Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Celebrating diversity and making lemonade...

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

In the Kitchen

Many years ago I started to make our own apple cider vinegar.  It was my first attempt at fermenting something.  Then, when we bought the farm, it was fortuitous that there are 50 apple trees on the property!   AND the apples from those trees were picked and taken to a vinegar plant in downtown Moscow in the mid-1900's.  Here is a pic of the vinegar plant at the corner of Main and C Street in the 1920's.  It was demolished in the 1950's or 60's...my sources were not precise on the demolition timing...

The neighbor said that the trees are mostly Ben Davis apples.  These apples were popular in the the late 1800’s because they had good storage qualities and could be transported successfully over long distances.  This means that most of the trees on our property now are over a hundred years old...no wonder they are so tall!  One interesting fact that I found is that the Ben Davis apple was crossed with McIntosh to make the Cortland apple.  I think you probably will not find a Ben Davis apple in your local grocery store but you may be able to locate a Cortland and McIntosh.  Her is a pic I took a couple of years ago showing some of the different apples on our property...the first apple in the pic is what I would consider a Ben Davis apple.  I am not sure about the other apples.  The third one could be a McIntosh.  There is only a couple trees that produce these more red colored apples.  There are about 3 crabapple type trees (last apple).  Crabapples bloom early so this is to make sure that there is plenty of blooms available for pollination in the spring.  

It is easy to make your own apple cider vinegar.  You just need to get some apples and it helps to start with some vinegar to inoculate the batch and get it fermenting.  The sugar and pectin in apples reacts with beneficial yeast and bacteria to make the "mother".   The mother is what holds all the nutrition and healing properties.  If you buy some ACV from the store, make sure it says "raw" apple cider vinegar.  Braggs is a popular brand that contains living mother.

Here is how I make Apple Cider Vinegar

1. Fill a half gallon jar about half full of warm (NOT HOT) water. MUST BE UNCHLORINATED WATER.  If you only have chlorinated water, boil it or let it sit for 24 hours so chlorine can dissipate.

2. Add 1 cup of sugar and stir to dissolve.

3. Add 2 cups of chopped apple.  You can also use scraps, like peelings, to make the vinegar.  I would stick to using organic apples, if possible.

4. Add 1 cup of vinegar mother.

5. Fill the rest of the way up with warm water and then place a lid on so that NO PIECES OF APPLE ARE ABOVE THE WATER LINE.  I use a smaller jar as a type of lid to push the apple pieces under the water.  Do not use any metal or it may corrode.  

6. Cover with coffee filter and wrap towel around jar and set in a dark area that is about 70 degrees.  This allows it to breath but keeps fruit flies out.  Leave for 3-4 weeks.

7. Strain off vinegar.  Give apples to your chickens!  Save 1 cup of the vinegar to start your next batch.  You should have harvested about 1 ½ quarts of vinegar BUT IT’S NOT READY YET…  

8. Pour freshly harvested vinegar into new jars and let sit another 4 weeks to age.  Again, no metal lids (I know the middle jar in this pic has a metal lid but I was gifting it to someone that was going to use it right away and I was out of plastic lids!)  Now, after aging 4 weeks, the ACV is ready to use!

I just read that you can put an eggshell into your ferment and this will add a little calcium to your ACV.  I would add it in when you make the initial batch with the apples.  I have never done this before but I am going to give it a try.

Some tips to make your ACV fermentation successful

Keep your ACV ferment in a different place than other ferments in your home i.e. I keep my kombucha in a closet downstairs and my ACV in a pantry upstairs.

The longer you give the vinegar to ferment, the stronger the taste and tang will be.  When the vinegar is to your liking, you can put it in the refrigerator to stop the fermenting.

The length of the fermentation process will vary based on the temperature in your home.  During summer, the ACV will take less time to ferment. In winter, it will likely take longer...however...we use a wood stove in our basement in the winter and it gets crazy hot down there in the winter so it just depends what the air temp is in your home...

If you see a gelatinous blob developing in the ACV, this is a “mother” and you can add it to your next ferment to get things going even faster.

