Grandpa Sol's Bagels - Sourdough 2.0

This week, we started our new Online Course: Everyday Sourdough: Level Two. It’s the inevitable next step from our first course - full of recipes that can be a bit more daunting to tackle on your own, but still great additions to your kitchen. I’ve spent the last few months working on the recipes and trying to find a good mix of challenging, but useful techniques and food I actually want to make and eat.

For those who haven’t ever taken a course with us, I wanted to give you a taste of what you can expect from a Gartur Stitch Farm online course, (oh and I wanted to share these bagels with the wider world because they are so amazing they shouldn’t be behind a paywall!!). Each recipe has a video, a downloadable recipe card, step by step photos and a super friendly Facebook group to ask any questions you may have!!

The course will cover sandwich loaves, pretzels, ciabatta and, my favourite, sourdough croissants…amongst many others. We will give our tips for working at higher hydrations and really get stuck into sourdough baking. I am soooo excited, but not as excited as my family to eat everything.

As I am uploading the course as we go through it this first time, I am offering a special discount for the month of October - £25 for the course (usually £45) or if you’ve never taken a course with us before, you can get Everyday Sourdough Level One 50% off if you buy it with Level Two. No code needed, just head over to the farm shop.

And now on to why you are really here… Grandpa Sol’s Bagels!!

Growing up, my favourite visits were to my Grandpa Goldin. He had a big garden, played the piano and used to make up songs to sing to me. I would tag along as he went about his day, garden centre, farm stands, and the inevitable stop at the Jewish deli for brunch. He would sit around talking to his pals and I would always order one of two things - Matzo ball soup (with matzos as big as your head) or chewy, delicious bagels. He would have the inevitable lox, but I always went for a sweet schmear like cinnamon. I’ve named these bagels after him and those morning bagels.

I have yet to find a bagel here in the UK that matches the taste and texture of a “real” bagel from the US. The offerings here tend to be cakey and fluffy, where the bagels of my youth were chewy and far more substantial. Over my years of sourdough baking, I have never managed to get the recipe right - the taste would be fine, but the rise would be poor or visa versa. However, this recipe is really the winner.

The added chewiness here comes from the addition of vital wheat gluten. Vital wheat gluten made from flour that has been hydrated to make gluten then processed to remove all of the additional starches and sugars. It is then dried and ground back to flour. This extra protein hit gives bagels their chewiness and helps achieve a good rise in breads that may have a lot of additions like seeds and nuts. It can be left out, simply substitute the weight of gluten for more flour.

The other addition here is non-diastatic malt powder. Essentially this is a type of sugar made from sprouted barley. It would’ve been the cheapest form of sugar in large cities where bagels were traditionally sold as it is often a by-product of brewing. This malty flavour is what distinguishes a good bagel from a great one.

INGREDIENTS

100g active starter (or make a levain about 4 hours before with 20g starter and 40g flour and water)
480g flour
15g salt
275g water
40g malt
20g vital wheat gluten



Instructions

I use my stand mixer here, because the dough is quite dry. You certainly don’t have to. Just knead on the counter until you get a nice silky consistency.

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  1. Add all the ingredients, except the salt and mix well. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes

  2. Add the salt and mix or knead until the gluten has developed.

  3. Let rest covered for 3-4 hours, doing 3-4 stretch and folds in that time.

  4. Cover and refrigerate for 12-18 hours.

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5. Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

6. Shape. Either by making a ball and poking a hole through and making it gradually larger with your hand

or roll out a 10inch/8cm tube, wrap it around your hand so the ends overlap on your palm and roll the ends together on the bench to seal. Place them on a parchment lined tray, sprinkled with a bit of polenta or flour to help them stop sticking.

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7. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 30-45 minutes. You will know they are ready to cook when you press a finger print in and it disappears after a few seconds.

8. Preheat your oven to 200c/395f. Set up a tray with a rack near the stove so you can transfer wet bagels onto it to dry.

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9. Bring a pot of water to a simmer. Place your bagel in for about 60seconds. I find the best rise is given by gently simmering one side for 45 seconds and then quickly turning it over and simmering for another 15 seconds or so.

10.Place you bagels on to your rack to drip off any excess water.

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11. Brush your bagels with egg white. This is where you can add any sprinkles. I like salt bagels, but seseme seeds, poppy seeds or other toppings are available.

12. Bake for 20 minutes or so until golden brown.

Kat GoldinComment
Lifestyle Fatigue
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I have been in the worst mood of late. I am grumpy and tired and overwhelmed, which leads me to snap at pretty much every one that crosses my path. My house looks like a bomb has gone off, not helped by the fact that I currently can't get into the laundry room and the counters are stacked with produce I need to do SOMETHING with. My todo list is equally overwhelming, and I am not really sure where to start (and the less we talk about the current state of my email inbox, the better). In previous lives, this would have been the point at which I exit. I would have dreamed up a new life for myself and made it happen - moved, found a new job, started a new business.

Not to say the temptation to do just that isn't huge, there are days where I long to grab my bag, lock the door and start walking. However, this time is different. Maybe its because I have the experience to know that every new life has its downsides and hard bits or maybe its because this life is more me/us than any of the others and there is no leaving it. Or maybe because I know I couldn't take my beloved pig with me on the train (plus, I am not sure he could walk much further than the gate). And so I stay and ride it out.

