Hip Girl's Guide To Homemaking provides practical domestic advice, tutorials, and recipes for keeping house in the 21st century. Kate Payne is the author and creator of Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking book and blog.
It’s the shortest day of the year today, winter solstice. I’ve tried to start this post for months, but with no luck in getting any words out. I don’t often share this type of personal detail, but this project is one of my greatest accomplishments with no shortage of failures along the way. I think some of you might find it helpful so I’m putting it here as an offering to peace and well being.
Three years ago this fall we set out on what we thought would be a short path to a long journey. Well, as it turned out, the journey of becoming a parent had other ideas in mind for us. Plan after plan and attempt after attempt (attached to slightly higher stakes since we are two women and needed to out source an essential element) passed us by and left us in need of reassessing our plans.
There’s a song by Patty Griffin that cushioned monthly devestation over the span of this hopeful time, When It Don’t Come Easy, from her Impossible Dream album. This song played in my mind, when we ran out of money for one path and had to figure out another path, and when once on the path that led to where we now find ourselves (despite all the things being supposedly right) it still didn’t happen right away.
Mention you are not having any luck getting pregnant and everyone rushes in to offer advice, oh acupuncture, this or that treatment, something someone’s friend of a friend swore by. I stopped mentioning it after a year or so since I tried it all and the only thing that needed to change was me; all these external applications were helpful, but not the key that fit the lock. Yet I continued to call in all the troops, the flower essences, acupuncture the cranial sacral therapy, the eastern medicine approach to balancing imbalances in my body, the very symbolic 9-month herbalism study, yoni steams, Mayan abdominal massage, progesterone cream, more exercise, a psychologist, cutting out most alcohol and all caffeine, spells and sacred stones, oh, I did all the things and with devotion that faltered many times. We started to discuss alternative paths to parenthood (like adoption) with just as much enthusiasm, though not without some apprehension about the costs of doing so in this country.
I know everyone’s body and experience is different, so I don’t claim to have any answers on what finally unlocked this dream of mine to birth our baby. I do know that I had to shut out the urge toward commiseration and focus on what was going to happen, that ‘something so much better is on its way’. A little fairy of a friend, a doula and birth goddess, picked me up off the ground and sprinkled me with her water of life for the last 6 months of the struggle. We walked in the park and I took her talismans and links to talks that at first seemed a bit off my usual beat, but made so much sense when I really listened or received the power my mind needed to grant those things for them to work. I put notes all around the house to keep my mind buoyed and not sunken into the depths of what I did not yet have. In putting words to this tender time, I see it was all so fragile, but it was precisely the unraveling I needed.
I sit on the other side of this gateway now as we are expecting a baby in early February of next year, but the road we travelled to get here now makes so much sense. I had to dismantle my expectations of being in control, unravel my work life and expectations of myself, and stop thinking of my body as defective or broken.
I know some folks will need other types of interventions and solutions to medical problems, but for those of you out there without answers or physical reasons why it hasn’t happened yet, I hope you won’t give up hope. It’s so easy to break into a million pieces every month when the blood comes again.
This exact day last year we had our first positive pregnancy test ever, our solstice baby. But as I continued to test blood levels with our midwife, my levels dropped and 2 weeks later the blood came again saying, nope, not quite yet.
Every time I look in the mirror I am shocked and grateful that after persisting and keeping the fire of hope burning it finally happened, we did it, I did it. Six months after the devastation of buying and not getting to give the little gifts of announcing to parents they finally get to become grandparents, my wife was pulling out those same gifts she had stashed out of faith and we were plotting delivery of the most joyous news to the grandmas and grandpas to be. My heart goes out to all of you on this path right now and I know you will find the right thing for you.
Disclosures: Mountain Feed & Farm Supply is a paid sponsor of this blog and provided some of the supplies to make this project, including the starter cultures and Greek yogurt strainer, at no cost to me. My opinions and feedback on the project are not influenced by this sponsorship. There are links to MF & FS offered products, and I do not receive any commission from your purchase. If you purchase a copy of my kitchen book via the link in the post, I receive a few cents extra for sending you over.
Friends! It’s been forever. My yogurt chops were rusty. I realized I haven’t made a batch of yogurt in my ‘new’ house (which was new in November 2014). When Mountain Feed & Farm Supply reached out about partnering on a post, I immediately thought YOGURT. I immediately loved this site because they are a fabulous resource for how-to videos and blog posts on all sorts of projects, and, second, they are a great, affordable online shop for gathering your project supplies.
