Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Most Unusual Mother’s Day

Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured the way I got to spend this Mother’s Day!
I woke to the kisses and good wishes of my family beckoning me to the table for a special breakfast prepared by my amazing husband who had not been in the country for even 24 hours.  They blessed me with gifts and then we got ready and headed out to church.  We visited my Mom’s church, Discovery, and had a great time worshipping and learning.  Then we were off to Chevy’s for a Fresh Mex dinner.
My Mom and Brother came back to the house with us where Mom and I jumped right into trying something new, one of our favorite things to do.  First on the list was rendering lard.  Yep, you read that right!  I’ve been learning a lot lately about how lard, when taken from the leaf lard of pasture-raised pork, is a very healthy form of fat.  It’s highly recommended for pie crusts and frying chicken.  I had spent some time researching it on the internet, and I was anxious to try it out.  Earlier this week, I had purchase some leaf lard from our dairy, Meadowwood Organics, and had it thawing in our fridge.  All we did was cut it into small cubes (about 1” each) and place it in a cast-iron dutch oven with about 1/2 cup of water.  I cooked it outside on my new camp stove because I had been warned about the overwhelming odor.  Everything proceeded according to the instructions I had read.  When the cracklings began floating on top, I began ladling the liquid out and straining it through coffee filters into pint jars.  By the time I finished with the first batch, the cracklings began to sink, indicating that the lard was changing into a more savory form purported to be excellent for frying foods like chicken.  The first skimming is supposed to be best for pastry.  I cooked up the cracklings a little more and brought them in to cool.  My brother didn’t appreciate their smell, so I bagged them and put them in the fridge to use for cornbread later this week. 
Why waiting for the lard to cook, Mom and I began picking the VM (vegetative matter) out of a fleece generously donated by some friends of ours for us to use in an upcoming homeschool co-op class.  We’ll be teaching Fiber Arts to Dye For in the fall, so the wool was a timely gift.  I learned a lot about the first steps in preparing wool for use.  We picked through the fleece one chunk at a time removing bits of straw, seeds and other, um, biological matter.  We fluffed it a little as we went and ended up with a bag that seemed just as full as the one we started with despite all the stuff we discarded.  Mom had assisted the judges at the Shepherd’s Extravaganza at the Spring Fair this year, so she shared with me some of the knowledge she had gleaned about types of fleece and the different qualities people look for. 
Once the fleece was finished, we joined the rest of the family inside for a yogurt tasting!  I had cultured four different types of yogurt the day before, as well as a fifth type I had prepared earlier in the week.  We put samples of them in small, labeled cups and let everyone decide which type they liked best for flavor and texture.  The five samples were:  a sweet yogurt culture I purchased at the dairy, Bulgarian, Fil Mjolk, Viili, and Piima.  The last four were purchased online from Nick’s Natural Nook.  The instructions were straight forward and went off without a hitch, which was amazing considering all the trouble and frustration I’d had when I first learned how to make my own yogurt.  The last three were counter cultures (ones that culture at room temp) and the Bulgarian was a hot culture. 
Turns out you were either going to love or hate the Viili.  It was the strangest textured yogurt I had ever eaten.  It was so smooth and creamy looking, but it was very viscous.  The nearest thing I can compare it to in texture is Elmer’s glue, but it had a gently tangy taste that I enjoyed very much.  I’m not fond of grainy or watery yogurt, so this was my favorite.  My oldest liked it too, but everyone else was creeped out by the texture.  The other top contenders were the sweet yogurt and the Fil Mjolk.  The Piima was very water and had almost not flavor.  The Bulgarian was so acidic that it ate through the paper cups we were using for sampling.  It had ultimate pucker power, but a rather grainy texture.  I’m going to try the Fil Mjolk and Viili again with raw milk this week and see if they come out the same.  I’d also like to try culturing the sweet yogurt at a lower temperature.
In the evening, we joined the in-laws to view the final episodes of this season’s Amazing Race.  All-in-all it was an enjoyable, and productive, Mother’s Day!

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