Mushrooms, Labneh + Cardboard Telescopes

| Gardening, Milkwood Farm, Mushroom Cultivation, Mushrooms, Permaculture, Vegetable Gardening | comments | Author :

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It’s been a month of growing, building, adventuring and making in these parts. And I’m slightly bemused to say that life is no less crazy living in a town than it is on a farm.

But much of the craziness is good, in the forms of rabid broccoli growth, mushrooms everywhere, and adventuring with hand drawn maps. 

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Firstly, there was our first Natural Building course at Broger’s End in Kangaroo Valley, which proved to be four days of building, learning and of course the requisite swimming in the gorgeous Kangaroo River.

All went well – the food was amazing (thanks to Horst+co of The Emporium), the setting was gorgeous, the learning was intensive and the students were a lovely bunch. As they always are.

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But we came home with a spare and very large bucket of yogurt that we needed to do something with quite quickly, as it didn’t fit in our fridge.

The answer, as to so many things in this life, was to make labneh.

That’s strained yogurt cheese, if you’re not across this delicious condiment that should really be in every pro-dairy kitchen.

I might post a little how to on this soonish but in the meantime, here’s how my friend Nadia makes hers.

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And then there’s the matter of sardines. Now that we’re living by the wide blue ocean, local, sustainable fish are back on the menu (huzzah!).

The main problem is that the ‘sustainable fish’ species list is not all that huge, if you’re not at a city fish market. But sardines are definitely on that list. So we’ve been learning their fishy ways.

So far, I’ve just baked ’em in Milkwood farm passata with herbs from out the back. I’m aware there’s more possibilities, though. Any good ideas? I’m thinking to try butterflied on the bbq next.

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Spring is also the time when you say ‘of course’ to all sorts of community workshop requests for little people. Last week’s included soil blocking with a group of Southern Highlands homeschoolers.

As usual, everyone got dirty and went home with seedlings aplenty. A good morning’s work, any way you look at it.

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We’re also adventuring, and exploring new secret coves, like Bushranger’s bay, at the end of Bass Point.

A secret marine reserve that you can only get to by driving through a massive quarry and a marina-in-progress. So Mordor, basically. And then on the other side of all that, there’s this place. Oh this world.

Ash took his adventure backpack loaded up with apples, a cardboard telescope and his hand-drawn map, to ensure he was ready for anything.

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Back at home, the garden is rising. I even got my first opportunity to discuss the fibonacci sequence and it’s relationship to natural patterning (well, a 5 year old’s version) when we harvested our first broccoli.

The explanation actually went a lot better than the one the night before where I was trying to describe the internet in similar language. The lesson here may be that when in doubt, defer to broccoli.

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We’re also learning the ways of raw milk yogurt. While I am stoked to now have access to fresh raw milk, making yogurt from it is downright tricky. The best I can manage is a very thin and sloppy version, but it tastes amazing and everyone eats it, so we’re rolling with it.

I think I’m going to have to interview Michael from Pecora Dairy who seems to have some insights on this front. My yogurt’s lack of solidity has to do with the homogenisation, or lack thereof, of my raw jersey milk. I think. I shall report back.

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Mr Nick, meanwhile, has been totally one-upping my soil blocking workshop efforts by making a stack of mushroom jars for our local preschool, so the kids can watch mushrooms grow, and then eat ’em.

In short, he packed a bunch of straw inoculated with king oyster mycelium into some of our trusty vacola jars and then whacked them in a big bucket with a lid. The mycelium should potter along, slowly colonising the straw, until the jars are all white, and ready to fruit.

While not as romantic perhaps as finding fairy toadstools in the preschool garden, these ones are edible! Fingers crossed that at least one little person of the class likes mushrooms.

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Speaking of mushrooms, we’re starting to harvest quite a few now. Nick’s set up in the basement and has built himself a domestic-scale mushroom cultivation rig.

This week we’re eating king oysters, and the shiitakes are coming on. Mostly they’re growing in buckets, but the ones we’re eating currently grew in hessian sacks (untreated, of course) of straw.

They might look a bit weird to the un-initiated, not being presented in neat plastic packets, but what I see is a freaking entire sack-o-shrooms that is yielding organic mushroomy goodness for my family. And our neighbours, And anyone else nearby who wants some.

Ah, abundance in the basement. Town life is turning out ok.

How’s your Spring looking? What are you planting and what are you picking?

And is there any other mushroom recipes I should be looking at beyond frying all my mushrooms in butter, garlic and herbs and scarfing them down? I’d love to hear…

See the comments

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21 responses to “Mushrooms, Labneh + Cardboard Telescopes

  1. Ahh those mushrooms look delish! Mushroom risotto? Glad town life is treating you well. People are always surprised by what we managed to do/grow living right in the city but where there’s a will, there’s a way!

  2. I can’t wait to have a cellar for mushroom propagation. I also want to seed some field mushrooms in the orchard.. In the meantime I am loving your posts about them! I also look forward to your post about yoghurt as that’s something I’d love to know how to do.

