Cooking, Eat Good Food, Field Notes

Make Your Own Yogurt

Yogurt is downright magical. It’s packed with protein and with gut-friendly bacteria that aid in digestion. It goes from sweet to savory, from breakfast to dinner, like nobody’s business, and it stays fresh far longer than a carton of milk. Making your own batch of yogurt feels pretty magical too, and is simple to boot—all it takes is a quart of milk and a spoonful of yogurt.

Yes, you read that right—you need yogurt to make yogurt. Yogurt is the product of live bacterial cultures fermenting milk, and for your first batch you’ll need to borrow some of those cultures from a good storebought yogurt. Once you’ve had your first yogurt-making session you can save some of your homemade yogurt to inoculate the next batch, much like maintaining a sourdough starter or a kombucha mother.

Homemade yogurt without stabilizers or thickeners has a thinner texture than you might be used to—it will dribble, rather than dollop. If you prefer a thicker yogurt, strain your yogurt through a cheesecloth-lined colander for a few hours.

 

Ingredients

1/2 gallon fresh whole milk

1/4 cup plain, unsweetened full-fat yogurt with live active cultures

 

Instructions

Put milk in a heavy pot over medium-high heat. Heat, stirring frequently until milk reaches a bare simmer. Milk should be between 180 and 200 degrees. Remove pot from heat and let cool to between 110 and 120 degrees.

Place yogurt in a small bowl and whisk in a bit of milk until smooth and liquidy. Stir the yogurt mixture into the pot of warm milk and cover with a lid. Wrap pot in a large towel and place in a warm place, such as in the oven with the light turned on or on top of the refrigerator. Let yogurt sit for 6-12 hours until thickened. The longer it sits, the tangier it will be.

At the end of fermentation, whisk the yogurt vigorously until smooth. Keep finished yogurt in the refrigerator, and be sure to save some for the next batch.

Eat Good Food, Preserve the Season

Macerated Strawberry Jam

Late-season strawberries are almost upon us, and there’s no better way to capture their tender sweetness than with a macerated jam. This technique, adapted from Joyce Goldstein’s new book Jam Session, separates the strawberries from their juices partway through the cooking process. This allows the berries to retain more of their fresh character than they would in a long-cooked preserve. It contains a mix of ripe and underripe strawberries, as the latter provide natural pectin to help the jam set. If you can only find ripe berries, your jam will be looser.

Everbearing strawberry plants bear multiple crops over the course of one season, starting in late spring and continuing into September or even October. Some popular everbearing varieties include Eversweet, Quinault, Seascape, Tribute, and Albion.

Macerated Strawberry Jam
Makes 7 half-pint jars

6 cups ripe strawberries
2 cups not-quite-ripe strawberries
4 cups granulated sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 vanilla bean or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract, optional
Pinch of salt

Place a few ceramic plates in the freezer for testing the jam’s set.

Rinse, dry, and hull strawberries. In a large preserving pot, gently combine the strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice and toss to mix. Set aside to macerate overnight. The next day, add scraped vanilla bean or extract, place over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, watching closely to ensure berries do not boil over. Remove pot from heat and let it sit, uncovered, for 1-2 hours.

Sterilize jam jars by submerging them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Sterilize lids in a smaller pot of boiling water. Leave jars and lids in pots of hot water on the stove until ready to use.

Bring strawberry mixture to a boil again over medium-high heat and cook for 3-5 minutes, until berries are tender. Strain strawberries through a colander, reserving juices. Return the juices to the preserving pot and add lemon juice to taste, plus a pinch of salt. Reduce syrup over medium-low heat, stirring frequently,  until thickened.

Slightly mash the strawberries and return to the pot. While stirring, bring to a boil and cook the jam briefly. To test if preserves are adequately set, drop a spoonful of hot preserves onto a frozen plate and turn the plate vertically for a second or two. If the preserve is finished, the jam will run very slowly, if at all. To double-check, run your finger through the dollop—if the jam wrinkles, it is set. Remove the pot from the heat, and remove vanilla bean, if using.

Bring the water baths back to a boil, and place a baking sheet near your stove. Prepare a ladle, a jam funnel, if using, a wet kitchen cloth to clean jar rims, and clean cloths to protect hands from heat. Using tongs, place jars on the baking sheet. Ladle jam into jars, leaving 1/4″ clearance. Wipe rims clean and set the lids on the mouths of the jars. Twist on the rings.

