Category Archives: Diet

How to Make Homemade Apple Cider

Ever wonder how to make your own apple cider from apples you have picked? Well this quick 1 minute video gives you the quick run-down, but if you want more detailed instructions keep reading…

List of supplies:

Now the process:

  1. Get apples… Do I need to explain?
  2. Wash Apples (you do not need to be perfect in washing them, but that depends on what your level of “grossness” is)
  3. Cut apples, if necessary (we use small apples)
  4. Pulverize apples. We use small apples, so we just can just throw a whole pile of them in the vitamix and pulse it a couple times. However, please be careful on how hot your vitamix will get. I accidentally overheated mine, it doesn’t kill it, but it will put you back about 30 minutes until it cools down.
  5. Set up your press: make sure it has a tray as the apple cider is extracted and can flow into a pot or something that easily can catch the apple cider.
  6. Put apples through the press. If you buy the Tabletop Fruit Press 1.25 Gallon it’ll be pretty self explanatory instructions. You can go cheap if you make your own press, but you need to have access to a hydraulic press or find a way to press the apples extremely hard.
    1. Make your own press: Get a clean five gallon bucket and drill small holes all over the bucket.
    2. Put as many extra long twist ties in between each row of holes.
    3. Put a pan underneath the bucket to direct apple cider flow to your pot.
    4. Put a paint strainer in the bucket so that the apples do not plug up the holes.
    5. Put bucket in the press. We cut a circle shaped board that covers the apples so we can easily press the apples. Add wood blocks into press as it gets more compressed.
  7. Catch the apple cider! Drink right from the flow!
  8. You can either keep your cider plain or spice it up! (if you are worried about e coli or other diseases boil cider at 185 degrees. We have never had issues with sickness and it kills lots of good nutrients and bacteria so we personally do not do it, but you make that decision).
    1. If you spice your cider, put it on the stove and bring it up to a hot temperature. Place cinnamon sticks, vanilla extract and cloves in (do is based on how much you like each spice).
    2. Let it simmer for about an hour so that the flavors get fully incorporated. Stain out the spices and then drink warm or cool.
  9. Poor cider into jars and keep in refrigerator, can the apple cider or take gallon sized freezer bags and poor it in there and freeze them (that’s what we do).
  10. Enjoy all your hard work!

Natural cider has plenty of sediment in it, so make sure to leave the bottom of the cider after it is chilled.

Raising Free Range Cornish Cross Chickens

This was the first year we tried raising Cornish Cross chickens for our customers. To say that it was a success, would be an overstatement, but to say it was a total failure would be… Well, almost correct, but it was not a complete loss, we at least broke even, but in a business, “breaking even” is not quite what you are aiming for.

The first batch of chickens we started with 200 chicks and ended up with 107 successfully making it to harvest. The second batch of chickens we started with 200 chicks and ended up with 134 successfully making it to harvest.

A little background on Cornish Cross chickens will give you a little bit of a better idea why they are so difficult to raise. Cornish Cross chickens were developed for confinement chicken houses, they are designed to be on a steady diet of antibiotics, have a perfect temperature at all times and have the perfect protein ration diet. By 8 weeks of age they go from weighing almost nothing to an 8-10 lb chicken that develops heart and leg problems due to the unnatural rate of growth in that time.

Now you are probably wonder why we even tried raising these birds in particular and not go with another breed. Well, there is literally no other breed that gives you that much return in such a short period of time. They are also double breasted bird, which means their breast as twice the size of any other chicken, this is the chicken you buy at the supermarket, and no one is used to the “old style” thin breasted chicken anymore. All other breeds of chickens take at least 12-16 weeks to get to full size and their full size is typically 5-7 lbs and dress out at 2-3 lbs, compared to the Cornish Cross which will dress out at 8 weeks between 4-6 lbs. If you let them go for a few more weeks they can dress out close to 8-11 lbs (hello, small turkey?)

Obviously, with a bird that gains so much in such a short period of time, there’s bound to be problems, and we discovered almost all of them. These birds do not handle outside stresses like a standard chicken does, so temperature fluctuations, timing in feeding and the amount of chickens in space can affect their growth.

We bought our first batch way too early. They were in a brooder in our shop, but we think since they were in a smaller confined area, it was too cold for little chicks. Drafts were not an issue, but just the air in general was very chilly. We lost around 30 chicks in the first 3 weeks in the brooder.

chicks keeping warm under their brooder

chicks keeping warm under heat lamps

By the 3-4th week the chicks we getting big and the brooder was difficult to keep clean, so we decided to turn them out in the movable pens. However, it was clearly way too cold at night (we live at 4000 ft elevation, so it gets very cold at night). These chickens do not handle temperature swings well. If it was 70 during the day, it would be around freezing at night. Remember, most people raise these chickens in confinement housing their entire life so they can’t handle unstable temperatures. Chicks started dying all over, so we put heat lamps in and turned them on at night. Well, then they would all gather together under the heat lamp and several would get suffocated in the night. At this point we did not have enough space to put them back inside, they had to make it outside at this time.

DSC_3362

Our movable chicken coops

Every night my husband would go out and put a piece of cardboard over the entrance of their movable coop so they would stay in and keep warm. Eventually their deaths started to slow down, but we consistently lost 1-2 chickens a night. When we brought them to chicken processing the owners suggested that we probably lost most of our birds due to a disease called “water belly.” Sure enough, it sounded like that was the problem with them, the main cause? Temperature fluctuations and elevations over 3000 ft. At higher elevations available oxygen is lower, and these birds are known for respiratory problems, so thinner air is very difficult on them.

The second batch of chicks had difficultly at first as well, due to the cold temperatures, but it warmed up by the time we needed to turn them outside and it wasn’t freezing anymore at night. It was amazing how much better they did outside. We maybe lost a total of 5 chickens from the time we turned them outside, compared to losing 1-2 every day with our first batch. So, we learned the warmer temperatures are critical for these chickens. However, on the other end, they do not do well in temperatures over 85 degrees, so we are thankful that our chickens were processed this last week when it was still in the 80’s compared to this week which is scheduled to be in the 100’s.

