Being Frugal with Fermented Vegetable Scraps!

I haven’t got very far with culturing vegetables yet (though right now I have cabbage and carrots fermenting, my first batch of water kefir on its second ferment and second batch on its first, and yoghurt – which I’m making every other day right now – just finished and setting in the fridge), but this seems like a great frugal tip:

A jar of shredded cabbage with scattered grated carrot, fermenting in brineOne more tip that some people don’t think of is to save those vegetable peelings and scraps. Carrots, zucchini, parsnips, celery, broccoli and cauliflower stalks and more can be washed well and cultured.

To do so simply set aside your vegetable scraps for a few days in the refrigerator until you have enough. Then wash them really well since they are the roughest parts of the vegetables. Then chop into small chunks and throw into a jar. Make a brine with a water to salt ratio of 1 quart to 3 tablespoons. Pour the brine over and allow to culture. Makes a great multi-colored condiment for your plate.

Like in many aspects of kitchen work, culturing can be done frugally and sustainably with only a small amount of extra effort. Waste not, want not.

From Cultures for Health: Getting Frugal with Cultured Foods.

(PS I haven’t actually decided to revive this blog as such, but this seemed too long to put on the Sustainable Suburbia Facebook Page – which was my original plan – but not quite right for Sustainable Suburbia itself. So here it is. Maybe there’ll be more, maybe there won’t 🙂 )

Quark, birthday parties, bread and broken arms. Oh, and burned chicken stock!

What I have been doing lately, while I haven’t been updating this blog…

Making birthday party invitations and party bags with my big five-year-old daughter Mikaela:

Making bread rolls with slightly old yeast and no where near enough time for them to rise (they were still yummy, but a bit dense!):

Making quark (this is an experiment that is not yet complete – it’s been draining for about 4 hours at this point, and I’ve just opened it up to take the photo):

yoghurt draining through cheese cloth into a bowl

Waiting for hours in hospital for various people to look at, X-ray and operate on that same daughter’s arm, only then she was still four. She broke it and needed pins put in. Ouch. But the cast is awesome, and waterproof!!

Hot pink cast from wrist to shoulder (almost)

Oh and making my house smell vile for days on end, despite leaving many windows wide open everytime we left the house (it was too cold to have them open when we were here), by leaving chicken stock on the stove overnight (not even on low) an burning it to a cinder. Oops. I didn’t take a photo of that one!

This is all well and good, but what I am doing tomorrow, is finally getting solar panels put on my roof! Very exciting.

Where I got my yoghurt information

This post is just by way of an acknowledgement, because I’ve written a few posts about my yoghurt making experiments, but could never figure out just where it was that I got the milk powder tip… well it was from Christine at Slow Living Essentials. She has a great two part post about making yogurt. It’s also in the comments on that post that I first read about using UHT milk to avoid the heating and cooling step – which I think I had attributed to my mother (but she says she doesn’t do that).

Making yoghurt with Xylitol – or not!

I had my first failure in my making yoghurt from scratch experiments. I thought I’d try a coffee flavoured yoghurt, and at the last minute I decided to sweeten it with Xylitol instead of sugar or honey.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol derived from birch bark, strawberries and corn cobs among other things. It has a very low GI (of around 7), can replace sugar virtually spoon for spoon, for somewhere around 1/2-3/4 the calories and, most importantly, inhibits the bacteria that causes tooth decay. For that reason many dentists are now recommending using it, for instance by sucking on a couple of Xylitol mints after a meal, or in tooth paste.

However, when I used Xylitol in my yoghurt, guess what happened? Nothing. Nothing happened. I opened my litre of supposed yoghurt 10 hours later, and it was still just slightly yoghurty flavoured coffee milk. My guess is that Xylitol not only inhibits the bacteria that causes tooth decay, but also the bacterias that cause yoghurt. Which is kind of interesting, given those bacterias (bactieri?) are also important for a healthy gut. So that’s something I’ll be looking into a bit more.

In the mean time, I made a lovely lemon yoghurt yesterday with 1 tsp lemon essence, 2 tbsp sugar, 1 & 1/4 cups milk powder* (I think I used a cup of full cream milk powder and 1/4 cup skim, but I mix up the ratio depending on the day) and enough milk to make it up to a litre. Oh, and a tsp of Easiyo natural yoghurt powder, because I’d run out of the previous batch of yoghurt. It’s delicious, but tomorrow I’m going to try coffee again, only this time, without the Xylitol!


