Sustainable experiments: sourdough, butter and dandelions


Learning to have a sustainable lifestyle is not only good for our earth, but it also promotes mindfulness in ourselves. We feel food about what we are doing and can also experiment living off the land and our environment. So, I will share a few of those experiments with you from my days of living on a dairy farm.

I first learned that you could make bread with just flour and water during a natural building course at Cob Cottage Company. To make bread rise, you need yeast - but instead of using the yeast from the packet, you can make the yeast with flour and water. The sugars in the flour break down with the water creating yeast. You can make this starter in just 5 days. Try your own sourdough starter:

Here's what you need:

  • plain flour

  • water

  • glass jug

  • whisk

  • measuring cup

  • plastic wrap

  • elastic band

Instructions on making sour dough starter

  1. Sterilise a large glass jug or large jar (1.5 L, 3 pint or 6 cups large). Measure 1 cup of plain flour (I used white flour although some recipes call for 1/2 cup wheat flour and 1/2 cup white flour, which can change the flavour a bit - experiment and see which flavour you prefer) and add to small bowl. Measure 1 cup of water and heat the water until warm (it should be warm to the touch, but ensure that it is not too hot). Add water to flour and whisk together. Add your mixture to the glass jug. Cover the jug with plastic wrap or cheese cloth and secure with an elastic band. If using plastic wrap, prick several small pin holes to ensure the mixture breathes. Set your jug in a warm place.

  2. Each day, you must feed your starter. Mix together 1/2 cup of plain flour with 1/2 cup warm water and add to your starter mixing together. Repeat this step for 5 days. Your mixture should start to bubble and smell sour or fermented. It's okay if the mixture separates a little.

  3. Once you are satisfied with the fermentation, you can use your starter to make sour dough bread. Prior to using the starter, you must proof it. Pour your starter into a bowl and add a mixture of 1 cup of plain flour with 1 cup of warm water. Mix together and let it stand for a few hours or overnight until it starts to get bubbly.

  4. Now to make sourdough. A good sourdough needs to rise. So be sure to set some time aside to let the dough rise. There are some great recipes out there, but I stuck with the basics and used a recipe from the Nourished Kitchen.

  5. If you have leftover starter, you can keep it going by feeding it once a week and storing it in a cool place. Feed your leftover starter with a mixture of 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water and pour into a clean jug. Each week feed your starter with a 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup warm water mixture.

All about Dandelions

Some call dandelions weeds, others see them as a culinary ingredient. Dandelions are those yellow flowers that grow all over the place come late Spring and then turn into the wispy white head that you often pick up and blow into someone's face, which at this point the dandelions go into seed. The yellow flower can be made into tea, the root can be roasted and made into coffee, the leaves can be eaten and the stem produces a white sticky substance that can rid warts. It's rich in vitamins K, C, E and folic acid to name a few. So why not take advantage of this wonderful weed!

  1. Dandelion iced tea: Separate the yellow flower from the stem and rinse. Add a handful of yellow flowers to 2 cups of water. Boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the water into a jug and add your desired flavourings. I added a few blueberries, some stevia, lemon slices and ice.

  2. Dandelion Coffee: Separate the root from the stem (be sure when you are digging up the dandelions that you go deep enough into the soil to get all of the root). Soak in water and clean well. Chop root and place on baking sheet; bake at 200 F/90 C for 2 hours. Grind the root to fine consistency. Boil and simmer cup of water with 1 tablespoon of root for 5 - 10 minutes. Strain mixture into a mug. For a kick, add a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, honey and milk.

  3. Sautéed Greens: Pick a good handful of the dandelion leaves. Remove ends and clean well. Add the greens to boiling water and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside. Sauté chopped onion, garlic and minced bacon in butter until tender. Add greens and sauté for about 3 minutes. Add a bit of crushed red pepper, salt and pepper for taste.

Make your own Butter

There's nothing like fresh butter. In America, it's hard to find real butter unless you have an Amish community nearby or your grocer has the Irish Kerry butter. But, it's quite easy to make if you have a dairy farm nearby.

First, get 1 gallon of raw milk or milk that hasn't been homogenised or ultra-pasteurised (takes out the cream). Allow the milk to sit for 12 hours or longer in the refrigerator for the cream to separate. The cream will come to the top and you can skim off the cream pouring it into a separate jug. Allow the cream to sit for 12 hours at room temperature.

Place your cream into a food processor or blender. Turn the blender on at medium speed and let it blend for nearly 10 minutes. Check on the mixture while blending to see how the consistency changes from liquid to whipped cream to chunky butter. You will hear the blender make a sound once all the fat molecules bind together; this is when you have formed butter. Scrape out the butter clumps and mould together with a spoon or by hand on a flat surface. Squeeze the excess liquid out and if you would like, rinse with water and continue to mould until firm. Add salt to your liking.

Now you have a sustainable feast, with fresh baked sourdough bread spread with homemade butter and topped with sautéed dandelion greens along with a cozy cup of dandelion tea!


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© 2018 by Erin Dolan

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