Skills Crash Course by Carol
August 19, 2011, 6:08 pm
Filed under: by Carol, Food

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I’ve long wanted to learn how to make cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut and pickles as these are very useful skills for a budding homesteader. I didn’t expect to learn them all in one 24-hour period! But sometimes you have to make hay, or at least try to, while the sun shines.

After a long day of land searching, our gardening realtor gifted us with 4 lbs of baby cucumbers, a head of cabbage an additional bag of veggies of many varieties and a gallon of  milk from a farmer friend. Now I already had veggies and milk in the refrigerator and we are just two so I saw this as an opportunity to try out some of the recipes in Wild Fermentation and the next day we set out to pick up a few crocks for the ferments and some cheesecloth to convert some of that milk to cheese.

That night we got the cabbage chopped and salted and crocked and thereby on its way to kraut and mixed up a brine with dill and garlic for the cucumbers to soak in. So far so good. It would be days before we knew whether the fermentation was successful. Then we got started with the milk, which smelled just fine at the time. I re-viewed previously bookmarked online videos for raw milk yogurts and dutifully followed the instructions happy to be able to have another use for my dehydrator. As long as you can maintain a steady temperature of 110F, a yogurt maker is not necessary. Next we made the cheese and finally understood that old nursery rhyme about curds and whey! We even jazzed it up with some chives from our garden before hanging it to drip for a while in our bathtub. Homesteading is so glamorous.

The next day we checked on the yogurt and it still wasn’t set. We added a bit more yogurt starter and gave it a some more time but ultimately only about half of it set up and it had a very runny consistency. The cheese set up very nicely but upon tasting it, we realized that the milk it was made from was a bit off. The day we brought the milk home was very warm and despite our best efforts to keep it cold, I suspect something went bad during the 1 hour transport. The milk smelled fine but we might have noticed the off flavor if we had thought to taste it before making the yogurt and cheese. This would be one of several lessons learned during this adventure. Subsequent milk from the same farmer has been most delicious.

We monitored the ferments and kept the veggies in the brine as instructed. The pickles seemed to be progressing  just fine but after a few days when we went to pull them out for a taste we realized that the whole batch had gone beyond fermented to rotten. One good thing to come of that was validation of our reading that there would be NO DOUBT about the edibility of the final product. I think the words were “nothing will make you eat a spoiled ferment”. Confirmed!

The sauerkraut took on its krauty taste after a few days and we transferred it to the refrigerator where it will continue to get krautier but at a slower pace. We are enjoying it immensely and glad that 1 out of 4 of our experiments resulted in success. Truly though it was all a learning experience and so all a success. We’re not YET dependent on our skills for survival and thank heavens for that. We had read that ideal fermenting temperatures were between 70F and 78F. What we WISHED we’d read, but learned later, was that at 80F, cukes in brine are unable to develop the proper acid balance and are almost certain to rot. Our energy-saving frugal ways mean that we don’t use the a/c until we really have to and that means mostly at night so there were definitely many 80F hours for those poor wanna-be pickles.

Now we are better informed, better equipped and ready to try again. Maybe one at a time next go around.


5 Comments so far
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I was lamenting just a couple of hours ago that it seemed like a while since your last blog! Coincidently I just read last week about making yogurt, pickles, cheese, and sauerkrout. I decided it sounded like too much trouble at the time. Thank you for sharing your experiences! Living vicariously through your stories 🙂

Comment by Kathy

If I had your work schedule and other challenges I’d think it was too much trouble too! Recommend starting with the kraut if you ever decide to wade in. Glad you’re out there to share with!

Comment by Carol

Glad I received notification of this posting. I didn’t for the mead, but Cecily asked if I had seen it so tracked it down earlier today. Great writing.
Arthur and I want to pickle some sausages. We use to buy them in Texas, but cannot find them here and the company, when queried, said they did not know of any stores carrying them in this area. I have gone online and come up with a couple recipes. Now need to gather stuff and try our hand. I am thinking of ordering a jar just to have something to compare ours with.

Comment by Genie

Thanks Genie. Appreciate you reading them and commenting. The sausages sound really interesting. Let me know how it works out for you.

Comment by Carol

Pickled sausages?!?!?! Never heard of such a thing. Can you post the recipe you end up trying? I can’t help but think about Aunt Catherine and wishing she was here to share this with. I had many a conversation with her about root cellars and growing food. I’m sure our current journey would have elicited a lot of good sharing. Let us know how the sausages go!

Comment by Cecily

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