It turns out yogurt-making is a skill you never lose. I wrote about homemade yogurt in Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen and it is mom-tested, by that I mean busy-mom-without-patience-for-projects-like-this-tested. Your yogurt game can be casual, the periodic batch made once in a while from a few tablespoons of existing plain yogurt you have in your fridge or you can up your game to buy a pack of starter cultures that can be re-used over and over again provided you keep them going with a new batch every week.
Here’s the run-down from the instruction sheet, with pictures of each step.
1. Heat 1 quart of pasteurized milk to 160 degrees F then COOL to 110 degrees F.
I doubled the batch because we go through yogurt in this house pretty quickly and with that volume my clothespin clip-on thermometer stays nicely gauging the temp as it slowly rises, and then falls.
2. Pour the cooled milk into a glass or plastic container and add one packet of yogurt starter culture and mix thoroughly. (I went for the glory and added both packets in the box.)
3. Cover the mixture and incubate it at 110 degrees F for 5-12 hours in a yogurt maker or similar appliance.
So, yeah. This is a combination of cool devices that are not being used in their intended fashion, but work well on the yogurt front. You just need a large stockpot (I happened to have this cool thing that was just the right size base) and an inexpensive dehydrator to keep the yogurt happily at temp for 5-12 hours. Just be sure the deydrator heat source (around the outer edge of my machine) is being contained somehow, but not in any totally air tight capacity, since you want to surround but not suffocate and bake the yogurt. Or you can use a proper yogurt maker or any one of the other ideas I listed in my HGGK book!
4. Check after 5 hours to see if it has set. If not leave for up to 12 hours, checking every 30-60 mins.
I went lower and slower on the task at hand and ended up with a decent set for the first time activating cultures after 11.5 hours. It hung out over night in my improv yogurt maker without my supervision and all turned out fine.
5. Once it has set, cover the yogurt and allow to cool for 2 hours, getting it back to room temp.
6. Refrigerate the yogurt for at least 6 hours, which will help to set the yogurt. You can eat it at anytime though.
6a. For Greek style yogurt, strain your yogurt to produce a thicker yogurt, like what you might see in stores. (Store bought yogurts almost all have some sort of thickeners included to make the texture you’re used to, you can thicken yours and learn about all sorts of yogurt making tips from the other side of the CFH info sheet that comes with a box of starter cultures.)
I loved using the Euro-Cuisine Yogurt Strainer. It perfectly held my 2-quart batch size and offers a handy BPA-free straining tool in the kitchen.
I strained out about 3 cups of whey from my yogurt batch to make the consistency that works well for us. We are using it in smoothies, but check out the 10 Whey Cool tips for using up whey in the HGGK book!
7. Save 2-3 tablespoons for your next batch, which should ideally be within 7 days of the first batch to keep the cultures strong.
Though I live in Central Texas, where rhubarb nor raspberries grow well, I still enjoy working with them when I visit other parts of the country.
I just visited the NYC area and rhubarb is heavy on farmers market tables. I was tempted to bring some home with me on the plane to make more of this delicious sauce I whipped up a couple weeks back after a great sale on organic rhubarb and organic raspberries at Whole Foods Market. I compromised and bought strawberries, and proceeded to eat the entire pint myself in 2 days. Strawberries would work well in this recipe if you don’t have raspberries.
Rhubarb raspberry sauce
yields 6 half pints
5 large stalks of rhubarb (14 oz)
3 half pints of raspberries (6oz each)
2 1/4 c sugar
1/2 c lemon juice (save the lemon seeds when juicing the lemons)
[Optional] 1 Tbs rosewater
1. Combine rhubarb, raspberries and sugar in a large glass or ceramic bowl, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for up to 8 hours or in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
2. Make the sauce by dumping the macerated mixture into a large, heavy-bottomed, non-reactive pan. Put reserved lemon seeds into a metal tea ball and add to the pan with the lemon juice. Turn on heat to medium-low to dissolve any remaining sugar granules.
3. Once all sugar has dissolved bring heat to medium for 5 minutes to soften rhubarb. Use an immersion blender to puree the mixture, or pour the contents of the pan (carefully!) into a blender and then return to the heat.
4. Carefully stir the mixture to allow additional moisture to evaporate and for the sauce to thicken. Use a long spatula or spoon since stirring will cause bubbling and you don’t want it to burn you.
5. Use the frozen spoon test to assess the finished texture of your sauce. If you want it thicker, then keep it over the heat for longer, but keep retesting with additional spoons.
