Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Holiday Greetings

Our housemate made us this amazing Christmas card. How cool is this? Happy holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A New Lease on Yogurt

We learned a new technique for making yogurt that promises to be simple and painless. The trick, if you've made yogurt before, is keeping the temperature stable and relatively high, but not too high! This can be an annoying task: testing the low settings on ovens, using coolers with hot water baths and thermometers, building custom thermostats, and many other such nuisances. My mother recently befriended a Pakistani family who lives in her neighborhood and learned this trick from the woman of the house. She takes a thick walled crock and fills it with hot water to heat up the walls. Meanwhile the milk is heated until steaming and too hot to hold your finger in, then cooled to the point where it is warm and you can hold your finger in it ("baby warm"). Next the water is poured out of the crock and a spoon full of last week's yogurt is put in the crock. The warm milk is added a little at a time first, stirring vigorously, then the remaining portion dumped in. Now, the crock is wrapped in a bathroom towel, and placed in an enclosed area, she uses the microwave, we use our canner, and left overnight undisturbed. That's it! Leave it to the people who make yogurt every week to figure out the simplest and lowest tech solutions. It works!

I got my hands on a crock, without spending a fortune, by grabbing an old crockpot at the thrift store and taking the crock out. I spent a whole $6.50 on it. Now we have a crock pot too. I considered trying to hack it with a dimmer or some other circuitry to use as an incubator, but why bother? A little low tech technology is sometimes the best solution.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Preserved Lemons

Citrus season is upon us. As with every harvest comes the time to practice the age old art of preservation. Today we "put-up" some lemons à la Morocco. The process is remarkably similar to that of making sauerkraut. The lemons are washed, and the stem nubs cut off. Then the lemons are sliced open and the crevices are filled with salt.

Next the lemons are packed tightly in a jar using a wooden spoon. The lemons are submerged by the expelled juices. An extra lemon worth of juice is poured on to make sure that the smooshed lemons stay submerged. Some people add a little olive oil on top to keep it extra sealed. All that's left to do now is let them pickle, turning the jar dally at first to weasel out any trapped air bubbles. I read on one forum post a story from a woman who kept her jar contamination free for eight years(!) sealing the confit with olive oil and always using a clean utensil to fish them out.

The culinary implications of this preserve are, needless to say, very exciting: Moroccan chicken or fish with olives and preserved lemons, dips, spreads, dressings and even drinks! We will keep you posted on what we do with our preserved lemons as the months pass and our lemons mellow.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Whittled Down Caravan in ReadyMade Feature!

ReadyMade magazine has a really sweet article about the wagon in the current issue. They even turned our straw mattress into a bonafide project, for those readers itching to make a straw tick of their own (pun intended).

To those of you visiting from ReadyMade, welcome! I hope you'll poke around--the "gypsy wagon" tag will yield tons of construction information, and if you explore the blog further you'll learn about our adventures in fermentation, chicken-raising, and oh so much more. More adventures to follow soon, so subscribe if you like it here at Whittled Down!