like butter I've eaten most of my life from the store. Also had a faintly grassy taste, which I'm going to attribute to Brownie's diet being all grass. She's an organically grass fed cow, no grains, just the way nature intended it for her. This stuff was amazing. And once I added a little sea salt to it, because let's face it, that's the way we are used to eating it, aren't we? it was beyond beyond. We had some sesame bagels in the house and so I made half (not really on my eating plan, but come on, it's gotta be done), slathered it with this wonderful concoction and took a bite. I was almost drooling, really, it's that good. I did manage to share half of the half with Music Man, and he raved about it. That night's supper was whole grain apple cinnamon pancakes (with real maple syrup, I live in New England after all!) in honor of Brownie's butter as the kids call it. They may have been the best pancakes I've ever had.

You really have to try this, just make sure your cream is room temp and that you're using a container double the size of the amount of liquid. It's so simple and one more step closer to a handmade life for yourselves. All these little experiments I'm making are not new to the universe, after all, they've been done for centuries, but they are helping me feel closer to the authentic life I want to be living. Some day, we hope it will include chickens of our own, perhaps a goat or two, but for now, until we can be in the right situation for that, I'm contenting myself with learning the skills generations before mine learned. I told the woman at the farm, I'm a 19th century girl, living in the 21st century. I really feel this way, like somehow time left me behind. I'm happiest when I'm making my life more simplified and learning how things were done in a time that did not ruin the planet for convenience.

Creamy butter on apple pancakes to you, ~Peacemom


Jenna said...

wow, i am impressed! i never churned butter from my own cow! damn girl. damn.

nice work, and thanks for the plug

Peacemom said...

Hey Jenna!
Brownie's not actually my cow, but that's where we get our milk, from a local farm. She's a sweet little girl, too! Thanks for the kudos, it was fun.