Because that is the other thing I know - this too shall pass. And in the meanwhile, so what if tomatoes rot on the vine, I have to feed a week's worth of the goat's fresh milk to the chickens, we run out of clean pants and the kids eat cereal for a week's worth of dinners? We are all still alive and we are staying. And that counts for so much.

So, I am off to go grump in a corner, away from the public. If you see me approach with caution and take some tomatoes before they go off.

Kat Goldin Comment
A Watched Udder
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We are currently on udder watch. Three weeks after we finished lambing and 2 weeks after we were told she was due, Petunia has finally started showing signs that a calf is on its way.

I have to say that I am not sure there has ever been a back end of a cow that has been under so much scrutiny. At least once, if not twice a day, Kevin or I would spend a good 10 minutes examining her udders, trying to determine if any perceived change in udder meant we were hitting "go time". We had lengthy conversations about it. Brought out cattle farming friends. Posted on the internet. 

In the normal way of things, you have a general idea of due dates for your animals. With sheep and goats, you make a note of when the boy was put in with them and work back from there. Cows would be the same, or if you used AI, you would have a set date. The way Petunia came to us, a reject from the industrial milk industry, we weren't exact on dates. She didn't like the automatic milkers that are used in most parlours around here and had been sent out to pasture rather than be in the regimented system of breeding and milking that governs most dairy cows. She came to us after having been moved from pillar to post and back again, pregnant (we hoped) but without the exact dates of when tiny hooves would hit the pavement.

We were told to watch for a calf in June, which of course meant we started watching from May...and nothing. So we kept watching and waiting and hoping. We spent so much time watching that we sort of forgot what we were watching for. 

So when she did start "bagging up" we were hit with the blind panic that accompanies most of our less than thought through endeavours - HOLY SMOKES we are going to have a calf! And we will need to milk Petunia!! If you need me, I will be buried under a pile of cow keeping and cheesemaking books.

Seasonal Opulence
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We have hit the busiest period of the year here. Our Soays lambed in the last week or so, the cow is due any day, the polytunnel is looking more jungle like at every moment, we are getting our wool ready to go off to the mill next month, we have two retreats in the next 2 weeks and the chanterelles are out in our secret spot! Oh and as soon as I send this, Kevin and I are off to Ellis' primary school leaving ceremony!!!!! When we were in the depths of winter and I was bored out of my mind, I was looking forward to this busy period, but now that it is here, I am convinced I have some sort of seasonal frenzy condition. At moments, there is an impending panic that invades the corners of my mind - "BUT WHAT IF WE MISS ALL THE ELDERFLOWER AND DON'T MAKE ENOUGH CORDIAL FOR THE YEAR!" or "I HAVEN'T BEEN SWIMMING IN TWO DAYS AND IT MAY NOT BE SUNNY AGAIN FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR!" There is a pressure, partially influenced by living in a place that isn't known for summery summers, to make the most of every moment of good weather and its produce.

Fortunately though, the busyness created by the season is also the thing that keeps us moving forward and not dwelling too much on any missed opportunities. The elderflower has to wait, as the little lamb whose mother isn't interested in mothering takes first priority. Watering the polytunnel is more pressing than the lake, and it's a heck of a lot warmer as well. I am working on accepting the abundance on offer this time of year and letting go of all of the things I can't get around to doing. Its hard, but I know I will be bored in the depths of winter and craving this chaotic opulence soon and I would rather enjoy it than let it pass me by in a panic.

Ok, I am off to go check on my polytunnel and the lambs and bake a cake and maybe grab some elderflowers on my way past before we head out to watch my first baby leave primary school!!! Do you think a full box of kleenex is enough for the leaving ceremony or should I bring two?

Wild Green and Cheese Scones
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Don’t let the wild green bit of this recipe put you off. While chives, steamed nettles, dandelion greens, spinach or broccoli can all be added to these with amazing effect, underneath is just a really great recipe for cheese scones.

This are a bit wetter than normal scone recipes, so I frequently bake them in a muffin tray to avoid rolling them out.

Wild Green and Cheese Scones:

Ingredients:

150g sharp cheddar – grated

230g plain flour

1t baking powder

½ t bicarb

½ t salt

50g of chopped wild greens (dandelion, wild chives, steamed nettles, spinach and/or wild garlic work well here, as does cooked, chopped broccoli)

125g cold butter

200g 100% hydration starter

120g milk


Method:

1. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and mix with the flour, salt, bicarb and baking soda until it resembles crumbs.

2. Mix in the grated cheese and chopped greens.

3. Mix the starter and milk and add to the flour mix.

4. Mix just until everything is incorporated.

5. Roll out to about 3cm thick and cut scones.

6. Bake at 180F for 10 minutes or until brown.

Equipped for Sourdough
A banneton, bowl scraper and a razor for scoring.

A banneton, bowl scraper and a razor for scoring.

We are just a couple of days away from our first Sourdough Bakealong. In continuing our discussion of what you need to get going, other than a starter and some flour and salt, you need a couple of other key pieces of equipment to give you the best chance of getting great loaves.