  3. My word that’s a lot of busy goodness in your days! Great minds think alike… I recently posted a labne (labneh) ‘how to’ on my blog and have had the same tasty but sloppy results with making yoghurt from raw milk. As for spring garden activities, we have a ‘clucker tucker’ zone sprouting up as well as all sorts of other summertime joy 🙂

  4. About the sloppy yogurt, I don’t think that homogenisation or not is the trouble.
    I used to live near a dairy (actually I’m still in the same place, but sadly the dairy has now gone). I made heaps of yogurt from what was initially raw milk. The trick I found is to heat the milk to around 95C — use a glass-rod thermometer (easier to clean) — and hold it at that temperature for a few minutes. (Of course then it is not raw milk any more, but the heating changes the structure of the milk sugars or something that lets you get thick creamy yogurt. Low-temperature yogurt making never turned out well for me either. And the taste is very different.). Let the milk cool to 43C — the thermometer again — stir in your [room temperature] starter culture and let the saucepan sit in an insulated box overnight. In the morning, thick curds of still-warm yogurt. The yogurt thickens up more after a time in the fridge. (I actually use an insulated slow-cooker thing that I picked up overseas 20 years ago. Looks and works the same as a “Thermos shuttle chef” slow cooker.) These days I still make yogurt the same way, but just use 2 litres of supermarket milk…..

  5. Love this blog. It brings back memories for me of when I lived with my young family on farms and outback properties. Due to the remote locations, I home educated them and a great deal of time was spent outdoors doing similar activities to you. It felt wonderful to grow and raise so much of our food. Now I am living on a 1/2 acre block in Brisbane, Australia while the kids are at Uni. I’ve got citrus, mulberries, bananas, guavas, custard-apples, grapes and paw-paw in our yard but the local possums, birds, rats and flying foxes eat most of the produce! You’d be surprised at how much wildlife can survive in the suburbs, given enough green corridors to hide in.

    We had a dairy goat herd on one of the farms and I always wanted to make cheese out of their milk but never got around to it. Just hand milking them took enough time and energy! Anyway, just wanted to say hi from Australia and let you know that I am enjoying your blog. I’ve got one myself but it’s about my hiking escapes from the city…a little different! 🙂

  6. Hi Kirsten, what a mushroomy harvest, yum! You could try to pickle your mushrooms, or sautee them, chop with some onions /shallots and spices to use this mix to fill dumplings. Some mushrooms can also be fermented…

  7. You guys have been busy! I think the reason yoghurt doesn’t go so well with raw milk, is they have natural bacteria which can complete with the yoghurt culture developing. The trick is to heat your milk to boiling point. I haven’t made yoghurt in such a long time, so forget the times for boiling, but it bascially kills the milk bacteria to allow the yoghurt culture to dominate.

    Yoghurt culture can also deteriorate over successive batches, so you need to bring in new, stronger cultures from time to time.

  8. Oh my eldest would be at your mushroom class in a heartbeat! He ADORES mushrooms any which way they come and will snack on the dried ones in the pantry too. 🙂
    Fried in butter with garlic and herbs sounds just perfect to me. 🙂

  9. Most of the time I can get past just a sauté of oyster mushrooms with butter, onion, and garlic but when we really want to make an amazing sauce we add a little madeira or port to deglaze the pan and then some cream. Yum!

  10. My yoghurt methodology for thick yoghurt from raw milk is similar to Roberts (but sadly not as exact, no thermometer here!). I heat until it starts to make bubbles, hold the milk there for a few minutes, cool, add starter, add to pre-warmed thermos’. It thickens up perfectly! Its all about the time at temperature (and yes, not raw any longer, but still so tasty and creamy!)

    1. yeah i’ve been doing a similar technique (with shop milk) and it’s always been fine, but suddenly with the raw milk we have… struggles. Have also just switched to starter culture from blob of yogurt (jalna) as starter. hmm. maybe too many variables.

  11. I have been making my own yoghurt for about 40 years now, about 25 of that with freshly milked cow or goat milk and don’t remember having sloppy yoghurt.
    Unfortunately now it is local homogenised and pasteurised whole milk.
    Our yoghurt maker is a Breville unit which basically is a cup shaped unit that maintains 40C temperature while switched on. An 800ml Vacola jar fits into it snuggly. (At one time I used a 6 pack esky and added a glass jar with very hot water in it and would change it about every 3-4 hours)
    Bring the milk to near boiling point, let cool to room temperature and then add starter from your last jar (I like Jalna natural) and place in the heating unit. I make mine at morning tea or lunch time then put in the refrigerator next morning and it always comes out solid. I can turn the jar upside down and not lose anything.
    Hope your efforts improve because home made yoghurt is great to eat and healthy too.

  12. Have you tried Sandor Katz’ method? It works beautifully for me making thick yohurt from raw Jersey cow milk.

  13. I find that using the milk at cow temp works well, I have got the best results when making it within a couple of hours after milking. If it has been refrigerated I just bring it back to room temp. I use 1/2 -1 cup starter yoghurt to 5-6 cups milk, whisk together and put in a yoghurt maker for about 6-8 hours (I use a Breville thingy but I’m sure the jar in a thermos method would work too). It always turns out poorly if I use cold milk (sloppy/mucous-like) and I don’t bother bringing it to a boil/simmer beforehand.

  14. King Oysters make an amazing plant based scallop type dish. Slice into 2cm discs, fry til slightly browned on each side then add some stock and simmer until it absorbs. Spring onions and seaweed add a nice touch too.

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