Cornish Cross around 4 weeks old.

Cornish Cross around 4 weeks old.

Pasture raised chickens are so much healthier for the birds and for those consuming them, but since they are not necessarily designed for outside lifestyle you must factor in death loss and difficulties that those who raise them inside do not have to deal with.

Will we raise them again? Well, it’ll depend on whether we can get someone at lower elevation to raise them for us, because it is very difficult to successfully raise them at 4000 ft elevation, and when the weather is good to raise them, it’s a short period of time before it becomes too hot.

A beautifully finished pasture raised Cornish Cross chicken.

A beautifully finished pasture raised Cornish Cross chicken.

Real Food, Real Cheap.

Real food is affordable. Real food is better for you. Real food will make you feel better and live a healthier life.

What is real food? Well, in my world, real food is food that has not been adulterated or processed. It’s recognizable to your great grandparents and most likely doesn’t come in fancy packaging.

Today people think that real food only comes from Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, but this is just another marketing hype to keep people in the grocery stores. If you want real food for your family that you can afford, you need to leave the supermarket and return to the farm.

I’m not talking about driving 3 hours outside of town every week to go get some eggs, meat and milk (though some people are willing to do it). I’m talking about finding someone who grows good quality food, close to home that you can personally trust.

CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture), food clubs and drop points are a great way to get good food for your family. Local Harvest is a great website to find your local agriculture.

We are apart of a CSA. We buy a half share, which is around $300 and we get a box of veggies for 30 weeks. That’s right around $10 a week. Can you afford a box of organic vegetables for $10 a week? How much would that same box of veggies run you at the supermarket? Probably at least $50 considering it’s all organic. It’s fresh, right out of the garden and a local neighbor gets a little extra income for the hard work they are putting into a beautiful garden.

So that’s one way to get vegetables. How about beef?

Once again, there are several options for affordable, high quality beef from a trusted source. At Cunningham Ranch we sell beef in bulk quantities. This is a HUGE savings for the consumer. It’ll run you between $4.50-$6.50/ lb but that’s for all the cuts! High quality steaks, roasts, ground beef, all for the same price. We get a small premium on our beef compared to selling it at the sale yard and you get high quality beef in your freezer. (interested? Order Beef now!)

Other beef suppliers offer different methods. Some will let you buy smaller quantities of beef over a period of time (pickup point every week or month). You can go to the farmers market, but you are going to be paying more of a premium for their services of coming to you. But the biggest savings is when you buy in bulk.

To wrap up this post. The cheapest way to buy high quality real food, is to go directly to a local source.  I forgot to mention, it’s also the safest method to.

Support Local Agriculture. It’s good for the community, the farmer and for you and your budget!

Celebrating Good Fats! Lets Make Lard!

It’s about time the fat myth got busted.

Wall Street Journal Article

Time Magazine Article

Now since all these fabulous sources say it’s true, now we can believe modern medicine… Right? Well, animal fats have never been bad for you, regardless of what Time and the WSJ tell you. But now since it is “officially” busted, it’s time to return to those once forgotten, good-tasting fats. Let’s celebrate with making LARD!

What is Lard?

Lard is what you get from pig back fat once it is rendered by cooking it down to excrete the fat into a liquid form. Once it cools it returns back to it’s solid form.

The first thing you need is pig back fat. You can get this at your local butcher shop or if you order a pig from a farmer you can request it from the butcher to be put in a sack for later use. You can freeze the back fat and then unfreeze it and render it.

This is back fat from a pig we butchered ourselves. It's not as pretty as it would be if you got it directly from your butcher.

This is back fat from a pig we butchered ourselves. It’s not as pretty as it would be if you got it directly from your butcher.

The next step is cutting the lard up into tiny pieces. The smaller the better (even smaller than this if you can).

The next step is cutting the lard up into tiny pieces. The smaller the better (even smaller than this if you can). Your hands will hurt by the time your done.

Load all the little back fat pieces into the slow cooker and tun on "low." You can also do it on the stove-top on a low setting as long as you watch it carefully.

Load all the little back fat pieces into the slow cooker and tun on “low.” You can also do it on the stove-top on a low setting as long as you watch it carefully.

After a couple hours your back fat will start to render and it'll become very greasy. Stir often and don't let it burn! Once it's burned it'll ruin the whole batch of lard.

After a couple hours (3-4 hours) your back fat will start to render and it’ll become very greasy. Stir often and don’t let it burn! Once it’s burned it’ll ruin the whole batch of lard.

Once your back fat has let out more fat then remaining back fat then it's time to strain it

Once your back fat has let out more fat then remaining back fat then it’s time to strain it

What you will have remaining is cracklings. You can try to render them down even further, but I find it just ends up with burned lard.

What you will have remaining is cracklings. You can try to render them down even further, but I find it just ends up with burned lard.

Ta-Da! Lard! This is what the lard looks like after it's settled and hardened. We just keep our lard right next to our stove and use it for cooking!

Ta-Da! Lard! This is what the lard looks like after it’s settled and hardened. We just keep our lard right next to our stove and use it for cooking!

Lard is extremely good for cooking at high temperatures and deep frying. Get rid of the Crisco for the good of your health and replace it with high quality animal fat!

Tips:

  • Put the slow cooker outside! Lard can have an unappealing smell when it’s rendering, not to mention during the summer it makes your house really hot, so put it out on the porch and let it cook out there.
  • I normally pour the rendered lard into a bread pan. After it cools in the refrigerator I run hot water over the back until the lard falls out and cut it into smaller squares. I then wrap it in cling wrap and put it in the freezer. It keeps in the freezer almost indefinitely, which is where I keep it when I’m storing it.
  • Burned lard is not appealing at all, so make sure it doesn’t burn when rendering.
  • Be prepared to get greasy, lard making is not a clean activity.
  • We leave the lard that we are currently using for cooking on the countertop for all cooking purposes. If lard is rendered properly it should not spoil at room temperature. It usually takes us 1-2 weeks for us to go through one of our small blocks of lard for everyday cooking.
  • (Back Fat Lard) It’s great for frying your morning eggs, greasing pans, deep frying, and roasting things.
  • (Leaf Lard) Perfect for pastry cooking, it’s what people used before nasty Crisco was invented.

