Summer is all about sunshine, being outside, and having good times, right? One of the main characters on Maplewood Hill farm is Keb Mo (named after the recording artist!), farm dog extraordinaire. We just call him Keb. He entertains us.
Being a Border Collie, he likes to round things up and bring them to us. Not only does this include the sheep and cattle but other live things like possums and such. This morning he presented us with a chipmunk, a LIVE chipmunk. Let me tell you, that chipmunk was none too happy about being dug up out of his hole, picked up by a big slobbery dog mouth, and carted over to us. Needless to say, after telling Keb thank you for the present, he was asked to drop it. When Keb spit him out that little ground squirrel hit the ground running. I’m pretty sure he gave all us a good cursing on the way back to his hole.
Crunchy Strawberry Tarts
Another part of summer is big red juicy strawberries. I love these little tarts. Don’t sugar the berries and they will be a wonderful tart/sweet combination. These are great for get-togethers. I usually make 12 tarts and still have some left to cut into squares.
6 cups of crispy rice cereal
4 tbsp. of butter
2 or more tbsp. of butter for greasing
1 10-oz. package mini marshmallows
1 pint strawberries
Using 2 tbsp or more (if needed) of butter, grease 12 mini-muffin or regular muffin tins, set aside. Melt the remaining 4 tbsp. of butter in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Add marshmallows, stir until melted. Remove from heat, add crispy rice cereal. Stir to combine.
Drop balls of mixture into muffin tin. You’ll probably need to butter your fingers or the back of a spoon and press the mixture against the sides and bottom of the muffin tin to form a tart. Let harden. When ready, pop out of the tins. Chop as many strawberries as needed and mix with the whipped topping (there’s no hard and fast amounts here, just use what you need). Drop by the spoonful into each tart.
I remember when I was a little girl, my dad made yogurt with a little yogurt set. It consisted of a warming plate and 4 little containers that sat on it. Sometimes the yogurt set, sometimes it didn’t. I’ve read yogurt recipes that have you mixing the milk and a culture in jars, then storing in coolers, or in the oven, even out in the sun and if the all was right with the world yogurt would be born. Since it always seemed like such a hit or miss endeavor I never tried it…until I started seeing recipes about making it in a crockpot. Searching online, I read as much as I could from different sources and believe me it is YUMALICIOUS, and is so easy to make!
Crockpot Greek Yogurt
½-gallon whole milk (I’ve read that it can be made with a lower fat milk but I’ve never tried it)
1/2 cup of plain yogurt with live cultures (I usually buy a “natural” type with 3-5 live cultures)
Turn your crockpot on low. Go ahead and measure out the yogurt that you’ll be using for the starter. It can be warming up to room temp while you are heating up the milk.
Pour milk into a heavy bottom saucepan set on burner to medium heat. Using a candy thermometer, heat milk to 180 F. stirring constantly so the milk doesn’t burn. Adjust the burner as needed. When the milk hits 180F. hold it there for about 10 minutes then remove from burner and let cool to 110F.
Pour into a crockpot, add the 1/2 cup of yogurt (this is the starter) and blend thoroughly with a spoon or whisk. Turn crockpot off and wrap with a couple of large towels. Leave undisturbed for 8 hours or longer. I usually start mine around noon, then the next morning I set it up to drain to make greek yogurt.
Check the yogurt; it should be solid with a yellowish liquid (whey) when you stir it around. If it does not seem fairly solid leave it for a few more hours. To thicken it up, completely line a colander with coffee filters and pour the yogurt in to strain. This may have to be done in batches depending upon the size of the colander. Let strain for an hour or to your thickness preference. I like mine really thick so I usually set the colander in the sink, pour in the yogurt and after straining for an hour or so I set the colander into a larger bowl. The whole thing goes into the frig to strain for a few more hours or overnight.
Store the finished yogurt in a container and refrigerate. Instead of adding sweetener or fruit to the entire batch flavor each individual serving. That way you can mix up different flavors each day. Since I commute to work and we always have lots of fruit in the freezer from our garden, I place frozen fruit in the bottom of a container, then add a cup or so of yogurt, then drizzle honey over top or add a spoonful of of my homemade vanilla extract. By the time I get to work the fruit is thawed. At this point you can add granola, flaxseed or other toppings. This yogurt is also great in smoothies.
Fruits are now going on sale at the grocer as the growing season is winding down. I have sweet and sour cherry trees in my orchard but damaging storms and birds got more cherries then I did this year so once the price drops down to $1.50 lb. or so I start buying them like crazy to freeze. It’s really nice to be able to pull out a bag of frozen cherries in the winter to add to yogurt or to use in recipes.
To freeze – wash the cherries, drain and pit. I don’t have a cherry pitter so I just cut up the cherries by hand. It sounds laborious but it’s really not and goes pretty quickly. I’m usually listening to the radio while I’m working in the kitchen so I enjoy the process of harvesting food.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper as it keeps the fruit from sticking to the pan. De-pit the cherries, spread the cut cherries out in the cookie sheet and pop in the freezer for overnight. No need to cover while they’re freezing. When frozen just scoop them up with a large spoon or spatula, put into a freezer bag or a freezer container and label. When you freeze fruit this way, it doesn’t stick together when frozen so it’s easy to take out exactly how much you need. It may take several batches of freezing depending on how many pounds you buy.
The pits and stems can be composted if you have a compost pile going. Between the cows, pig, sheep and chickens on the farm there’s always someone looking for a treat. Miss Piggy the pig, loves fruit so the trimmings go to her. I like that nothing is wasted.
Blackberries can also be frozen in the same manner.