6. When sauce has thickened to your liking, remove from heat and add rosewater if using.
7. Prepare jars for waterbath canning and process for 15 minutes.
As some of you might know from my instagram updates, I’ve been in herb school for the past nine months, which has carved out a special space, or rather, bumped my usual home lifestyle activities. You might have noticed that blogging has taken the backseat while I learn about all the ways we can care for ourselves with plants. I’m swimming in new information and my brain is full to the brim. I’m excited to share with you some the knowledge I’ve gathered over this course from my dear friend (and future business partner!) and herbal educator, Ginger Webb.
Herbs work to the extent that you personally believe in them and make actual connections with plants. If this is all too woo woo for you, then herbalism might not be the path for you. Or give them a shot and don’t write them off as ineffective if they don’t work for you.
Infusions are like making a cup of tea, that’s just really strong and sits infusing for 4 or more hours. We learned about infusions via the the infusions goddess, Susun Weed. Certain herbs are known for their nourishing properties and these herbs in particular are perfect for infusions. I make and drink one daily and I enjoy the ritual and general witch’y feeling of the project.
Infusions are easily absorbable ways to get plant minerals. Minerals from herb infusions go right into your blood stream vs. having to go through gut to enter. The long hot water infusion process brings minerals into suspension which means you are able to absorb them en route to and in your stomach and not after the plant undergoes digestion in the small intestine.
Our main team of mineral rich herbs for infusions includes Stinging Nettle, Oat Straw and Red Clover. These herbs when steeped in an infusion contain protein, macro minerals (calcium magnesium, etc) and trace minerals our bodies need in our over-processed and over-refined world. All of these herbs are safe for children and adults at any point. Mix and blend them or try them individually and switch up your regime each day. Beyond the nourishing factors of this team of herbs, oatstraw has an anti-depressant benefit among many others. Nettle is particularly nourishing to the kidneys and adrenal glands. Red Clover is high in flavonoids, which are anticarcinogenic. I have half-gallon mason jars of each of these dried herbs sitting on my counter for easy access in the morning.
How to Make Herbal Infusions
1/2 oz dried herb
16 oz filtered water
Bring water to a boil and pour over dried herb in a quart sized glass jar. Loosely place lid or plate over the jar and allow to infuse for 4 hours. Strain and refrigerate and/or drink within 8 hours to get the minerals while in suspension. I typically double the batch to drink a quart of infusion daily; I make it in my half-gallon mason jar.
Now, onto some other exciting business. I’m thrilled to partner with Jarden Home Brands, makers of the iconic Ball Canning mason jars, again in offering up a great assortment of their latest collection and new arrivals to one lucky reader. This year’s color release = BLUE! They even have lids to match now.
This new lid that comes on a widemouth quart jar is a great way to both pour from and measure out contents of your jars. You could stick it on any widemouth jar, too.
Perhaps most excitingly, you’ll get 4 of each of the new sizes for the blue jars. I use them for an airtight seal with herbs, spices, dry grains, dry goods from the bulk section, dried fruit and so much more in these jars and I love having the blue color in rotation for my reliance upon jars for storage. I of course can and pickle and ferment and these jars are ideal for those purposes as well. I tend to covet my blue ones though and want them in daily rotation vs. squirreling them away in my larder.
How to enter
US Residents only please per Jarden Home Brands shipping restrictions. Please use the widget below for a chance (or 6!) to win the following:
Collection Elite Colored Series Jars: For the first time, the Ball® brand has introduced a line of never-before released blue jars in three sizes: Regular Mouth Half Pint, Wide Mouth Pint and Wide Mouth Quart. (4 of each size)
Collection Elite Color Series Lids with Bands: To complement the introduction of the Ball® Collection Elite® Color Series jars, new lids and bands in a beautiful metallic blue design have also been released. (1 box regular and 1 box widemouth)
Collection Elite Design Series Jam Jar: Discontinued in 2006, the Ball® Collection Elite® Design Series Jam Jar is back this year by popular demand! (4 jars)
Pour & Measure Cap: The #2 use for mason jars outside of canning is storage. With the new Ball® Pour & Measure Cap, both dry goods and liquids can be stored and measured with ease. (1 jar with lid)
Super-Wide Mouth Half Gallon Jar: The new Ball® Super-Wide Mouth Half Gallon Jar is the perfect vessel for flour, sugar, cookies and more, made with a push-top lid for ideal pantry storage and designed to give you easier access to the contents of your jar. (1 jar)
Photo courtesy of Jo Ann Santangelo for Edible Austin
You’ll find my latest project in the current issue of Edible Austin. I am so excited by the prospect of herbal wines as an avenue of incorporating healing plants into a historically more common form of medicine. You can read the column and grab a copy of the mag for free if you’re a local Austinite at any of these locations, or online here.