Uses for ACV

Drink it!  ACV is a great probiotic.  It may not taste the best, but it is generally considered safe to add 1 Tablespoon of ACV to a cup of water to drink.  Beware…can erode tooth enamel…I am not going to go into all the health benefits associated with ACV in this post but if you are interested in reading more, here is a link to an article by Dr. Axe that is very thorough on this subject.

Use ACV as a substitute for plain vinegar in any cooking recipe; Use ACV instead of lemon juice in homemade mayonnaise

Homemade Broth – add a tablespoon of ACV to your bones to help get the minerals out

Make salad dressing:
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid; shake well. Store in the refrigerator. Just before serving, shake dressing again.

Water Bath Canner or Steamer Juicer – I add a tablespoon of ACV to the water in my canner/juicer to keep the minerals from building up inside

Fruit Fly Traps – I just pour some in a small dish and keep it near my composting container on my counter.  I also add a couple drops of dish soap to the dish.

Vinegar is an acid and is great for cleaning because it kills microorganisms...Make your own all-purpose cleaner with one part water and one part ACV.  Use it to clean hard surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, including countertops, hard water stains, and drains.

Daily Shower Cleaner
1.5 cups water
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
1 teaspoon liquid dish soap (I like this kind– affiliate link)
15 drops lemon essential oil (these are my favorite essential oils ever)
15 drops melaleuca (tea tree) essential oil
Mix all the ingredients together in a quart-sized spray bottle.
Shake well, and spray onto shower surfaces every day after use.
Remember–this is designed as a maintenance spray, so I would suggest starting with a clean shower first. It won’t remove built-on grime by itself, it’ll just slow down the process.

Homemade Hair Rinses
After shampooing, just mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water, massage into your hair, and rinse off. It helps remove buildup, it also works as a natural detangler and general scalp revitalizer. Best not to use this hair rinse if you have color treated hair.  Due to ACV's antimicrobial properties, it can help with alleviating dandruff.

Foot Soak
Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and warm water with a tablespoon of Epsom salt. Soak your feet in the bath for 20 minutes. After soaking, rinse off feet and coat your feet in a hydrating cream, put on a pair of socks, and let the lotion sit on them overnight.

I love our old apple trees but, to be honest, they are not that pretty to look at...a lot of them have a bunch of dead wood in them but it is way up high to where we cannot reach it to trim it out.  When there are strong winds, a few branches get blown out.  We pick them up and save for the wood stove.  Apple wood is amazing for the fireplace!  It is a hardwood and burns crazy hot!  Also, our trees are infected with codling moth and so a lot of the fruit has little bug holes in it.  Luckily, we get so many apples that we can pick around the insect damage and still get lots of apples for making sauce and apple pie filling.  Once the chicken coops get finished, we are hoping that we can let the chickens out under the apple trees and get them to clean up some of the debris to keep the bug population under control...we will see...I could go on and on about apples...we just love them and feel so blessed to have these old trees on the property!

Have an eggcellent day!


Sunday, November 7, 2021

New girls (and a BOY!) on the farm...

In the Coop

Have you heard that saying that goes "Never say never"?  This kind of falls into that category.  When we were planning Mark's egg business, we had an idea to raise our own birds to replace the older girls in the flock.  I did a lot of research and decided that Welsh Harlequin ducks would be great because they autosex.  This means that you can tell the male hatchlings from the female hatchlings.  You could separate the ducklings after they hatch and raise the males for meat and save the females for egg laying.  Well...then, I started doing some research on incubating eggs.  It is expensive because you need an incubator (that costs several hundred dollars to get a good one).  AND it is actually quite challenging to make sure the heat and humidity correct.  If one thing goes wrong, you can lose the whole hatch.  I realized that maybe this was not going to be an efficient way to start the egg business.  This is when I started looking into egg laying breeds and found the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks that we ended up purchasing.  The "300" means that these ducks are to lay 300 eggs a year.  We have gotten 2 batches of these ducklings and we like them just fine.  HOWEVER, I don't think we are getting close to 300 eggs a year from each duck.  

