Microwave Popcorn, Home Made

My love of popcorn goes way back to my earliest childhood when my mother would make great bowls full on a weekend night when we lived in a garage… We owe a debt of gratitude to native Americans for this marvelous technological advance they made. I believe popcorn is one of the wonder foods for the following reasons:

The Wonders of Popcorn

  1. It is a whole grain, easily grown in substantial quantities.
  2. It contains the roughage often removed from processed grains. It also contains the same rich protein (though low in lysine, see “complimentary protein”), B complex vitamins and vitamin E of all whole grains.
  3. It is a live food, and sustains itself quite well for long storage periods.
  4. It has a very long storage period which makes it perfect for those who want to have a long-term well stocked pantry, or who are survivalists, or are awaiting the collapse of civilization…
  5. It is embarrassingly inexpensive, especially when bought in bulk (I typically buy a 40 pound bag at a time). I immediately house it in large air-tight containers such as gallon milk jugs, etc. Air-tight is extremely important so that the kernels do not lose moisture and therefore popping ability.
  6. It is DELICIOUS as well as nutritious.
  7. And now, it is SO easy to whip up a bowlful in five minute any or every evening you desire.

Problems with Commercial Microwave Popcorn
Commercial microwave popcorn may be convenient, but you probably know the problems with it:

  1. It contains LARGE amounts of hydrogenated fats. You have noticed the thick grease after you eat a bag… (Look it up if you don’t know the problem with hydrogenated oils.)
  2. It contains artificial flavoring (notably diacetyl: so-called “butter-flavor… This is associated with popcorn workers lung disease) and artificial colors.
  3. It contains much more salt than one might desire (200-355 mg/bag), and you cannot control the quantity.
  4. It costs three to four times what it would cost if you made your own as below. (How much more DOES it cost? I haven’t bought it for so long, I have no idea.)
  5. It generates waste in the form of an oily heavy bag which remains after you have made it.

I am delighted to have devised the following “appropriate technology” for making microwave popcorn at home and believe that many will find it useful. What do you think?

Directions

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Canning Tomatoes, Simplified

I have little patience with scalding and peeling tomatoes before canning. So I have developed this system in which the trimmed and salted tomatoes are brought to a boil before placing in the Mason jars. This allows for even, confident and thorough heating of the fruit.

If the near-boiling fruit is then immediately placed in Mason jars and transferred to a canner with boiling water, the amount of time necessary for canning can be reduced to 15 minutes as opposed to the hour that many protocols specify.

Note that one must use tomatoes with normal acidity for this streamlined process. Low acid tomatoes will require longer processing.

The minimal heating time and the retention of the skin preserves more of the richness of the tomato flavor.

The one additional requirement is that you must blend the canned stewed tomatoes before using so that you do not get skins in your sauce which some might find offensive.

Equipment

  • Sharp pairing knife
  • dish tubs to recieve trimmed tomatoes and trimmings
  • Balance to weight cut tomatoes
  • non-aluminum pot in which to weigh trimmed tomatoes
  • Stainless steel pot, at least 2.5 gallons with thick aluminum pad on the
  • bottom to disperse the heat (reduce the risk of burning)
  • 2 cup measure to dip stewed tomatoes
  • gloves
  • canning funnel
  • glass baking dish
  • seven clean flawless narrow mouthed Mason jars
  • seven Pristine domes and rims for the jars
  • Canner with canner rack and lid
  • Good heat source (I often do this on a propane stove outdoors since
  • Dish towel

Ingredients

At least 16 pounds of fresh fully ripe tomatoes. I only can Roma tomatoes because they have excellent flesh and flavor, and are more resistant to rot in the garden.