I have two recipes in the issue, one for Juniper Wine, a great formula to have on hand for clearing infections, stimulating digestion and even thwarting cedar fever, and Honey Rose Wine, used for improving digestion, relaxing the nervous system, boosting reproductive energy and uplifting spirits.
Experimentation with other plants and formulas encouraged, I can’t wait to hear about other types of herbal wines you all create!
Disclosures: I received a copy of this book at no cost to me and the winner will receive a copy directly from Voyageur Press. There are a couple links to the book below, that if purchased through them, Amazon will deposit a fraction of the proceeds from the sale into my bank account, which helps me continue to run the site and post new recipes and projects. You are welcome to buy the book in any way that makes you happy!
When I was preparing to leave New York for the move back to Austin, I met up with my friend Autumn near the West 4th subway stop and passed along the torch of my rickety little granny cart. This cart had been my accomplice in hauling all sorts of fruits and vegetables (and laundry and, and, and…) all over the city during my early preserving years. At that time Autumn was already an accomplished blogger and greenmarket pro and I enjoyed leaving the cart in such good hands. She promised to show my cart the same sort of good times I’d had with it.
Autumn and I have always had a lot in common—mad scientist preserving, poetry, gluten-free baking, cocktails, teaching, herbalism, etc.—and I’ve been constantly inspired by the things Autumn cooks up. I was lucky to have Autumn’s signature and spot-on description of my Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking book, “more MacGyver than Martha”, and honored to be on her literary + food podcast a few years back.
Autumn has since moved to Arizona, my childhood state!, and passed along the granny cart to another deserving NYC schlepper, I’m sure. She’s been busy with this fine book and now that it’s here, I’m so thrilled to share it with you. I’ve been enjoying it, sticking little pieces of paper between the pages to mark recipes I’m adding to my preserving plan of attack.
Beyond Canning is a thorough and inviting primer on the types of preserving projects you probably want to bust into. The gorgeous photos and her beau’s illustrations make this a drool worthy read that will hopefully have you headed straight to the farmers’ market! Most of all I appreciate the relaxed and friendly writing that accompanies these innovative and delicious recipes. Autumn is the smart, savvy preserving pal you want showing you the ropes. Her writing is like standing around the kitchen with a pal, bubbly shrub in hand, chatting about what you’re going to do with all that rhubarb.
Autumn’s publisher allowed me to share one of the recipes from the book. It was hard to pick just one recipe to feature, but I’m pickling eggs to take with us on the road to west Texas this week. I halved the batch, but can already tell I’ll be making more of these.
Nothing says road trip snack to me more than bloody mary pickled eggs! Click the image below to view a larger version of the recipe.
I’m just one stop along the online book tour for Beyond Canning! Visit the other sites who have either already shared posts (and possibly other opportunities to win a copy!) or will be sharing them in the days to come:
Disclosures: Mason Jar Lifestyle is a paid advertiser on this site and their sample products were sent to me at no cost to myself. My opinions on the products are not influenced by this arrangement.
I’m excited to share some treasures I’ve been playing with since Mason Jar Lifestyle ran their ad on this site in December. This great website offers an array of fermentation tools you can easily pair with standard wide mouth mason jars.
Mason Jar Lifestyle has generously offered up two sets of fermentation toolkits for two lucky HGGH readers. Each set includes:
These sets are made from great non-leaching materials and are a wonderful resource to any fermenter’s toolkit. I love that the lids can also be used as a mason jar tumbler lid with a straw hole; multi-functional things are a win-win in my kitchen.
The glass weights have become a staple in my fermenting groove since they work to keep shreds and other veggie matter from floating to the top of the salt brine. I always have a few sets on the job of fermenting the season’s krauts, pickles and slaws. I’m not sure why these appear to be different sizes in the image above; they’re all the same size and fit nicely in a widemouth mason jar or can be used all together in a larger sized jar or crock.
I’m excited to be able to share these goodies with you courtesy of Mason Jar Lifestyle. Please enter by March 8 at 11:59pm Central Time using the widget below. I’ll cover shipping these items anywhere in the US.