Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Guardian Angel

Welcome Lexie, our newest addition.

As I started to post the first images of her, I got asked repeatedly what breed she is. I didn't answer this right away, because I think it needs a bit of explaining.

Lexie is a Karakachan Dog. Never heard before? Neither did I until recently....

The Karakachan Dogs are one of the oldest, if not the oldest breed of dogs in Europe, with ancestors going back to 3000 BC!

The Karachachan Dogs were successfully bred for centuries on the Balkan Peninsula to protect livestock, property and it's owner. They are named after the Karakachans, nomadic shepherds of Thracian origin and the oldest inhabitants of the Balkan who brought the dogs eventually to Bulgaria.

Due to the conservative breeding of the nomadic shepherds the breed remained unchanged for centuries. 

After WWII, the communistic government nationalized farms and placed all livestock in communal farms rendering the Karakachan Dog useless. The communistic government then ordered an extermination program of the dogs...killing the dogs and selling their pelts.

By 1957 the breed was very close to extinction......
A few though were saved....and now being protected by conservation programs, they survive in the Bulgarian mountains guarding flocks from wolves and bears.

The most actual numbers I could find state, that there are about 600-700 Karakachans in Bulgaria and about 200+ in the US and Canada.

Although Lexie gets along very well with the little dogs and I posed her here in a rather un-Karakachan like chair, she is definitively an outside dog. Always staying close, always having an eye on all the animals.

When Lexie is grown she will be approx. 28 inches/70 cm tall and weigh about 80 lb/45 kg.

There is not much information on the web about the Karakachan Dog, these are the ones I found most helpful:

The Karakachan Association of America

Karakachan Livestock Guardian Dogs

Five Springs Farm

BBPS Semperviva

Karakachan Dog

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July Conservation Tip

Alles in Butter!

For a long time I was longing for that particular butter taste I was used to when I grew up. To be honest, I don't know how that butter was made, I just know, we got our milk, cream and butter from a farmer in a little village close to the town we were living.
Every once in a while I would splurge on "hand-churned artisan" butter, but this is insanely expensive and still wasn't tasting right.
And then I read an article about buttermilk and how to make buttermilk the traditional way....by making butter! Although in this article, butter was the byproduct, I was after the butter and the process seemed easy enough:

Take 2 cups of whipping cream and a quart sized jar

fill the cream in the jar and let it "ripen" for 6-8 hours, depending on the room temperature.
Then shake, shake, shake, shake and shake more...ideally until the butter forms and separates from the buttermilk. Drain the buttermilk, add about half a cup of cold water and shake again for about 5 min, drain again....and if you are really lucky, you have butter... I tried this method three times and got the whipping cream into various stages of stiffness, but never into butter. I have heard from other people that they successfully make their butter this way...maybe if you have a group of ten people and everybody takes turns...?

Disappointed but not beaten I kept researching the matter...and found a absolutely simple way...with the food processor. Since clean-up is a bit of a mess, I take a quart of whipping cream to start with, so I get more butter. Very important, if you use this method the whipping cream needs to be as cold as possible, so NO ripening here.

Pour the whipping cream in your food processor with the whisks on and beat it on the highest setting. I have a Bosch food processor and it takes about 3 minutes until the butter forms.

The butter will be semi-hard and yellowish, swimming in almost transparent buttermilk.

Drain the buttermilk and add about a cup of cold water and let the food processor run for an additional 20 - 30 seconds, then drain the liquid again. This is important, since the buttermilk is what lets the butter go rancid. The buttermilk is not the type of cultured buttermilk that you can buy in stores, but is very well usable in all recipes that ask for buttermilk, like pancakes or waffles. I mostly use it for baking my potato toast and substitute the water and milk with this buttermilk (click here for the potato toast recipe). If you don't have any use for it with in a day or two, freeze it!

Now ladle the butter in a butter mold, or any deep dish. Make sure to squeeze the butter as good as you can with the ladle to press even more buttermilk out.

Refrigerate and enjoy! Butter made this way really tastes like butter, has no artificial coloring or preservatives and is even easier to spread. Out of one quart of whipping cream I get about 400+ grams of butter and about 2 cups of buttermilk, not counting in the buttermilk from the "washing" . It doesn't last long in our house, but my "test" butter kept fine for over a week before it started to taste funky. Again, if you made too much, or you want to have the mess only once in a while, freeze it!