Feb 262012
 

Sourdough recipe

and starter instructions

What is sourdough?

A true sourdough starter is nothing more than the flour and milk or water which sits at room temperature for several days and catches live yeast bacteria from the air. 
According to Wikipedia;
“sourdough is a dough containing a Lactobacillus culture, usually in symbiotic combination with yeasts. It is one of two principal means of biological leavening in bread baking, along with the use of cultivated forms of yeast”  read more.
Sourdough starter can be stored in the fridge and becomes relatively dormant. Clear, amber colored liquid will accumulate on the surface of the starter. This liquid contains 12% to 14% alcohol. When yeast is in contact with air, it produces carbon dioxide; when it’s not, it produces alcohol. When you blend the alcohol back into the starter, it helps produce the unique flavor you find in good sourdough breads.
For milder flavor, you can pour off some of the alcohol if you wish although this will thicken the starter requiring a bit more liquid to return it to its “pancake batter” consistency. The alcohol itself dissipates during the baking process.

Why bother with sourdough?

Breads made from sourdough have an assertive tang and keep longer than other home baked breads.

Hints and tips for keeping sourdough

  • Working with a sourdough starter can be very time consuming. Especially if you follow instructions that tell you to feed them everyday.   If you don’t use the starter everyday, then store it, covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge until ready to use. When you want to use it,  then remove it from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (e.g. overnight on worktop). Then feed it with 1 cup flour and 1 cup warm water. Let this sit 8 hours or preferably overnight. It is now ready to use in sourdough recipes.
  •  Always use the sourdough when it is “hungry”, having not been fed for 24 hours or so.
  •  Each day it is kept out of the fridge it will need feeding with flour and water (so use some, and feed the remaining portion ready for tomorrow). If you don’t want to use it the next day, feed it and store it in the fridge, where it won’t need feeding. 
  •  Sourdough starters can last for decades, and seem to be resistant to contamination. This may be due to an antibiotic action similar to that of the moulds in cheeses such as Stilton and Roquefort.
  •   Each time you make a loaf, you will have leftover starter. This can be kept in the fridge, feeding it every 4 days to keep it alive, and will improve in flavour. Any starter you do not need or want can be discarded, or given to a friend.  Click here for instructions for a German Sourdough Friendship Cake.
  •  If your starter ever changes colors, to purple, for example, discard and start another one.
  • Stirring the starter invigorates the yeast and expels some of the alcohol.
  • After removing a portion from the starter, the starter must be “fed”. Simply add equal portions of milk or water and flour as was used. For example, if you used 1 cup of starter, replace it with 1 cup of water and 1 cup of bread flour.
  • Always use the same kind of flour. If you used bread flour in your original starter, use bread flour to feed it. Also, alternate between milk and water for each feeding. Since your original liquid ingredient was milk, the first liquid feeding should be with water. If you forget which you used last, that’s okay, but try to alternate at least every other time.
  • You must use a portion of the starter at least once a week. If you choose not to bake sourdough breads that often, then remove a cup of your starter and feed it as though you used some during the week. If this is not done, your starter will turn rancid and have to be replaced. Should you be away on vacation or otherwise not able to tend to the starter, freeze it. Upon your return, thaw it in the refrigerator and then remove a portion and feed it as soon as you are able.
  • If the bread is getting too sour for you, feed with water more often than milk.
  • For tap water, substitute water from cooking potatoes. It contains nutrients which any kind of yeast loves and along with making the yeast happy, it creates great flavor in bread.

How to make sourdough starter from scratch  – the Hugh Fearnly- Whittingstall way.

Hugh’s sourdough loaf recipe  which comes highly recomended.
“In a large bowl, mix the flour for the starter with enough warm water to make a batter roughly the consistency of double cream. Beat it well to incorporate some air, drop in the rhubarb, then cover with a lid or cling film and leave somewhere fairly warm. A warm kitchen is fine, or a coolish airing cupboard. Check it every few hours until you can see that fermentation has begun – signalled by the appearance of bubbles on the surface (it can actually smell quite unpleasant and acrid at this stage but don’t worry, it will mellow as it matures). The time it takes for your starter to begin fermenting can vary hugely – it could be a few hours or a few days. But make your starter with wholegrain flour (which offers more for the yeast to get its teeth into), keep it warm and draught free and you should be rewarded with the first signs of life within 24 hours.
Your starter now needs regular feeding. Begin by whisking in another 100g or so of fresh flour and enough water to retain that thick batter consistency. You can switch to using cool water and to keeping the starter at normal room temperature – though nowhere too cold or draughty. Leave it again, then, 24 hours or so later, scoop out and discard half the starter and stir in another 100g flour and some more water. repeat this discard-and-feed routine every day, maintaining the sloppy consistency and keeping your starter at room temperature, and after 7-10 days you should have something that smells good – sweet, fruity, yeasty, almost boozy – having lost any harsh, acrid edge. But don’t be tempted to bake a loaf until it’s been on the go for at least a week.
If you’re going to bake bread every day or two, maintain your starter in this way, keeping it at room temperature, feeding it daily, and taking some of it out whenever you want to create a sponge.” read more

Links to information used in this article:

 February 26, 2012  post archive, recipe Tagged with: ,
Feb 252012
 

Wwoofing

World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms

We have been approved for wwoofers and have availablility from

May – September check out this website to find out more.