How to Press Your Own Apples to Make Cider

I’m pretty sure Sean and I have to try everything at least once from scratch… This year it was apple cider. Actually, we were kinda forced into making our own cider this year. The orchard that we like to buy our cider at had a series of unfortunate events that did not allow them to make and sell their cider this year. We love apple cider, so there was no way we could get away without having apple cider so we decided when life gives you apples… Make cider.

We have a small piece of private property up on a mountain and on that property there is an apple tree that was orginally planted when the spot was homesteaded. We have no idea what type of variety it is, but it produces apples every year. They are hardly worth eating since they are small and usually full of worm holes, but it’s perfect for apple cider!

Our very old apple tree

Our very old apple tree

This is the original homestead up on the mountain. A 12x14 dry laid rock house

This is the original homestead up on the mountain. A 12×14 dry laid rock house

The small bitter apples, but great for apple cider

The small bitter apples, but great for apple cider

Our family went and picked the apples with intentions of making lots of apple sauce, but after several batches they got burned out and let us experiment with the apples by making apple cider.

How to make a cider press and harvest apple juice from apples:

You can make cider with an type of apple you want… Free is always good 🙂

First clean your apples and slice out the bad parts of the apple to the best of your ability and patients...

First clean your apples and slice out the bad parts of the apple to the best of your ability and patients…

Sean sorting and slicing apples

Sean sorting and slicing apples

We then ran the apples through my KitchenAid slicer attachment. This will help the juice be expelled easier.

We then ran the apples through my KitchenAid slicer attachment. This will help the juice be expelled easier.

Freshly cut up apples

Freshly cut up apples

We used a 5 gallon bucket, drilled holes in it, wrapped it with ties (this doesn't allow it to expand under pressure) and we put a paint strainer bag in to easily remove the apples and keep them from getting stuck in the holes.

We used a 5 gallon bucket, drilled holes in it, wrapped it with ties (this doesn’t allow it to expand under pressure) and we put a paint strainer bag in to easily remove the apples and keep them from getting stuck in the holes.

It's always nice to have a helper.

It’s always nice to have a helper.

Once ready, put a wooden circle that fits the hole on top and start pressing!

Once ready, put a wooden circle that fits the hole on top and start pressing!

Ok, so we are pretty lucky, we have a hand jack that we borrowed from a neighbor, so you might have to build your own or put lots of weight on top of your bucket with bricks or find some way to put an extremely large amount of pressure to press the apples.

Ok, so we are pretty lucky, we have a hand jack that we borrowed from a neighbor, so you might have to build your own or put lots of weight on top of your bucket with bricks or find some way to put an extremely large amount of pressure to press the apples.

You can see the apple juice seeping out the sides! Beautiful!

You can see the apple juice seeping out the sides! Beautiful!

If you don’t have the luxury of owning a press, then you will have to make one, click this link on how to make a cider press. Kudos to him for helping us know how to do this in the first place.

It takes a lot of apples to make apple juice, so be prepared to be disappointed if you don’t use a lot. We used 5, 5gallon bucket full of small apples and got about 3-4 gallons of apple juice.

From here there are a couple things you can do with the juice… You can leave it as apple juice, make apple cider, or make hard cider. Our first batch, Sean made into hard apple cider, so it’ll be several months before we know the outcome of that.

Bubbling hard apple cider in the making

Bubbling hard apple cider in the making

How to make hot apple cider is your next step! Follow the link!

The Buckaroo’s Breakfast

Breakfast, I believe, is my husband’s favorite meal. He loves the way I cook lunch and supper, but breakfast is what gets his day going and sets his pace. So what does this buckaroo eat every morning to get his day started? Well, according to diet fanatics, it’s a meal that will terrify cardiologist and the low fat fanatics.

First off, I do not cook breakfast. In fact, since I got pregnant I hardly ever eat breakfast with my husband anymore, since he typically is out the door before I start to stir. Sean doesn’t wake up extremely early (usually about 6am) it’s just I don’t like to wake up early anymore since I’m up about 3-4 times a night having to go to the bathroom since the baby loves to punch my bladder. Either way, in Sean’s family the man always gets up and cooks breakfast. This is such a relief for me because it’s one less meal I have to worry about.

Sean cooking breakfast

Sean cooking breakfast

Sean starts off his morning by putting on a kettle of water for his morning coffee. He really loves his coffee and it is truly a sacrifice for him not to have his warm cup of goodness every morning to kick-start his day.

This face is enough to kick-start our day :)

This face is enough to kick-start our day

Next he pulls out two of our handy-dandy skillets. Our egg skillet literally never gets washed. It has an absolutely beautiful seasoning on it that has been developed over the years of cooking with it, nothing sticks and it gives the eggs a fabulous flavor. The second skillet is what he uses to cook his bacon or sausage on, which we faithfully has everyday, unless we forget to thaw it out the day before. This skillet gets washed every now and then because the bacon will get little chard pieces and cause the pan to stick. Also, I cook in this pan different things like ground beef and tomato based things and that can cause the seasoning to come off and needs to be washed… We are working on making it a better seasoned pan 🙂

When we cook our eggs, we use what most people would consider a heart attack waiting to happen… Lard or butter. We love lard. Every year when we butcher a pig for our family we take the fat off the pig and render it into useable lard for cooking. God gave us beautiful animal fat for a reason and it wasn’t to clog our arteries  despite what popular science says, but lard, butter and other animal fats used to be apart of everyone’s diet since it was what was readily available. In fact we go as far to say that we believe that vegetable oils (yes, that does include canola oil, which for some reason people think is good for you) are extremely dangerous and something we don’t even allow in the house. Just butter, lard, olive oil, coconut oil and other animal fats. That’s it.

Beautiful lard

Beautiful lard

So before I went on my tangent… Sean will take a big scoop of lard and place it on the skillet and cook his eggs in it. The eggs come from our chickens that are moved around and have plenty of bugs, non-GMO feed and grass to eat. The yolks are a deep hugh of orange, it’s unlike any other egg you have ever eaten. We typically eat our eggs over easy but sometimes Sean will make himself an omelet in the morning and use about 3-4 eggs.