* I don’t think I’ve mentioned that I’m using milk powder now in my yoghurt mostly, which avoids the step of heating and cooling the milk, since the drying process has the same effect on the milk protein as the heating does (buying UHT milk does this too, which is what my Mum does – she’s just started making it from scratch too, and in fact just bought herself an Easiyo from the supermarket). It’s heaps quicker and saves me having to buy milk even more often – we already go through 2-3 litres a day in this family! I got this idea from another blogger, but I will have to figure out who it was and link later, because right now Ms 11 months is getting very crotchety!

edited to add: Apparently my mother doesn’t use UHT milk, she uses Aldi’s Organic milk which is “ultra pasturised”. She has used it both heated and straight out of the fridge and it worked both ways. I have read that you can use UHT milk without heating it though.

Making yoghurt tonight!

Well, it turns out all I needed to do in my quest to find out how to make yoghurt from scratch using an easiyo maker was to follow the first link in my last post – namely to the Easiyo on Amazon – and look at the comments. The very first one has the instructions.

So now I will

  1. Heat 1 litre of light, organic milk almost (but not quite) to boiling.
  2. Cool it in the fridge until completely cold
  3. Mix it with a tbsp of yoghurt and 1/2 cup powered milk by shaking it up in the Easiyo container the same way you do with the sachets (ie half fill with milk, add yoghurt and powered milk, shake, fill with the rest of the milk, shake again).
  4. Fill the Easiyo maker with boiling water as per it’s usual instructions
  5. Pop the container of milk and yoghurt in there and leave for about 10 hours.
  6. Take it out and see if it’s set, if so put in fridge, if not, try, try again!

And now I must rush off, because soon the milk will get to the right temperature, and if I’m not there to take it off the heat it will boil, which I guess means it doesn’t work?

Will report back tomorrow. Wish me luck!

(PS for more detailed instructions just follow the link above and read the first comment, by “New in Florida”)

Updated to add: This worked like a charm. Notes:

  • I did not use a thermometer, just heated the milk until it was not quite boiling (starting to get frothy on top, but not yet frothing up properly), and I let the milk cool in the fridge overnight.
  • When I shook it in the Easiyo it frothed up so much there was barely room for the other 500ml milk. To settle I gently tapped the container on the bench, but I also had to scoop out a lot of froth! The second go around I didn’t shake so much and it was okay.

Edited again to add: I have now put together all my making yoghurt experience into one article on the main Sustainable Suburbia site: How to Make Yoghurt From Scratch in an Easiyo Yogurt Maker.

Making Yoghurt from Scratch in an Easiyo (without the packet mixes)

A few weeks ago a friend lent me her Easiyo yoghurt maker. It’s something I’ve been thinking of trying out for about five years, but each time I consider it I end up deciding that:

a) we really don’t need another kitchen tool cluttering up our space
b) it’s not clear to me that it’s all that much better than buying yoghurt in tubs, since you still have to buy packets every time (though I’m sure that’s a little better), nor much cheaper, and
c) it’s surely not that hard to make yoghurt properly from scratch and I should probably do that instead.

However, now that we have it I’ve been using it, and I must say, I do like it quite a bit. It is at least a little better than buying disposable plastic tubs by the dozen, it’s great to be able to keep the sachets in the cupboard and make the yoghurt overnight, you can vary how tangy the yoghurt is by how long you leave it for (so far ten hours is the most popular, but I’m going to try nine next for comparison), and you don’t even need to have milk in the fridge. That part was a surprise to me, and very convenient.

On the other hand, I still think it shouldn’t be all that hard to make yoghurt from scratch, and then I’d have real control over what I put in it. Though admittedly then we would up our daily milk use even more, and we already go through  two to three litres a day in this house!

So, while the kettle was heating up to make tonight’s batch of yoghurt, I did a quick google, and here’s what I found:

Fellow Australian Inner Pickle is making yoghurt from scratch in a Breville yoghurt maker, which I think just holds it at the right temperature (it’s electric). Following her link I went off for a look at Soul Mama who makes it from scratch and doesn’t use any fancy yoghurt maker, but does use a heating pad on her bench. Now, both these techniques sound fine, but they don’t really help with my plans to reduce our household energy use. But if the Easiyo holds the packet mix stuff at temperature, it should also be fine for real from-scratch yoghurt surely?

A bit more Googling turned up this forum post at Green Living Australia, in which people seem to be saying they’ve used the Easiyo to keep from-scatch yoghurt at the right temperature, and the second post gives instructions for making yoghurt using a thermos but also says yoghurt makers can be used this way. And it has another recipe, and, it describes doing it without the mention of precise tempertures or milk thermometers! Since that’s something I’ve never managed to acquire, this is the recipe I am going to try first.

I’ll report back when I have a result. 🙂

Edited to add: linking to report and instructions on how to make yoghurt from scratch using an Easiyo.

Edited some more to add: I have now put together all my making yoghurt experience into one article on the main Sustainable Suburbia site: How to Make Yoghurt From Scratch in an Easiyo Yogurt Maker.

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