Tomatoes often come on during the most intense heat of the summer…

Directions

Yogurt Making, Illustrated

INTRODUCTION

Yogurt is a fermented milk product which was apparently brought to Turkey by the mongols millenia ago. It is produced by adding a “starter” of active yogurt containing a mixed culture of Lactobacillus bulgaricus (or occasionally L. acidophilus) and Streptococcus thermophilus. These produce lactic acid during fermentation of lactose. The lactic acid lowers the pH, makes it tart, causes the milk protein to thicken and acts as a preservative since pathogenic bacteria cannot grow in acid conditions. The partial digestion of the milk when these bacteria ferment milk makes yogurt easily digestible. In addition, these bacteria will help settle GI upset including that which follows oral antibiotic therapy by replenishing non-pathogenic flora of the gastrointestinal tract.

Several factors are crucial for successful yogurt making:

  • Good sterile technique (i.e., proper sterilization and cooling of the milk, proper cleansing and heat treatment of glassware, and keeping out unwanted bacteria). Note that Pasteurized milk still retains some bacteria which can give an off flavor, or prevent the starter from proper acidification. Scalding and cooling the milk ensures good results.
  • Proper incubation temperature. Lactobacilli and Streptococcus thermophilus are thermophilic bacteria, meaning they prefer elevated temperatures for growth. At such temperatures (50 C, in this case) pathogenic or putrifactive bacteria are inhibited. However, even these thermophilic bacteria are killed if exposed to temperatures over 55 C (130 F), and do not grow well below 37 C (98 F). We will incubate at 50 C, a temperature on the high side of its preferred growth temperature (122 F), a temperature which inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria. (Note that many recipes call for cooler temperatures than this. We find the results less dependable when incubation temperatures are lower.)
  • Protection of the starter from contamination. Do not open the starter (either Dannon Plain yogurt, or 8 oz starter from the previous yogurt batch) until you are ready to make the next batch.

Yogurt is preserved by its acidity which inhibits the growth of putrefactive or pathogenic bacteria. With lids intact, this yogurt will keep at least a month or two in the refrigerator. After that time, especially if your refrigerator is on the “warm” side, a layer of non-pathogenic white mold may form on the top. Merely lift off the mold with a fork, discard, and use the yogurt for cooking.

Baked goods will rise well when yogurt is used, again due to its acidity. Use yogurt as part or all of the liquid in cakes, waffles, pancakes and muffins, and cut down on the amount of baking powder. The thickness of yogurt helps to hold up the baking batter.

Yogurt is an excellent dish by itself, but is valuable in its many other uses.

The following recipe makes four quarts of yogurt. If you would like to make 2 quarts, here is the recipe . The following instructions may seem overly detailed, but I believe that the detail increases your chance of successful yogurt.

Yogurt Recipe: 4 Quarts

Ingredients:

1 gallon fresh milk (either store bought, or your own home grown milk)

(whole milk makes richer flavored yogurt, skim milk makes it non-fat)

starter: 1 cup Dannon Plain yogurt, very fresh

I prefer Dannon Plain, made purely with milk and culture. (Get the freshest: check the expiration date.)

Dannon Plain WORKS for me.

Others brands may work. The sad story is that “organic” yogurt may have sat on the shelf too long…

Equipment:

Double boiler (or heavy pot) with lid, capacity 1+ gallon

Four quart jars with lids, sterilized in boiling water

One 8 oz jar with lid, sterilized in boiling water.

Candy thermometer, reading range = -10 to 110 C (0 to 225 F)

A gas oven with a pilot may work if monitored closely.

1 medium sized “cooler”

15_warm_bath_PB221290

 

Cooler Type:

Such as a “Playmate” or styrofoam with close fitting lid

 

 

Procedure:

Pot for sterilizing jars1. Sterilize jars and lids which will be used to make the yogurt.  Place in a 5 gallon pot (here we are using a canner) with an inch of water in the bottom.

 

thmb_02_boil_jars_PB211262 22. Cover and bring to boil. Boil for ten minutes; then, turn off heat. Do not remove lid.

