Making Cheese from Almonds

I got my Mother Earth News (MEN) October/November 2013 issue in the mail today and, as usual, I hid in a found a secluded place to read the pages from cover to cover.  Inside is an article about tree nuts – Page 20 – and about making your own Almond milk!  Wow – this was great timing as I recently was able to harvest about four cups of shelled almonds from our volunteer tree out back!  The crows got most of the nuts.  I got the ones on the ground that they dropped – shell intact, of course!  You can read my previous post about wrestling the almonds from the rats first, then the crows, HERE.

How to make cheese from almonds

Blanched almonds soaked for 24 hours in water in the refrigerator.

 

On page 21 there are instructions on how to make the almond milk, but also a blurb about the fact that you can turn any nut “into milk, which may then be transformed into cheese, yogurt or ice cream.”    Holy cow – cheese from almonds!  Are you kidding me?

A quick google search for “cheese made out of almonds” brought up several sites!  Apparently, when you make cheese out of almonds is very similar in taste to feta cheese.  Okay – I’m in!

How to make cheese from almonds

Blend in blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.

I found three recipes that I wanted to follow – all very similar – and decided to try a combination of the three.  The website at Maple Spice had a Baked Almond Feta that sounded wonderful – but the best part was the step by step tutorial.  A bit too much garlic and salt for me, however.  Then on About.com I found a recipe that I felt had the right amount of salt, but didn’t call for any garlic, and I do like some garlic.  At Rawmazing I found a recipe that seemed just right, but it wasn’t cooked.  So, I ended up using the recipe from Rawmazing, decreased the amount of water to 1/2 cup like the Maple Spice recipe because I added in some garlic, then baked it at 300 degrees for 40 minutes as suggested at About.com!   Whew!

How to make cheese from almonds

Draining the almond cheese. I didn’t have cheesecloth, so I improvised and used a coffee filter in a small colander.

The results?  Well, pretty darned amazing……. considering.

You see, I had to “wing it” with a couple of items.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth, so I used coffee filters instead.  Luckily this worked.  And then my oven broke.

Yes – as the oven was preheating to 300 degrees, I heard a large pop – something like a champagne cork being set free.  My hubby heard it also.  Since I have several wine bottles on my kitchen countertop

How to make cheese from almonds

This was the almond cheese after draining. This is the way it was supposed to go into the oven!

and also some of those decorative peppers and whatnot in vinegar jars here and there, we searched around to see which bottle lost it’s seal.  They all appeared to be intact.  But just when I decided to turn my attention back to the cheese making process, I noticed that my oven digital display was blank.  Oh No.  Rats!  Dear hubby went to the breaker box and, sure ’nuff, it had tripped.  When he flipped it back on this allowed af poltergeist to entered into the soul of my oven.  On it’s own, it started to lock the oven door, like it was going to do a clean cycle, the beeper started beeping constantly (and wouldn’t stop) and strange numbers were flashing on the digital display!  Holy smokes!  We tried hitting the cancel button, hubby tried flipping the breaker again, nothing worked.  🙁

how to make cheese from almonds

Here is the almond cheese “baking” on our barbeque grill! Not the best situation, but sometimes you gotta “go with the flow”!

So, since we were having smoked, grilled pork chops for dinner, I figured I could cover the cheese with foil and let it bake in the bbq.    I really didn’t have any other options at this point!  I watched the dial on the bbq and tried to keep the temperature inside as close to 300 degrees as possible, which wasn’t too difficult.  But after the 30 minutes or so at about 300 degrees, and when the top began to get a golden color, I pulled the cheese out of the bbq to let it cool off.

How to make cheese from almonds

Here is the final result! I’m sure it would have been better if I could have cooked it in a regular oven, but I think it turned out fine, considering the circumstances! It was even a bit crumbly but still moist – like feta!

How did it taste?  Well, the first taste was a bit like hummus with garlic in it.  Not bad, but not really cheesy.  However, I let it set in the refrigerator overnight and the next evening made pizza with it.  You know the old saying that “most things get better with time”?  Almond cheese is one of those things.  After 24 hours the almond cheese was a bit more “creamy” and the garlic taste had mellowed out a bit with less “bite” – kind of like feta cheese!  Kinda

The pizza was really good.  I used a homemade whole wheat bread

How to make cheese from almonds

This pizza was really yummy! Pizza sauce, sausage, olives, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and almond cheese!

crust, put on some tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes (from my backyard) artichoke hearts (I wish had come from my backyard) black olives, a little bit of italian sausage, and the almond cheese.  Both hubby and I decided this pizza was a winner!  Without the sausage this would have been totally vegan and totally delicious!

