Tuesday, April 30, 2013

How to Make Homemade Country-Style Mustard

A few years ago, my sister, who is a Master Gardner, and I went to Michigan State for Garden Day which is a full day filled with classes on gardening, workshops, touring the gardens, and enjoying the day.  On this particular Garden Day, one of the workshops was on growing different mustards and making mustard.  Needless to say, I was hooked - Homemade is so much better than the stuff in the yellow bottle!

I found that part of the pleasure of making your own mustard is you can make it to suit your likes. You can make it the texture and taste that you prefer.  You can even make yourself "designer" flavors if you'd like.  Making mustard is so easy -  It is fun to experiment with different liquids like red or white wines, champagne, sherry, beer, and even grape juice!  Maybe you'd like to add some fruit puree of cranberries, apricot, or maybe a little applesauce and sweetener to the mix. 

If you really want to get adventurous, try some liquors - simply mix about a tablespoon of mustard powder and mix it with the liquid of your choice.  You can try honey or brown sugar for a sweeter mustard. The choices are numerous.  Just remember to wait about an hour before tasting and then try them again after another hour.  Mustard takes a while to "develop" its flavor.  Some will taste great, others, not so much. I have made some really great mustard as well as some really gross mustard - It is a lot of fun mixing and concocting different mustard profiles! 

You can choose to make a courser style mustard or a more refined mustard by grinding the mustard seeds in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder or use only mustard powder for a smooth mustard - the choice is yours.  Add herbs like tarragon, rosemary, or sage - get creative!  Simply start with a basic recipe and then start to experiment to find the kinds of mustard concoctions you enjoy.  Homemade mustards also make nice unusual gifts!

Here I am making a "basic" recipe for Country-Style Mustard

This recipe will make about a cup of mustard.  This mustard is a pungent, grainy, all-purpose mustard that is great recipe to begin with.

2 Tablespoons coarsely ground brown mustard seeds

2 Tablespoons coarsely ground yellow mustard seeds

1/4 cup yellow or brown mustard powder 
(Regular or Hot Mustard Powder - depending on your taste)

1/4 cup cold water  (I always use filtered water)

1 1/2 to 2 Tablespoons** Apple Cider Vinegar  (You may substitute with white vinegar or white wine) **Note if you prefer a milder mustard, use wine, not vinegar. 

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Grind the mustard seeds to the texture you prefer.  (I like my mustard grainy and thicker so my seeds are coarsely ground.) 

Mix the cold water into the mustard seeds, dry mustard powder.  Allow mixture to set for about 10 minutes. 

Add vinegar or wine and salt and blend well.  Store covered for at least 4 hours before serving but it is much better if you let it set overnight before serving.  If you would like a more "mellow" mustard, let the mustard sit on the counter, (unrefrigerated).  The longer it sits, the more mellow or mild the flavor gets. 

If you like, you can add turmeric for color if you prefer a more "commercial" color for your mustard. 

Making your own Mustard will allow you an opportunity to make some truly amazing flavor profiles. 

I'd love to hear about them!  Enjoy.

NOTE: The 3 types of mustard seeds are the black mustard seed (Brassica nigra), the white mustard seed (Brassica alba), and the brown mustard seed (Brassica juncea). The Black mustard seeds give the most pungent taste, while white mustard seeds, (which are actually more yellow in color), are the most mild.  The "white" mustard seeds and are the ones used to make American yellow mustard.  The brown mustard seeds, which are actually more dark yellow in color, have a strong pungent taste.  This is the type of mustard seed used to make Dijon mustard.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Making a Worm Composter that Works! (& Cheaper than Buying Online)

I don't know about you but forking out over a $100.00 for a worm composter seemed like too much money to me.  I did some research, watched a few videos, read a few blogs, bought & read a book and  looked at a  few worm compost houses for sale that ranged from $99.00 to $160.00 plus shipping. Those are some pretty expense worm condos!! Yikes - Mine cost me about $33.00 to make and about 2 hours including me stopping at the hardware store getting the materials.

Here is what I spent making my worm condo and the list of materials you'll need to make one:

3 Rubber Maid Bins with Lids  (don't buy the cheap plastic bins, they will crack.)  Worms like darkness so don't buy the opaque or clear bins - Buy the dark blue, black or green bins. 

Cost of Bins/Lids about $22.00 - I bought mine at Home Depot.

1 - 4" Round Soffit Vent

4 - 2" Round Soffit Vent

These can be found online at Home Depot or check your local hardware/roofing/contractor supply stores.  (All 5 of them cost me about $9.00)

1- water dispenser faucet - You can find these at water softening supply stores, Grangers and online. (I went to the Salvation Army Store and found one.  It only cost me $2.00)

Silicone Caulk - I had a tube already but figure about $3.00

1 pair panty hose or fine mesh material (I used pair of panty hose - I thought nylon will last longer.)

2 plastic cottage cheese containers - cleaned out of course.  Free

Tools Needed:

Drill with 1/4" drill bit
and a *tiny drill bit

1" Drill Bit (Check the size you need once you get your water dispenser faucet.)

Razor Knife
Magic Marker or Pencil
Caulk gun
rubber gloves

(*I don't have a size but it is very small for air holes.  You do not want worms to be able to get through them.  It was the smallest one in my set - I think it's about 1/16th drill bit.)

Once you have your materials, you will be amazed at how easy this is to make. 