To see our details click here or search for Fife Smallholder.

why WWOOF?

  • reconnect to the soil, get your hands dirty and get grounded
  • reskill and help revitalise ancient knowledge
  • gain first-hand experience of organic and biodynamic farming, growing, harvesting, preserving and animal husbandry
  • meet – and find inspiration in – likeminded people; both the hosts you visit and other WWOOFers you meet there
  • rediscover the relationships between local food production, social community and spirit
  • taste totally fresh produce
  • experience new places and acquire a wealth of experience for a very small financial outlay
  • get lots of interesting stories to tell!
  • walk the talk – try it out for yourself

How it works

Read this article that gives a good description.  If you are thinking about being hosts and want to talk it through contact us.

Other links:

 February 25, 2012  post archive, smallholder, volunteering Tagged with: , ,
Feb 212012
 

Hedgehog found during the day

We recently found a hedgehog on our smallholding.  This is unusual because it was found during the day, and in February.  In the Autumn we discovered a dead hedgehog  -(that we had also seen during the day)- which we now  know was probably underweight.  We therefore resolved to actively do something to help this little one.

If you have found a hedgehog here is a website with links to organisations who will care for a hedgehog who needs help. 

Weight of a hedgehog is crucial to its survival and your intervention

The minimum weight for a hedgehog through the winter is 450gms (1lb) and any hedgehog below this weight is likely to have problems. If you find a hedgehog that you are concerned about this will indicate to you whether it may need some assistance.  Although 450gms is the minimum weight, many hedgehog carers prefer to get their autumn juveniles up to 600gms (1lb 6oz) or more to give them an extra edge. Autumn juveniles are youngsters found alone under this critical weight after the end of September, and will need extra help even if it is just additional feeding in the garden.

 call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society for further advice on 01584 890 801

Initial caring advice for a vulnerable hedgehog

If the hoglet is very young (under 160gms/6 oz) it should be given extra warmth with a hot water bottle wrapped in towelling or a blanket, or a heated pad. It should be placed in a box with plenty of clean, fresh straw, crumpled newspapers or old towelling for bedding. Out buildings are fine if heated but don’t put hedgehogs on a metal grid or wire floor or straight onto concrete – they have sensitive feet and cold will permeate through.

Why is ‘my’ hedgehog ‘sunbathing’ or staggering?

Sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs are very susceptible to hypothermia. When they become cold they are lethargic and go off their food. This makes them even colder! The staggering (or wobbling and rocking) is a sign of hypothermia, and they may look like they are sunbathing as they spread themselves out in the sun in an attempt to get some heat into their bodies.

When they are spotted in this state they need help quickly. They should be taken indoors on a box with a well-wrapped hot water bottle placed underneath them. The bottle must not be allowed to go cold or it will undo the good it has done. Once you have the hedgehog settled and warming up, call the British Hedgehog Preservation Society on 01584 890 801 for further advice.

Food for hedgehogs

Wild food 

In the wild, damp grassland is the hedgehog’s favourite hunting ground. Hedgehogs will eat the following:

  • Beetles
  • Caterpillars
  • Earthworms
  • Birds Eggs
  • Small Mammals
  • Slugs
  • Snails
  • Millipedes
  • Earwigs
  • Bees
  • Birds

Human feeding of hedgehogs

If feeding wild hedgehogs in your garden then a shallow (non-tipping) dish of chicken-based cat/dog food, along with a shallow dish of water, put out each night will help them enormously. A good hedgehog diet would include tinned pet food, chopped peanuts (not whole ones) or crunchy peanut butter, raw or cooked meat leftovers, muesli and a small amount of vegetables. Hedgehogs should not be fed on bread and cows milk if they are captive and cannot find other foods; this gives them diarrhoea . Other food you can feed them includes:

  • based pet food (not in gravy)
  • cooked chicken (excluding bones)
  • minced beef or lamb
  • a little bran or unsweetened moistened muesli cereal
  • banana
  • raisins
  • unsweetened crushed digestive biscuits
  • dry cat or hedgehog biscuits

Fresh water should ALWAYS be available. Cows milk SHOULD NOT be given.

Hedgehogs are full of fleas and other parasites 

This is the first thought of many people, and may put them off helping a sickly hedgehog.  If it is necessary to remove fleas from a hedgehog, then a commercially prepared mite powder suitable for caged birds or chickens can be dusted amongst the spines (taking care to avoid the eyes of the animal) as an adequate treatment, but do not use on very young hedgehogs.

Blood-sucking ticks are often found on hedgehogs and after taking their fill of blood, will drop off the host in order to complete their life cycle. Removal of these ticks is a difficult task but can be accomplished by dousing the ticks in olive/almond/cooking oil. Removing these ticks with forceps is to be avoided as the inexperienced may leave the mouthparts and head in the skin that may turn septic.

Will my dog/cat get fleas from the hedgehog?

Hedgehog fleas are host specific, which means they will not usually live on any animal other than a hedgehog. Not all hedgehogs have fleas.

Hibernation

Hedgehogs avoid the coldest times of winter by hibernating, usually between November and early April, depending on the weather. If it is warm enough and there is enough food, hedgehogs do not hibernate at all. click here for a link to a hibernation leaflet.  Or if you want information about a specific time of year or month then here is a good link to the hedgehog year. Information sites used in the construction of this post:

 

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