The Real Know How

How-Tos, Videos, Tutorials — Ramping Up for the 21st Century

Archive for the month “February, 2012”

Using a Temperature Controller to Save On Kitchen-related Electricity Costs

I was pretty blown away by this project.

Mikey and Wendy live on an off-grid, homestead in New Mexico (see their Holy Scrap Homestead blog). As such, they were looking for more efficiency from their appliances. Mikey has come up with a temperature controller that has allowed them convert a small chest freezer into a refrigerator and so downsize from their full-size fridge that cost them a lot in energy and was underutilized.

The temperature controller can also be used to regulate temperature for stuff like tempeh and yoghurt making, incubation, heat pads, raising bread dough, and controlling the temperature on simple crockpots and on hot plates for tasks like candy-making. There are a lot of possible uses.

The design and instructions on how to build it are “open source” in other words, free, off his website but he also sells kits to build it yourself and already completed units from there, as well.

Here is Mikey talking about the controller and what he was able to do with it. BTW, I don’t know Mikey or Wendy and they haven’t asked me to blog this. Just stumbled across this and thought it should be shared.

Here’s Wendy making yoghurt using the device:

Wendy using the temperature controller to make tempeh:

Mikey raising bread dough.

Besides the temperature controller, Mikey has other useful open source projects.

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Room Temperature Cultured Yoghurts

These are very easy to make yoghurts because you don’t have to mess around with warming milk or closely monitoring temperatures.

Instead, mesophilic yoghurts culture best at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and all you have to do to start them is to add the culture or already cultured yoghurt to milk and wait a few hours.

Really easy and all you have to do to keep things going is to feed the yoghurt with fresh milk or cream (these cultures love cream) periodically. They can be used to culture non-dairy milks also, but will also need to be fed dairy regularly to be kept healthy.

The mesophilic yoghurt cultures readily available online all come from the Nordic countries:

Viili which comes to us from Finland. Has a mild, creamy flavor and goopy texture (kind of like okra)

Piima, more of a buttermilk type of cultured product

Filmjolk, which has a cheesy flavor.

We’ve tried viili and piima and the viili won out. I keep a large crock, that I feed periodically in the fridge. It’s easy to keep going.

A Finnish friend of mine told me that her grandmother had a viili cabinet and I can see why, as the culturing is temperature sensitive and can be affected by drafts or even by higher room temperatures caused by cooking.

I’ve let mine go longer than I wanted/be out when the temperature was higher and got a thicker cottage cheese type culture (which we also liked). Our viili culture likes cream, sheep’s milk and full fat unhomogenized cow’s milk. It doesn’t perform so well with goat’s milk (the mixture stays runny).

Anyway, here is the CulturesforHealth video on viili (process is exactly the same for piima and filmjolk).

Cultures for Health is one of the sources for these cultures, but there are many others, including GEM Cultures. I shopped around and bought mine from Etsy.

Please let us know of your experiences with these cultures.

Making Preserved Lemons

This is an easy process (another lacto-fermented pickle) and a good way to preserve your bounty if you have a lemon tree or to extend your lemon-eating period if you eat seasonally.

Re ingredients, at its simplest, you just need lemons (in Morocco a specific kind is used, but any kind will do), salt and a sterilized jar. In this video, Jules also adds green bay leaves for color and a bit of flavor.

She ferments them for several weeks and says that the preserved lemons will keep in the cupboard, sealed, for about one year. Once open, she stores the jars in the fridge.

Tara shows you what the finished product looks like (she adds spices to her lemons in the jar) and tells you how to use the preserved lemons (you discard the preserved pulp and use the rind cut up finely to flavor dishes) and what they go well with. She says the unopened jars will keep “practically forever, really.”

Raising Rabbits for Meat

The newsurvivalist gives a detailed walk-through of his urban rabbit raising set-up (he houses his Florida white rabbits in his one-car garage). Newsurvivalist recommends Bob Bennett‘s books on rabbit raising and has based a lot of his rabbit raising operation on these books. “Don’t say you can’t grow your own livestock because you live in a city, because I have proven it here. I live in a city,” he says.

Watch for the water distribution system he has set up for his rabbits. It’s really interesting.

Note that the last two videos are about slaughtering, skinning and butchering the rabbits and show these processes.

Building Barrel Root Cellars

DeanLeatherman explains and shows how he built effective root cellars for root vegetables and cabbage from large plastic barrels buried in the ground. He talks a bit fast, but explains his concept and what he did well.

I did wonder whether the plastic would be secure enough storage against any burrowing animals, but he didn’t mention rodent infiltration as a problem he’s experienced so far.

Herbs – How to Make an Infused Oil

Good description of how to make an infused herbal oil by Rickvanman. He stresses the need to get information on particular herbs before using them.

Hunting for Jewelweed (Touch-Me-Nots)

Don King of theMushroomHunter.com in Ohio talks jewelweed, a wild plant that is often found near nettle patches. The seed pods taste like sunflower seeds, according to Don, and can be used to stop the itching from insect bites and irritant plants (like the nettles who are often their neighbors).

Monitor Your Property’s Health

Learn an easy photo technique to monitor your property’s health. The video is taken on a rural property in Wyoming and is produced by the University of Wyoming. Embedding was disabled on this video, so just click through to watch it directly on YouTube.

Make A Feather Pen/Writing Quill

All about feather nib pens by nostalgicimpressions:

From emilysgarden a step-by-step on making a feather pen:

Let’s Raise Hens

Detailed instructions on best practices in raising chickens from chicks on up. This video was created for the JustFoodNow initiative in Western Massachusetts which was created to share information about sustainable food in that area.

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