So I got braver and decided to make some stuffed shells with the rest of the ground italian sausage, artichoke hearts and almond cheese.  Wow – you would never know that this was not cheese from a mammal!

how to make cheese from almonds

Stuffed shells with almond cheese. I will definitely make this again!

The repairman came out the next day.  Yes – the next day and on time!   Unfortunately his estimate to repair the oven (oven temperature sensor blew up, which fried the electronic control panel) was ridiculously expensive – especially since our oven was already 9 years old!  So, that afternoon we went oven shopping, and thank goodness a model very similar to our old one was on clearance (last year’s model).  We got the new oven for less money than it would have cost to repair our old one!

I think my next experiment will be to make some almond milk ice cream!   Wish me luck!

aaaasignature

 

I’m sharing at these fun parties:   Make The Scene MondayThank Goodness It’s MondayMore The Merrier Monday;  Homestead Barn Hop;Clever Chicks Blog HopHomemade MondaysThe Gathering SpotManic MondayNatural Living MondayGrand Social;Mix It Up MondaySweet Sharing MondaySunday Show Off The Backyard Farming Connection HopNifty Thrifty TuesdayThe Gathering SpotTuesday Garden PartyGarden TuesdayTuesday GreensHealthy Tuesday HopBrag About It;  Love Bakes Good CakesTuesdays with a TwistThe ScoopTuesdays TreasuresTwo Cup Tuesday;  Make, Bake and Create;  Healthy2Day WednesdaysDown Home Blog HopSimple Living Wednesday;  Frugal Days Sustainable WaysCottage Style PartyWildcrafting WednesdayEncourage One AnotherWhat I Learned WednesdayWicked Awesome WednesdayLinky & DrinkyHearts For The HomeThe HomeAcre HopShare Your Cup ThursdayHome and Garden ThursdayFabulously Frugal ThusdayThriving ThursdaysSimple Lives Thursday; Mountain Woman Rendezvous; Freedom Fridays; Friendship Friday; TGIF Link Party; Small Footprint Fridays; Harvest of Friends Weekend ;  Friday Flash Blog Party; Weekend re-Treat;  The Homesteader’s Hop

 

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Harvesting SunflowersCaden’s sunflower seeds were ready to harvest, so I had his mom and dad (my son) bring him over to cut the heads off the stalks.  The sunflower plants were more than twice his size, so he cut the stalk in half first, then cut the stalk closer to the head of the actual sunflower.  We set them in an open paper bag outside to finish drying.  Harvesting Sunflowers

I also cut down the four sunflowers that I had growing.  The largest head turned out to be 15″ across!  These were the Mammoth Sunflower Seeds I was given for free from Barra Vineyards in Mendocino County.  I can still taste their Moscato ……..mmmmmmmm

Anyway, I also put these sunflowers in a paper bag to dry a few more days.  From what I have read, it is very important to thoroughly dry the sunflower heads by keeping them in a warm, dry place (outside in an open paper bag), turning them over once or twice a day, until the seeds start to fall out by themselves. The last thing you want is for the seed heads to start molding!Harvesting sunflower seeds

Once I could tell the seeds were dry, I sat in front of the TV one evening and literally rubbed over the seeds with the palm of my hand and they just fell out of the seed head. It was this easy because once the seeds are dry they shrink just a little and the head releases them.  I did have to pick out just a few, but not many.  The seeds were all placed in a colander so they could dry on the kitchen counter just a bit more for a couple of days, giving the seeds a quick stir every time I passed by.  I left the center of each head intact because those seeds were pretty small, and I figured the birds would benefit from them more than I would, so I gave them to Caden to place on the bird feeder in his backyard.

Soaking sunflower seeds

I had to put a pie plate over the seeds soaking in the salt water so the seeds would stay submerged.

I tasted a couple of the seeds and they were pretty good raw, but I decided to roast them with some salt because that is the way my dear hubby likes them.  I found some simple directions on the National Sunflower Association‘s website on how to salt and roast the seeds.  I soaked the seeds overnight in two quarts of water with 1/2 cup of sea salt, as directed, then roasted them at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes the next day.

