Stacking functions

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Stacking functions

Postby dave brenneman » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:56 pm

One of the things that appeals to me about permaculture is the idea of stacking functions - that is, trying to find multiple yields from one element. Probably the quickest place I've found a use for this is in the kitchen. I try and use as many elements of my food as I can, and plan meals that make use of ingredients from previous meals. So, making mashed potatoes for dinner and potato pancakes the next day, having fish for dinner and then making a stock from the bones, heads and skin for the next night's meal, etc etc.

Making stock is incredibly easy, if you don't already do this. Any bones or leftover bits of meat get used. I save all my edible peels in the fridge - carrot, onion, leek ends, any trimmed off bits of veggie that can be eaten can be made into stock. I put them in a cast-iron casserole with plenty of water and cook 'em down. the stock gets drained and frozen, if it's vegetable. If there's meat in the stock, i put it in the fridge to chill. Once the fat sets, I skim it off the top, reserve that for cooking, and freeze the stock. When draining I usually pour through a metal sieve, discarding the last tablespoons of stock (along with whatever small bits might have settled) at the end. I used to pour that through the sieve too, but occasionally bits would make it through, and I used up more water cleaning the particles out of the sieve than it would have taken to make another batch of stock.

Cooking the stock - this depends on the weather. In summer I'm more likely to do this on the stove; boil faster with more heat for a shorter amount of time. In colder weather, I bake the stock. The slow heat over a longer period of time helps warm up the house. Since the stove is gas but the oven is electric, i"m not sure which is more energy efficient - something to research, I suppose.

I have a drawer in the freezer that is full of stock, and I make an effort to rotate through the older containers before using the newer ones. I was freezing stock in ice cube trays for a while, but found that a bit cumbersome. Now I just fill tupperware-like containers and freeze them in blocks. if I need less stock than is in a container, i'll just pull out a block, put it in a pan and melt off the amount I need, then return the rest of the block to the fridge. Planning in advance helps here too - you can just leave the block in a covered pan all day, or melt it on the stove if you're in more of a hurry.

Additionally: I bake my own bread, and when slicing a loaf, i sweep the crumbs into a little plastic container. When I'm heating up a pan on the stove, before I add the oil, i dump the container into the pan and toast the crumbs. by the time they're golden, the pan has warmed up. crumbs go back in the container - which i leave open till they cool - and I use the pan for whatever else. I made fish and chips last night, and the crumbs were the perfect thing for batter. I also use 'em to thicken stews, or for bread pudding - although it's rare a loaf lasts long enough to be stale for bread pudding.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby dave brenneman » Tue Jan 10, 2012 4:11 pm

another thing: knowing how to use up stuff that's nearing the end of its usefulness saves a ton of waste. If I'm not going to finish up a container of milk and it's close to the end date, I'll make paneer or ricotta. Veggies get made into stock or stew; meat goes in the freezer; we don't eat enough of it for there to be any waste.

I bought a container of cream at the store - there was a whole case of cream that was 1/2 off because it expired soon. I took a half-liter home, thickened some with vinegar to make a creamy spread (excellent on soda bread when drizzled with honey, let me tell you) and used the rest in a loaf of bread.

Paneer or ricotta are super-easy to make. Basically heat a liter of milk (2% at least, whole is better) in a pan until it starts to form a skin. I heat it up until it's warm enough to dip a finger in, but not hold there. USE CAUTION if you try my method - melted finger won't make the cheese taste better. Once the milk is hot, turn the heat off. add in a tablespoon of vinegar and stir. The milk should start to separate. If it's not separating readily, add another half-tablespoon and stir again. keep adding and stirring until the curds and whey separate. Use your best judgement - you can always add more vinegar but can't take it out. Depending on the strength of the vinegar and the milkfat content of the milk, the measurements may vary slightly.

Once curds and whey have separated - for ricotta, drain through a sieve. Stir enough whey back into the curds to make a smooth consistency, and you're done. You can add salt if you like; I usually don't.

For paneer: line a sieve with cheesecloth. Pour the whey through, reserving curds in the cloth. Gather the excess fabric and twist, pressing as much whey out of the paneer as you can. It's best to go gently - too much twisting and the curds can escape the cloth. If the curds are still damp, tie off the bundle of cheesecloth and suspend it over a container to catch the whey. I use a binder clip for this - a very useful kitchen tool, for sure!