Equipment:

Overwhelmingly, we advocate for using what you have in your kitchen to bake bread.  Its always a more realistic endeavour if you don't have to make a huge upfront investment when starting on a new craft.  Your main equipment is: 

Scales (most bread recipes are done by weight)

Bowl

Wooden Spoon

Jar - for starter

Baking Parchment - for sliding your dough into the oven

Baking tray without a lip or a pizza peel

A razor or sharp knife for scoring your bread

Optional, but great to have:

bread baked in a cast iron pot (also called dutch oven) with a lid helps protect your bread from uneven oven temps and helps get a nice rise before the crust firms up)

bread baked in a cast iron pot (also called dutch oven) with a lid helps protect your bread from uneven oven temps and helps get a nice rise before the crust firms up)

Banneton: a lined basket used for rising your bread. If you don't have one, try using a colander or sieve, lined with a tea towel. A normal bowl will work in a pinch, but ideally you need something that can breath so your bread doesn’t stick.

Bowl Scraper: a tool to help with folding your bread and cleaning up tables and bowls

Dutch Oven/Cast Iron Casserole: Keeps the moisture of the bread in to develop an excellent rise before the crust is formed. Also protects from uneven temperatures in the oven. Use an inexpensive one as it may scorch as part of the baking process. I keep an eye out for them in the supermarket sales.  If you don't have one, a stainless steel bowl upside down on a cookie sheet is a good alternative. 

Ingredients for a Great Sourdough Loaf (or a Nerdy Discussion of Flour)
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The beauty of sourdough bread, for me at least, is its simplicity: flour, water, salt (and a couple thousand microorganisms, give or take) . Commercial bread has up to 45 ingredients in it for plain, white bread, many of which are unpronounceable. 

Making it at home, you not only have the added benefit of controlling what goes into it, but you also are able to save money. A 1kg loaf of bread (the kind we will be making) can cost upwards of £4 in shops whereas bread you make yourself, even with high end flour, is significantly less than that, making it an affordable way to add artisan food to your kitchen. 

Flour:

The biggest purchase you will make around for your daily bread is flour.  Whatever flour you use, you need to be looking for "strong" or "bread" flour - this is flour with a higher protein content, aiding your starter in developing structure and helping it keep its shape as it develops. We use a local organic strong bread flour from Mungoswells Mill in East Lothian, Scotland, grown and milled less than 30 miles from us.

White vs Brown Flour

For health and flavour, brown and wholemeal flours are often people’s first choice. As we mentioned in the post about starter, wholemeal flours do give the bread’s yeasts and bacteria more to feed on. Also, bread made with wholemeals tends to have a more sour flavour and is generally more digestible.

However, brown bread does have a significant downside. Wholemeals absorb more water than white flour and thus can create a very dense bread.  My advice when starting out is to keep your wholemeal flour content down to about 20-30% of your overall flour content so that your bread retains a lighter finish and is easier to work with.  As you become more familiar with your bread, feel free to create wholemeal loaves.

Organic vs Non-Organic

It will come to no surprise that as a small organic farmer, I am going to advocate for using organic flour if you can the practices used around organic farming have been shown to increase the number of LABs in our flour and thus in our starter (1).  More bacteria, more flavour, better rise, etc etc.

The second reason I would advocate for using organic flour is that it is quite common practice to apply glyphosate (commercially known as Monsanto's Round Up) to wheat before harvest to dry out the husk and make harvest easier.  Glyphosate has been labeled as a 'probable carcinogen' by the WHO (2),  is increasingly being linked to liver and kidney problems (3) and in recent studies was found in 30% of British bread (4). Making your own bread means you can have greater control of what your family consumes and is a tangible way of helping save the bees and other pollinating insects as glyphosate is considered a major contributor to their decline. 

Other Flours Are Available

If organic flour isn't in your budget, there are a number of other really great flours on the market. We love Lidl and Aldi's own brand flour - coming in at 65p for 1.5kg, it makes a great loaf of bread at an affordable price.  Both store are also increasing their 'other' flour options - rye and spelt have both been spotted recently in their bread aisle and both make a wonderful addition to the flavour of bread.

We primarily use strong white bread flour. Even adding a small amount of wholemeal, rye or spelt flour to your loaves will change the flavour profile, but keep it light and easy to work with.

Water and Salt:

The water you use in your bread can be straight from your tap, even in cities. If you have chlorinated water, you can leave it standing on the side for a bit before you use it to evaporate off the chlorine - doing so won't effect the outcome of your bread by a discernible amount, but it will mean you ingest less chlorine. 

Generally speaking, you want your water to be slightly warm when you add it to your bread.  I tend to use lukewarm water straight out of the tap.  This helps speed up the fermentation of your bread, though conversely, cold water can slow down fermentation and is useful if you know it will be awhile before you can get round to baking your bread. 

Salt has two main functions in making bread.  The addition of salt slows down the fermentation of bread, helping it remain in check.  It also is a flavour enhancer, bringing out the different notes of flavour in your loaf.  Biting into an unsalted loaf is always a disappointment as it just doesn't taste "right".  We like sea salt flakes, for no other reason than we buy it in bulk for all of our cooking.

June Bake Along: Starting a Sourdough Starter
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With the first of our Sourdough Bakealongs starting next week, I wanted to give everyone who wanted to learn how to make sourdough bread the opportunity - not just those of you who have purchased kits from us. I mean, by all means, do buy a kit if you want to hit the ground running, but it is very easy to establish your own starter for baking.

As with everything on the internet, there are roughly 11.2 million ways to make a starter for sourdough...and all of them are probably in some way right. A starter is simply a way of creating the right environment for friendly yeast and bacteria to grow, so there are naturally a multitude of ways to do this entice different microorganisms. 