We had a lot of seeds and I didn’t want them to go bad before we could eat them all, so I decided the best thing I could do with all those seeds was to share them!  I thought it might be fun for Caden to give away two bags of the roasted, salted seeds – one to Ms. Stewart, his 1st Grade Teacher last year, and the other to his dad for his birthday. It was in Ms. Stewart’s class that Caden first planted his sunflower seeds, that we later transplanted into my garden.  You can see those poor, sun starved seedlings HERE.  Those spindly plants survived thrived in my backyard garden, growing two decent sized seed heads!   Harvesting and Processing Sunflower Seeds

To present the seeds, I thought it would be fun to make a label that could then be attached onto the front of a closable sandwich baggie.  I used the computer to print “Caden’s Sunflower Seeds”  and underneath “Roasted and Salted” (see below), overlaying his picture, essentially making a custom label!  The label was printed on paper that is sticky on one side.  All Caden had to do was to stick the label onto the sandwich baggie and then fill the baggie with the roasted and salted sunflower seeds.  This was a fun way to finalize his experience growing sunflower seeds.  I think Caden is proud of his final product and I hope Ms. Stewart likes her gift!  I know his dad will.Harvesting and Preparing Sunflower seeds

Hmmmmm…… This was a such a fun project for me and my grandson, perhaps we can do something similar with pumpkin seeds next month!

aaaasignature

 

Playing at these fun parties:   Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopTGIF Link PartyLittle House Friday DIY Linky;  Small Footprint FridaysPinworthy Projects PartyFarmgirl Friday;  Friday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat; Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five FeaturesFridays with FriendsMountain Woman Rendeszous; Real Food FridaySay It SaturdaySimply Natural SaturdaysStrut Your Stuff SaturdayThe Creative Homeacre HopFrugal Crafty HomeSuper Sunday PartyLets Get Social SundayThat DIY PartyShare Your Creativity; Modern Homesteaders;  Make The Scene MondayThank Goodness It’s MondayMore The Merrier Monday;  Homestead Barn Hop;Clever Chicks Blog HopHomemade MondaysThe Gathering SpotManic MondayNatural Living MondayGrand Social;Mix It Up MondaySweet Sharing Monday; Sunday Show Off The Backyard Farming Connection HopNifty Thrifty TuesdayThe Gathering SpotTuesday Garden PartyGarden TuesdayTuesday GreensHealthy Tuesday HopBrag About It;  Love Bakes Good CakesTuesdays with a TwistThe ScoopTuesdays TreasuresTwo Cup Tuesday

 

 

Murder, Rats and Almonds

I had a murder in my backyard.  A murder of crows.  That’s what good old Webster’s calls a group of crows – like a litter of puppies, a pod of whales, a pride of lions – a murder of crows.  Why do I have so many crows?  Because the rats are finally gone.

Whaaat???? Rats???!!!   To make a long story short:Harvesting almonds

When we had our house built many moons ago there was a prune orchard and an old barn in the large lot behind us.  Along with some owls, the old barn must have also had rats.  We didn’t know the barn had rats until a new street went in through the prune orchard and a house was built right behind us.  Our new backdoor neighbor had a large dog that they fed kibble – outside!  Well, once the old barn was burned down (on purpose?), the owls and the rats had to find a new home elsewhere.  You know that old saying “when the owl is away the rats will play” (or something like that) – you guessed it – without the owls keeping the rat population in check, the rats were free to move over to our neighbors and started eating the dog kibble.  Apparently the rats took up residence in some large bushes near the dog bowl, and while the kibble was their main source of nutrition, they began to branch out their tastes to other things – like our almonds.

Harvesting almonds

The pool deck under the almond tree is littered with almond shells and husks!

We first noticed this a couple of years ago when hubby and I were taking in a late evening swim.  We may or may not have had our bathing suits on  😉  but we heard some rustling in the almond tree and were alerted to the fact that we weren’t alone!  Oh my.  But then we saw the silhouettes of several rats running up and down the branches of the tree!  A lightbulb literally went on inside our heads!  Oh!  So that’s why we had so many nut shells and no nuts these past couple of years!  Seriously – those rats cleaned out the tree!  The next year, after they again cleaned the almond tree, we started realizing the bite marks in our apples weren’t from birds, but probably from the rats!  EEEeeeewwwwwwwwwww………..  We decided last year that we had to do something. We didn’t want the rats to take over all of our fruits and nuts, nor did we want them to take up residence in our house!  First, we tried a live animal trap. Let me tell you, they aren’t cheap, and for rats at least, they don’t work. Our rats must have been from NIMH (a great animated movie about smart rats), because they didn’t even go near the trap!

Harvesting almonds

Our beautiful cat, Shadow, in the orange tree – not the almond tree!

We were nervous about putting out poisons because there are so many cats in our neighborhood, including our own, but we found a simple device that allowed rats inside to eat an organic cake poison, but didn’t allow cats or birds access because of the design. I don’t know about you, but doesn’t organic and poison seem odd in the same sentence?  Anyhow – Bingo!  It must have worked because this year we haven’t seen any rats.

Almond harvest

The rat poison must have worked because we still have a few almonds left in the tree!

