Wheat Bread Plus

blog june 048My current kick is to toss a handful of dried blueberries or dried cranberries or even dried cherries into my mostly whole wheat bread,

along with some walnuts, pecans or some other tree nut. True or not, this bread with sorghum for sweetening seems much healthier that what you buy most places. Besides, I’m crazy about the flavor with smoked ham and aged Swiss or sharp cheddar on it.

My progression of bread was first getting a 25 pound sack of Great River organic whole wheat flour via Amazon. From making whole wheat loaves before, I knew they did not rise as much and seemed blog june 062drier. I searched for and found a large economy sized can of gluten from Honeyville, just what the whole wheat needs to rise better. That same company sells a dough conditioner. Taking a chance, I got that delivered to my town doorstep in that same box. I packed them straight to the cabin, eager to try them out.

What an amazing difference! My whole wheat (1/3 white flour) rises stupendously well and is so soft and moist. I experimented with a whole wheat Sally Lunn and some others, but my favorite is Challah – Jewish egg bread – in a loaf. They were coming out wonderfully, however I felt something was still missing.

I added oats and chopped black walnuts for a while. Okay. I added honey and sesame seeds a while. Pretty good. Then I bought a couple packets of Ocean Spray Craisins that were marked for clearance. Wow! I repeated that, adding some whole English walnuts. Oh boy! Now I get dried fruit by the pound, also via Amazon.

Handful ‘o nuts and handful ‘o berries! Whole wheat nirvana!

A Lament for Hopped Malt

I started a flirtation with fermentation as soon as my kitchen in the cabin became operational. I was, however, confined to yogurt (success), cheese (not worth the effort) and bread. When my alcoholic husband left, I felt free to try ale and mead.

I’ll save mead for another time (it’s better with age) and count off the merits of hopped malt.

Number One Merit: Quick and Easy

Clean equipment and sanitize it.

blog june 053Add one can of hopped malt to a 6 gallon sealable bucket.

Add about as much plain malt, liquid or dry.

Get a couple gallons of water very hot and add, stirring to disolve it all.

Top up to about 5 gallons with fresh, clear well water.

Stir in yeast.

Put the lid on the bucket. The lid needs a hole to plug in a bubbler vent to let the fermentation gases out in a sanitary manner.

Leave it to next week.

Pour it into a bucket with a spigot at the bottom, adding a little corn sugar for carbonation.

Bottle and cap.

Merit Two: It comes out consistently darned good!

Don’t drink too much at one time.

Notice no boiling, no array of esoteric ingredients, faster, fewer steps to mess up, no need for specialized tools.

Anybody says this is not brewing, I refute the notion with emotion. I say I don’t grind the flour but I still claim to make my own bread. I don’t milk the cow but I still make my own yogurt.

So now that I’ve gone on about how easy and generally great it is, why don’t we all go get some! Too bad, my usual supplier says the main manufacturers aren’t making this stuff anymore. It’s hard to find now, woe upon me. I did get an unsolicited email from a supplier I’d never heard of and they show they have most of what I had been getting for years. I’ll give them and try and hope I don’t receive cans close to expiring.

In Defense of the Bread Machine

A few years ago, central Kentucky experienced an extended drought. Before it ended, my 160 foot well got really low. I scrimped on water, packing water from work for bathing and flushing to get me past the crisis. I must live in town during the week. My dear brother ran the water freely while I was away and killed the well.

Note, he denies this. I had the well drilled to the silver sand, the best according to the driller. I found sand in the shower, in the sinks and a 3/4 inch layer of sand in the tank of the commode when I arrived that Friday night to no water at all. When I drained the water heaters, silver sand poured out. I found the breaker for the well on although I had left it off the previous Monday morning. Need I continue?

I give this preamble to explain why for many months I packed water and scrubbed clothes in the cabin kitchen sink. Hand washing, wringing, rinsing and wringing jeans has a Zen all its own. I finally got the well put back in order and am using the automatic washer once more, happily.blog june 080

Kneading dough on a floury table is a time consuming chore if you depend on doing it blog june 068every week, regardless of how you feel. I equate the activity with wash, wring, rinse, wring blue jeans every week. Neither turns out as good as the mechanically-assisted version would have. I much preferring having mechanical help with both needed functions.

Have I not heard of Laundromats? I prefer to spend my free time at the cabin, not sitting for hours in a $10 a week weirdo hangout. I don’t buy bread either.

