Friday, September 2, 2011

Homesteaders Aren't Whiners

So stressful.
posted by Melissa
Day two of Urban Homesteading was a doozy.

Me and my girls set out this morning for the co-op.  My list included pectin for canning, yeast for bread baking, and vegetable rennet to make my first batch of mozzarella cheese.  I also picked up a local, organic whole chicken for dinner.

I meant to write a post like Amy did today, all about my goals and aspirations for Austerity Month, I mean Urban Homesteading month.  I have my own set of daily goals, that show up at times like when I crumble up the paper bag that held my precious local heirloom tomatoes for the walk home from the co-op to toss it in the recycling.  I stopped, unwrinkled it, and folded it nicely and stuffed it into my third junk drawer of the kitchen.  You know, to use again, some other day.  If I can find it again.

There are lots of other goals, daily and monthly, and larger.  And I'll get to those another day.  In fact, I would appreciate any ideas you all might have in the mean time.  After tonight's dinner, I could use some inspiration.

All this, in a days work.  From scratch.
When I got home from shopping, I started with the bread.  I choose a focaccia recipe, and added rosemary and olives.  I typically have absolutely no luck with yeast.  Except for one magical soft pretzel moment for a Superbowl party a couple of years ago.  But today I shined.  I rocked that yeast recipe, and it rose, and doubled.  (Not to give too much away, but it rose again and then I baked it to crispy, soft perfection.)

And then while the bread was rising, I started on my chicken adventure.  I have never cut up a chicken.  I was vegan during my early and formative cooking years and meat has always been a challenge.   I was scared and nervous.  I don't think I breathed much during the entire experience.  But I got it done, that's right, cut that bird into 10 pieces.  I followed Ad hoc at Home, Thomas Keller's cookbook.  Then I got it all into the brine and into the fridge.

Curds forming, thank the lord.

Next, moving onto the cheese making.  I found a recipe online and started diligently following it.  Only to discover part of the way in, that I don't have a microwave.  That was one of the last steps, to nuke your cheese for 1 minute.  Even if I did have a microwave, it just seemed wrong given the intention of the day. So, I quickly switched websites and adapted my process.  I warmed my milk, added the citric acid, and then the rennet.   And I waited.

Lo and behold, the curds formed.   I scooped them out, and then the pain began.  See, you have to heat the cheese balls that you create from the curd to a certain degree, something like 145° and then you knead it like bread until it gets all stretchy.  Mine kept breaking and not stretching, so I had to get it hotter.  You accomplish this by dipping it in very hot water and then immediately kneading it.  The recipe says you should use gloves.  I missed that part before my shopping list was made.  That cheese was flipping hot.

I finally finished the cheese and my palms survived.  Just probably have lots of fresh pink skin.  A new spa treatment?

Must follow exactly.
The bread rose nicely and I got it all ready to bake.  It looked beautiful, and I was proud.  I stuck it in the oven and at least felt that the bread was going to be a success.

Now to get the chicken out of the brine.  I rinsed it, dried it and dredged it in all three stations I had set up:  flour mixture, buttermilk, flour mixture.  I got the oil all hot and started frying.  I don't know what happened next, maybe the oil was too hot, maybe the chicken pieces were too big.  The delicious crispy skin was getting too dark, and the inside was not getting cooked all the way through.  Ugh.  I hate cooking meat.

Dinner is served
I set it all out.  We had a caprese salad with the homemade mozzarella cheese, heirloom tomatoes and basil from Pete's garden out front.  I make a beet salad as well, from our Full Circle farm box we get every week.  There was the chicken.  And the bread.

The bread was the best part, besides the
chicken skin.
After a full, entire day of cooking, I was not as impressed as I feel I should have been.  I expected this climax of pleasure from a day of homesteading.  I expected that I would not care about the imperfections of the meal, since I had put so much into it and made it all from scratch.

No, instead I was cranky.  I instigated an argument with my husband and started bossing my kids around, more than usual.  Thankfully my Mom offered to do the dishes because I might have just thrown them in the trash.  No, OK, the recycling.  Less trash, more homesteading.

What happened?  The day was great.  I did what I set out to do, well, expect for making the jam.

Maybe this Homesteading is going to be harder than I expected.  And as far as my family is concerned, this is my choice, so I don't get to play all, "I'm so tired" at the end of the day.  I am going to have to buck up and get this done.
I bet those early homesteaders weren't whiners.  They just did it because it needed to be done.  But hey, it's only day two.  I am still getting used to this.

Tomorrow I plan on doing the jam.  And finishing one organizing project.  That's it.  It still seems a little ambitious at this hour of the night.

with High Hopes,

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