Tag Archive | CA

Farmer’s Cheese: Easy and Delicious!

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Let’s Make Cheese!

I started making cheese about a year ago, and expected it to be really hard to do. It’s not. I had visited my cousins in Ireland over the summer, and learned about a wonderful chef named Darina Allen. She wrote a book that a cousin’s wife, also named Susan, swore was her bible, so of course I had to get it. It’s called, Forgotten Skills of Cooking. Oh my goodness, I have had a lot of fun with that book.

So my cousin Fergus and I decided to both try some recipes out. Next thing you know we were sharing YouTube videos on cheese making and having a blast. It helped take the edge off leaving them all to come home, I suppose.

The first cheese I tried is a soft cheese. Some call it Farmer’s Cheese, others call it Fromage Blanc. I believe some even call it Buttermilk Cheese. It’s all of those and doesn’t matter what you call it because it’s wonderful.  Here’s what you need:

  • 1 qt of whole milk. (Unpasteurized would be perfect, but as long as it’s not ultra-pasteurized it’s fine)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tsp lemon juice (or lime juice or white vinegar)
  • ¾ tsp salt ( I use cheese salt, but for this recipe it can be regular salt)
  • Cheesecloth, string, a colander and a heavy bottomed pot.

I actually forgot to take the pictures I intended of the ingredients and the first stages of this recipe. But I’m hoping my easy to understand instructions will get me off the hook. And I did begin taking pictures with the curd in the cheese cloth. So let’s start:

Pour the milk into a pot with a heavy bottom, over low heat. Heat it to 175F, occasionally stirring it to keep it from forming a skin on the bottom of the pot.  If you don’t have a thermometer, when there is a good amount of bubbles formed around the edge of the pot, and it begins to steam, that’s when you add the buttermilk and lemon juice and slowly stir to begin the separation of curds and whey. Turn off the heat, and let it set for about 10 minutes.

Ok, while you’re waiting for the curds to separate from the whey, line a colander with a few layers of cheese cloth. Set the colander into something to catch the whey, because you know how I am about wasting anything. Or you will if you are just meeting me, but I digress…

Once the timer goes off (that you remembered to set because you’re better than me), go ahead and begin to ladle the curds into the cheese clothed lined colander. When you get tired of that, go ahead and pour the rest of the pot into it.

Gently fold the cheese cloth over and with the back of a spoon press lightly to get a head start on draining some of that whey out. Let it set now for 5 minutes or so, then pull up the edges of the cheese cloth and tie it as close to the cheese as possible (see picture) then tie again around a spoon to drain over the colander some more. Leave it alone for 30 minutes.Image

When you come back, more of the whey will have drained out. Unwrap it and put it in a small bowl, and sprinkle the salt over it. Image

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Work the salt into it with a flat spoon or whatever you have handy.  Roll it into a ramekin or other small dish, and press lightly to shape it to the dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

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You did it, you made cheese! NOW, what about the whey? There is a ton of it, right? Well you can save it to add to soups or stocks during the week for extra nutrition, or:

  • Freeze it, even in ice-cube trays to add to soups and stocks later
  • Use it in grain and bean preparation as a soak that helps avoid indigestion
  • Cook your vegetables in it
  • Use it in smoothies
  • Give it to the dog, or chickens, they love it!

There are more ways I have not tried, I’ve even heard of folks adding it to their preserves when making jam, or using it in homemade shampoos. Something I am actually just starting to make.

I hope you try this, and share your results with me! Or the cheese, share the cheese.

To serve, turn out of the ramekin onto a plate, if you’d like, to slice and spread on toast or crackers. I like to drizzle a little olive oil over it when I turn it onto the place, then grind a little pepper over it. I dress it up with fruit and crackers to make it look like I went to a lot of trouble.

Hope you love it, let me know!

Curry Butternut Squash Soup

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Curry Butternut Squash Soup

(taken from Cooks.com, with minor changes)

Happy Autumn, Ramona readers! I am so excited by this season, with the cooler temps, Apple Days in Julian, fires in the fireplace, Halloween, all of it! Not quite cool enough to plant lettuces and broccoli yet, or other fall crops, but almost! One of my favorite things about cooler weather is soup. And this is a great time for butternut squash, my favorite soup in the world. After trying a few different recipes, this is the one I love the most, and the one I now make for my family. And so easy, once you realize what a simple soup this is, I’ll bet you’ll make it often too.

Ingredients List:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 onion, minced ( I am using 2 small ones today)
  • 1 tsp butter or oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • (optional) cayenne- dash or 2

Peel and cut squash in half. With a spoon, scoop out the seeds and pulp (Wait! Don’t throw those seeds away, read note after recipe). Cut into chunks. In water, boil squash and onion about 25 minutes. I have a 2 ½ quart Pyrex bowl, that I now transfer it all into, then into the blender with a ladle, about 1/3 of it at a time or so, and puree. At this point I might add a tad of chicken broth to thin a bit, then back in the pot. The reason I transfer it first into a pyrex bowl, then the blender, is that I need to puree it in 3 batches, and as I finish each batch I return it to the pot. So now put it back on stove and add rest of ingredients. Simmer until heated through. Note on chicken broth/water: The amounts really depend on the size of the squash. I don’t measure anymore. Just add more broth or water if it seems too thick.

That’s it! This will make between 2-3 quarts depending on how thick you like it. I used to buy cartons of butternut soup at the grocery store, now I always make my own. It’s one of our favorite soups to have with sandwiches, besides homemade mushroom and homemade tomato- those recipes coming soon!

Note on seeds: I rinse the seeds free of pulp, in a small strainer, and spread them out on a plate to dry for a few days. If you use a paper plate, they will try to glue themselves onto it, so you will have to keep moving them around as they dry. I use a dinner plate after that one time I ended up with a paper plate with glued on seeds that looked like a preschool project. But I digress.

You can save these seeds for next year’s garden, OR you can bake the seeds and eat them. If you choose to bake them, after rinsing and removing pulp, place in a bowl with a small amount (1 tbsp or less) of olive oil and a little salt sprinkled in, and mix that up and spread them on a cookie sheet. Place in a 275 degree oven and bake for 15 minutes or so until they begin to pop. Let cool and enjoy!

Enjoy, and tell me what you think!

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