December 12, 2017

Cranberry Apple Pie

I tried to grow cranberries a number of year's ago. They were called American Cranberries and didn't require a bog, so I thought they would be prefect for cranberry treats around the holidays. They didn't make it, unfortunately, along with a number of other plants I've tried over the years, plants that might be considered exotic for our area, such as a potted olive tree and rhubarb. But we love cranberries, so I like to keep a bulk supply in my pantry.

Dried cranberries - moist and sweet.

These came from a company I recently learned of which specializes in wholesale bulk - Gourmet Nuts and Fruit. Yes, they only sell nuts and dried fruits! They sell mostly at farmer's markets and online, and have good prices and good service. From their blog I learned that cranberries are antioxident, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. (Actually lots of excellent nutritional information there). So eat more cranberries, right? I think this pie is one way to do it!

Cranberry Apple Pie

  • 5 cups peeled sliced apples
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • About 2 tbsp butter

Roll out dough for pie pan. Mix filling ingredients and fill bottom crust. Cut butter into small pieces and dot filling. Add top crust and bake at 450°F (230°C) for 40 minutes or until done.

Colorful, festive, and delicious - all excellent qualities for a holiday pie.

We also like dried cranberries in spinach or broccoli salads with pecans or almonds. And they pair well with pumpkin or sweet potatoes, and I thought I had my "Sweet Potato Cranberry Bread" recipe on my Recipes Page, but I see I don't. No matter, that's the perfect excuse to make some.

Anyone care to share your favorite recipes for dried cranberries?

Cranberry Apple Pie © Dec 2017 by Leigh

December 9, 2017

2017 Homestead Goals: So How'd We Do?

It's that time of year when Dan and I take some time to analyze our plans and goals for our homestead. We start by taking a look our current list of goals: what we accomplished, what we didn't, and what caused alterations in course: weather, vehicle or equipment break-downs, trees falling on the fence, or tearing into a project to discover that a whole lot of preliminary work needed to be done first, etc.

Many of our goals are long term, so these we break down into manageable chunks. We had two major projects for 2017.

1. Finish the exterior of the house
  • front end gables
  • front window in sun room
  • front porch ceiling
  • last two windows in front bedroom
  • back end gable

Finishing the outside of the house is a carry-over goal from 2016 (longer actually!) We didn't get it all done, but we crossed off two of the five sub-goals, as you can see in these two photos.

December 2016

February 2017

Will we resume work on the house in 2018? I suppose most folks would consider the house a top priority, but our primary goal of self-reliance often pulls other things to the top of the homestead to-do list. What we can get to next year remains to be seen.

NOTE: For those of you interested in remodeling old houses, take a look at my Our Old House blog here. I haven't updated it in awhile, but there are lots of links to step-by-step and before-and-after blog posts and photos.

2. Build the barn

We've been talking about building a barn since 2013. We've gone through half-a-dozen plans at least, but it wasn't until last year that things finally seemed to fall in place. It started with Dan getting the sawmill. He went to work milling beams and posts, and we were ready to get started.

We probably would have the barn by now, except we were faced with a problem: roof rot in the current goat shed. If we did nothing, we would lose the building. After a long discussion we decided to save the building by re-roofing it. And since we were doing that, we enlarged it as well! So no barn for 2016. Finally, this year, we got to it.

April 2017

December 2017

Finishing the barn will be the number one project for 2018. As we contemplate other projects we're taking a look at our Master Plan with a few revisions in mind. More on all that soon.

How did you do on your 2017 goals? Any carry overs for next year? Or are you getting ready to make new ones for 2018? Do you have an evaluation process to help you prioritize them? It's not always possible to stay on track, but I find having a plan in place really helps.

December 6, 2017

Fried Cheese

Remember fried cheese sticks? They were the rage once upon a time, usually mozzarella, sometimes cheddar, made by battering frozen cheese sticks and popping them into the deep fryer. Crispy on the outside, melty on the inside; a favorite of any cheese lover! When I found a photo of fried sliced cheese in David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking, I thought it would make a great side dish for burgers. 

The frying cheese I made is known in many cultures by different names. We usually see it called Paneer or Panir (Indian) or Queso Blanco (Mexican). The recipe is the same as for whole milk ricotta. In the U.S. it's sometimes called Farmer's Cheese, although that is more of a category of fresh cheeses than a specific kind. No matter the name, it's probably the simplest cheese to make.

  • 1 gallon milk (any kind except ultra-pasteurized)
  • 1/2 cup vinegar (any kind), lemon, or lime juice or 1/2 gal. yogurt or kefir
  • 2 - 3 teaspoons salt (optional)

Heat milk to boiling (stir to prevent scorching), gently stir in the vinegar, and let rest for about ten minutes. Carefully scoop out the curds, let them drain, salt if desired, and hang or lightly press in cheesecloth.