I recently saw a post in a homesteading Facebook group of some Khaki Campbell ducks available.  The mother of the drake laid 335 eggs in her first year!  SOLD!  We purchased 4 ducks and a drake.  BTW:  I saw someone else post that they had some of the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks and they did not think that they were getting that many eggs/year either.  They are great ducks but I just don't believe they are living up to their namesake.

In September, the new ducks came to the farm.  (There is a video at the end of the post of when we got them.)  They are about 8 weeks old in this pic and they all look pretty much the same.  

The big question is how do you sex them when they all look the same?  The lady that I got them from said she can voice sex them.  I did not really know what she was talking about.  I knew that drakes do not quack but I didn't know what noise they made.  One day I was out with the ducks and I heard a frog.  Then, I realized that it wasn't a frog...it was the drake!  Here is a short video of the drake.  He is 16 weeks old in this video and his head had turned a beautiful green color so it is pretty easy to tell him apart at this point.  He speaks at the 16 second mark in this video and again at the 1 minute and 5 seconds mark.
The Khaki Campbell ducks look very similar to the Golden Hybrid 300 ducks.  I have read that the Golden Hybrid 300 is a cross between a Khaki Campbell and a mallard duck.  The plan is in the spring to move the 4 ducks and the drake to their own shelter and fencing.  Then, we will let the ducks raise their own ducklings.  I think this may be a more successful way to raise ducklings than using the incubator.  Then, when the ducklings are around 7 weeks old, we would process the males and put the females back into the big flock of ducks.  This is why you need to be able to sex them at 7 weeks, it is easier to process ducks before they put on their pin feathers after 7 weeks of age.  
I just bought this portable shelter that we will use for the Khaki Campbell ducks and drake in the spring.
Here is a video of when we got the ducks.  I went to get them in the evening and had put them into a cage.  Then, we put the cage into the coop that evening but left the new ducks in the cage for the night.  I came in the next morning to let them out.  They were pretty high strung!  Of course, the mature ducks also picked on them because the pecking order is a real thing.  Please know that no ducks were hurt badly.  I watched them for quite a while and after the first day, they were pretty much assimilated into the flock with no problem.
I put fancy little yellow band on the new ducks but their feet were so small that the bands fell off!  I actually put new red bands on them a few weeks later.  They mostly hang together in a little group within the larger flock.  Here is a recent pic of the drake...I think he is quite handsome...it is a little difficult to see in the pic but he has his curly tail feather now!  This is another identifying characteristic of a drake...
I just gathered these eggs yesterday and we "may" be getting some eggs from the new ducks!  The egg in the middle is a regular sized duck egg.  The first egg is a double yolker.  When the ducks (and chickens) first start to lay, they give a lot of double yolkers as their little internal egg system is working out the kinks of how to lay an egg.  The third egg may be a pee wee duck egg.  It is about the size of a chicken egg.  So, the double yolker and the pee wee eggs may be from the new ducks!  
These are not the only new poultry to come to the farm.  The chickens are getting ready to molt.  When they molt, they lose their old feathers and grow new feathers.  This takes a lot of energy and they quit laying eggs while this happens.  To make sure we have enough eggs for Mark's delivery route, he bought some 10 month old pullets to add to the chicken flock a couple of weeks ago!

They are a Rhode Island Red and are known to be great egg layers.  They are a darker red color than the other girls so they are pretty easy to tell apart.  The chicken in the upper left is a new girl and the bottom right is one of the existing flock.
The contractor has come and parked his utility trailer at our property.  He said that he does not have a lot of other projects now so he will be finishing up the chicken coop (FINALLY!).  I am hoping he is correct and then we will be able to order some more chicks in a couple months and put them in the new coop!

So where does the "never say never" part come in?  After researching about incubating eggs, it just seemed like too much variables that might not work so I just thought we would never actually try to raise our own ducks but now we are!  We are going to try and let them raise their own babies and not do the incubator.  Hoping this works!

Have an eggcellent day!