Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Does Your Garden Grow

I am starting to think I may be single handedly responsible for our local drought.  Since moving here I have steadily increased my gardening skills, starting with pretty plants and then focusing more on edible plants.  But the drought stopped me cold.  It became nearly a full time job to water plants and it seemed irresponsible to water plants that didn’t produce food.  I gave up.  Then last year we had rain, glorious rain and I decided to start gardening again.  And would you know it…since I started this year’s garden…no rain. 

But alas it’s too late to stop.  All I can do it obsessively watch the Weather Channel hoping for rain.

Gardening step 1. Plant seedlings so you are obligated to build the garden so they have a place to live.

Heirloom tomatoes (Black Krim, Powers, Aunt Rubies German Green, Homestead 24,
Crimson Cushion, Yellow Brandywine Beef Steak), zuchini and basil starting to come up.

If you build it they will come...starting on the cedar raised beds.

We took out a huge bank of shrubs and trees.  Maybe one day the back yard will be a nice place again
  (we have pretty much ignored it for about three years).

Husband tilled for me.  I really wanted a "real garden" but because the garden is on a slope
I decided beds were the only reasonable alternative.

Till baby Till

Beds in place and time to ammend the soil.  I have started a huge compost pile but until then I am using various bagged amendments (mushroom sompost, natures helper, all the usual suspects.

thats better

They are getting bigger every day.

I am so excited about these tomatoes.

Almost there

Kefir Cheese

My new obsession is the making and subsequent texture perfecting of kefir. If you are unfamiliar with kefir let me catch you up.

Kefir (pronounced /kəˈfɪər/ kə-FEER [1]) (alternately kefīrs, keefir, kephir, kewra, talai, mudu kekiya, milk kefir, búlgaros) is a fermented milk drink made with kefir grains that originated with shepherds of the North Caucasus region[citation needed], who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into a carbonated beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed.

Making Kefir is really easy...perfecting it is a bit tougher. The nice thing is that the kefir grains are very safe to use, so if you mess up it is really a matter of not getting the taste you want rather than making an inedible product.

Kefir grains

Kefir grains in milk

I have been having a bit of trouble getting the texture I want with my kefir. Generally I am letting it ferment a bit too long. Then the other day I really let it go too long and had a lot of separation. There was only one reasonable thing to do (in my mind) which was to try my hand at making kefir cheese.

Of course I decided I didn't want to follow directions. I would just make it up as I went along.

draining the whey
The resulting "cheese"

Let's try it on a cracker...

How about rolling it in herbs.....
Well the verdict...I thought it was similar to a mild goat cheese.  My husband decreed that it did NOT taste like goat cheese at all but it wasn't terrible.  So perhaps it would be fair to say it fell somewhere between the two.