Using a jar lifter or tongs, gently lower jars into the water bath. Return water to a boil, then decrease to an active simmer and let jars simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave jars in water for a minute or two. Transfer jars out of the pot with tongs and leave at room temperature for 6 hours. Check to make sure that lids are depressed in the center. Any improperly sealed jars will keep in the refrigerator for up to three months. Sealed jam will keep for up to two years.

Eat Good Food

How to Use Edible Flowers

Edible flowers, with their vibrant colors and fetching shapes, are not only attractive to pollinators such as bees and birds. For us, there is a special pleasure and almost intimacy about eating a flower, tuning in to a plant’s life cycle at its most seductive moment.

We grow edible flowers year-round at HomeFarm. All are easy to grow and look as beautiful in the garden as they do on the plate.

Harvest Note: Pick flowers in the morning on a dry day once the petals have opened. Flowers are very delicate and need careful handling.

Snip the blooms with small scissors, taking care not to touch the flower face. Place in a single layer in your harvest basket or tray.

Once back in the kitchen, check for bugs and use right away or store in a cool place.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
Lightly minty with a note of licorice, this perennial’s leaves and striking purple flowers can be harvested over a long growing time. Trim the flower heads and leaves to use fresh or dried in a tisane (herb tea), or separate the tiny flowers from the main stem to scatter over the top of a fruit salad or garnish a summer cucumber soup.

Anise hyssop really shines in sweets; the leaves and flowers can be infused into custards for créme anglaise or ice cream, cooked with sugar to make a simple syrup for flavoring lemonade, or cooked with fruit for syrups, sauces, and jams.

Borage (Borago officinialis)
Borage, also known as starflower, is a familiar annual herb with furry leaves and small, star-shaped blossoms in the most delectable shade of blue. With a taste reminiscent of cucumber, borage flowers are excellent tossed into salads and make a beautiful garnish for cold potato, pea, or cucumber soups.

They are also attractive floated on cordials and cocktails, such as Pimm’s Cup or gin and tonics. If you have time and want to impress, freeze the flowers in ice cubes.

Add a few borage flowers to lemonade, and it will turn pink from the acid of the citrus, a delightful trick for a child’s party!

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Also called “pot marigolds,” this easy-to-grow annual is strongly flavored: use only the golden- to orange-hued petals. The flowers range from spicy to bitter, tangy to peppery, and can be used to color and flavor salads, butter, eggs, pasta, and rice dishes, much like saffron but with a lighter touch.

The petals can be dried and stored for winter, and make for an especially colorful addition to leek and potato or butternut squash soups.

Chive Blossoms (Allium schoenoprasum)
The smallest member of the onion family, the common chive is a hardy perennial that happily comes back each year in the garden, offering early blooms in the spring. The purple pompom flower heads are made up of individual florets that can be pulled apart and scattered on a potato salad, mixed into an herb butter, or used as a garnish on any dish where the flavor is warranted — like creamy soups, deviled eggs, or salads.

The blossom heads can also be used to infuse vinegar, making a gorgeous blush-colored chive-flavored vinegar in just a few days.

Cornflower (Centaurea cynaus)
Also known as Bachelor’s Buttons, the cornflower is a tall, slender plant with blossoms resembling tiny carnations with pointed petals. The petals of traditional blue cornflowers look beautiful in a green salad, but its vivid shades of crimson, pink, and purple are nearly as eye-catching. They have a slightly spicy, clove-like flavor with a subtle sweetness.

Cornflowers have varied uses — providing a colorful element in vibrant summer salads, adding appeal to soft cheeses, or for making natural food coloring for icings. They are often crystallized or used fresh as decoration for cakes and desserts.

Dianthus (Dianthus caryophyllus)
Dianthus are the miniature member of the carnation family with a light clove-like or nutmeg scent. To use the surprisingly sweet petals, cut them away from the bitter white base of the flower. The bright red and pink petals can then be added to fruit salads or used as an elegant garnish for desserts.

Carnation petals are one of secret ingredients that have been used to make Chartreuse, a French liqueur, since the 17th century.

Johnny Jump-Ups (Viola tricolor)
This plant produces masses of small yellow, white, and purple blooms that make wonderfully dainty decorations for cakes, puddings, and other desserts. These edible flowers are among the first of spring, and their fresh, faintly wintergreen flavor is good in mixed green salads or winter citrus compotes.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
One of the tastiest of all edible flowers, nasturtium blossoms are boldly colored in gorgeous shades of sunshine, red, peach, and pink.

