"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Pulled these two out of the veggie garden today. They are giant atlantic pumpkins. These are the breed that holds the-largest-in-the-world title each year. As you can see, mine are nothing to crow about. They were not cared for at all, just plonked in to a spare space a while back and left to their own devices. I suppose if I actually manured them properly and weeded their bed I would get some serious fruit. I might give it a go after the wet. It would be nice to have something to put on display at the local show this year.

Baking bread

We bake our own bread. It is not only cheaper, it is also much better bread!
Although we could go through the whole process of kneading, and we used to, we prefer to mix a single large batch of dough in our light industrial mixer. It takes away the main obstacle of making bread- the labour. I took a while to learn to use the mixer. Does that sound strange? You see, when you knead dough by hand it is easy to tell when it is done by the texture and pressure under your hands. With an industrial mixer it is a lot harder to tell when it has been kneaded properly. I tend to stop it after ten minutes and test a small sample for spring and stretch. The first few batches we did were not tested and turned out somewhat leathery when baked.
The dough when done properly should have a silken feel and should spring back when poked. When it is done I leave it in the mixing bowl and cover it with a couple of tea towels for a few hours. it will rise to at least twice its original size.
The child bride then takes the dough out and knocks it down before dividing it into eight parts. Each is quickly kneaded by hand and placed into a bread tin for a second rising.
The loaves on the left have been done earlier than those on the right. This is so they can be baked in groups of four, the maximum the oven will take.
The smell of fresh baked bread is one of the greatest pleasures in life I reckon. I usually try (unless caught by the wife) to sneak a couple of hot slices with fresh butter and a glass of fresh milk, absolutely magnificent!

Our recipe is simple enough. We used to use a much more complicated method but this one works at least as well.
  • Fourteen sifted cups of bakers flour
  • Three tablespoons of raw sugar
  • One and a half tablespoons of salt
  • Seven cups of lukewarm water
  • One sachet of good bread yeast. - I like to put the yeast into the lukewarm water with a handful of flour. Do this a couple of hours before mixing the dough up. It will "wake" the yeast up and gets the rising off to a flying start.
Knead the bejabbers out of it until it is silky to touch and will spring back when touched. Let it rise for a couple of hours until it has doubled in size. Divide into eight portions and knead briefly. Place each into its own baking tin and allow to rise again until it looks like a loaf of bread. Bake at 175 degrees Celsius for forty minutes. Easy.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Making Butter

I made butter today. A by product of all the milk we bring in is a surfeit of cream. You can only eat so many scones or pancakes with cream before you will explode so we turn the rest into butter. The process is simple enough. Save the cream from your milkings for a week or so. The oldest should not have soured yet and the youngest should be at least forty-eight hours old. Cream that is too young will not turn and too old will give you sour butter. Actually sour butter is quite nice if you like sour cream. Keep in mind that it is completely different from rancid butter. Rancid butter is only good to make ghee. Butter will go rancid if it has not been properly washed or if it is exposed to too much air and warmth.
So you put your cream into a churn.
It must be at around twenty degrees Celsius or it will not turn. Too cold and you will just make whipped cream. Too warm and it will go off rapidly. Shown on the right is the old daisy churn I use for small quantities. For anything upwards of four litres I use our industrial mixer.
If your cream is at the right temperature and age it should turn, or come, in about ten minutes. You will feel a difference in the pressure as you turn and then see globules of butter floating in buttermilk. Keep turning for another two minutes as this will help drive the buttermilk out and firm up the butter. Then turn it out onto a wet board, butter won't stick to a wet surface. You might like to save the buttermilk. It makes the best pancakes.

Now using your wet "scotch hands" or butter pats you knead the butter to get all of the buttermilk out of it. Wash it with cold water periodically and keep kneading. It is absolutely essential to get all of the buttermilk out at this stage or your butter will go rancid much more easily. When no more buttermilk or water can be squeezed out of it, spread it out to be salted.
Now I know some folks prefer unsalted butter but salted butter will keep better, plus if you don't want salt in your butter you can just wash it out. Use however much salt you like to taste. If you find it too salty, wash some out. I would have used about a tablespoon on the amount above. Mix the salt in well and then pack your butter into airtight containers. I like to store it in the freezer where it will keep indefinitely.