Let's get started:

1. We will refer to this as BIN #1 - Measure the water dispenser end after you remove the gasket and screw ring.  Just hold the drill bit up to it to determine the size hole you will need.  NOTE: It should be a 1" but it is always better to measure and be safe than sorry!

2. Take Bin #1 and set it onto one of the bin lids.  Measure the placement of the faucet as close to the bottom of the bin as you can making sure it is not on the curve.  It can be up a 1/2" or so from the bottom.  Drill the hole, insert the faucet, put the gasket on and screw the nut tightly against the inside of the bin. The faucet/drain is now installed.

The purpose of the faucet is to drain the "worm tea" as it settles into the bottom bin.  It is easier than having to take the bins apart and drain the water so the worms don't drown and the system does not stink! 


3. Take BIN #2 - Start by drilling tiny water drainage holes (about 1/16th hole size) in the bottom of only 1 of the bins.  I drilled about 25 tiny drainage holes total in the bottom of the bin spaced about an inch (1" inch) apart. Use a tiny drill, about 1/16th drill bit for these holes. 

NOTE: We will also be adding 2 of the 2" soffit vents into this bin on either side. 

4. On one of the remaining lids: Take the 4" soffit vent and center it onto one of the lids.  Mark it with a marker or pencil.  Carefully, using the razor knife, cut out the circle along the inside of your template.  Take a piece of nylon and stretch it over the bottom of the 4" vent  - wrap the panty hose over the vent and snap the vent into the hole with the bulk of the panty hose outward. Trim off the excess panty hose from around the top of the vent. This photograph is showing the bottom of the vent.  The purpose of the nylon is it will prevent worms escaping and it allows for air to circulate so the worms can get oxygen breathe. 

This is the top view after the excess nylon was trimmed.  

5. Now we take Bins #2 that we already drilled the 1/16th holes into the bottom of and add 1 of the 2" smaller round soffit vents on each side of the bin about 1/2 way up the middle of the long side of the bin.  Remember to do the same thing with the nylon as you did with the lid vent.  You will need to measure, mark, cut out with razor knife, add nylon around vent, cut nylon after snapping into place. 
6. Do this same thing to the remaining Bin #3.  Add 2 side vents with nylon cover and in this bin, use the drill and put 1/4" holes into the bottom of the bin. 
The larger, 1/4" holes in the bottom of this bin are for the worms to "escape" into the new bin after the second bin is full of casings and compost. These holes are larger.  These holes are for the worms to migrate up into this bin.  The other bin, Bin #2 had the small holes for water drainage. 
**  Silicone Caulk Around the Vents and let dry before placing bins inside each other.  Read your caulks directions to see the time frame. 
7.  Place empty cottage cheese containers (or similar size containers) upside down in Bin #1.  Set on top of one of the normal lids.  (Not the one with the 4" Vent!)

8.  Place Bin #2 into Bin #1.  Add lid with vent on top.

9.  Set Bin #3 with un-vented lid on top of Bin #1 & 2 - You are now ready to install your worm bedding in preparation for your Red Wiggler Compost Worms into Bin #2.  As the garbage you feed your red wigglers is converted over to worm castings and compost, it will fill the bin up and you will need to entice them to move into their new home, Bin #3 through the 1/4" holes you put in the bottom of bin #3.  You simply add the bedding (shredded, moistened newspaper shred, coir, and/or peat mixed with a little bit of sand and begin feeding in the new worm condo dirt - Bin #3.  The worms will smell the food and move up into their new home.  (It's really cool watching them break down the food in no-time!  I will post more on raising and caring for Red Wigglers shortly.)

I hope these directions are written so you can easily make a worm composter for yourself.  I will be posting another blog and a video on preparing the bedding and adding red worms shortly!  I hope you found this useful.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  Be sure to comment, subscribe to my blog and YouTube Channel - visit me on YouTube - Thanks for Stopping By!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

How to Meet the Calcium Needs for Chickens (and Compost Worms!)

Chicken and Worms Require Calcium in their diets.  Here is how I provide them Calcium on the cheap!  ( I know, but I could not resist!) 

Did you know a  chicken egg’s eggshell is a whopping 94 percent calcium carbonate! - A chicken, when suffering from a calcium deficiency will show signs first in their egg production - i.e. soft shells, malformed shells and even missing shells. Not a good thing.

Most folks supplement their chickens diet by buying and feeding limestone, oyster shells or buying expensive feed with calcium supplements added.

I choose to re-cycle egg shells to supply my chickens and compost worms their calcium.  I save my egg shells and I ask family and friends to save their egg shells.

About once a month, I take the egg shells and bake them on a cookie sheet at 200 degrees and I bake them for about 20 minutes. I let them cool a bit, place them into my food processor, give them a few twirls until they break down and look like wheat bran.  (You never want the chickens to know egg shells taste good or you could have trouble with them eating their eggs. Grinding or breaking them into very tiny pieces does the trick.)

While recycling my girls shells (and a few of their distant cousins!), I get to save a little money and at the same time, I am keeping my girls healthy.  It's a win-win!

Even compost worms require calcium in their diet!  How on earth do worms get calcium into their diet and better yet, how much do they require?  I have read quite a bit on what to feed my compost worms and from what I understand, a worm dispels any abundance of calcium by "Calciferous glands that release calcium carbonate to rid the earthworm’s body of excess calcium"

Click here for a really neat information sheet on worms from Penn State.  I am sure you'll find it very interesting!