Whether you bought one of our kits or are following the method below, the starter we will be working with is a simple 100% hydration (all this means is that the water is equal to the flour) flour and water starter. Depending on the kind of starter you want, you may want to start with a rye or wholewheat flour.  As these flours have more natural bacteria in them and offer food for a wide range of microorganisms, starters made initially with this flour do tend to ferment faster.  However, which ever you pick to start you can always change later.

Ingredients and Materials:

1ltr jar (glass or food grade plastic)

500g strong bread flour, white, brown, rye or spelt*

500g of water *

* you only use 100g of each at a time

“Method for Starting a Starter
Day One: In a glass jar with a loose fitting lid, mix 100g of bread flour (white or wholemeal, your choice) and 100g of water. Give it a good vigorous stir. Cover loosely and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

Day 2-7: Discard 100g of your starter. Add 50g of bread flour and 50g of water to your starter. Give it a good vigorous stir. Cover loosely and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.

By day 5 the starter should start bubbling.  It is ready to bake with when it doubles in size and or is very bubbly about 4 hours after feeding.”

Maintaining A Starter.

Like any living creature, your starter needs to be fed on a regular basis.  Starters are much more forgiving than people are led to believe and you can pretty much clean out the jar, leaving only a tiny bit of starter at the bottom and your starter will re-grow.

We have changed how we feed our starter. We used to keep more in a jar, using 2 parts starter to 1 part each of flour and water.  This creates a more acidic starter, which we like and great if you are baking regularly.

If you are baking less regularly, a starter with more food in it is better: 

1 part existing starter

2 parts water

2 parts flour

(ie 50g of starter, 100g of water and 100g of flour) 


Using a Starter:

When using your starter for sourdough bread, it is best to use a freshly fed starter.  Generally, you want to feed your starter between 4-12 hours before you bake with it. For example, if I want a loaf of bread for morning, the day before, at breakfast, I will feed my starter, for mixing up that evening. Or if I plan on baking bread for the next day's dinner, I will feed my starter at bed time the night before.  

This isn't hard and fast, if you forget to feed your starter (and it isn't smelly and gross because it was left TOO long), you can usually use it to get an ok loaf of bread, or as an alternative, feed it right away and use it a couple of hours afterward. Starters that are fed more regularly are more active and make better bread, but by no means should you start being a slave to it...that is the fastest way to starter burnout!

Now that you have a starter, you are ready to either bake your first loaf, or join in on the June Bakealong on Instagram and Facebook!

Lacto-Fermented Wild Garlic Kimchi
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To me, nothing says spring like wild garlic. We spend about 6 weeks every year eating it in some form or another - pesto, in salads, on pasta, with nettles, in soup. We eat so much that vampires would keep a wide berth. I have been planting a few bulbs every year in a shady corner of the garden, dreaming of the day it takes over. For now though, I tend to pull over as soon as I see it and fill every bag I can find with the leaves so that I can use it with abandon.

Wild Garlic and Kimchi are two of my favourite things and this recipe does not disappoint. I may have eaten it for every meal since it was finished!!

Ingredients

500g Wild Garlic Leaves

1 small Mooli (Daikon Radish)

2 small carrots

2 Tablespoons of Salt

1x 5cm chunk of ginger

1 onion

1 teaspoon of chilli flakes

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Method:

  1. Using a mandolin or a veg peeler, finely chop your radish and carrots. I use an attachment on my food processor.

  2. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle the salt over them.

  3. In the food processor, blend the onion and the ginger until they are very finely chopped.

  4. Add the onion and ginger paste to the carrot and radishes. Add the wild garlic and chilli powder.

  5. Using your hands, mix the vegetables thoroughly, squeezing the mix to release some of the juices as you go.

  6. Pack the mix into a clean jar, packing it in tightly as you go. Juice should release and cover the veg.

  7. When you have the whole mix in your jar, weigh it down with a fermentation weight or a cabbage leaf. You want to be sure your vegetables are not exposed to the air as this is where mould can form.

  8. Cover loosely with a lid. I like to use a kilner jar with the rubber seal removed. If the lid is tight, you will need to “burp” your jars every day.

  9. Let ferment for about 5 days on the counter and then do a taste test. Once it has fermented to taste, store in the refrigerator.

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The Final COWntdown

I simply can not believe that it was just 3 weeks ago that I we announced the crowdfunder.. So much has happened in that time! The outpouring of love and well wishes has blown us away and left us in complete tears many times over. We secured £2,500 in match funding from Stirling Council and we met not only our initial target of £8,000, but an additional target of £10,500! I spend a lot of my time walking around saying “I can’t believe that happened!!”

See Our Crowdfunder

As we have met our targets, we are secure in getting to keep every donation, which is a huge relief for us. We are, however, still working towards our stretch target of £15,000. The first part of the campaign was about ensuring we can be as accessible as possible. This additional target will help us build in more sustainability for our work, allowing us to add product lines and invest more in our farm shop (both real and virtual) infrastructure. This will mean we can launch products like goat’s milk soap, home grown meat and…GET OUR OWN YARN SPUN!!!

Yes, you read that right, I am in the process of developing a yarn from our own fleeces and those of our neighbours. We are a little while off and there are so many more details to sort out, but the crowdfunder is going to enable us to buy fleeces that would normally be burned or left unused to create a shetland/soay blend yarn. We get to support our local community and make yarn. Quite literally living the dream.

