How I Started Making My Own Dairy

homemade dairy

For a long time, I wanted to attend to a culinary course but have been putting it off because I didn’t want to go alone. As we all have busy lives, making it happen sadly seemed on the verge of impossible. After a few attempts on reaching an agreement it became obvious that if I were to wait for the whens, wheres and all that to come together, it will probably never happen, so I decided to go by myself.

I’ve participated in a bread & dairy workshop a few weeks back and it turned out to be so much fun! Did not even miss company because my attention was completely focused on making the food. In 3 hours, not only did we bake several delicious breads, but also prepared our own butter, yogurt, fresh cheese and yeast starter to take home with us. From scratch.

On this occasion it cleared on me how straightforward making your own dairy could be. Before seeing it for myself, I thought it’ something you can’t possibly have the proper tools and conditions at home. With my newly acquired knowledge though, I jumped straight into homemade dairy and I don’t think I’m buying these items from the store anytime soon!

TBH, I don’t drink milk. Period. Lattes and hot cocoa yes, but not plain milk. Dairy though! I love, love, love dairy. Thank God (and mom and dad and genetics) I’m not lactose intolerant, I’d be so miserable missing out on all the deliciousness. Having allergies myself, I really feel for everyone with this condition, fingers crossed we will soon have some kind of remedy.

So why should you start making your own yogurt and butter? Not because it’s cheaper, although you’d be better off (not counting the value of your labour that goes into it). And not because it’s more convenient, as lifting products off a store shelf is always easier, of course. Why do it then?

Because it makes you proud. In a word where most of us are nine-to-fivers sitting in an office all day and our jobs come down to keystrokes and clicks, sooner or later you start feeling like you need to make something tangible. To create. Art, crafts, food, or anything really, with your own hands.

I started my blog because I was at that point, and I cook and DIY for the same reason. Not that I hate my day job, it’s just that I had to look for an outlet elsewhere to channel my creative energy. Luckily, I found my passion and the everyday grind gets so much more tolerable when you have activities that relax your mind, charge you up and give you satisfaction.

But back to the matter at hand! Utensil-wise, if your kitchen is equipped with a pot, some kind of a jar, a mixing bowl and an electric mixer (or at least a whisk), you are set to go. Other useful devices could be a food thermometer, ramekins and a sieve, but those are not strictly mandatory.

For the yogurt, ingredients are milk and a cup of natural, unflavored yogurt. Skim, semi-skimmed, or whole milk will all work, both HTST and UHT. Note that the higher the fat content, the thicker, creamier and tastier your yogurt will be.

homemade yogurt ingredients

homemade natural yogurt

The natural yogurt will act as the starter culture, the live bacteria in it turn the milk to yogurt. Once you start making your own yogurt, you can use leftovers from each batch to culture your next. Just save the proper amount to use for this purpose. The recipe can be scaled up or down.

Homemade Natural Yogurt

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

1 l/34 fl oz milk

160 g/5.64 oz plain natural yogurt

Directions

  1. Heat the milk in a heavy bottomed pan to just below boiling (95°C/200°F) stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the bottom.
  2. Wait for milk to cool to warm, around 50-60°C/120-140°F
  3. Stir the yogurt with the milk using a whisk until dissolved
  4. Transfer mixture to a jug or jar, wrap container in a heavy scarf to slow cooling process.
  5. Let set on the counter for at least 4 hours or as long as overnight. Avoid jostling or stirring until yogurt has fully set.
  6. Cool.

Refrigerated, yogurt keeps for about 2 weeks.

For the butter, use whipping or heavy cream (30-36% fat content). You need to churn the cream until it divides to butter and buttermilk, which can be done with a whisk or an electric mixer. Save buttermilk for later use.

homemade butter ingredients

homemade butter with bread

Homemade Butter

  • Difficulty: easy
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Ingredients

400 ml/13.5 fl oz heavy whipping cream, cooled

Directions

  1. Pour cream in a high sided mixing bowl to avoid splashes, and start whipping.
  2. You will eventually reach the state of whipped cream; continue whipping.
  3. You’ll notice that whipped cream starts to collapse and clump up. That’s what you’re looking for, keep whipping!
  4. When clusters of fat collect and buttermilk has precipitated, your butter is ready: drain buttermilk with the help of cheese cloth or a sieve, and transfer butter to a ramekin or muffin tin.
  5. Refrigerate. When butter has cooled, you can turn it out from the mold.

This amount of cream makes approximately 125 g/4.4 oz/1 stick butter and 245 g/8.6 oz buttermilk.

Next stop for me? Definitely cheese. I’m already eyeing some courses, can’t wait!

How do you feel about making some foods for yourself instead of opting for the convenient choice? Let me know in the comments!

Love,

Fruzsi

“Close-up of glass of milk” photo featured as title image © asierromeo / freepik

Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree

make your own pumpkin puree title image

This post was written out of pure necessity. As someone who likes broadening her cooking’s horizon with delicacies from all over the world, incorporating pumpkin and pumpkin spice in my fall meals was obvious. (I mentioned before how in Hungary we don’t really think of pumpkins as dessert. Yet, that is.)

I was determined to make this Pumpkin-Chiffon Pie when, after coming home empty-handed from 3 different supermarkets, I realized canned pumpkin puree is yet another item that might not be available where I live. Major FOMO, right there. After an extensive google search, I found only one place to get it, a shiny gourmet deli for the snobs of Budapest.

The rich snobs, to be precise: a 425 g (15 oz) can of Libby’s is exactly twice as expensive as in the US. In comparison, I paid the equivalent of about $0.4 for 1 kg (35.3 oz) of fresh butternut squash a few weeks back at my local Aldi. That’s such a huge price gap I’ve decided ready-made pumpkin puree is not something I’m willing to splurge on.