What Would You Do?

blog june 040I’m putting the electrodes to this old blog to attempt revivification – there’s a word for you. Here’s the premise: Creative folks like to do things their own way. Here, I’ll tell you how I tried to do something, how I attempted to solve a problem. Comment if you like or help if you can; I get stymied.

I only get to be home on the weekends, something about needing to work and my job is an hour and a half away. It made more sense, with calculations and references, to buy a cheap place up there to live in during the week. Fine, but that means I only get home late Fridays and need to leave early on Monday morning. Hence the need to maximize my chore time.

I write science fiction. To give me enough time for that, I need to be efficient. I also don’t make the big bucks, so whatever I do I need to be frugal about it. For example, I repurpose the plastic jugs fruit juice comes in to bottle my wine – it’s worked okay for years now. You might say I’d save more if I didn’t have any wine at all. My quality of life view includes both ales and wine. I’d have more time if I didn’t write, too. Don’t go there.

blog june 082There was a Hostess outlet on my way home from work in town for several years, so I bought the best 50 cent loaves they had. When Hostess went belly-up, I dug out my ancient bread machine and made some substandard items. Quality of life: What would I rather have? Buy pricey bread at the store every week or invest in my own means? I chose the latter and now make bread I love.Hovel 002

On the other hand, I lived in that house in town with no heat or cooling, no running water and no gas. The electricity in the 100+ years old place was scary and would not support even a small microwave. I cooked dinner for the week at the cabin and ate it at work, using the office microwave. Yes, the water in the toilet (I packed water from the cabin or work) would freeze every winter. I lived in austerity for eight years. When Ma needed to move in, I had the money saved to fix the place up. I had meant to do that anyway, eventually.

I have solved a ton of problems…whether in the best way or not may be disputed. Still, I’m not too proud to tell you folks about it anyway. Writing all of this out is therapeutic. And who knows, maybe I’ll get some good ideas back from my readers. That would nifty, by golly!

BB Blueberries

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I have bought more blueberry plants than I care to admit. I got six low bush beauties for this zone from Stark Brothers a few years ago and put then in perfect pH, good soil. They lived one season, all dying before bearing the next year. As these were planted around a flowerbed, I shelled out for six more from Stark but put them in large containers. No good, death followed. I purchased several four-foot tall high bush plants from a Tennessee greenhouse outfit, thinking a bigger size would be heartier. I put them in a completely different place, in the prepared ground. They died before the first frost and did not come back out in the spring. I contacted the Kentucky Blueberry Growers Association this year and bought ten supposedly perfectly suited bushes. I put them in containers so I could acclimatize then better. In three weeks they were shriveled sticks although I followed conditioning instructions to the letter.

A sane person would give up on them. I hate giving up. This lay on my stubborn mind as I went out to pick strawberries last Sunday. Sure, the strawberries are taking over creation. Weeding around them, I was astounded to see two of the original Stark bushes in pots I had abandoned as doomed had ripe berries.
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I had left those pots in the strawberry enclosure just in case, but held out no hope for them after so long. That area is a purgatory for failed roses, raspberries, grapes, a fig, altheas and blueberries, the last step before oblivion. There they are anyhow, spindly and sparse but alive. The fruit is not much larger than blue BBs. Gee whiz, I love the little guys, how could I not?

Does It Hold Water?

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Today I really ought to start a batch of porter. Hot near-summer days with no air conditioning are great for fermentation. I have my fermentation buckets clean and sanitized. All of the ingredients are at hand, rarin’ to go. I can almost taste the deep brown brew.

My well water is muddy green. It flowed crystal clear, better than anything from a plastic bottle, only a month ago. Then we had two bam-bam deluge rainstorms that flooded fields around for miles. My well head is situated high above that, however some of that fast flowing water washed into the well anyway.
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The well is only cased (PVC pipe) 40 feet down, the other 120 feet is just drilled. My theory is that that the saturated groundwater may have caused the drilled walls to erode inward at some level. I know the whole well did not collapse because I can still pull plenty of water from the submersible pump that remains at about 150 feet down.

After the first flood I ran copious amounts of the muddy water out to flush the well. It began clearing. The second storm flooded quickly with the ground so saturated. I tried flushing again, getting much more mud out. Now the water is a little muddy with a green tint.

I know how to use bleach to shock the well, killing the green, I simply hate resorting to that. Any other ideas? Does my cause theory hold water?