The pungent-flavored blossoms and green lily pad-shaped leaves have a sweet, peppery flavor akin to watercress and are said to have exceptional antioxidant qualities. Whole blossoms can be stuffed with herbed goat cheese, sliced thinly and added to quesadillas, or chopped with shallots to make a compound butter.

You can also pickle the fat green seed pods that appear in late summer and use them as you would capers. Both the flowers and leaves can be served as a tangy salad on their own, or as part of a mixed salad.

Artisan Producers, Chefs, Cooking, Farming, Foodshed, Healdsburg, HomeFarm, Modern Grange, Nonprofits

2015: Hitting Our Groove

Was 2015 the year we hit our groove? It certainly feels like it.

2015 was the year that we welcomed new Culinary Director Perry Hoffman to our kitchen, launched dinner service, and saw a gratifying response from diners and critics alike.

It was the year that we devoted the entire month of October to learning about and immersing ourselves in the art, food, and culture of Japan.

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It was another year of Biodynamic agriculture education, of the Brave New Music series, of celebrating the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and of happily hosting site-specific works from the UPside Dance Company in our Grange.

We were fortunate to have such master chefs as Sonoko Sakai, Mamiko Nishiyama, Kyle McConnaughton, Ali Bouzari, Dan Felder, Russell Moore, Alison Hopelain, Nancy Singleton Hachisu, Steven Satterfield, and Thomas McNaughton come cook with us and teach us in 2015.

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We hosted communal knitting nights with master crafters on hand to assist, and a communal reading night in which we pulled out our extensive library collection of books on food and agriculture to share. We lit the Grange with candles and had a meditative walk to honor the winter solstice; we filled the Grange with cushions and turned it into an ad hoc zazen for meditation.

We learned to dye cloth using natural materials and dived deeply into the re-emergence of locally grown indigo and its uses.

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We ran a cooking class series just for kids and took groups to our beloved Healdsburg Farmers’ Market before feeding them a hearty family-style lunch made from the goodies found there.

We had in-depth beekeeping classes and another workshop on pollinators of all types. (We also built and donated an Insect House that school children love!) We celebrated apples and soil. We learned to make books and about spoon carving.

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Frances Moore Lappé spoke to us of hope and foresight. Nicolette Hahn Niman and other experts taught about the importance of raising grass while raising beef. Master ceramicist Shiro Otani made an exclusive U.S. appearance with his wheel to demonstrate the ancient craft he has so gracefully modernized.

We made hot sauce and chocolate, crafted galettes, Shrubs and Shims, and cut enough fresh soba noodles for a (very) small village. We made yogurt and cheese — and sneaked back to taste more.

We showed films about the politics of food, the metaphor of gleaning, the life of the farm. We devoted an entire day to the intricacies of crafting a successful Thanksgiving meal, celebrated the work of the Famers Guild, and helped build the ranks of the North Coast Grain Alliance. West Coast Live returned for two live broadcasts that highlighted some of our favorite local thinkers, activists, and artists and filled our seats to bursting.

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Most of all: We gave thanks.

We continue to give thanks. With nearly 80 events enlivening our Grange and retail spaces in 2015, we are thankful to the community that gathers around us, the experts who enlighten us, and the farmers and chefs who feed us. We are thankful to you.

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With full hearts, we thank everyone who reads our newsletter, checks this blog, comes into our store, sips something good at our Fermentation Bar, buys a bunch of our flowers, hangs out at our Coffee Bar, grabs a bite at the Café, and lingers over something special in our retail hall. Together, this community of supporters, learners, eaters, producers, and growers has made 2015 a truly special year for us.

Here’s to an even more spectacular 2016 for all!

With peace and love,

Healdsburg SHED

Cooking

Guide to Winter Squash

If you’re eating seasonally and it’s late fall/early winter, we can only suspect that you are eating squash. And plenty of it. But don’t fall into a rut. Squash encompasses a wider world than you might suspect. Here are a few of our favorites.

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Cooking, Healdsburg

Outdoor Cooking Utensils

Grilling chicken, flame-broiling burgers, and charring hot dogs are all acceptable uses for your barbecue, but really — is that all there is? Shake up your outdoor cooking slate by making heritage rice dishes and experimenting with specialized cookware this summer.

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