 

 

thmb_03_pot_pad_PB211266 33. Use a pot with a thick bottom to scald the milk.  Note the thick pad on the bottom of this pot.  Alternatively, a double boiler may be used. It is not necessary to boil the milk. This gives the milk a “cooked” flavor, and increases the probability that it will burn on the bottom or boil over.

thmb_05_one_gallon_milk_PB211269 44.  Add one gallon of milk to the pot.  You may use whole, 2% or skimmed milk. Here I am using my home grown goat’s milk.

 

 

thmb_06_heat_milk_PB211272 55. Heat the milk slowly over a medium fire (not so hot that it burns on the bottom).  I am using a medium hot fire here with my thick bottomed pot.

 

 

 

thmb_07_95_degree_milk_PB211276 66. Scald until the temperature of the milk is 85-90 C (185-195 F).  It is not necessary to boil, and do not let boil over…what a mess!  (Many claim success leaving out this step.  But… results may work, but intermittently…)

 

thmb_08_cool_milk_PB211278 77. Place the still covered pot in a pan of clean cold water to cool it down.

 

 

thmb_09_52_degree_milk_PB211279 88. Cool the milk to 50 to 55 C (122-130 F).  Remove the pot of scalded and cooled milk from the cooling bath.

 

 

thmb_10_1_cup_milk_yogurt_PB211281 99. Place one cup of the scalded and cooled milk in a two cup measure.

 

 

thmb_11_1_cup_yogurt_PB211283 1010. Add enough fresh, uncontaminated yogurt to bring the level up to two cups.

 

 

thmb_12_blend_yogurt_PB211282 1111. Stir to blend the yogurt starter into the scalded and cooled milk until homogeneous.

 

 

thmb_13_add_yogurtPB211285 1212. INOCULATE:
Add the yogurt-milk slurry slowly to the  50 C scalded and cooled milk with stirring. (No hotter–you will kill the bacteria in the starter.) Stir very well to thoroughly distribute the yogurt starter.

 

thmb_14_distribute_PB211288 1313. Once thoroughly mixed, distribute the inoculated milk to the sterilized jars, filling to the neck.  Cover immediately with sterile tops.  Tighten well.

 

 

thmb_15_warm_bath_PB221290 1414. INCUBATE:
Warm a gallon of fresh clean water to 55 C, pour into a clean cooler.  Place in a warm location.  (It should cool to 50 C or below once the cooler is warmed up.)  Carefully set the jars of inoculated milk in the water so the bottom of the lids are above the water.

thmb_16_52_degree_bath_PB221292 1515. Check to see that the water in the cooler is close to 50 C (122 F). Above 55 C (130 F) kills the bacterial inoculum.)

 

16_yogurt_product_P1021121sm 1616. Close the cooler, place in warm place and let sit undisturbed for three hours.  If the starter was active and the temperature correct, the yogurt will have gelled:
For more firm yogurt, try adding 4 Tbl powdered milk to the gallon of milk prior to heating (step 3). Frankly, I prefer delicate yogurt. Commercial yogurt in the States is often artifically gelled so that the yogurt can be shipped and still be solid when opened by the consumer at home. Fa schif…

Recently, I have switched to a two gallon stainless pot with a heavy pad of aluminum on the bottom. It considerably simplifies heating the milk. So long as you heat it to 85-90oC (185-195o F) without burning, that is what is required. Once the milk has been scalded and cooled, you can even add the starter directly to the pot, and make the yogurt in the pot. It is better aseptic technique.

