free cow butter

vegan superfood butter

Winter throws some of my favourite things together on the hill. Really little things that may or may not even register if you took a wander around our pad for the first time. There’s the jonquils flowering under the leaf-bare apricot tree, violets beaming intense velveteen colour against everything green, fuzzy buds on the pear tree bunkering down until some warmth comes their way, and early, early in the foggy mornings spider webs glistening with enough dew to guard them against a line of runner ducks hurrying to their next appointment.

Then there’s the furry new life that turns up at the coldest part of the year. Little lambs that pogo-stick around the paddocks as though the near zero temperatures are just fine by them. And the calves. I can’t help but have favourites. It’d be a hard heart not to be stopped in its tracks by seeing a cow give birth. Tiny hooves leading the way, superhero style out into the freezing cold. Determined mooing from the Mumma cow as she connects into that realm where Nature seems to guide everything. Then in a warm, slippery crash, a calf is on the ground and life cycles again. Amazing. Even more amazing is how the older cows ‘midwife’ the younger ones who are giving birth for the first time, gathering in a circle around the birthing cow to offer support. I couldn’t believe this the first time I saw it. The wisdom of the elder cows is such a beautiful thing as they help the newborn calf to stand up and find its mother’s udders, gently nudging the mother into the right position.

I’ve watched this happen with the herd of dairy cows over the fence from us so many times. I guess it’s that direct experience of such a shiny moment that makes the facts of what happens next so hard to watch, let alone take any part in. I know you know all the arguments. I do too. That’s why we have our 2 lovely steers Wilhelm and Helmut, because male calves don’t fare well on dairies, no matter how kind the farmers are, and believe me the farmer that owns the cows next door to us is a really good guy. Sure, he thinks it’s a little ‘zany’ that we rescue calves for nothing more than the love of them. He jokes, ‘you can’t save them all’. That never makes me smile.

Beyond the fact that calves are taken from their mothers almost immediately after they are born so that their milk can be put into bottles for humans, the little boys have no future use in a dairy, so they’re killed, usually 2-3 days after being born. There’s so, so much information online that I could quote here, but I really just wanted to share the experience of bearing witness to this first hand. That’s when things seem to stick for our human brains right? How are we expected to join the dots otherwise? And I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone hearing a cow cry for her new born calf all through the night and make the decision that, yes, this is what we should be striving to achieve in our time on the planet.

But how many of us get that experience first hand? To arrive at the point where we base decisions on a genuine kinship with another animal rather than simply being told ‘you shouldn’t’, is a seriously powerful thing. There’s no punishment or judgement, on our behalf’s or the other animal’s. It’s just kindly recognising the desire in each other to lead a good life.  Reconnection with nature, in the way that us moving to this hill has given, has taught us so so much.  And while I respect everyone’s choice to care about this or not, and I really do, that’s not just some throw away line, I thought it might be cool to offer an alternative rather than just deliver the sad facts. That’s when I came across this brilliant vegan butter recipe from this gutsy blogmeister.

I’ve been using coconut butter and olive oils in my baking for a while now and although you’ll still find some of my earlier recipes use dairy, we just never have it in our fridge anymore so I don’t think to use it. That was a gradual thing. More information and knowledge lead to different thoughts and actions. What accounts for right and wrong only gets figured out with education and experience, huh? So, would it be great if calves were allowed to be nurtured by their mothers in the same way we nurture and love our babies? Absolutely. Would that mean the dairy industry would cease to exist. Most likely. Would that mean no butter. No way. Read on… and thanks again to Vegangster for this recipe and the information that has made my heart bust out of my chest all over again this week. There’s always more to learn. And more to care about.

PS. You can eat this just because it tastes good and is so good for you too. That’s a very cool reason. And equally good news for cows.

 

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Vegan Butter

directly from Vegangster with thanks

 

1 cup organic raw coconut oil

2 tablespoons organic, extra virgin olive oil

3/4 tsp salt

Pinch of nutritional yeast flakes 

Very small pinch of organic turmeric powder

 

This is super simple but there’s a few things you need to have in place ready for actions stations. Have a stainless steel or heat proof crockery bowl chilled in the freezer and an ice bath ready to put it into.

 

With your mixing bowl situation covered, put the coconut oil into a saucepan over heat until about half of the coconut oil melts. Immediately remove from the heat and add the olive oil, turmeric, salt and yeast flakes. Stir to combine and then pour into the bowl you have pre chilled in the freezer.

Keep stirring and place over the ice bath, being careful not to get any water into the butter as you mix it.

It should start to change colour and begin to solidify after a couple of minutes. Keep stirring until you have a softened butter consistency.

I put mine into grease proof paper at this stage and then into the fridge to really harden. 

All that’s left to do is pop that sourdough in the toaster and brew a pot of tea.

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hoping for the best

Wood Roasted Purple Carrots with Fresh Borlotti Beans

We trialled some borlotti beans in the garden this year. Ha, listen to me, “trialled”. Like everything we plant in our veggie patch isn’t a ‘throw it to the wind and hope for the best’ kind of endeavour. Sometimes we end up with food on our plates and sometimes the runner ducks or earwigs get in first. That’s just the way things roll out here on the hill, and we’re good with that. But when we end up at the table with plates piled high from produce we have planted, tended, weeded, chatted to and finally picked, there’s always a special pause before we tuck in. A little space for the timeline that landed the seeds we planted in front of us, months on, in totally different outfits to how they went into the ground. Some kind of magic later and we’re eating bright pink beans and deep purple carrots.