You think we have enough eggs?

You think we have enough eggs?

Deep orange yolks

Deep orange yolks

While he is preparing his eggs he will either make sausage patties or bacon. Once again, we raise our own pigs for our family once a year and have started learning how to render our own ham, bacon and sausage. The sausage is just ground sausage (we would love to learn how to make sausage links) which is basically all the trimmings from the pig, lard and seasonings all thrown together through a grinder, it’s a mastery of flavors in your mouth. The bacon was Sean speciality this last year. After using a wet-brine to cure the bacon he then made a smokehouse out of an old freezer and cut up some applewood and smoked the bacon for several hours. Most of our bacon is homemade, applewood smoked bacon and it is a quite the treat to eat.

The well-seasoned skillet

The well-seasoned skillet

 

Essentially Sean’s buckaroo breakfast is fairly simple. Just 3-4 eggs, 2-3 slices of bacon and a big cup of coffee. However, it would’ve been boring to have just said it like that 😉

The "families breakfast"

The “families breakfast”

On days that we forget to thaw out the bacon or sausage ahead of time we revert back to Sean’s childhood meal, which is oatmeal. If I remember or know that we are going to have oatmeal in the morning I try to soak it overnight in water and either yogurt or lemon juice. This helps break the oatmeal down and allows it to be digested easier, especially for me because I get a really bubbly stomach if I just eat oatmeal without soaking it prior to eating. Sean just cooks the oatmeal then adds milk, molasses or sucrant and raisins and he is happy as he takes a stroll down comfort food lane.

Sundays is our big breakfast day. I’m glad we don’t do a big breakfast everyday, because it’s just a lot of work, and having a big Sunday breakfast always makes the day so special. What we eat for Sunday breakfast is totally determined by what’s available around the house. If I have left-over bread from the week we will probably have french toast, if I made butter the day before and I have buttermilk left over it’s buttermilk pancakes and if their sour cream that needs to be used, it’s sour cream pancakes. Then we have our typical eggs and sausage or bacon, coffee and some fruit if we have any. We try to all work together to make it a big happy family meal as we celebrate the start of the Lord’s day.

I love my breakfast!

I love my breakfast!

Breakfast is the cornerstone of our day on the ranch, without a good breakfast it’s hard to get started on the right foot. Sean burns several thousand calories a day just doing basic ranch work so it is important that he has something that is going to stick and give him plenty of energy to get through… till lunch 🙂

How to Make Whey Ricotta: Step-by-Step Guide with Pictures

Over the last two years of exploring with cheese making, I have come to find the excitement of all the different cheeses you can make and that the “left-overs” of one cheese can actually make another cheese! Everything seems to build off of each other when you are making things with dairy products. The leftovers you get from butter makes buttermilk, the leftovers you get from making a hard cheese is whey, which can make ricotta. It’s whey cool 😉

Now, the only way I know how to make whey ricotta is from the whey of a hard cheese, so if you have made or planning on making farmhouse cheddar from my last post (how to make farmhouse cheddar) then you are going to have plenty of whey left over to make this whey ricotta. You can possibly make it from whey that comes out of strained yogurt, but the recipe I follow says to use the freshest whey possible (within two hours of making cheese).

Without further adue- Whey Ricotta:

What you need:

  • 2 gallons of fresh whey (within two hours of making cheese)
  • Cheesecloth (optional)
  • Thermometer
  • Big two gallon (or bigger) stainless steel pot
  • Metal slotted spoon for stirring
  • 1/4 cup of vinegar (optional)
Take all that lovely left-over whey from straining your curds and put it in the same pot or a different one if you wish and place on the stove.

Take all that lovely left-over whey from straining your curds and put it in the same pot or a different one if you wish and place on the stove.

Turn the stove on high, because it'll need to reach 200 degrees, which can take a little while.

Turn the stove on high, because it’ll need to reach 200 degrees, which can take a little while.

You'll see the whey start to put off some steam, make sure to keep stirring it so it doesn't burn on the bottom.

You’ll see the whey start to put off some steam, make sure to keep stirring it so it doesn’t burn on the bottom.

Continue to stir while it heats up, once it reaches 200 degrees and has a nice white film on top remove from heat.

Continue to stir while it heats up, once the whey reaches 200 degrees and has a nice white film on top remove from heat. (The “quick method” of getting the curds to form is at this point adding 1/4c of vinegar, this will change the way the ricotta tastes, so I typically let it naturally separate,  however, sometimes it doesn’t separate very well, so I’ll add the vinegar)

If you run your spoon through it you'll see how the white flakes have started to meld together into little curds. Let it sit for a minimum of 5 minutes so the curds can collect.

If you run your spoon through it you’ll see how the white flakes have started to meld together into little curds. Let it sit for a minimum of 5 minutes so the curds can collect.

After some time they'll start to look like this all matted together. At this point you can pour through a cheese cloth and let it hang or scoop out and put into a bowl to cool.

After some time they’ll start to look like this all matted together. At this point you can pour through a cheese cloth and let it hang or scoop out and put into a bowl to cool. The ricotta resembles cottage cheese and can be used to replace cottage cheese in certain recipes.

For the first 2 years I would just throw the whey away to my chickens, pigs or dogs. Now we always make it into ricotta and use it in our daily dishes (cheese for Sean’s omelets in the mornings, ricotta cheesecake, replacement for cottage cheese, etc.) Ricotta is very versatile and fairly bland in taste, just have fun with it! Any comments below are appreciated on successes, failures, and recipes you use ricotta in.

How to Make Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese- Step by Step Pictures (& Raw Milk Tips)

There is something very satisfying about making your own cheese. Whether it’s just a basic soft cheese or a perfectly aged cheddar cheese, it’s just a beautiful feeling of achievement. For my husband and I, it was a lot of trial and error. We use raw milk from our milk cow and we have had a lot of failed attempts at cheddar cheese, but after making it for over a year I think we finally have it figured out! I would’ve really enjoyed having a step-by-step picture guide of what exactly to do, so I decided to do it myself, so hopefully this helps you out!

