Thursday, September 18, 2014

I make it myself: Fruit Leather and Jam

My real intent in posting this "fruit leather and jam" post is to introduce you to a wonderful free fruit that grows everywhere here in New England.  It is an invasive species.  It produces prolific fruit that is extremely easy to pick.  Autumn Berries are high in lycopene. The only con to this fruit is that it has a seed in it that must be removed which requires an extra step in processing.  The Autumn Berry or Autumn Olive is a tart berry, that makes a great jam and fruit leather.  It's like a healthy, natural Sour Patch kid.

That's my dog in front of an Autumn Berry bush in my yard.  

First pick your fruit.  The berries grow in clusters along the branch.  Just hold your bucket under the cluster and run your hands over the berries.  Every berry, at least on that branch, is ripe. Sometimes there are other areas on the bush that could ripen more, but ripeness is pretty consistent per branch/area of the bush.  Picking individual berries is not necessary with Autumn Berries.

Too high for me to reach!  See those big clusters of ripe berries!

I filled a whole gallon bucket in about 45 minutes.  My daughter helped me yesterday and we did it in 20 minutes.

Warning! There will be a few little spiders (if that kind of thing bothers you, then don't pick Autumn berries.)  Wash the berries in a colander or salad spinner.  I like to fully submerge the berries in water.   Also, the leaves and stems will float to the top of the water.  I splash out the twigs and leaves and swirl my hand around the berries.  Don't worry about a few stems.  Either lift the spinner basket out or pour through a colander to drain.

Pour into a large pot with about 1/2" of water on the bottom. 

Cook until the berries have broken down into a syrupy mass with seeds floating in it.

Gradually pour the berry-mush into a food mill thingy over a large bowl and turn the crank.  I don't know of any other way to get rid of the seeds.  A sieve might work.

 Keep turning the crank until you just have a bunch of seeds. 

Throw them in your trash.  DON'T put them in your compost pile or into the woods or anything.  Did I mention they are invasive?

For making Fruit Leather:

Add:  2 T. of honey or corn syrup per quart of liquid or so (you don't need to be exact, just squirt some in generously) and 1 T. of lemon juice (not sure if this is necessary, I just followed the strawberry fruit leather recipe I had.) 

Pour the thick liquid onto the fruit leather trays in your dehydrator about 1/4" thick.  I just got this dehydrator and I am SO glad for this purpose alone.  My family eats this FL like it's candy!  Put in the dehydrator at 135º F for 4-5 hours.  Only two FL trays came with my dehydrator, so I cut parchment paper to fit the other 3 racks.   

If you don't have a dehydrator, you can pour the liquid onto parchment paper laid on cookie sheets about 1/4" thick.  Put in your oven at the lowest temp (mine goes down to 180º and that worked fine) for about 8-12 hours.  It takes longer and probably uses a lot more energy.  If you have a convection oven, that will speed things a little bit and heat more evenly.  

Autumn Berry liquid poured onto FL trays in the dehydrator.  

This dehydrator has 5 racks.

The result is a sweet, tart healthy fruit leather!  The flavor is a little like strawberry rhubarb, if I had to describe it.  

For the Jam:

After you run the berry-mush through the food mill to remove the seeds, use about 4-5 cups of the berry juice (sludge) for your Jam.

Place berry juice back into large pot on the stove.  Add 1 T. lemon juice and 4 c. sugar.  Simmer, stirring often until the mixture thickens.  Skim off foam if necessary.

When thickened (like molasses or a little thicker) pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace, secure sterile canning lids and rings.  Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  Remove to cool.  You should hear the lids "pop" a few minutes after removed from the bath.  If the lid still clicks, re-process (water bath) right away (or put it in your fridge for the first taste test.)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Time for Reading

I shared some stories about teaching my kids Spelling, Vocabulary and Writing in another blogpost. The short version of those stories was, "don't worry about it."

This is my Reading story.

It is very hard not to worry when your child can't read.

My first child read at age 4, the second at age 6, the third just shy of age 10, and my fourth child at age 12.