If you haven’t supported our crowdfunder, please consider doing so. Every like and share makes a huge difference. Thank you so much.

Kat GoldinComment
Gartur Stitch Farm - GOat FUND ME Crowdfunder - The Beginnings
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A few months ago, our fireplace in the studio was condemned. It is a beautiful old thing, but something to do with it being too far from the wall meant that we could no longer use it to heat the studio and we had to use a plug in heater instead. As I began looking around for another option, I stumbled across the idea of putting in a wooden cookstove that we could use to bake bread and cook on while providing a sustainable and local source of heat for our main workshop and meeting space. Not only could we cook on it in workshops, but we’d been percolating an idea for hosting farm to table dinners and could you imagine if they could even be cooked on a local heat source?

And then I saw the price.

Far beyond what I had in my budget, the stove was a no go. As I sat in the studio, trying to think of answers, it occurred to me I could email the Forth Valley LEADER team to ask for advice. LEADER is a funding pot of European money for rural communities and our LEADER has a focus on food. While they loved the idea, they said, we probably weren’t a big enough project to justify the lengthy and onerous application process. Had we thought about crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding had been suggested to us many many times. In fact, almost every time I showed a video of my sheep escaping on Instagram stories, someone offered to start a crowdfunder to pay for the fence. However, we were reluctant. It didn’t feel right at the time or to pay for something like fencing. So we sat with it.

This time though, we began to recognise that in order to take things to the next level, we needed investment. The farm is beautiful, but old and not always fit for purpose. We began to really think about how we do things here and how we can make it work better.

For us, making our workshops and farm experiences accessible has always been a key aspect of making things work better here. Kevin and I met working at a summer camp for people with disabilities and he continues to run a participatory arts organisation working with the most vulnerable groups in society. We don’t ever want anyone to feel like an afterthought or that they may not be welcome because we couldn’t cater for their needs. Hosting people, making them feel welcome (and feeding them up) is the Kat and Kevin way, but we recognise that not everyone is able physically navigate or comfortable in a rural, muddy, uneven environment.

We began to ask ourselves “What If”. What if we could improve things so that we could welcome more people and ensure we catered for their needs? What if we could expand what we do to incorporate some of our dream ideas like farm to table dinners, more classes and Green Care Farming practices, because improving accessibility also means we would be allowed to carry out a broader range of activities than we do now. What if we asked for help from the big networks we’ve built up? Would anyone care?

We worked on it for months. Laying in bed, talking about it with everyone we knew. Pieces of the puzzle began to slot together and we began to get a better idea of a project. Our focus is improving the access and shelter so we can host people year round, improving the landscaping and access into the house so people can get up close and personal with animals, (and improving the hand washing facilities so environmental health is a bit happier). We want Gartur Stitch Farm to be a place that welcomes EVERYBODY to celebrate food and making and the beauty of this amazing place.

Our Crowdfunder is currently live. Please like and share and, if you can, donate.

Goat's Milk Soap

One of our favourite uses for our goat’s milk, other than cheese, is to make goat’s milk soap. Great for people with dry skin, this soap is easy to make and makes a wonderful gift.

If you’ve never worked with lye before, in can be scary and we always suggest to use gloves, a face mask and protective eyewear. Also, always have some distilled white vinegar handy in case of spills. However, while lye is a dangerous chemical, it really isn’t that hard to work with once you get the hang of it.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Never use aluminium around lye - it causes a chemical reaction and can explode. Make sure you are using enamel, stainless steel, glass or plastic bowls and utensils.

  • Make sure you have the right safety equipment - rubber gloves, a face mask, goggles and an apron should all be worn. In addition, you should have some white vinegar handy to neutralise any spills.

  • Always add lye to liquid, never the other way around. You don’t want any unnecessary splashes and this is a way to minimise it.

  • Use a recipe that has been tested, or if you are going change the ingredients at all, run it through a lye calculator. This is to ensure all of the lye is neutralised in the saponification stage.

    OK, Safety covered, lets get onto making some soap.

SOAP MAKING EQUIPMENT

In addition to the safety equipment mentioned above, you will also need:

  • A large bucket or bowl

  • A wand mixer

  • A metal spoon

  • Scales

  • Parchment/wax paper

  • A box or another container for using as a soap mould


The only difference between this soap and a basic cold process is that the milk is frozen to start with. You want your milk to remain as uncooked as possible and freezing it gives it more of a chance to stay as close to raw as possible when the lye hits it.

This is a really nourishing soap - shea butter and milk are great for dye skin.

Ingredients

340g coconut oil

425g olive oil

370g unrefined shea butter

375g goat milk (or other milk) frozen

155g sodium hydroxide (lye)

29g essential oils, optional



Method

Note: Make sure that your work area is clean, ventilated and that there are no children nearby. This is not a good recipe to let children help with since Lye is caustic until mixed with water and oils. It is best to have all your ingredients and materials ready before you begin, so you can just mix everything quickly and easily. 

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The night before, freeze your milk. This stops the fats from burning. I freeze it in the bowl I will be working in.

On the day of soap making, start by melting your coconut oil and shea butter. You can do this in the microwave or in a pan. 

With gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the frozen milk. NEVER ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE (this is really important). Stir carefully with a spoon, making sure not to let the liquid come in contact with your body directly.

