Friday, March 19, 2010

The Challenge - Part 2

During the first full week of making things myself, I made yogurt (which was much easier than I had anticipated), granola, three loaves of bread, banana bread, ice cream (more on that later), and freshly squeezed orange juice.

Many of these things I have made before, except for the yogurt and the ice cream. I have been wanting to make my own yogurt for some time and found a way to make it in the crockpot over a year ago, but still I resisted. Why? It only takes less than five minutes of hands on time. The rest of the time is spent waiting. The consistency was a bit runny, especially after I mixed in the sugar and vanilla that my family likes. I'm looking for ways to make it thicker and easier for my toddler to eat.

The ice cream....good heavens! Technically it is frozen custard. The recipe is the one that came with the ice cream maker I bought on clearance at the end of last summer. (That was a saga in and of itself. I didn't realize that the summer shopping season ended on July 4th. I went to every store in town that might carry one and had no luck. I nearly ordered one online when chance would have it that I found one in the clearance aisle of Wal-mart. If you need an ice cream maker or a swim suit, now is the time to buy one... yes, I realize that it is just the middle of March, but really... you won't find one come June!) But back to the making of the ice cream, aka frozen custard...

First, the custard. I love (to eat) custard. Jell-o pudding has nothing on homemade custard except that pudding takes 5 minutes and custard...a bit more. If you've never made custard or pudding from scratch, let me tell you that it is agonizingly slow going. Get a good audio book on the mp3 player before beginning. After about 15-20 minutes (okay...more like 30) of slowly stirring the flour and milk and sugar into a thickened mass, you add eggs and get an even thicker mass which is creamy and delicious in its own right. But then, you add vanilla and heavy whipping cream, churn it in the ice cream freezer and...

Now I made ice cream for a church event last summer that tasted and looked like melted ice milk. Not terribly satisfying. Truth be told, I was expecting the same sort of thing when the ice cream freezer motor signaled that it was finished. I took off the lid and saw the mashed potato consistency that the directions said I should. I dipped in a spoon to sample my creation and nearly swooned the moment it touched my tongue. I've never tasted anything so creamy in my life! I sampled again. The kids came in and were equally speechless with the results.

So was the time spent stirring and mixing worth it? Yes. The time it takes to make bread, yogurt, ice cream...well, just about anything myself...has given me a greater appreciation for what I eat. I read somewhere, that when we eat good quality food, we tend to eat less of it. After my experiences these last few weeks, I must believe that it is true. When one works hard to prepare something, it must be slowly enjoyed. We live in a culture where everything is fast and easy to get. If I'm out of something, I can run to the store and get it. If I don't feel like cooking, our little town has a couple of dozen places to get something prepare for me. Need a new shirt? Just buy one. Plastic dishes, silverware, cups...use it once and out it goes! That quickness and facility leads to excess consumption of food and other goods. We waste, we hoard, we gorge. We don't respect, appreciate and savor! One of the reasons I wanted to do this project for Lent this year was to really focus on my consumption. I already recycle and reuse what I can, but to reduce my consumption at the store was something I hadn't done to my fullest ability. It has been a challenge, to be sure, but the rewards have been worth it.

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