There is a gap of 6 years between my 3rd and 4th child, so I thought when my 3rd child read late, that I had seen that struggle and conquered it.  I was wrong.

When your child struggles with reading, I would say that the worst thing for you and your child is the pressure.  You feel pressure because people imply it is somehow your responsibility to MAKE your child learn to read.  "What, they aren't reading yet?" The child feels pressure from you and from circumstances that arise due to the fact that they cannot read.  Everyone assumes they can read comfortably.  Sometimes the pressure leads you to good places - resources and ideas that help you to reach new milestones.   Sometimes the pressure leads to bad places - saying things to and about your child that make them feel like a failure, or circumstances where they are asked publicly to read something.  My biggest triumph was in saying "no" to the pressure.  Praying against the pressure was my recourse.  God was in control of when this child read.  I would just be obedient to teaching her and pray for success when I felt the pressure.

When child #3 was 8, 9....reaching 10 without reading, we were scared.  Would he ever learn how to read?  We just kept at it with him....... sounding out the words......yawning.  The boredom set in.  He couldn't grasp the context because he read so slowly.   Finally, we decided that a new approach was necessary, or in the end, this child was just going to think that reading was boring work.  We started reading stories he enjoyed.  They were way over his reading level, but we read them together anyway.   First we had him read every 3 or 4 letter word, then any word that we thought he could handle, then every other word, then every other sentence, then every other paragraph.  Finally during one summer, he asked my husband to read "TinTin" with him (comics had become a standard in our home, a potential temptation to read.)  They sat on the bed and in a half an hour, my husband came out and said, "Tyler's reading."  He went from reading at a 1st grade level to a 5th grade level, overnight it seemed.  I have no idea why he didn't read sooner than that.  I suspect it was just developmental.  He had all the "tools" he needed to read.  The sound every phonogram makes, etc.  They just weren't flowing together until that day.

I am thankful for the reading experience I had with child #3, it gave me some patience and perspective with late-reading child #4.  I am only writing this now because within the past few weeks, she actually read something on her own, without help from me, and got pretty far into it before she did ask for any help.  I could hear the Hallelujah chorus!  Oh....that was me!  I nearly cried as I sat next to her and she read a chunk of a magazine story to me.  What a relief.  You don't even know, or maybe you do.

My friend had asked me last year to do a seminar at our homeschool conference on struggling readers, but I didn't think I really could....until I got through the struggle myself.  I still feel like we have work to do, but at least I see major progress.  I asked my daughter's permission to share this story.  She said, "I'm okay with that." I asked because there is that pressure......when mom talks about how you struggle with reading.

I am pretty sure my daughter has dyslexia.  Everything that I have read about overcoming dyslexia is exactly what I have been doing all along.  Using phonics to teach reading.  Even though I didn't have the official diagnosis, there were some telltale signs - flipping the beginning and ending of words, mixing up the letter order, grabbing letters from surrounding words, etc. (Here is a link to a list of some symptoms:   I used phonics with all of my children, once you have the formula it's easy, right?  No.

Even though every phonics program we used "worked," it didn't always translate into reading real books.  For instance,  we used "Explode the Code".  She would learn the phonogram for that letter or set of letters - for example: "o" says o  when there is an e at the end of the word. She would remember that for that whole lesson.  In reading and writing in the workbook, but not when we would read in a book later on.  I would say, "remember "o" says o when there is an e at the end."  She would say, "but I'm not looking at the e at the end, I'm looking at the o!"  It took a very long time for her to remember the potential sounds that a letter or letter group made, and then to retain it and apply it to regular reading.  6 years or so, to be exact!  Some phonograms she learned and retained quickly, s, t, r, m, n, ch, sh, etc. others she still struggles with b, d, p, q, ough, igh. Sometimes she mixes up vowels sounds.  Fortunately, she has finally reached some whole-word reading where she can look at and identify words,  there is still some sounding out, but it is getting quicker.

Now that I can look back a bit,  I feel like I should tell you how we got here.