How insanely beautiful is the borlotti? I haven’t really had much of a chance to get to know them in their fresh guise, more so from the can, and although they taste good either way, that stunning colour palette, both before they’re shelled and after, made me rethink this little bean. Why not make it the star of a dish rather than sending it to the corp? I’ll tell you why. Because that tricky little minx sheds its fabulous technicolour dreamcoat when it’s cooked. Oh well. Still tastes colourful.

And just in case, some gnarly purple carrots went in too. These guys wouldn’t win a beauty contest, but again, so delicious you could never hold it against them. Yummy winter fare that happily roasted away in our wood fired oven while we worked in the garden until the sun set, putting up tiny fences to keep our new clutch of chicks from eating the fennel before it even hints at being bulblike. We figure ‘hoping for the best’ works better with a bit of a barrier between what’s edible and what’s eating it.

 

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Wood Roasted Purple Carrots with Fresh Borlotti Beans

I did intend to add the purple beans from the photograph into this dish too but I ate them raw while I was cooking. It couldn’t be helped.

 

1 bunch organic heirloom purple carrots

300g organic borlotti beans

1 bunch organic marjoram

1 bunch organic lemon thyme

organic extra virgin olive oil

1 organic meyer lemon

sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

 

polenta to serve

 

Wash the carrots really well. Really well. They are notorious for hiding grit in their purple skin so well worth being slightly obsessive about this step.

Cut them into bite sized chunks and put into an oven proof baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil and scatter stripped marjoram and lemon thyme leaves over the top. Season with sea salt and pepper and roast for 1 1/2 hours or until tender. It took longer in our woodfired oven but in a conventional oven it probably wouldn’t need much more than an hour.

 

If you can get fresh borlotti beans then you can add them to the roasting dish and drizzle with olive oil for the last 30 minutes of cooking time. If using canned then you’ll only need to heat them through so 15 minutes would be plenty. If using dried, soak and boil them, then add them for the last 15 minutes to make them a little nuttier.

 

When cooked, remove from oven and stir to bring some of the richly flavour oil from the bottom of the pan to coat the vegetables. Add extra fresh marjoram and lemon thyme, squeeze the juice of the meyer lemon over the top and serve with polenta. Hearty.

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peace & vinegar

apple cider vinegar

There’s that kind of silence that can make you feel a bit panicked. And then there’s the kind of silence that wraps around you and starts seeping into your skin before you notice it. The later usually comes with early morning light, and it’s the very coolest thing. It feels nourishing somehow. Like your insides had been waiting for it all along but didn’t know how to get through your skin to soak the quiet up. It was a soak it up kind of morning out on the hill this morning, and everyone was keen to pass the silence along in foggy puffs of warm breath. It started with the cows, and then passed to a lone sheep, who begged me not to give away his true identity in a bovine dominated paddock, and then it rolled over to Stella, and she wet-nosed it into my hand so I could hang at the back fence holding it for a while. Super quiet in the winter sunshine.

It didn’t last for long. I haven’t figured out how to catch it completely yet, but  I felt like I had packed enough peace into my pockets to get me through the first part of Sunday morning at least. I really try not to have too many plans for Sundays beyond tea drinking and riding of big brown horses. So there was tea. And then there was apple cider vinegar making. Mostly because we haven’t done that before, and because it didn’t seem to taxing an idea for a Sunday.

We were given a box of beautiful organic homegrown fruit from a friend’s orchard a while ago and after munching our way through fresh apples and adding them to our juice every morning, vinegar popped into my head. We whip through apple cider vinegar like no tomorrow, so it seemed like a grand idea to know how to make it ourselves. It gave us the perfect chance to put our finally finished cellar to good use too. And I completely appreciate this isn’t everyone’s idea of a relaxing Sunday, so feel free to skip homemade vinegar making, but give the ‘tonic’ recipe a go if you’re keen. It’s unbelievably good for you because of its alkalising effects, helping issues with fluid retention, cholesterol, memory, PMS, arthritis, blood circulation etc etc. The list goes on. And if you’ve developed any kind of ‘culture’ obsession, like we have with sourdough and yoghurt, kefir grains and mushrooms, then you can just call this good fun!

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Apple Cider Vinegar

 

organic wax free apples

champagne yeast

vinegar ‘mother’ (we got our’s from a friend)

 

 

We used our juicer to juice the apples. This gives a slightly cloudier version of vinegar but it continues to settle over time.

Once you have juiced your apples, put the juice into a large preserving jar and add the amount of champagne yeast recommended by the brand you are using. Don’t use yeast for making bread, they’re two completely different things!

Stir the yeast into the apple juice and cover the top of the jar with muslin held in place by a rubber band. This is the fermenting stage and will result in alcoholic apple cider. Depending on temperature, yeast culture and amount of sugar in the fruit you should have a fermented cider in about 5-7 days. You’ll notice the mixture will stop bubbling and start to settle in the jar.

Strain off the yeast from the cider into another jar as best as you can, leaving a little isn’t a problem, so no need to be too thorough.

When you have the strained apple cider add the vinegar mother culture and recap with a fresh lot of muslin to allow the cider to transform into vinegar as the mother culture works its magic.

Taste the vinegar after about a month and see if it’s to your liking. If yes, strain the mother off and begin a new batch of vinegar, otherwise leave things as they are to continue the process until you have the flavour you’re after.

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Daily Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

 

2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar

1 cup filtered water

1/2 tsp raw organic honey, or to taste

 

Mix together and sip on throughout the morning. If your tummy is handling the change then you can gradually increase the amount of vinegar to 2 tablespoons in the same amount of water.

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