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As you stir, this will create a cloudy white mixture that might get warm. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes to cool. 

When you have your melted coconut oil, pour it into a bowl and add the olive oil. 

Slowly pour in the milk and lye mixture and stir.

Quickly rinse the container used for the water and lye mixture out in the sink. I rinse well and then re-rinse with white vinegar to make sure all Lye has been neutralised.

Use the metal or wooden spoon to stir the lye/water mixture into the oil mixture in. 

Once it is evenly mixed, use the immersion blender to blend for about 4-5 minutes or until it is opaque and starting to thicken.

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If you are going to use essential oils for scent, add them now. 

Quickly and carefully spoon into molds. Any container will work, but I like loaf tins lined with parchment paper. I have included instructions for making one out of a box lined with parchment paper.

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Cover the molds with parchment paper and set in a cool, dry place, away from kids and pets.

After 24 hours, using gloves remove the soap from the moulds and cut into bars. 

Leave the bars somewhere to cure for about 4 weeks.  You can test if they are done by sticking your tounge on them (yes this is really what you do) to see if the lye is still active.  It will zing you like a battery if they aren’t ready.

For more natural home and beauty recipes and tutorials, we offer an online course and kit.

 
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Meet Petunia the Jersey Cow
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There aren’t many reasons for my birth state of Iowa to pop up on the news over here in Scotland. While us locals know it for many things, it tends to get narrowed down to the birthplace of James T. Kirk and Bill Bryson, the Bridges of Madison County, the Iowa Primary for the US presidential election and confused with both Idaho and Ohio. Occasionally, we get in the paper for other things, but if it is August, it usually has to do with the Iowa State Fair and its dubious fair food. A few years ago, it was the deep fried butter on a stick that became a talking point on these shores. Oh yes, you read that right. Deep fried butter. This gimmick really overshadowed the long standing and much more respectable Iowa State Fair tradition of butter carving. For over 100 years, Iowa has upheld the traditional display of the butter cow in the agricultural building.

Long story short, the love of butter runs deep in this Iowa girl. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that while goats are great for cheese and milk, cream and butter are a bit of a non starter (at least not without a lot of effort) for milking goats. So plans were hatched and last week saw the arrival of our own butter maker - in the form of one Jersey cow named Petunia.

She is four years old and has the longest eyelashes ever. She has arrived to us pregnany and we expect milk and butter and cream and mozzarella and a calf in June. Kevin, historically afraid of cows, is completely smitten.

We’ve put together a wee video all about her and I will keep you updated on the butter.

Announcing Our 2019 Retreats
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Growing up, we always had a full house. On top of my 5 siblings, there always seemed to be extra people about. If it wasn’t my best friend Nate, it was a gaggle of boys my brothers always seemed to be hanging around with, Jane, my now sister in law who was in love with my brother from the moment she laid eyes on him, or my parents’ friends or the neighbour who just happened to pop by or a visiting relative. It was never just us around our dining room table in the evenings, it seemed. Extra places were easily set and there always seemed to be something going on.

I never realised how much I missed that until we didn’t have it. With Kevin and I both being immigrants and living away from family, we spent a long time as just the two of us. It was fine and we were happy, but we knew something was missing and, in moving here to Gartur, we sought to change that.

These days our house is full of volunteers, extra kids that come up to play or work for us, a revolving door neighbours who come to drop something off and stay for dinner, workshop participants, meet the goat visitors who linger and become friends. There is rarely a day where we don't feed at least one extra person, which is strange considering we live down on one and a half mile road in the middle of nowhere.

Our on farm retreats are really the best version of that. I get to bring people here to hang out and make all the things for a weekend. We get to laugh and drink coffee (or sometimes a bit of prosecco) and build community around fibre and textiles and food in a way that scratches a deep itch for us. We love running them and are so excited to announce our programme for 2019.

All of the retreats will feature good food, beautiful scenery and lots of animals! Retreats sell out quickly, so please book now. If you have any questions, please get in touch.

Kat Goldin Comment
The Arrival of BoyBoy
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It will come as no surprise to know that I love a good “back to the land” biography. Especially in the early days of living here, I looked to the experiences of others to find some company on our own journey. I read every book I could get my hands on… from stories about women falling in love with farmers, to itinerant beekeepers, to those stumbling into goat dairy ownership. In amongst those pages, I remember one particular story about a woman who was offered a pig at a dinner party, and, having had a few too many sloe gins, agreed and drove home with a porcine passenger in her back seat.

The way we have acquired each of our inhabitants here at Gartur isn’t quite as interesting (except for the time when my friend knocked on the door in the dark with a trailer full of Soay Sheep), and usually follows a routine where I get an idea in my head and force Kevin to go along with it. Our newest arrival, BoyBoy the KuneKune pig is no different. I’d seen his photo on a Facebook Group (where a surprising amount of livestock changes hands) and messaged his advertiser. A wedding gift to the couple 9 years previously, he had lived his days with them as a pet on their commercial deer farm, until they decided that he needed pastures new - quite literally…as a pet and a grazer, he couldn’t be out with their deer who are part of the food chain and needed some more space.