1. Pray.  I had to continually go to God and ask Him to take care of this.  I cannot force a developmental milestone, or demand understanding.

2. Phonics. Use a reputable phonics program. If you think your child truly has a reading disability do some research and go right for the one that has a solid reputation.  The Orton-Gillingham method is the proven method for "treating" dyslexia.  It is basic phonics, but in a pretty methodical presentation.  If I had it to do over again,  I would probably use All About Reading.  I do think that repetition and consistency are the key, rather than the specific program. We probably used them all and that is probably the key - not using every program - but repeating the same material to keep it fresh and cement it in their mind.  We used Reading Reflex, Explode the Code, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, a little Phonics Pathways, and finally, All About Spelling (from the same developer as All About Reading).  We dabbled in Reading Eggs, Reading Horizons, etc. as far as the free programs would take us, but in general, learning on the screen did not translate to the page.

2. Practice reading every day.  Not just the phonics lesson, although sometimes that is enough, but real reading.  Sometimes I would just have them sit beside me and run my finger along the words, then I might stop and have them read a word that they know.  Like I said above, as they learned more and more phonograms (the sounds that letters and groups of letters make) I would increase the amount of reading I would ask them to do.  Going from a few words here and there, to 10 words on a page, to every other word, to every other sentence, to every other paragraph.   The increase was over a long period of time.  It also depended on the difficulty of the book.  At one point, even though she was much older, I had my daughter read me a Dr. Seuss book a day for practice.  It also depends on the age of the child.  If your child is 6 and not reading, please do not stress about it, you could have 6 more years to go!  I remember when my children were younger - 5, 6, up to say 8, they would start yawning while reading or doing a phonics lesson.  This was my cue that they were done. It was not an attitude or refusal, it was just a yawn.  I knew they were working hard and now, they were done.

3. Persevere. It may take a LONG time for them to grasp and remember phonograms and what sounds they make.  So many times I have said, "but you knew this yesterday!"  I think, in actuality, it was in her short-term memory.  She did remember it yesterday.   But today it needs to be reviewed again...... and again......and presented in different ways to get it into their long-term memory.

4. Read TO your child.  Don't make all reading work.  Read to your child for their pleasure.  Let your child see you read for your own purposes and pleasure.   People say that reading to your child is all that is necessary for them to learn to read....well, I don't think I believe that anymore, but I do think that it is a necessary component for a child to learn to read.

There were many, many little stories and other tidbits of advice that I could include here, but those are the basics.  I wish I could say, "Use THIS program and your child will succeed!", "Do this THING and your child will get it!" but really, the solution is that it is hard work and there is no easy road.  It is a hard road, but not the hardest road.  You will have to invest time and energy into your child, but investing that time is accomplishing far more than them learning to read.  It tells them that THEY are worthy of putting time into AND reading is an activity worthy of putting time into.

PS:  Thought I should add that we did have our daughter's vision tested. She was tested by a pediatric ophthalmologist referred by our pediatrician.  I do think that parents should consider possible physical causes to reading struggles, it would be so easy to miss.

UPDATE 8/4/2015  My youngest has spent this summer in her bedroom READING!  My goal for the end of the school year/summer was to get her ensconced in the plot of a book, so that when I could no longer read it to her, she would pick it up to find out what happened next.  We were reading books that she already knew the plot to, so they didn't have the cliffhanger motivation I was looking for.  Well, it finally worked!  She read the Margaret Peterson Haddix "Shadow Children" Series and is now on the third book of Suzanne Collins "Hunger Games" trilogy!  I am so thankful to God and relieved.  (Yes, she can handle the content of the Hunger Games and we are having some very thought-provoking conversations about it,)

Friday, June 6, 2014

I Make it Myself: Goat Cheese

I own my own goats.   We drink the milk and make our own cheese....well, I make my own cheese and everyone else eats it.