We make Farmhouse Cheddar most of the time, because it’s fairly quick to make (compared to Traditional Cheddar). You can use pasteurized milk or raw milk, but here is the big tip on raw milk: Use the freshest milk possible, let it be that day’s milk or just one day older than that, but don’t go much older than that. We can tell you this from experience. We would use milk that was a couple days old because it would take us a while to collect 2 gallons. What I found out is that since raw milk is not pasteurized it has lots of live bacteria present in the milk, it continues to get stronger the longer it is not used. When you then go put in your starter into the milk to sour the milk it combats with the bacteria already present in the older milk. The newer the milk, the less bacteria. We had lots of cheeses that turned out very bitter tasting because of the older milk and didn’t resemble the taste of cheddar at all. This was a huge revelation to our cheese making, so I’ll just use milk that is brought in that morning or the day before, but nothing older.

Things you need:

  • 2 Gallons of Milk: Raw or Pasteurized (try to not use ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1 packet of direct-set mesophilic starter or 2 tablespoons of cultured buttermilk starter (how to make cultured buttermilk).
  • 1/2 teaspoon of liquid rennet
  • 1 tablespoon of cheese salt (non-iodized salt)
  • 3 gallon stainless steel  pot (or bigger)
  • Knife for cutting the curds
  • Slotted Spoon (stainless steel)
  • Termometer
  • Cheese cloth
  • Cheese press

Now, lets get started:

Put your two gallons of milk into your stainless steel container and put into your sink basin.

Put your two gallons of milk into your stainless steel container and put into your sink basin. If using raw milk make sure to leave the natural cream in and not skim it off, the cream allows the cheese to be more moist.

Fill your sink with hot water up to the point of your milk in the pot.

Fill your sink with hot water up to the point of your milk in the pot.

Put your thermometer into the milk and put the cover over the top to keep the warmth in. Allow to reach 90 degrees, but no higher

Put your thermometer into the milk and put the cover over the top to keep the warmth in. Allow to reach 90 degrees, but no higher

Once your milk reaches 90 degrees, remove from the hot bath and add your starter (I am using a homemade buttermilk starter in this picture).

Once your milk reaches 90 degrees, remove from the hot bath and add your starter (I am using a homemade buttermilk starter in this picture).

Set your time for 45 minutes and allow your milk to "ripen." As long as the top is on your pot it should stay at 90 degrees.

Stir the starter in and set your timer for 45 minutes and allow your milk to “ripen.” As long as the top is on your pot it should stay at 90 degrees.

The next step is adding the rennet, we use animal rennet.

The next step is adding the rennet, we use animal rennet. Make sure the milk is still at 90 degrees.

Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water. Mix.

Add 1/2 teaspoon to 1/4 cup of cool unchlorinated water. Mix.

Add rennet/water mixture to milk.

Add rennet/water mixture to milk.

Mix the rennet for 1 minute. If you are using raw milk where cream is present make sure to "top stir it." Use shallow stirring motion that allows the cream to get throughly mixed.

Mix the rennet for 1 minute. If you are using raw milk where cream is present make sure to “top stir it.” Use shallow stirring motion that allows the cream to get throughly mixed. Allow to sit for 45 minutes

After 45 minutes passes you should see the cheese pull away from the knife as shown. If this happens then you are ready to cut the curds!

After 45 minutes passes you should see the cheese pull away from the knife as shown. If this happens then you are ready to cut the curds!

Our favorite part. Cut in 1/2 inch cubes (don't worry, it's not going to be perfect). Go downward strokes.

Our favorite part. Cut in 1/2 inch cubes (don’t worry, it’s not going to be perfect). Go downward strokes.

Then across the strokes.

Then across the strokes.

Mix with your spoon, this will break apart your curds, so don't go too crazy. The curds are supposed to be cut all the way through, so I usually just break them apart with the spoon.

Mix with your spoon, this will break apart your curds, so don’t go too crazy. The curds are supposed to be cut all the way through, so I usually just break them apart with the spoon.

The smaller you make the curds the easier the whey is released from the curd. This is why is supposed to be uniform in size as best as possible, because you don't want certain curds to release whey faster than others (however, it's fairly forgiving, b/c it's not going to be perfect).

The smaller you make the curds the easier the whey is released from the curd. This is why it is supposed to be uniform in size as best as possible, because you don’t want certain curds to release whey faster than others (however, it’s fairly forgiving, because it’s not going to be perfect).

This is the most frustrating part of the whole process. The book says raise the temperature by 2 degrees every 5 minutes for 30 minutes until it reaches 100 degrees... We find this impossible without special equipment, so just be patient...

This is the most frustrating part of the whole process. The book says raise the temperature by 2 degrees every 5 minutes for 30 minutes until it reaches 100 degrees… We find this impossible without special equipment, so just be patient…

This part of the process usually takes us around an hour, partly due to us going off and doing other things and forgetting to check on it. I say do it slower than faster the slower the whey leaves the curds the better. We typically are stuck at 90 degrees forever and then it shoots to 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes... You just have to keep playing with the temperature of the water.

This part of the process usually takes us around an hour, partly due to us going off and doing other things and forgetting to check on it. I say do it slower than faster the slower the whey leaves the curds the better. We typically are stuck at 90 degrees forever and then it shoots to 100 degrees in less than 10 minutes… You just have to keep playing with the temperature of the water.

Stir the curds every 10 minutes or so to make sure they don't mat together.

Stir the curds every 10 minutes or so to make sure they don’t mat together.

Congratulations! You've made it to 100 degrees, now it's time to drain the curds.

Congratulations! You’ve made it to 100 degrees, now it’s time to drain the curds.

With a colander lined with cheesecloth (over a bucket to catch the whey so you can make ricotta of course), pour the curds into the colander.

With a colander lined with cheesecloth (over a bucket to catch the whey so you can make ricotta of course), pour the curds into the colander.

Now you have some beautifully drained curds.

Now you have some beautifully drained curds.

Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and allow to hang for 1 hour (preferably in a spot that's not drafty to keep the curds warm)

Tie the corners of the cheesecloth and allow to hang for 1 hour (preferably in a spot that’s not drafty to keep the curds warm)

After an hour your curds will be lumped together and strained nicely.

After an hour your curds will be lumped together and strained nicely.

Break apart the curds into a bowl, they should be about the size of walnuts... Give or take.

Break apart the curds into a bowl, they should be about the size of walnuts… Give or take.

Add 1 tablespoon of "cheese salt." Basically any salt that not iodized.

Add 1 tablespoon of “cheese salt.” Basically any salt that not iodized.

Get your cheese press ready.

Get your cheese press ready.

Line your cheese press with cheese cloth and put the curds into the cheese press.

Line your cheese press with cheesecloth and put the curds into the cheese press.

Press the curds down trying to fill all the spaces.

Press the curds down trying to fill all the spaces.

Put the top of your press on and follow the instructions of your press of how many turns you need to make to apply the weight. Apply 10 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes.

Put the top of your press on and follow the instructions of your press of how many turns you need to apply the weight. Apply 10 lbs of pressure for 10 minutes.

See the whey drip out.

See the whey drip out.

After 10 minutes take the cheese out, flip it and redress it and apply 20 lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.

After 10 minutes take the cheese out, flip it and redress it and apply 20 lbs of pressure for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes then you are ready to dress it and leave it for a while. Flip it again and redress it (I usually like to put fresh cheese cloth on at this point, but it's not necessary). Apply 50 lbs of pressure for 12 hours.

After 20 minutes then you are ready to dress it and leave it for a while. Flip it again and redress it (I usually like to put fresh cheesecloth on at this point, but it’s not necessary). Apply 50 lbs of pressure for 12 hours.

Now after 12 hours (which if this ends up in the middle of the night a couple more hours won't hurt until morning to take it out) take the cheese out and allow it to dry on a cheese mat.

Now after 12 hours (which if this ends up in the middle of the night a couple more hours won’t hurt until morning to take it out) take the cheese out and allow it to dry on a cheese mat.

Flip the cheese to the other side after a nice rind starts to form. (note: don't buy a multi-colored mat, it bleeds onto your cheese). Also, don't put it on a wooden surface, it'll make the area underneath it wet, so you can put a towel down underneath the mat if you want.

Flip the cheese to the other side after a nice rind starts to form. (note: don’t buy a multi-colored mat, it bleeds onto your cheese). Also, don’t put it on a wooden surface, it’ll make the area underneath it wet, so you can put a towel down underneath the mat if you want.

We like to cut our cheese in half, since it is close to 2 lbs, so we usually package them separately.

We like to cut our cheese in half, since it is close to 2 lbs, so we usually package them separately.

After the cheese has a nicely developed rind (typically 1-2 days) it's time to package it. We use a fancy Foodsaver, because we tried waxing it and it never turned out good, so we bought a Foodsaver, which works great for preserving cheese.

After the cheese has a nicely developed rind (typically 1-2 days) it’s time to package it. We use a fancy Foodsaver, because we tried waxing it and it never turned out good, so we bought a Foodsaver, which works great for preserving cheese.

Label your cheese. I like to put the name of the cheese, when it was made and the earliest date it can be eaten. I sometimes add notes about how the curds looked, etc. Just in case it turns out really good or bad.

Label your cheese. I like to put the name of the cheese, when it was made and the earliest date it can be eaten. I sometimes add notes about how the curds looked, etc. Just in case it turns out really good or bad.

Add to your fully stocked cheese cave for at least a month. We bought a wine cooler because it keeps the best temperature. If you have a spot in your house that stays between 50-55 degrees feel free to store cheese there, but we don't have anyplace that keeps a consistent temperature. Your supposed to flip the cheese everyday for the first week or so, but we always forget, so just flip them whenever you remember.

Add to your fully stocked cheese cave for at least a month. We bought a wine cooler because it keeps the best temperature. If you have a spot in your house that stays between 50-55 degrees feel free to store cheese there, but we don’t have any place that keeps a consistent temperature. Your supposed to flip the cheese everyday for the first week or so, but we always forget, so just flip them whenever you remember.

Congratulations on making your farmhouse cheddar cheese! I hope your proud of yourself and your amazing ability to change milk into cheese.

Remember, it’s a consistent learning process so if something went wrong this time and your cheese didn’t turn out well then try again next time. Even when our cheeses tasted “off” we usually added it to cooking recipes instead of adding it to a sandwich or eating it separately.

If you used raw milk it is important that you allow the cheese to sit for at least a month. It has something to do with the bacteria in raw milk get killed off if it is aged for an extended period of time before consumption (don’t let this freak you out, just practice caution).

Please let me know if you have any questions and I will try to help out as best as possible. This recipe comes from “Home Cheese Making” by Ricki Carroll. However, I add a lot of commentary that you won’t find in the book, which is why I decided to make this to help those who like a picture guide on how to make things. I know it would’ve helped me, especially since we use raw milk.

2013 resolution to lose weight?

It’s always fun when the new year comes around, people start making all sorts of resolutions. The one that always seems to be on top of everyone’s list is to “get in shape” and “lose weight.” I’m glad to say that isn’t on my list anymore, in fact it hasn’t been on my list in the last couple years, not since college. It may come as a huge surprise to some, but there is actually a very simple solution to losing weight (I’m sure this’ll ruffle several feathers), you are what you eat. Period. I’ve said this before and most everyone agrees that I talk to, but I find very few that are actually willing to do something about it.

For me it was a medical situation, it was when I realized we were having trouble getting pregnant with our first child. I figured out that I had an ovarian cyst and was told my only options were birth control and/or surgery. Neither of which I was happy with. I did some research and stumbled into the diet answer. When you put toxic stuff into your body your body doesn’t handle it well and can cause problems inside the body… I thought I was doing well with what I ate (which is what I hear from most people), we lived on the ranch, so we ate the own meat we raised and I cut back on all those “evil things” like butter and other fatty things. Yeah, we ate some processed foods (which was actually a lot more than I thought) and lots of canned products. I thought our diet was just fine! When I looked into deeper I started to realize the way we had been eating was very damaging.

