Whether it is because we want to be self sufficient or because we are curious and thus want to try our hand at something new, I have been driven this past year with a desire to make as many things we need from scratch. Once you really start to think about it, and basically after you read Little House on the Prairie where they make virtually everything from scratch, you start to view the items you buy on a daily basis as things you could easily make yourself. In Little House on the Prairie, people learned how to make so much from helping and watching their parents, and now, so much of that has been lost that we find it impossible to fathom making some of the simplest things. So this winter, I really enjoyed putting my google muscle to the test and finding a way to make it all. Well, quite a few things...
One of the first things I made was yogurt. My mom came to visit and brought her yogurt maker and we gave it a go. It was so easy, I am shocked I had never made it before. My mom made her own yogurt back in her hippy days and she has recently rekindled her romance with making her own so it was nice of her to share this skill with me. We get raw milk from a cow here and we usually skim the cream for coffee and tea (sigh, it is THE best) and then have almost a gallon of milk left. With the exception of my odd late night cereal cravings, we don’t use the milk for much else, so it is perfect for yogurt.
The other thing we make with the milk is farmer’s cheese. This isn’t an aged cheese, but essentially it is milk heated to a certain temperature and then an acid like lemon juice or vinegar is added, which curdles the milk making curds and weigh. You then just have to strain the weigh and you have cheese. You can salt it and add spices and it is so chewy and yummy. I will have to make some tomorrow.
If my some miracle we have extra cream from the raw milk, I will make butter. This is so rare it has really only happened once. Ha ha. But it was magical. I had used a hand mixer for a crazy long time to make it, and nothing was happening, so I threw it in the food processor and blamo, the better fat separated from the buttermilk, and we had butter. I strained the buttermilk from the butter, and drank it. I remember Laura Ingalla thought it was such a treat to drink it when her mom made butter. I could only think of the sour grocery store buttermilk I had had in the past, but I couldn’t pass this up. And no regrets. It was unreal. Full stop. But alas, we always use the cream right up, and so until we have a dairy cow, butter and buttermilk will remain a dream. The butter was also good. A bit on the firm side, but yellow and rich and palatable, just not very spreadable.
Next up I ade ketchup with the tomatoes from a friend last summer. I canned about ten jars, and we cherished those, but they went quickly. I hope to make more this summer too.
And as we ran out, I replaced other condiments with ingredients I already had in the cupboard and had no idea how simple it was. I made hot sauce, BBQ sauce, and mustard. All three were very easy. The hard part was to find simple recipes so they tasted similar to the store bought items. I wasn’t ready to get creative with swee mustards or cajun hot sauce. I just wanted the plain Jane stuff so we didn’t feel like we needed to go back to the old standby French’s mustard next time we went to the grocery store. Unfortunately, as these ran out or spoiled (since I didn’t can them) we did go back to the store bought version, but I hope to get back on making these now that the garden is cranking out food.
Ah, I bet you thought I was going to say banana! Yes, not all things we make are food. This year we needed a new gate for the garden to keep the animals out so Ca built a lovely gate using green woodworking techniques inspired by Roy Underhill. He even forged the hinges! That guy can make anything. But it didn’t cost a cent. He used scrap metal we already had for the hinges, wood from the property, and a recycled piece of wire fencing from the old garden fence. It is perfect and pretty!
The best Father’s Day present a person could ask for. Since Ca doesn’t have a washroom at the shop, Wilf and I built him a composting toilet. It’s a thing. A real thing. And you def don’t need to buy a $1,300 thing from Home Depot, you can totes watcha couple YouTube videos on it and crank it out in an hour. We used scrap wood from our cabinet shop, leftover paint, and I had a brand new spare toilet seat in the basement, and voilà, a toilet! Worth a google.
Oh man, I almost forgot about the cider. Last summer/fall when apples were falling from just about every tree, we went a little gaga for cider. Our friends have a sweet cider press and invited us over to press some of the apples from our trees. I think we said we would give them some of the cider as a trade, but they are so generous that I don’t recall this happening. Anywho, we went nuts and brought all of the apples from our trees and all of the apples from every tree we could find including the rando apple tree bursting on the side of the highway or the one on a friend’s property who was away. We showed up with a van load, which is a lot for a Dodge Caravan.
We got at least twenty gallons for cider, I think. We drank a lot of fresh cider and then went to work to make hard cider. And here is where we have fallen short. We have decantered it a few times and have yet to bottle it. I know! BUT it is still good and it should be fine to bottle... soon.
How much do we save?
I mean, let's not leave this out. Knowing the savings of homemade versus purchased from the grocery store should not be ignored. Rough math, very rough math: each time I buy an organic jar of tomato sauce it is $5. Same with organic ketchup, mustard, jam, salsa, etc. etc. So I would estimate I made close to hundred jars of stuff if you convert yogurt and cheese to a jar and you add up all my canning from last year. That would mean that we saved roughly $500 on food. Not much, but it is something. And if you add in cider, gates, hinges, bread boxes, and all the other things, I am sure we are saving a couple thousand a year, plus the lambs and garden veg. It really is all worth it. I think. I mean, what else would I be doing, if not making yogurt at 10pm, while watching gardening videos on youtube, am I right?
The Moral of the Story
Just like Ma in Little House on the Prairie, I want to be able to do it all so we don’t have to buy anything from the store because why would you if you don’t need to... Except time is a critical factor here. Sorry, I can’t forget this crucial part. Doing all of this takes a lot of time and mental energy to prepare and fit in to your day. I stay at home and watch Wilf, while also doing the admin for our company and quite frankly, I don’t always have the time to do it. Right now I have some cheese to make, a garden to weed, some accounting to do, dinner dishes to do, and and and AND I can tell you that cheese will likely be left to last, even though it does save us money so maybe it shouldn’t, but that is a tough thing to reconcile when you try to prioritize all the things that need to be done. But maybe if we all knew how to make all these things, because they were programmed in to us from childhood, then they would get done quicker and be easier to fit in to our day. Maybe. For now I will keep trying my hand at making things from scratch and seeing how far it takes us.
What do you love to make from scratch?
Do you want to make all the things from scratch too? And how much do you love Little House?
Oh, I also forgot to mention other things I made last year, just for the record: garlic scape pesto, crapapple jelly, grape jelly, black currant jam, salsa, tomato sauce, hollondaise, bernaise, crackers, a few tank tops, three girls dresses for my niece (sewn with my mom), bread, hamburger buns, a bread bin, a bench, and I think that is it (probably leaving out some other of Cam's crazy handmade goods)! I have a friend who made marshmallows, which is cray cray, and another that makes her own mayo.