Today I am going to share how I make my own chevre.  I also have made paneer, feta, brie, mozzarella, and ricotta.   The Hoegger Farm Yard website has a great cheesemaking section with videos that are very helpful if you want to get into making more complex cheeses.   I thought I had blogged about making brie, but I think I must have just posted it on Facebook.  I also recommend Mary Jane Toth's book, A Cheesemaker's Journey, she is the woman in the Hoegger videos.  The book is very clear and recipes are rated by level of difficulty.  

To make chevre you will need:
• 4-8 quarts of fresh goat milk 
• 1/4 c. cultured buttermilk  or 1/8 t. mesophilic Aromatic type B culture (I have used both.  I finally just cultured my own buttermilk and always have a jar in the fridge. When I get low, I use the last of it to make more - add 2 T to a clean jar, add fresh warmish milk, leave covered securely on the counter for about 12 hours until thickened, refrigerate.) 
• 3-5 drops of rennet (I use vegetable-based liquid rennet.)
• A large pot
• A metal spoon to stir with
• Cheesecloth
• Colander  

First, sterilize your pot.  I just put about an inch of water in the bottom and let it boil for a few minutes. I stick my spoon in too.  I have forgotten to sterilize my pot and my cheese was fine, but I guess it will prevent anything funky from potentially growing if you are not a very good dishwasher.

Pour off the water and put the spoon on a clean surface.  I usually wash the top and rest it on the top for the time being.

Gather your milk.  We usually have goats whose milk flavor we prefer to others, so I use the milk from the less-favored goat milk to make my cheese.   This is just under 2 gallons of milk.  Not every jar is full.  You don't need to be exact.  If you are using a lot less milk, I would just reduce the amount of rennet you add.  Pour all of your milk into the sterilized pot.

Warm the milk to about 68º F.  Again, it doesn't have to be exact.  You just don't want it scalding or too cold.  If you are paranoid about using raw milk, you can pasteurize it first and let it cool to about 68º.  I don't and I have been eating raw cheese and drinking raw milk for several years now, along with my whole family.  We just follow clean practices in handling our milk.

Once you have reached about 68º remove the milk from heat and add your 1/4 - 1/3 cup of buttermilk. I don't think it matters exactly how much, as it just gets assimilated no matter what.  I would use 1/4 c. for a gallon of milk and 1/3 c. for a larger amount.  Stir thoroughly with your clean spoon.

Then add 2 - 5 drops of liquid rennet.  2 drops for less milk, 5 drops for more.  If you add too much rennet, it will coagulate more quickly and may produce a drier, crumbly cheese.

Stir thoroughly with that same spoon.

Cover and set aside on your counter (not on the stove) for 24 hours.  
It is hard to see, but below is the curd with the yellow-liquid whey on top. 

Cut the curd into cubes with a large knife.  I just do a criss-cross pattern across the top.

Place your cheesecloth (not crafting cheesecloth, but real cheesecloth) in a colander.  I bought this through Hoeggers. 3 HUGE cheese cloths are included in their 3 pack.  I cut them in half and sold a couple to a friend.  You could just get the single, I didn't know they would be so big.  If you want to save your whey, then put the colander over a large pot to catch the whey.  I have been feeding my whey to my dog (new blog post:  I make my own dog food coming up soon) and to my chickens.  I was tossing most of it before....shame on me.

Pour the curds slowly into the cheesecloth and colander.  It will splash if you go too fast!  For two gallons of milk, I usually do about half of the curd in one cloth and then put down another cheesecloth to drain the rest.

Wrap up the ends and hang the cheesecloth over a pot for the rest of the whey to drip out.   I usually leave this on my counter for several hours to drain.  Below are my two cheesecloths tied together and hanging over the pot to drain.

After several hours, if I have room, I will put the cheese in the cloths in a bowl in my fridge. It makes it easier to unwrap from the cloth after it has chilled.

After it has chilled, I unwrap it and spoon it into plastic containers or add seasonings to it and serve.
Sometimes I just add flavoring with a spoon and stir/mash it together, other times, I have put it in my food processor.  If it seems too dry, you can add back in a little whey to smooth it out in the food processor.