And speaking of cats – aren’t they supposed to eat rats?  Are the cats in our neighborhood so spoiled by store bought food that they won’t chase after their natural food?  Seriously?

So, now that the rats are gone and the almonds were ripe for the picking, the crows moved in.  Ummm – great.  Almond harvest

So, like I said, I was able to harvest (ahem steal from the crows) some of the almonds this year, and they sure are good!  We were told years ago when we realized we had a volunteer almond tree in our backyard, that almond trees must be grafted or the nuts will be very bitter and not edible.  Not true!  Our tree produces wonderful, crunchy, sweet nuts!  No wonder the rats and crows like them!

Almond harvest

One episode of X-Factor and this is what I accomplished!

I sat in front of the TV one evening to shell out the nuts, and after about an hour, I had four cups of raw nut meats.  Now, what to do with them?   EAT!!!!!

Thank you for your comments and questions!  I try to answer each one, so please, feel free to leave one below!

 

Shared at:  Backyard Farming Connection Hop;  The Homemaking Party;  Healthy2Day WednesdaysDown Home Blog Hop;  Frugal Days Sustainable WaysCottage Style PartyWildcrafting WednesdayEncourage One AnotherWhat I Learned Wednesday; Someday Crafts;  Hearts For The HomeShare Your Cup ThursdayHome and Garden ThursdayFabulously Frugal ThusdayThriving ThursdaysSimple Lives ThursdayThursdays at the Homestead; The HomeAcre Hop; Freedom FridaysFriendship FridayFrom The Farm Blog HopTGIF Link PartyLittle House Friday DIY Linky;  Small Footprint FridaysPinworthy Projects PartyFarmgirl Friday;  Friday Flash Blog PartyWeekend re-Treat; Family Fun FridayFriday’s Five Features; Fridays with Friends; Mountain Woman RendeszousReal Food FridaySay It SaturdaySimply Natural SaturdaysStrut Your Stuff SaturdayThe Creative Homeacre HopFrugal Crafty HomeSuper Sunday PartyLets Get Social SundayThat DIY PartyShare Your Creativity; Modern Homesteaders

Why Heritage Chickens?

Last week hubby and I attended a lecture at The National Heirloom Festival about choosing heritage chickens given by Jim Adkins, an international poultry judge.

Jim Adkins - Heritage Chickens

This is Jim Adkins, who gave a very informative lecture on why heritage breeds of poultry are superior and should be considered for every flock – either backyard or commercial.

We certainly learned a lot of valuable information and I would like to share a bit of what I learned.

The first thing to know is the difference between heritage and heirloom.  Basically it’s the same thing, except heirloom usually refers to plants, and heritage refers to animals.

So, what is a heritage chicken?  According to Jim, there are four points to consider:

Jim Adkins - Heritage Chickens

Look at the pattern on her feathers! She is a beautiful example of a Wyandotte, a Heritage Breed.

1.  The breed must be recognized by the American Poultry Association Standard of Perfection, which is a set of different qualities recognized in each breed of chicken, standardized before 1950.  For instance, a “perfect” chicken from one breed may have very wide feathers, which would allow that breed to survive colder conditions than another breed with thin feathers, having been bred to live in more temperate regions.  In other words, each breed of chicken is supposed to have certain qualities specific to that breed.

2.  The bird must be able to naturally reproduce.  I didn’t know this, but most of the meat birds purchased in grocery stores today are Cornish Cross hens.  These birds are not sustainable because they cannot reproduce!  They have been bred to be grown indoors and wouldn’t know how to forage for themselves, cannot reproduce and would probably not survive past the age of 6 months if not butchered at less than half that age!

3.  The chicken must be able to live a long and productive life outdoors, and should be able to live and adapt to their environment.

4.  The bird must grow at a slow growth rate.  Cornish cross hens are butchered at an average of 37 days of life. That’s just 6 weeks and a day, folks!  A Heritage chicken would need about 16 to 20 weeks to grow to the same size and stage of life.  In fact, according to Jim, slow growing birds taste better and are actually more nutritious!

Heritage Chickens

Isn’t he a beauty! His feathers were so shiny and irridescent!

Further, all breeds listed in The American Standard of Perfection are dual purpose, which means they are good for both meat and for laying.

Another differentiation between terms regarding poultry are Organic and Natural.  Organic poultry may not have antibiotics and must be fed certified organic feed.  Natural poultry may be give antibiotics, doesn’t have to be given organic feed, and isn’t necessarily open ranged, though it is usually cage free.  In other words, natural really doesn’t mean anything – it’s just a fluff word.  However, is a chicken is labeled as organic, is must be to receive that certification.