Yield: One gallon of milk gives me about two pounds of cheese. This is heavier than most, because boiling the milk plus adding an acid captures both milk proteins: casein and albumin.

Once it's cool it can be sliced or cubed and when cooked, it won't melt! That's what makes it popular for frying, plus all sorts of vegetarian dishes in place of tofu.

To fry: slice and brown in your favorite fat or oil.

Variation: In Northern Caucasia (where it's called Circassian cheese), slices are dipped in egg and bread crumbs before frying.

To store: As a fresh cheese it won't keep long, about a week without salting, several weeks with salt. It's one of the few cheeses that can be frozen, however, which is appealing to me since my milk supply is seasonal.

The flavor can be changed by changing the acid used and adding herbs and spices. After a successful plain version, I tried an Italian version.

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 - 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup dried Italian herbs

To fry: slice and brown in extra virgin olive oil until crispy.

A delicious accompaniment to pasta and your favorite sauce!

Hopefully I can get a couple of these tucked away in my freezer before my experiments in cheesemaking come to an end for the year. I am now milking only one doe instead of three, so I have less milk to work with. She's giving me a gradually decreasing quart per day, but hopefully she'll stay in milk until kidding next spring. It won't be enough for cheese, but if it's enough to keep our kefir going I'll be happy.

I have one hard cheese aging in wax. Only one as an experiment in curing without a cheese cave. If it turns out well, I'll tell you about it.

Fried Cheese © Dec. 2017 by Leigh

December 4, 2017


The upcoming Back To Basics Living Bundle is still looking for authors who would like to participate! This is an eBook bundle loaded with resources on topics such as:
  • simple living
  • basic living skills
  • homesteading
  • DIY
  • gardening
  • food preservation
  • cooking from scratch
  • herbs
  • livestock
  • natural remedies
  • natural living
  • frugal living
  • homeschooling
  • etc.!

If you've written an eBook on any of these topics and would like to participate, click here! Please use my name as your referral.

Haven't written a book? Maybe you have a how-to blog post or series of posts on any of topics. Copy and paste them into your word processor and export to pdf. You have an eBook! Or maybe you have a video, an online class, or a downloadable you can offer. If so, you can participate too! Click here to sign up and please use my name as your referral.

What's in it for you?
  • New authors (never been in a B2B bundle before) receive a 50% commission for each bundle they sell plus + 20% of the author bonus pool.
  • Returning authors to B2B receive  a 45% commission for each bundle they sell plus + 20% of the author bonus pool
  • Affiliates receive a 40% commission for each bundle they sell (link to sign up as an affiliate here.)

Honestly, I'm not at all a salesy person, but this product is such that you don't have to give a hard sell or try to talk folks into buying it. The bundling allows for the cost of each book to be very economical and the information is the kind of thing that folks can use. It's one of the few things I participate in because I think it's a service to others. 

So, if you're interested, click here. Or if you know someone you think might be interested, have them come take a look. As always, I'm happy to answer questions. 

December 2, 2017

Milking Room Roof Phase 2

If you guessed "polycarbonate panel skylight" in my "Milking Room Roof Phase 1" post, you were correct! Here's where we left off ...

We had 14-foot metal roofing panels with which to cover 16 feet. The problem, however, lent itself perfectly to use translucent roofing panels to allow in some natural light.

Locally, we couldn't find anything with the same profile as our metal panels. Shipping them was out of the question, but Dan thought he could work out how to put two different styles together. Lowe's best quality translucent panels were half-off, for which the timing was perfect. Even so, we waffled a bit before committing to a purchase. In spite of the manufacturer's claims, they seemed pretty flimsy for the job.

Because of the sale, a new lot of panels were in the rack along with a few old ones. We compared the two by heft and feel, and even though they were supposedly the same product, the old ones seemed heavier and thicker than the new batch. They were a bit dusty and scuffed, and the labels were dirty, but those are the ones we took: 2, 12-foot translucent polycarbonate roofing panels.

Dan cutting the panels with tin snips. Masking tape protects the cut edge.

2, 12-foot panels gave us just what we needed. 

Working on the skylight panel with DIY Swiss seat, just in case.

By the time Dan added another nailer on the roof and screwed each ridge of the panel down, they were stiffened up a bit. Then he added a 1x1 down the center for added support.

Hopefully we'll get a long life from them. I like my solar barn light, but even better, I like having as much natural light in the barn as I can.

Next will be the roof for the hay loft.

Milking Room Roof Phase 2 © Dec. 2017