We were happy to offer him a new home, part as show pig for our AirBnB experiences, and part offensive for our massive problem with invasive rushes in our field. He provides no end of entertainment- from his funny grumpy walk to his rather epic snoring in the barn at night. He loves apples and belly scratches and has decided that chickens are THE WORST (on that he isn’t wrong). The goats are terrified of him and given how Dasha thinks she is the Queen, means that she is very put out (I haven’t mentioned to her that he is now taking over #garturstitchfarm on Instagram. Who knows how she will react)

After we’d had him about a week, the goats managed to let him out of the barn. We don’t know how long he was out for, but found him snuffling in the garden (as opposed to the goats who managed to open the feed bin and finish the sheep’s food). He came back in no problem and we assumed he’d just taken a wander around the courtyard. The next day however, he wouldn’t get out of bed and alarmingly had no interest in food. We assumed the worst - maybe he’d eaten something or he was unwell. After much fussing, multiple stomach rubs and a botched rectal temperature check, he decided that he’d slept long enough and had no further interest in me attempting to stick the thermometer anywhere and happy headed out to the field for the day. It turns out, mid morning naps are a requirement.

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So while his arrival isn’t as dramatic as me driving him home in my car, he’s proving to be a welcome addition to the mix…Well, welcomed by most of us at least.

You can see BoyBoy in action on the little video I made about the farm.

Them's The Breaks

If you have followed me for any length of time you know that I love a resolution. I love the way a new year stretches out in front of you with so much untapped potential. I was ready. I had my resolutions, my word, my E course, my coach. All I had left to do was the ceremonial nesting that this time of year always seems to kindle in me. I just rearranged the living room, mended some duvets and had finally decided on the arrangement of pictures for our bedroom. As I have done 100 times before, I stood on the bed to hang the final picture when I lost my footing, fell with my arm outstretched from the height of 5’7” + a very tall bed and quite spectacularly shattered my wrist. Ambulances were called, a bumpy ride to the hospital was made, bones were set and then reset I was set home to await a call for surgery.

If you have followed me for any length of time, you will also know that I do not do sitting still well. From the minute I get up to the minute I go to sleep I'm making and doing and talking and working. When I had a normal job it took everything in my power to contain this unbridled energy. I was so bored and usually unable to make it very long at a desk. I built this very full life that I love intentionally. I know from experience I am happiest when I am able to make and create all day long. And 2019 was going to be the year we thrived in it.  I was ready. 


And I'm still ready. I'm just in the sad bit of limbo where the plans I had for the start of this year aren't really achievable with only one arm. Today is a good day and I can tell you (with the help of dictation software) that what I need to do is make different plans. I can get help. I can read more books. I can spend a lot of time digging deep into our business plans for next year. 


On the bad days, the picture isnt as rosey. There is a lot of uncertainty and worry and cancelled plans. A lot of laying around in bed feeling pretty sorry for myself. It's scary, this self employment business. But I have to trust that we will get there. 


Of course this means that some things are going to have to change. The natural home and beauty online course will now be starting on the 1st of February, when I have volunteers who can help be my hands for the filming. Kevin will be more hands-on during the upcoming on farm sourdough courses. And there may be a slight delay to sending out kits as I can't drive for the next 6 weeks. 


Thank you all so much for your understanding and, other than a few days I will be out due to surgery, we will still be answering emails if you have any questions. 


I thought I should maybe to change my word of the year from thrive to survive but, as I said, today is a good day, and I'm sticking with thrive. Because if you have followed me for any length of time you know that I am must stubborn old boot who doesn't like her plans to change. 

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Last Minute Shop Update!

How is the season treating you? We are getting so close to our seasonal break, I can almost taste it…well, when I’m not breathing in sawdust from making spoon blanks, that is. The kit shop has been so delightfully busy, I can’t thank you enough for all of your orders. I’ve spent the last few days packing like a demon, getting everything ready to go out into the world.

After today’s packing, I did a quick stock take and there are a handful of kits ready to ship on Monday in time for Christmas. All of the kits will go out via Royal Mail for delivery before Christmas

In Stock Kits

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Online Courses

We have a range of online courses that make great gifts as well. If you order before Monday, we can post out printed vouchers for opening on the day, but we also have email vouchers that are sent out automatically for printing for the very last minute givers amongst you.

On Farm Workshops, Meet the Goats and Bread Delivery!

If you or your loved one can make it to the farm, we also have spaces available on our upcoming courses, our meet the goat visits and in our new Sourdough Bread Subscription service! All of these can be delivered as vouchers, so you can give something a bit more unusual this holiday season.

If all else fails, we still have gift vouchers ready to go. These are all emailed and instant - perfect if need something VERY last minute.

 
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Sourdough Pizza Crust
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Sourdough pizza is, in my humble opinion, the master of all pizzas. There is something about the umami flavour of the dough that pairs so perfectly with cheese. The only thing that would make this pizza better is if I had a wood fired pizza oven, but I hardly miss the smokey flavour with a crust this good.

We have a couple of versions of pizza dough that we make. Personally, I like a bit of wholewheat or cornmeal in my pizza for a bit of bite, but using a pasta flour here gives the base a clean taste that shows off the other ingredients. This is THE base we use when we have some nice homemade cheese in the house.

Pizza Dough:

(makes 4 25cm pizza bases)


Ingredients:

100g starter

200g water

350g Tipo ‘00’ flour (or add 300g ‘00’ flour and 50g wholemeal or half plain and half strong bread)

20g oil

10g salt


Method:

1. The night before, mix the ingredients. Do a few stretch and folds and then refrigerate.

2. About 2 hrs before baking, remove the sourdough from the fridge.  Shape into 4 balls and roll out as pizza bases. To achieve a nice crispy pizza crust roll the bottom thin and oil under it and over it before you put on the toppings.

3. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours and then top. Cook the pizza at the highest temperature, about 220C, for about 25 minutes or until it has browned enough. Ideally you want to use a preheated pizza plate to bake the pizza on, but if you do not have one you can also use a preheated cookie sheet.

4. Tuck in!

To launch our new intro to cheesemaking course, we are offering a special discount if you buy both the Everyday Sourdough and Intro to Cheesemaking course together (because what goes better together than bread and cheese?!?!?!). Use the code CHEESEANDBREAD at the checkout to get £15.00 off your order.

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Happy Birthday to Mildred The Sourdough Starter (or how not to kill your sourdough starter)
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There was a big birthday in the house this week. Mildred, our beloved sourdough starter, turned 5 years old!! She is our oldest starter to date - having killed at least two previous incarnations in the years prior. In fact, we almost lost ol’ Millie earlier this year, when I contaminated her with some Kombucha starter and left her on her own for a couple of weeks.

Baking 2+ loaves of bread a day to feed a busy household certainly helps maintain Mildred’s activity levels, but more than that, I have learned that starters are a lot more forgiving than they seem. In fact, they are pretty hard to kill and if you do, it is equally easy to start again. So, 5 years on (and a couple of failed starts before that) here are my top tips for keeping that starter in tip top shape.

  1. Feed it regularly, but find a schedule that works for you. Bakeries like Tartine are feeding their starters 4+ times a day. You don’t need to be that disciplined but feeding your starter at a regular interval helps keep it going and helps you get into a routine with it. Ours is fed every night when I make the next day’s batch of bread. It then sits on the counter until we need it the next evening. While its true that starters are at their peak about 4-6 hours after feeding, if you don’t have time to feed it 4-6 hours before you make your bread, don’t sweat it. A good active starter can be left longer than that and still make beautiful bread.

  2. Think outside the bread box. It can feel overwhelming to make bread every day or every couple of days or it can feel wasteful to throw away part of your starter when you feed it. The good news is starter can be used for many things like pie crust, pizza base, scones and even cake. Search “sourdough discard recipes”. These sourdough english muffins are some of our favourites.

  3. Store it in the refrigerator. If you aren’t baking every day, store your starter in the fridge. It slows down fermentation and extends the life of your starter between feedings. Try to remember to take it out and feed it at least 12 hours beforehand or if you forget, build a levain (see below)

  4. Build a levain. One way to get a more active starter or to build up your starter amount if you only keep a small bit is to use a step called building a levain. You simple build a separate starter about 4-6 hours before you bake, using a small amount of your starter and flour and water. For example, if my recipe calls for 200g of starter, I might add 50g of a sluggish starter and 75g each of flour and water to build a levain of that 200g of starter I need.

  5. Use only a small amount of starter. Some of the most active starters you can use are ones that have been created with a small amount of starter and then flour and water. When I say small, I mean the scrapings of the jar small. This is a great way as well to recolonise a starter that is looking a bit off. Throw most of it out, then add 100g each of water and flour and see what grows back. In all likelihood your starter will reinvigorate.

  6. Give it a good stir. Yeast loves oxygen, so if you are seeing a lot of liquid build up on top without many bubbles before that, give it all a really good stir when you mix in your flour and water. I know some people who whip their starters with a whisk.

Seeing the Wood for the Trees (and the tree for the wood)
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On the same day that I blew out my birthday candles and blew into a new decade of my life, Storm Ali came and blew a 150ft beech tree over into our sheep paddock. I'd received an email the night before, telling us that work on our fencing for the sheep was scheduled to begin in 3 weeks time. We'd celebrated, the end was in sight.  No more chasing sheep across the fields they weren't supposed to be in. No more leading bad goats out of the rose bushes and into the field they jumped out of. No more 'chats' with our neighbour who is oh so very sick of seeing our sheep in his field. And then, just as quick as we could dream of this easier life that awaited us at the end of October, we watched as the storm took out 20ft of the wall that was going to be used for the electric wire, as well as the back door and lintel to the dying studio that we'd worked so hard to set up. As we stood surveying the damage, Kevin and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

There are days where I walk around and all I can see are the things we need to do. The overflowing compost, the veg garden that desperately needs sorting for autumn, the laundry that seems to perpetually be the size of a small island off the west coast, the fencing, the trees needing pruned, the apples needing processed, the emails needing written, the kittens needing rehomed, the hay needing ordering and so on and so forth ad nauseam. It is literally endless, and, except in the few moments of absolute exhaustion that pop along from time to time, rarely feels burdensome. 

The sheer work of this place, of this life we are trying to carve out for ourselves here on this windy hill has shaped us in ways I wouldn't have predicted. As someone who likes to tick things off a list, I would've expected myself to be felled like that beech tree by the unrelenting effort it takes to keep us afloat. I am a runner - things get hard and I am the first to walk away. Somehow though, it's those aspects of myself that have worn away in the last five years.  We've cultivated a keen sense of the ridiculous and learned to always choose to laugh when given the option of laughing or crying. 

We turn up, do the work and choose to see both the hole in the fence and next year's wood pile in that fallen beech tree.  

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