YOGURT HAS MANY USES:

  1. My favorites include:
    In place of sour cream. Add dollops:
    -to baked potatoes
    -on rice dishes
    -on bowls of soup (especially lamb stew, chili or borscht)
    with hot chili (works as an oral fire extinguisher too!)
  2. In cucumber-yogurt soup, (khyar b’laban) a fabulous Middle Eastern summer dish, made with yogurt, garlic, sliced cucumbers, salt to taste and topped with crushed mint. It is served chilled.
  3. As a liquid (or portion of the liquid) in baking soda-raised breads, waffles and pancakes
  4. As labneh (sometimes also known as laban, although strictly speaking, laban is yogurt), a Middle Eastern soft cheese, (an easy yogurt cheese). It can be made by hanging lightly salted yogurt in a clean cloth, permitting the whey to drip into a bowl. It is delicious served with pulverized spearmint and olive oil as a dip with lightly toasted pita bread. For illustrated instructions: how to make labneh .
  5. As ayran (pronounced I-Ron), a wonderfully refreshing cold summer drink commonly consumed in Turkey where I drank it with gusto. In the words of Tekin Topuzdag, a cheese making friend in Turkey who sent me this recipe by email:
  6. “How to make is extremely simple: Mix yoghurt with (about quarter amount of yoghurt) water and pinch of salt. Mix them well in blender (good sign of mixing is: bubbles, lots of them). Serve with ice in hot summer days.”
  7. As a starter for cheese
  8. As a starter for yogurt (see above for how to do this)

Check any Middle Eastern cookbook for a variety of uses.

Making Tofu, Illustrated

Directions for Making Tofu from Soy Milk

Related

Making Soy Milk

Making Soy Milk, Illustrated

Illustrated Instructions

Related

Making Tofu, Illustrated

 

Smoking Foods

Here are some pictures of my initial attempts at smoking food with a Brinkman “Gourmet” charcoal smoker.  I confess to being confused about what constitutes “cold smoking,” but can tell you that if you  run the smoker at “ideal,”  food will get overcooked and dehydrated within several hours.

Smoker

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the smoker with internal functional components indicated.

 

 

 

Use quality wood charcoal (not briquettes–they stink) and/or good hardwood/fruit wood for the fire. Keep it at a VERY low level. Fill the pan above the fire with water. There is a grill above the water which can be used for smoking, but I have not determined the ideal parameters of using that grill.

There is a door into the barrel which MIGHT be of use, but I used it mainly to judge the level of the fire.

The upper most grill is the one I used. I found that four hours on “ideal” was TOO long. 3 hours below ideal was good for chicken, but some bones showed red color…

 

Making Red Raspberry Jam, Illustrated

Making delicious jam can be deceptively simple if you prepare it with the streamlined technique I have perfected over the decades I have been raising red raspberries. Several shortcuts have been introduced, but certain steps must be carefully followed to avoid messes…

Fruit is particularly amenable to canning because of the acid it contains. Further, sugar added in high concentration is a very good preservative. I add high amounts of sugar up front which minimizes the boiling step (many recipes call for extended boiling to reduce the volume). This shortened boiling preserves the flavor compared to “reduction” boiling.

I have used this procedure with great success with other fruits. They all contain between 84% and 90% water. Those with higher water content may require slight adjustment of the sugar (step 10). Water content, according to the Composition of Foods: Red raspberries 84%, strawberries 90%, peaches 89% and apricots 85%. If the fruit you are using is higher than most in water, you may have to increase the amount of sugar to compensate.

Supplies

  • 2 cups perfectly ripe berries, picked over
  • 2 cups granulated sugar

Equipment

  • 2 cup measure
  • one gallon pot with lid
  • two pint mason jars with lids
  • tongs
  • 1/2 gallon stainless steel pot
  • whisk
  • thermometer, reads 120 to 240 F (-10 to 110 C)
  • canning funnel

Directions

Labneh, Recipe and Illustrations

Labneh (or Laban, as some American-Lebaneese call it) is a Lebanese soft fresh cheese made from yogurt. It is eaten within a week or so of preparation. It is the easiest cheese to make that we know of, simply made by draining the whey out of yogurt. See my yogurt page for how to prepare yogurt.

Ingredients:
1 quart yogurt
1 tsp salt

Equipment:
sterile handkerchief
two bowls
whisk
strainer

Instructions:

Uses:
Serve Labneh as they do in the Middle East:

  1. form into desired shape on a plate ( a slight depression in the middle holds the oil)
  2. drown in olive oil
  3. sprinkle with pulverized spearmint
  4. surround with Greek black olives.