Some flavoring suggestions:
• one clove of garlic pressed and salt to taste
Wildtree dip seasonings (we particularly like the Hot Chili Pepper and Garlic Blend and the Jalapeno Pepper blend.  These are links to my friend Dawn Webster's rep page....I hope.  She is rep # 2618.)
• 1-2 tsp of dill weed and salt to taste
• carmelized onion and salt to taste.  I have never made this, just guessing that it would be tasty.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I Make it Myself: Sunscreen

Several years ago, I started looking into the various ingredients in skincare products.  It actually started because someone was trying to sell me Melaleuca and touting its natural-ness.  I started looking at the ingredients in many of their products, and found that they weren't that different from store-bought stuff - at least their skin-care products.  In particular, I started looking at their sunscreen, then any sunscreen, most notably because one year we purchased No-Ad sunscreen and the whole family felt like their skin was going to burn off....not from a sunburn, but from the sunscreen!   We started using Sensitive Skin sunscreens.  They were okay, but even those were a) expensive and b) had some questionable added ingredients.  I decided to start looking into making my own sunscreen.

I found a decent recipe at:  and made it with my own modifications based on other research.

I didn't post much until now, because I really hadn't put it to the test.  Yesterday, I was out in my garden for 8 hours (yes, 8!)  with one application of my own sunscreen and I did not burn and I didn't really tan much either.  I confess that I wasn't very concerned with appearance, so I did not rub it in much and looked a little like a mime starting out.

This is my recipe (very similar to Green Mama.)

1 cup coconut oil (you can also use combinations of coconut, shea, and cocoa butter, as well.)
1/2 cup beeswax pellets/pearls
1/4 cup vegetable glycerin
1/4 c. aloe vera
10 drops vitamin E
2 Tablespoons zinc oxide powder
2 Tablespoons titanium dioxide powder

Melt beeswax and coconut oil together, then add glycerin and aloe vera, mix in ZO and TD and vitamin E.  I also bought some coconut scented oil to add in....if you want to smell like Coppertone.

In the Green Mama recipe, I found that the water and oil separated after cooling.  I would add more glycerin/aloe if you want a smoother, more spreadable consistency.  The shea and cocoa butter are harder oils at room temp, so they can push it to a thicker consistency.

Note: there is (was?) some concern over the nano-particles in zinc and titanium dioxide, but that seems to have been dispelled.  There are extensive comments about it in the reviews of the ZO on Amazon.  I believe that the ZO and TD from Essential Depot are NOT nano-particles.

I found the ZO and TD at Essential Depot, as well as, the beeswax pearls and glycerin.

I try to get as natural as I can, but I really do take cost into consideration, so if something says pure, natural, no fillers, etc. then I will use that.  My opinion is that "organic" is just another way of making people pay more money for something that is real.  If it is 100% beeswax, I assume there is nothing else in it.


Please note:  I cannot be responsible if this sunscreen doesn't work for you.  Just sayin'.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

I Make it Myself Guest Blog: Laundry Soap

I would like to introduce you to my friend Sandy Gaboury.  Sandy and I go way back.....

Sandy Gaboury can read about me in my profile on the right side of the blog page.  Recently, Amy and I decided to guest blog and share some of our ideas on each other's pages.  It makes sense.  Amy and I have a lot in common, in many ways...we both blog, we have kids (although I also have grandkids!), we love Jesus, and we do a lot of things ourselves.  We learned to make soap together, and enjoy swapping soap ideas and sometimes materials.  I am enjoying Amy's series "I Make it Myself" because it is a great how-to for folks who are just getting started or who need some encouragement to try new baking bread and making mayonnaise.  For me, making soap and my own deodorant turned into a home business, but that is a topic for another blog!  In this entry, I will show you how to make liquid laundry detergent.  The packages you see in the pictures are from my home business, as I have a pre-measured kit (here) but the recipe in this blog is exactly the same as the one I sell. will be learning my "secret" which is not really a secret!  Enjoy...and let me know if you try it.

Make-Your-Own Laundry Detergent...