Pressing the paneer is as simple as setting the bundle on a plate, putting a plate of equal size on top, and then adding a jar of water or other heavyish object on top. use your best judgement here; a cinderblock on a china plate is a bad idea, and making a precarious stack in a high-traffic area is just asking for an accident. You just want gentle pressure to get the last bit of whey out.

then either cut or crumble the paneer, depending on how you want to use it. It's a mild cheese that pairs well with spicy foods or strong flavors.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby matt walker » Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:11 pm

Oh geez, awesome post(s)!

I don't have much time but I'm coming back to this later. Stacking functions is something I'm super interested in, and hadn't thought of the cooking analogy. Great one. And a cheese recipe! This place rules already.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby matt walker » Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:58 pm

Alright, I had to go actually work for a while, but I was thinking about this post.

I love the example of stacking functions above. Here's one I do:

I save all my kitchen scraps, and they of course go in the compost pile. In addition to those, I muck the stalls and put the soiled bedding, hay, and manure on the pile as well. That is in an area of the yard that the chickens have access to. They get in there, pick over the kitchen scraps, scratch up the pile, eat the bugs, poop there, etc. I use that pile in the garden the following spring, and grow lots of stuff for the kitchen, and excess goes to the pigs and chickens again. I bring what i eat up to the kitchen, which turns into scraps, which go back to the pile.

And so on.

I love thinking about the stuff, it looks so different upon reflection. In practice, it's kind of a smelly pain in the ass sometimes, but, what a cool thing that cycle is!

What are some others? The North Winds' vermiculture is, for sure.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby dave brenneman » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:21 am

matt, if the pile's stinking strongly, something's out of balance. Usually too much nitrogen - add carbon. Do y'all have enough hardwoods in the area to supply leaves, or is it mostly pine? I forget...

a great quote that applies here, and to permsteading in general, i think: "Waste is a resource in the wrong place"
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby matt walker » Wed Jan 11, 2012 5:43 pm

Oh, I didn't mean the pile is stinky and out of balance, just the whole thing, ya know? Keeping a little compost bowl in the kitchen, a bucket outside to take to the barn, the chickens, just life in general. Kinda stinky sometimes.

I do, however, need to work on balance in my piles. I have access to a LOT of material here, and have a little tractor with a front end loader. It's on my big list of long term projects to work on that every week, but I am kinda slacking. I understand the balance and ratios needed for good composting, but when it's happened for me it's been dumb luck. I need to be more proactive on working the piles. I'll get there, I hope. I'd like to be producing big ol' mounds every year.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby firgela » Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:25 pm

Thanks for the tips Dave! Especially on the nearly out of date milk uses, and using the oven to warm stock in the winter is an ace idea, and skimming the fat before going to the freezer is a good one too. Growing up we always saved bacon grease for reuse.

I'm really enjoying the board, learning new things. It seems this way of living has been lost in modern culture, our grand and great grandparents used to live this way out of necessity...depression era. After my grandma died we found gobs and gobs of rubber bands, paper clips, toothpicks from restaurants..anything she could get free and reuse she did it.

On composting, any chance we could have a thread about it? An overview maybe, what works for you sort of thing? It's probably an overdone subject and a total newb question though. I had a book that got lost before I could dig into it about composting.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby matt walker » Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:00 pm

Yeah, I'm loving this. All of this stuff is covered in detail elsewhere, but it's nice to just start fresh and talk about stuff without being told to UTFSF. I'm sure that'll come later when we start dissing newbs.

Compost thread would be awesome, who's gonna kick it off?

Dave, I bought milk for the first time in a while thanks to you 'cause I want to get up to speed on the cheese. I'm really hoping to have time to try to milk some of my sheep this spring. Pecorino Romano! I've also got cows who will be in milk, but I haven't worked with them enough to be able to milk 'em. Projects, projects.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby dave brenneman » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:05 pm

I would love to get into making hard cheeses, but my thought was that it's not cost-effective for me to buy the gear and cultures without a cheaper milk source. If I was milking my own animals, that'd be one thing, but whatever's left over from a liter isn't nearly enough to make it worthwhile. I like sheep's cheese, pecorino would be awesome.
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Re: Stacking functions

Postby matt walker » Thu Jan 26, 2012 4:01 am

UPDATE: My cheese is under some heavy stuff precariously perched in spite of your instructions, but nonetheless, it's cheese! Thanks for the inspiration Dave.
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