Eat it with toasted pita bread slices, as the Arabs have done for millennia. Coffee compliments it well.

You can also use it like a slightly tart cream cheese.

How to Make Farmer’s Cheese

This simple cheese has several aliases. Two common ones are soft farmer’s cheese and “chevre.” They both are rather loose names.

“Farmer’s cheese” can refer to any of a number of different soft home-made cheeses which are eaten fresh.

Chevre,” which actually means goat, could refer to many different cheeses. This recipe for “Farmer’s Cheese” is nearly identical with Neufchatel Cheese, the recipe for which I posted some time ago.

Note: I have modified this recipe from one I got from Julia Farmer a year or two back. She states that she got it from a book by Jean-Claude Le Jaouen, but did not mention the name of the book.

Ingredients

  • Two gallons goats milk
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk
  • ½ tablet Rennet (or two drops of liquid rennet)

Directions

FC 01-05_Heat_milk_to_20C_P31102161. Warm milk to room temperature (68-70°F)

 

 

 

 

2. FC 02-14_Dissolve_Rennet_P3120239mdDissolve 1/2 of a rennet tablet in 1/4 cup lukewarm water.

 

 

 

 

 

FC 03-05_add_rennet_Pc1224833. Stir in buttermilk, mix thoroughly.

4. Stir in rennet, mix thoroughly, cover, let sit for 24 hours.

 

 

 

FC 04-11_clean_break_P61408885. Check for clean break.

 

 

 

 

15_cut_and_stir_curd_P6140893The curd should be firm enough to cut into 1/2 inch cubes (see page on Making 5 gallons of milk into cheese for pictures). Some recipes call for stirring the curds into a slurry, and pouring into a fairly tight weave bag to drain.

However, if the weave is too loose, such as with a single layer or two of cheese cloth, the fine curd will run through at first. I far prefer to cut the curd as it makes for more easily separated curds and whey.

FC 06-09_drain_curd_Pc142491md6. Ladel the curds into a sterile cloth in a strainer (or colander), and suspend in a refrigerator or cool place.

 

 

 

 

12_salt_curd_Pc142497sm7. Let the whey drain for 24 hours in a cool place.

Salt to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons), store covered in the refrigerator for a week or two. This cheese will not keep for much longer.

 

Julia Farmer further says that you can:

  • Press into small cheese molds for little cheeses
  • Roll them in ashes, place in a jar with garlic and herbs, cover with extra virgin olive oil
  • Use it in cheese cake
  • Whip the cheese up with some powdered sugar, vanilla extract and a bit of lemon juice until its well blended and then serve as dessert with sliced strawberries over the top.

Or…
“You can add a pinch of penicillium mold with the starter and cure them at 50°F for a Brie/Camembert clone.” I have not tried that one yet, but have made Blue Cheese with these curds with great success.

Schnecken Sweet Rolls

When you make bread, make a little more dough (a pound or so) than you need for your loaves and turn it into an astonishingly delicious cinnamon-nut sweet roll the Germans call schnecken (snails) because of the spiral shape they have.

The amount of the ingredients given in the recipe is approximate because making schnecken is typically done by eye: a coating of butter, a layer of brown sugar, a dusting of cinnamon, a good sprinkling of chopped nuts.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4th pound of whole wheat bread dough
  • 1/4 cup melted butter or 1:1 melted butter: canola oil blend
  • 2/3rds-3/4ths cup brown sugar
  • cinnamon
  • 1 cup of chopped pecans (should taste fresh with no trace of rancidity)

Supplies

  • 7 inch round pan
  • rolling pin
  • knife
  • oven preheated to 360 F 

Directions, in Stages

Stage 1

Prepare the pan with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and chopped nuts.

Stage 2

“Dress” the rolled out dough, roll into a log and cut into slices.

Stage 3

Let rise and bake.