Step by Step

Commercial laundry detergent is expensive.  And has a LOT of chemicals.  
As one of those "crunchy-granola-people" I like the idea of an all natural laundry detergent that WORKS. There are a few options for those who are looking for natural laundry detergent. 

Soap nuts are an organic alternative--you use them with hot water, smallish loads, and use a separate stain remover.  On the plus side, they are extremely gentle and totally organic, and the best for the earth as no chemicals enter the waste stream from their use.  They are also reusable, so they are very cost effective.

A mixture of Borax, Washing Soda, Baking Soda, and Soap is natural because it uses oils and minerals (the minerals make it not strictly organic but they are from the earth), and works well because the ingredients react with water and fabric to remove dirt and some stains.  One recipe (the recipe used here) consists of 1/2 cup Borax, 1/2 cup Washing Soda, 1/4 cup Baking Soda, and 1/2 cup shredded soap.  Always use soap with organic oils, no synthetic fragrances, and food grade lye.  That way you know you have the purest, gentlest soap possible.

Shepherd's Harvest makes a laundry kit with all of the ingredients pre-measured (see it here).  The reason I decided to make the kit was that there were so many people who wanted to make their own, but Borax and Washing Soda come in huge boxes...they cake after a while.  There is a commitment to purchasing huge amounts, and what if you don't like the result?  Also, it is nice to have a little natural fragrance, but really expensive to purchase essential oils.  And what about set-in stains?  A stain stick would be nice... So the laundry kit has everything pre-measured, with some essential oil for fragrance, and a stain stick.

If you want to make your own, go for it!  Use the recipe above, and mix the powdered ingredients together before you begin.  Here is the how-to:

You will need:
Bucket that holds more than 2 gallons of liquid
Large pan
Measuring Cup
Hot Water

Pour soup shavings into a pan.


Boil 6 cups of water and pour over the soap shavings.  

Heat on low setting, stirring occasionally, until soap is melted.  

Add the powdered ingredients and stir until all ingredients are dissolved. 

Pour 4 Cups very hot water into bucket, then Add soap mixture and stir.  If you have a large enough pot, you can just add the water to the pot and bring it to a low boil.  This will ensure a good gel.  (My pot was not quite large enough for all the water.)

 Add 1 Gallon plus 6 cups very hot water and allow to sit overnight.  The mixture will be thick and gel-like, and may be used as it is, or you may add additional water if desired.  Shake well before using, and use the same amount you normally use of non-concentrated detergent.


After the detergent gels, you can either leave it in the bucket (you will want to cover it) or you can fill old detergent bottles with the liquid.  The detergent will be brownish with a gloppy "wonton soup" consistency.  Always stir or shake it before using, and use the same amount that you would use of a non-concentrated detergent.

Have you ever made your own detergent?  What was your experience, and how well did it work?


Thursday, May 8, 2014

I Make It Myself: Bread

It is time for another "I Make It Myself" post.

I make my own bread.

I started making my own bread several years ago.  Sometimes I will stop for a while and buy bread and then start up again.  Home-made bread is just so much better tasting and better for you, than store bought. 

I started out just using whole wheat bread flour to find a good loaf that my family would eat and that would work for sandwiches.  The basic recipe for wheat bread in the bread machine directions ended up being the one I use all the time, even though friends, who also make their own bread, sent me a bunch of recipes.  I do make sourdough bread as well.  

Yes, I use a bread machine.  Is that cheating?  I use it to do all the kneading and rising for me on the dough cycle then I put the dough into loaf pans to get that normal loaf shape.

I start by grinding wheat berries.  I found out the hard way that to make bread, you need to use HARD wheat berries - hard red wheat berries or hard white wheat berries.  My first batch of berries were soft berries, I looked at a bag of a friend's berries, and bought the same thing.  She didn't tell me that those were for pancakes and cookies, not bread.  All of my bread loaves came out flat! What was I doing wrong?  Finally, someone, who makes their own bread asked me what kind of berries I was using and said, "oh, you use that kind of berry/flour for quick breads and cookies."  