Heritage Chicken

I think this is a Buff Orpington – one of my favorites. They are known for their docile temperment and are good layers.

One sad fact that Jim revealed to us was that in 1950 there were 1.6 million farms in the United States that produced about 580 million broilers.  In 2007 there were only 27 thousand farms producing 8.9 billion broilers.  Billion.  Do the math.  That means that in 1950 each poultry farm produced about 363 broilers.  In 2007 each poultry farm produced 329,629 broilers!  Wow!  Big difference.  No wonder it’s hard to keep quality control under control.

The second half of the lecture was to give us a quick overview on how to select birds for either good meat or laying production (or both).

What to look for in a meat bird:

1.  Wide skull, because if the bird has a wide skull it will generally have a wide body.

2.  Heart girth (the width of the body between the wings), should be wide as possible.

3.  Body depth, which is the area from the top of the back to the belly, the deeper the better.  Both the heart girth and body depth lend itself to a bird of substance – it will be heavier.

4.  A wide, flat back.  I didn’t understand this part.  All I could picture was an old nag with a sway back.  But I don’t think chickens can have sway backs, do they?

Heritage Chicken

“Don’t look at me – I’m having a bad hair day! Drat this foggy weather!”

5.  Breast bone (keel bone) should be long and straight.

So, when looking at a laying hen you should consider all of the above plus:

1.  There should be a wide spread between the pubic bone and keel bone.  These bones are together in a pullet.  When a hen starts laying these bones spread apart.  The further apart these bones are, the better the egg production.  These bones should be pliable and the ideal layer has a 3 finger width between her pubic bones.

2.  Moulting – birds hatches in the Spring of 2013 should not moult until the Fall of 2014.  You want the moult to be as quick as possible because a hen devotes all her energy (protein) to feather production and not egg production.  The moult should last no longer than 6-8 weeks.

3.  The hen should have a soft abdomen.  When a hen is in production, it’s like she is pregnant every day!  Really!   😉   Can you imagine being pregnant most of your adult life?  Kind of makes me have more respect for that hen!

4.  Her vent should be open and moist!  Okay – here’s the PG rated version – the vent is the area of the chicken where the egg comes out.  If her vent is puckered and dry, she isn’t laying.  Also, the vent will bleach out (become almost white) when she is laying, and so will her legs.  So, if you have chickens and it seems that you aren’t getting enough eggs for the number of hens, you might check their vents to see who isn’t laying anymore!    Then wash your hands!   😀

Heritage Chickens

“Did you say you saw a ghost!!??!”

His final suggestion was that if you are just starting your flock and want heritage chickens, go to a breeder that breeds Certified Flock so that your birds will be true to the breed. This is important because many of the “big” breeders are not necessarily interested in selective breeding and may even allow birds that are inferior in qualities of their breed to reproduce.  This may produce undesirable traits, such as aggressive behavior in males.  Unfortunately, these big breeders are interested more in quantity than quality.   He suggested that anyone interested in heritage chickens visit his website:  Sustainable Poultry Network , click on Flock Certification, then on Certified Flocks (by state).  This will tell you where to get certain breeds of heritage chickens in your state.  It is also a great website if you want to raise heritage chickens for profit (become a breeder) and have your flock certified as well!

After finding out which heritage breeds of chicken are in my state (California) and reading about their traits, I think we have decided to get both Delaware and Chantecler Chickens when we begin our flock, from The Natural Trading Company, a breeder of heritage birds in Newcastle, California.  If you have had either of these birds, please let me know how you liked (or didn’t) the breed.  Apparently they are supposed to handle cold weather without skipping a beat in their egg laying.  So, if you have had experience with these, or if you really like the breed you have (Orpington? Wyandotte?) tell me about it!  Thanks.

Heritage Chicken

The End

No, really, the end.  🙂

Shared at these fun parties:   Make The Scene MondayThank Goodness It’s MondayMore The Merrier Monday;  Homestead Barn Hop;Clever Chicks Blog HopHomemade MondaysManic MondayNatural Living MondayGrand SocialMix It Up Monday; Pin It Monday   The Backyard Farming Connection HopGarden TuesdayHealthy Tuesday Hop; Tuesdays with a Twist; The Scoop;  Healthy2Day Wednesdays;  Frugal Days Sustainable Ways; Cottage Style PartyNatural Living Link-Up; Hearts For The Home; The Creative Home and Garden Hop; Share Your Cup Thursday; Your Creative Timeout Party; Home and Garden Thursday; Fabulously Frugal Thusday; Thriving Thursdays; Simple Lives Thursday; Thursdays at the Homestead

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...