No big deal! I will not let such an inconvenience stop me from introducing pumpkin pie to my loved ones, so another google search later I was ready to make my own. Homemade pumpkin puree will do just fine, right until the evil canned Western threat makes its way to the shelfs of our supermarkets. (Can someone start importing it please? Like, now?)

So, if you are lucky to live somewhere so civilized to be able to go to a shop and just buy it, know that we hate you (but keep your eye out for the recipe anyway to avoid colourings, preservatives and stuff like that). But if you are as unfortunate as I am when it comes to canned pumpkin puree, don’t fret because I have the solution.

What you need to make pumpkin puree is – surprise! – just pumpkin. Or squash. There are the sort of people who will be quick to resort to violence over the pumpkin vs. squash question, but since they fall under the same genus and even if ingredient labels read 100% pumpkin, there may also be squash mixed in (full article on the subject here), I hereby declare the debate over. Whichever lifts your skirt!

I find it’s best to roast pumpkin slowly to achieve maximum sweetness and tenderness, without burning it. Depending on the type of pumpkin, the flesh of some are more fibrous. Also, some are moister than others, but these characteristics will not alter the taste of the puree. If you are making a bigger batch using several pumpkins, mix the puree of all the flesh to balance out taste differences of each individual pumpkin.

baked pumpkin chunks

My 4 medium butternut squash filled 2 baking sheets (36×45 cm or 14×17 inch) and yielded 9 cups puree. I froze the batch in cup-sized (250 ml) portions in plastic containers, than turned out the ‘pumpkin cubes’ from the moulds and packed them in individual, labeled plastic bags for convenient use.

baked pumpkin scraped out

Pumpkin Puree

Ingredients

pumpkin or butternut squash

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 160°C (320°F), line baking sheet(s) with aluminum foil or parchment paper.
  2. Wash pumpkin(s) and cut them to approximately equal chunks. Discard fibrous strands, keep seeds for later use.
  3. Place chunks skin side down on baking sheet and roast until tender, about 1 h 15 min (insert knife to a few slices to check for doneness).
  4. Let cool to room temperature.
  5. Scrape out flesh with a spoon, discard skin.
  6. Pulse in a blender or food processor until puree is homogenous. Add a few tablespoons of water if needed.
  7. Store in the fridge for a few days, or freeze for later use.

Love,

Fruzsi

“Watercolor pumpkin” illustration featured in title image © freepik

Pantry Staples: Herbes de Provence & Herbes de Toscane

pantry staples: herbes de provence & herbes de toscane title image

The best of summer might well be gone, but it’s not too late to further exploit your herb garden: pick and dry some more to use in spice blends!

In the world of spices, there are a few combinations that have withstood the test of time. The classic blends I’m going to tell you about today have been used for centuries to flavor meat, fish, poultry, soups, stews and vegetables and are a building block in every home cook’s pantry. Lucky for us, we can make them for ourselves with no effort.

Mixing your own spices also means you’ll add what you want and avoid what you don’t. I for example am not a big fan of cumin, so I simply exclude it. What you also won’t get making your own blend is the additions some manufacturers put in commercially mixed spices such as MSG (or E621, which is a flavor enhancer) or anti-caking agents like silicon dioxide. I think we all agree that we can live without them.

Spice mixes are more art than science. Therefore, the two mixtures below will have many other versions floating around. Consider this as a guide and initial inspiration for how you can add more complex flavor to your cooking. Salt is listed in the ingredients for if you choose to make flavored salt instead of a simple spice mix. Here I added ChanteSel Coarse Sea Salt that I buy at my local Lidl.

To store your spice blends, use glass containers with tight-fitting covers. Empty jars from mustard, baby food, capers or jams are perfect, and their small size will remind you not to make too big quantities. Keep in a cool, dark place.

Prepare your senses to experience the essence of the Mediterranean!

Herbes de Provence: Formerly simply a descriptive term, this blend of spices wasn’t actually sold until the 1970’s. It is especially good mixed with olive oil to coat chicken, fish, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini or chunks of potato for roasting, adding to pizza sauce or sprinkled over game or kabobs before roasting. It’s also used for seasoning salads and cheese, as well as soups and stews. Store bought Herbes de Provence made for the US market usually includes lavender, although it is not used in traditional southern French cuisine.

Herbes de Provence

Ingredients

2 tbsp dried rosemary

2 tbsp dried thyme

2 tbsp dried basil

2 tbsp dried marjoram

1 tbsp dried oregano

1½ tbsp dried sage

(5 tbsp coarse sea salt)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a jar. If adding salt, allow to infuse at least a week before using.

homemade spice mix with sea salt

Herbes de Toscane: Or Asperso, if salt is added. The name translates to „sprinkle” in Italian. This concoction dates back to medieval times when it was used as a meat cure, but you can put it on everything: roasted or grilled meats, sautéed vegetables, roasted potatoes, you name it. Traditionally the herbs would be combined and stored in a terracotta urn.

Herbes de Toscane

Ingredients

1/8 cup whole black peppercorns

1/2 tsp juniper berries

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tbsp dried sage

1 tbsp dried rosemary

1 tbsp dried thyme

(¼ cup coarse sea salt)

Directions

Mix all ingredients in a jar. If adding salt, allow to infuse at least a week before using. Grind coarsely in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder before using, and then, you know, sprinkle.

It goes without saying that a pretty label and a few inches of twine can make your spice blends fit for gifting. Make sure to include suggestions for use!

Fruzsi

*Disclaimer: I like and use the products mentioned in posts on My Chest of Wonders. What I write about such items represent my genuine and unbiased opinion, I am not being compensated in any way through sponsorship or gifts.*

“Store shelves with goods” illustration featured in title image © Redspruce