I bought my current HARD berries in bulk from Wheat Montana, in a co-op order shipped to the East coast.  A friend of mine went to MA to pick up the order for us.  You can find them in many natural food stores and cooperative stores.

I did a lot of research before buying a grinder.  A friend has a "Whisper Mill" but she said, don't let the name fool you, they are all loud.  So, I bought the same one that another friend uses, the Kitchen Mill by K-Tec, now known as Blendtec.  You may remember their goofy ads for their blender called, "Will it Blend?"  Where they blend everything imaginable.  I digress.  Anyway, it is a good mill and besides I won the bid for a good price on eBay.

About once every few months, I grind a bunch of wheat into flour and then put it in my freezer for future use.  That way I am not grinding wheat every time I am making bread.  I freeze the flour, because unlike store bought flour, mine still contains the germ, which has oils that can go rancid.  That is why they remove the germ, so that most flour has a longer shelf-life....but less nutritional value.

I wear my husband's chainsaw ear protection when I grind wheat and send everyone out of the kitchen.

It takes about 15 minutes to grind 15 cups of flour.  Maybe not even.

Then I just use my whole wheat flour in whatever bread recipe I am using.  I have been using about 1c. of store bought bread flour lately to increase the gluten, this makes for an airier loaf (cheating?).  You can also add Vital Wheat Gluten to improve the texture of your loaf as well.  I have Bob's Red Mill.
I should also mention that I am using SAF yeast - fast acting and long lasting.  A noticeable difference compared to those little Fleischmann's packets.

After I run the ingredients through the bread machine dough cycle, I put the dough (I make the 2 lb recipe) into two loaf pans like this one below.  I also have a regular glass pyrex loaf dish, that's fine too. I let it rise about an hour on top of my stove covered with a clean towel and then bake it.

 Then I have bread.  :)

Some recipes from my Sunbeam Bread machine booklet:

French Bread - 2 lb loaf (or 2 - 1lb loaves)
1 1/3 c. water
2 tsp. butter (not margarine, yuck, why would you use margarine?)
4 cups of your wonderful ground whole wheat flour (substitute 1 c. white bread flour for extra fluff or a few Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten)
5 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. yeast

Whole Wheat Bread
1 2/3 c. water
2 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 2/3 cups of your wonderfully, healthy, ground whole wheat flour  (substitute 1 c. white bread flour for extra fluff or a few Tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten)
3 tsp. yeast

And a Sourdough Recipe from the King Arthur Flour website King Arthur Rustic Sourdough

Sourdough Bread - I have the King Arthur Sour Dough Starter.  I keep it in my fridge until I want to use it.  The day before I want to use it, I "feed" it and then use it the next day.  It has never died and I have gone for long periods of time without using it.

I put all ingredients in the bread machine and then bake it in the loaf pans or as shaped loaves on a cookie sheet as they instruct in the recipe (linked above).
1 c. "fed" starter
1 1//2 c. luke warm water
2 t. yeast
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups of that nutrient-rich ground whole wheat flour (of course, the recipe says to use King Arthur Flour.  I substitute about 1 c. of the 5 with KAF.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I Make It Myself: Soap

I made soap with two friends today and they said, "you're going to write this down, right?" 

So here is my "I make it myself" post about soap making.  Nothing fancy here, you can find several well-done videos of the process, but I will tell you how I do it.

First I clean all dishes out of my sink and move all food, salt and pepper shakers, appliances, etc. to the other end of the counter so that I have a large clear area to work in. 

What you will need:

A large bowl, a small bowl, a plastic bucket, a large pot, a large spoon with long handle, a plastic long-handled spatula, a digital scale, a stick blender, goggles, gloves, and a mold of some sort.  I also keep an instant-read thermometer handy in case I want to check the oil and lye temps. 

You will need a soap recipe and the ingredients associated with that recipe.  I like recipes that don't call for a gazillion ingredients, so I am not continually running out of this obscure oil but still have plenty of this other oil. You should know, in soap-making, that the oils are not interchangeable.  If you are out of something, you cannot just substitute another.  This is chemistry, not cooking.