I was truly convinced right then that if something was to change I needed to do some dramatic stuff, so I did. After changing our diet dramatically and starting to try new practices we saw a huge turn-around. Within a month of changing our diet we got pregnant with our first little one. I lost over 10 lbs within a short period of time and now maintain a healthy weight that I have had no problem keeping regardless of how much I’m “working out”.

What did we do? How did we do it? Well, it’s still an ongoing process, but everyday we realize that the change we made in our diet was the best thing that we could do for ourselves and our family. I will outline what we did and how you can do it in your life.

These changes are not rocket science, but it does take self-discipline and sometimes more money going towards you food budget, but believe us… IT’S WORTH IT!

1. Strip your cabinets of all processed foods.

This was a difficult one for us to do. We had just gotten home from town the day before I made this discovery about our health, so I had just restocked the pantry and now I was kissing all that “food” goodbye.

What is a processed food? Well, a processed food is basically anything that you didn’t make yourself. Cereals, nut bars, condiments, canned food, breads from the store, etc. Things that come in boxes and basically never have an expiration date just can’t be good for you. I’ve been told before if you can’t get it around the parameter of the grocery store then your probably shouldn’t be eating it. This is a tough step. I would err on the side of being too liberal in getting rid of things, instead of keeping it. I have found (maybe some people have better self-resistance than I do) that if the product is in my house… I will eat it. So it’s better off not being in my house.

Most people get thrown off by “healthy processed foods.” In my opinion it’s an oxymoron, because unless you are willing to pay a very high price for “higher quality” processed foods they are still going to be full of preservatives, sugars and hydrogenated oils… Not healthy by any standards in our books.

2. Say goodbye to white flour and white sugar.

I know, another blow to the stomach, but it must be done. Both white flour and white sugar are over-processed and have absolutely no health value to them. In fact they can hurt you and rob nutrients out of your body. Just chuck it, you won’t miss it over time, I promise.

When we first did this and switched to whole wheat flour and natural sweeteners like honey we didn’t really miss the white flour/ sugar. In fact when I eat things with white flour/sugar in them a lot of the time I’ll get a really bad stomach ache from them.

*note: we actually hardly eat any flour in our diet in general anymore, so if you are a huge pastry fan, even switching to whole wheat flour/ natural sweeteners are not going to necessarily help you lose weight, it’s just the “better of the two” options.

3. Embrace the butter.

Most people here will probably become really confused of my butter to weight ratio. The more butter we ate the more weight we lost. Now don’t take this to an extreme! Our culture has been lied to in so many ways and this is one of them. Animal saturated fats are good for you… Not only good for you, essential to us and our functioning.

Ever try a low-fat diet and just crave sugar and flour all the time? Our body needs saturated fats and our culture has been tormented by the low-fat craze and has caused serious health problems for many people. A lot of people switched to hydrogenated fats, thinking that they were better for them, but can actually be seriously detrimental to people’s health. This includes: margarine, vegetable oil, canola oil, soy bean oil and shortening. It is very poorly processed and goes rancid on the selves, get rid of it! (check out this short article explaining it in better detail: Why are hydrogentated fats bad for you?.)

We need animal fats in our diet, so in our household we eat a lot of butter and lard. You can also cook with olive oil and coconut oil. We make our own butter and lard most of the time, so we just go with it more than olive/coconut oil.

4. Cook your own food.

I live out in the country, so I’m pretty bound to cooking my own food most of the time, but every time I return to the city I realize how easy it is to slip into the buying pre-made things or going out to eat. It seems like a basic request, but I know it’s one that people struggle with a lot.

There are very few restaurants that follow the 3 steps listed above. If they do follow the steps listed then they are typically extremely expensive and not friendly on your wallet. When I’m out if I have a choice between two different places like McDonalds and Chipotle, I’ll take Chipotle in a heart beat, but I’m also going to pay the difference for the quality of food I get. Remember just like a car or fancy appliance, you get what you pay for. If you buy confinement raised chicken eggs they are not the same egg as a pasture raised chicken and the whole make-up of the nutrients in the two eggs are completely different.

Stay at home and cook healthier.

You are what you eat and you get what you pay for.

Now what?

Now we have a simple outline of all the things that are good/not good. Remember, this is a basic outline if you would like some more details, I can list them below on better eating choices, but you are going to be on a much better path just by listening to the first 4 things listed and most likely going to see a change in your health.

Eat at home with your family. Learn how to cook without processed foods, white flour and white sugar. There are plenty of websites with recipes for you and guides on how to cook if you haven’t the slightest clue how to cook without those things.

Here are the typical things we eat in our household

  • meat (grass fed/ free range beef, chicken, lamb, pork)
  • organ meats (liver, heart, I’m still working on getting used to these)
  • cheese (we make most of our own, but buy some from the store)
  • butter, lard and olive oil
  • fresh vegetables in season (we sometimes freeze things from our own harvest, but try to eat within season as best as possible)
  • rice (brown, variety rice, no white rice)
  • beans (not from a can, but cooked from scratch)
  • limited fruits
  • limited whole wheat flour

We have been eating this way since 2010 and it doesn’t even phase us anymore. Not buying processed foods is not a struggle anymore and cooking everything from scratch, well, is still difficult but worth it every time. Following my first pregnancy I had no problem returning to my pre-baby weight (I was a full time nursing mother as well) and being pregnant with our second I still feel great (I don’t experience serious sickness at all).

Stop wasting money on weight loss programs that “make food for you” or tell you, you can’t eat saturated fats, they never work because your body naturally craves those things and you eventually will succumb to temptation.

You might be wondering where we learned all these things and it’s been a mixture of different places. You just need to do your own research to see what works best for you. We follow some of Westen A. Price‘s recommendations and I recently found out about the Palio diet, which I guess our diet kinda fits in that model, but we aren’t 100% all for it.

Finally, we don’t really like the word “diet.” It’s really the only word I can think of when describing what you eat, but in reality it’s a lifestyle change. We no longer worry about our “diet” because it’s just the way we eat on a daily basis. Once you accept it, see the result and love the lifestyle change, there really is no question of whether you want to continue or not, because that is the new normal for you.