If you google recipes,  you can find many, many soap-making recipes.

Here is the soap recipe we used today:

16 oz Olive Oil
16 oz Palm Oil
16 oz Coconut Oil
15.8 oz frozen goat milk (or distilled water)
6.9 oz sodium hydroxide lye

Here's the recipe I used for the shampoo bars I am making in the pictures. 

I have another basic homemade soap recipe that I use when I have collected sufficient lard from my bacon rendering. 

Let's get started.

Measure everything carefully!  If you are off by .1 of an oz, it is no big deal, but overall inaccuracy can lead to all kinds of issues!  

Measure your frozen goat milk or distilled water into the LARGE bowl.  Freezing the milk keeps the chemical reaction from the lye from getting too hot and keeps the milk from curdling.

THEN PUT ON GOGGLES AND GLOVES and wear long sleeves!  

Measure lye into the OTHER SMALL metal bowl. I bought this lye from, great prices, expensive shipping.   I believe you can use "Roebic" lye which is available at some local hardware stores.  Make sure it says 100% lye.

Note picture is wrong type of lye!  Buy SODIUM Hydroxide.

Pour LYE INTO/ONTO FROZEN MILK a little at a time, stirring to melt milk and dissolve lye. I usually go outside to do this because the smell can get overpowering inside.  
Set aside where no-one or nothing can get into it. 

NOTE:  DO NOT pour liquid into lye!  Pour lye into liquid.  

Measure your oils into plastic container.   I zero out the scale after adding each oil. Microwave enough to melt solid oils - about 1 - 2 minutes in my microwave.  Oils and lye mixture should be within 10º  of each other (about 90-100º each).  You can also put the oils in your pot and melt on the stove.

Pour oils into a tall metal pot (I find this prevents splashing out) and then slowly add lye mixture and stir with metal spoon.  Begin using fully-submerged stick blender to mix until mixture reaches "trace" (pudding like consistency).  This should take 15 min to 1/2 hour with the stick blender, longer if something is wrong. :)   In this picture I kept the oils and lye in the plastic container because the shampoo bar recipe uses less ingredients and I wanted to make sure the blender was fully submerged.  It still splashed quite a bit.  Keep your goggles and gloves on!   No one cares how goofy you look, it beats burns and blindness.

This is serious trace!  I realize now that I was sent the wrong type of lye, that's why this picture is chunky.  I'll try to take a different picture next time I make soap.   

I figured out why this is like this.  I had the wrong kind of lye!

Once you reach trace, you can add your fragrance oils or essential oil for scent.  Mix in well with the stick blender.  I have lots of scents....and hopefully lots of sense too.

Pour into lined molds or silicone molds.  

 I found these nifty silicone loaf pans on Amazon.  You can also get long ones, specifically for soap making through essential depot (for 3x the price + shipping....I am not so into this that I can't just use bread loaf pans. ) I also have wooden soap molds that I line with freezer paper.  

Put plastic wrap over the top and wrap in an old towel or blanket to keep it warm.  

Cut into bars after it sets up, after about 24 hours.  You should put your gloves back on for this as it is not cured yet and can be quite stingy to the skin.

Line up cut bars in a box or on a shelf a little distance apart from one another to saponify. The chemical process is NOT done yet!  After about 4 weeks, your soap will be ready to use.  

Clean up your mess.  

I try to keep all of my dangerous lye-laden utensils confined to a single paper towel.  Then that is all I have to clean up.  I wash all of my pots, utensils, bowls and buckets in my empty sink with my gloves and goggles still on.  I do wipe down my counter carefully, but at least I know that my mess was pretty confined to that paper towel.

 Well, that's it!  

UPDATE!  (same-day update):  The reason my soap didn't set up was because Brambleberry sent me a POTASSIUM hydroxide bottle with my order of 5 SODIUM hydroxide bottles! I didn't realize it until I looked at my lye label to write this blog to remember where I had purchased it.  Potassium Hydroxide is used for liquid soap (more complicated) and Sodium Hydroxide is used for making bar soap.