More details on eating well:

  • Buy pasture raised chicken eggs
  • Buy grass finished beef, chicken, pork and lamb
  • Buy fresh caught salmon (not farmed)
  • Buy grass raised dairy products and if possible non-pastured raw milk
  • Buy fresh vegetables/ fruits from a farmer you’ve gotten to know (I’m not a big fan of organic, b/c it’s so pricey and typically not the best practices on raising it, so find a farmer)
  • If there is a dairy allergy try non-pastured products
  • Make your own chicken/beef broth
  • Grind your own flour
  • Use natural sweeteners (honey, stevia, molasses)

Please let me know if you have any questions.

This is not to be taken as medical advice. Just our own personal experiences.

The Art of Passing on Knowledge

Last night, I was upset. I was frustrated when I realized I spend a lot of time on the internet. I got rid of facebook a couple months ago and thought I would have freedom from internet by finally sacrificing the most time consuming element of my life… I was wrong. It seems that I enjoy being on the internet in general, facebook didn’t help my time consumption by any means but I’m still glad that I finally bit the bullet and signed off, but I still spend the equivalent amount of time clicking on new pages and shopping.

As my husband and I delved into the problem I saw a trend of the things I like to look at. I love to learn new things. Since my lifestyle is much more different than it used to be I have so many things to learn, plus I enjoy trying old-fashioned things, like making cheese, butter and using a team of horses. The internet has a plethora of information at any given moment. I’ll be walking around the house and think about something and immediately jump on the computer to research how to do it or how it works. The days before internet you would have to look at a book or more importantly… ask someone wiser than you.

This is when it dawned on me. The art of passing on knowledge. What used to be taught by elders or people skilled in a particular field is almost gone in the physical world; The internet has taken the place of what used to be a humbling experience of going to someone and asking to be taught. Let me rack your brain for a minute. When was the last time you went to your grandmother to learn how to sew? Or who taught you to cook? Was it an internet tutorial or a class that you paid money for to be taught by someone you didn’t know? I’m not saying these things are bad, but this was not how things were traditionally taught. Today’s skills are not typically taught by parents, elders or skilled people, but in a classroom setting. If you don’t have a degree from some school it seems like you can’t get a job anywhere! Some people overlook skills that they have been taught over a decade compared to a piece of paper they earned in 4.

Since I’ve sufficiently gotten off track, let me regroup and explain where I was taking this.

The type of skills that Sean and I have acquired over the last 2 years have mostly been through serious trial and error. Example: Broiler chickens. The first spring we were married we bought a bunch of chicks for meat chickens. After a couple weeks of raising them we thought they were doing great, until our dog got into the room we were keeping them and killed them all. When we went to the store to buy more chicks there were “dual purpose breed” rooster chicks that were only $.10 a chick. That totally blew out of the water our $1.75 chicks that were just all obliterated by our dog. We quickly bought 60 of these little chicks and thought we had it all figured out, they were cheaper, and were supposed to fatten up in the same amount of time as the other chicks did. Boy did we get gipped. We lost several of chicks quickly due to poor health and once they were big enough for our moveable chicken coop we lost a couple to them by getting out of the coop and when they got older they started killing each other! Most meat birds finish out in 6-8 weeks and weigh about 4-5 lbs… These chickens went on 14-16 weeks and only weighed 2-3 lbs, they were lean and hard to eat, almost tasting like game birds. It would’ve been nice if someone could have told us from the beginning that those chicks were laying hen roosters and they are not bred to fatten up quickly and they get very agressive as they get older, it would’ve saved us a lot of time and feed.

Now this is an example of when we got help from an experienced person in their field. When we first got the Belgian Mare Horses this year we were really excited. The guy who sold them to us didn’t give too much instruction on how to harness them, but we figured we could figure it out. My husband put it all together and hooked them up to a cart and was able to drive them around with little trouble (they kept banging their heads together, but he figured they were just acting funny). Well, a couple weeks later we invited our friends out who have had draft horses for years and have done everything with draft horses. When Sean started to put the harnesses on the horses again the older gentleman kept correcting him all along the way. For what seemed correct to Sean was actually wrong and thankfully we happened to buy some really well trained horses that knew what they were doing, despite our mistakes. After a couple hours of harnessing, hitching and learning how to roll out a bail of hay with the horses Sean felt pretty confident about feeding hay with the horses for the winter. It was such a good experience for him.Not to mention it was just a fun afternoon visiting and learning.  It would’ve taken him quite a while to figure out how to work these horses without the help of our experienced friends who weren’t afraid to tell Sean when he was doing something wrong that could hurt him or the horses.

Sean’s got some old cowboys that’ll teach him when he needs to be taught, but for me at home, it’s a little different. Even though there are still a few people that know how to drive a team of horses, it’s difficult to find people that still make their own butter or yogurt. There’s a plethora of information on the internet on how to do these things, but I would’ve really liked to learn from someone who actively still makes these things from scratch or for that matter make anything from scratch (when I say “from scratch” I truly mean from scratch without any boxed or canned anything). I  even struggled to find out how to make dried beans into cooking beans, since most people just use already pre-cooked beans from a can.  Supermarkets have completely taken away the skill of making food from scratch and raising food in general. I’m guilty as everyone else is, but guess what, that’s the way  I was raised and learned that food came from the store.

This is a trend I’m trying to reverse in my life and my family. I want my kids to know that eggs come from chickens, milk comes from the cow, meat comes from the animals we raise and harvest and vegetables come from the garden. I do not believe that we should go back in time and erase all technology, because I absolutely believe that technology enhances our lives, but it can also hinder us. I want my kids to learn from experienced people in their fields of expertise.

The art of passing on knowledge must be kept alive. The learning curve on how to farm, raise livestock, raise kids, etc. is way too steep to just depend on the internet and some people’s opinions that you have never met. It’s time to find an elder or an experienced person in a certain field to help you learn the things you’ve always wanted to learn. I would like to obtain information in this order: go to someone experienced first, then if all else fails go to a book or the internet.