Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Kefir - Chapter 8

Another kind of hard cheese I make is cultured with liquid kefir, that I brew at home. This works very well. The cheese is quite different than my Farmhouse Cheddar (see below.) The kefir cheese is aged for 2 months before using and has some holes in it and a very different flavor. I like it a lot. My husband only thinks it's "ok." :)

Aged Cheese cultured with fresh liquid kefir

Before bed the night before: Into heavy- bottomed stainless steel pot, mix 2 gallons fresh goat milk with ½ cup liquid kefir. Cover.

Mid-morning next day:

Gently heat to 88 degrees.

Thoroughly stir in ½ tsp liquid rennet mixed into ½ cup cool water.

Cover pan (remove from heat).

Let sit for 30 – 45 minutes until a “clean break” is achieved.

Cut curd with a long sharp knife into 1/4 inch cubes.

Stir gently with hand for 15 minutes, cutting large pieces of curd.

Put in thermometer and turn stove on medium-low and stirring often, bring curds and whey to 102 degrees in about 1 hour.

Strain curds from whey.

Add 2 T sea salt to curds and mix well.

Line smaller hoop of cheese press with cheese cloth and put in the curds. (place press on baking pan to catch liquid.)

Fold cheese cloth over the top and add the follower.

Press at 10 pounds for 30 minutes. Press at 30 pounds for 1 hour. Turn hoop over, replace follower and press for 30 pounds for 1 hour.

Remove from hoop, dress cheese with cheese cloth, replace in hoop and press at 50 pounds until the next morning. Remove from press, remove cheese cloth. Place in refrigerator to dry for a few days, turning every day.

When dry, dip in cheese wax – 2 coats and label. Allow to age for at least 2 months, turning daily. Keep it in the refrigerator.

Do not throw away the whey! It can be used for many things, but my favorite is to make some wonderful creamy ricotta: To the leftover whey, add 1 pint of fresh goat milk and heat gently to 200 degrees F. Remove from heat. Stir in ½ cup white vinegar and let rest for 15 minutes. Strain through cheese cloth, put it into a bowl and add ½ tsp. sea salt. Store covered in the refrigerator. This wonderful ricotta is good on toast, baked potatoes, in lasagna, etc.

Please take a few minutes to look at Dom's Kefir Site for how to make "Fresh Kefir Cheese." I use it instead of cream cheese and sour cream in many ways. It is SO easy to make and very versatile and keeps just about forever in the fridge if you stir it once a week or so.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Making cheese in my sleep..

Have you ever wanted to learn to make cheese? My first attempts were many years ago, probably about 25 years ago, and I did not then realize the importance of using something to culture my milk and the cheeses almost always went bad. I kept thinking "how did they do it long ago before you could purchase cheese culture?" and was silly and stubborn about it and finally gave up. That was then. This is now. I've been making cheese, on an extremely limited basis for the last year and a half since I got my milk goats. I make whole milk ricotta, which is very easy and requires no special equipment. I make fresh kefir cheese which is also very easy. But I wanted to make "real" cheese - you know, the kind you can slice and melt. I've been making bread for 38 years, and I claim I can nearly make it in my sleep. That is how I want my cheese making to be, and I think in time, it will get that way, but right now, it is a big job because I don't have it memorized and gotten it to the point where I barely have to think about it. Believe it or not, I can nearly make soap in my sleep too. I have hope that if I persist, cheese will get like that. I am not, yet, interested in making all kinds of cheese. I just want some standard cheddar - type cheese, and oh, yes, I would like to learn to make mozzarella also, but I'll do that later. I call my cheese "farmhouse cheddar." And here is how I do it:

Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese

2 gallons raw whole goat milk
1/4 teaspoon mesophyllic cheese starter
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet
2 Tablespoons sea salt

1. Pour milk into large heavy-bottomed stainless steel pot that will give you a little room for stirring.
2. Heat milk gently to 90 degrees F. Remove from heat.
3. Mix the mesophyllic starter into a little bit of cool water and then stir it well into the milk. Put on the lid and let the milk sit for 45 minutes.
4. Mix the rennet into 1/4 cup cool water. Bring the milk back up to 90 degrees F. and remove from heat again. Stir the diluted rennet into the milk for a few minutes. Put the lid back on and let it sit for 45 more minutes, or until when you insert your finger in the milk you get a "clean break" when you pull it out.
5. Cut the curd with a long sharp knife into 1/4 inch cubes. Stir gently with your hand, cutting the larger pieces into smaller pieces for 15 minutes.
6. Heat the curds to 100 degrees F, increasing the temperature no more than two degrees every 5 minutes. This should take about half an hour or so. Stir gently, with your hand, often, to keep the curds from clumping together.
7. Place the pan in a sink full of 100 degree F. water, covered, and let it sit for another 30 minutes, stirring it with your hand several times.
8. Drain off and save the whey. Pour the curds into a large colander lined with some good quality cheese cloth - not the cheap stuff you buy at a fabric store. I buy mine online.
9. Put the curds into a large bowl and gently, but thoroughly stir in the 2 Tablespoons sea salt.
10. Line your cheese press with cheese cloth and put the salted curds in there. Fold the cheese cloth over the top, add the follower and press for 10 minutes at 15 pounds pressure. Invert the cheese press container and press from the other end at 30 pounds of pressure for another 10 minutes.
11. Remove from press, "dress" the cheese with fresh cheese cloth cut to fit - which will be two little round pieces for the ends and 1 long strip to go around the cheese. Return to press at 50 pounds of pressure until the next morning.
12. Take the cheese out of the press and carefully remove the cheesecloth dressing. Trim off any bits that are sticking out along an edge at the top or bottom of your cheese wheel.
13. Here is a photo of my cheese drying in the refrigerator. I will let it dry there, on a dish towel, for about 3 days, until it is good and dry. Be sure to turn it over at least a couple of times a day as it dries.
14. Then I will dip it, twice, in melted cheese wax, return it to the fridge to age for 1 to 2 months, turning it occasionally. I do not have a proper cheese aging room, and the fridge seems to work just fine.

Now, what to do with the whey!

Put your whey back into the pot, add 1 pint of milk, and heat gently to 200 degrees, add 1/2 cup white vinegar and stir. Let it sit, off the heat for 15 minutes. Strain and you'll have the loveliest ricotta cheese you've ever tasted! Add some salt and chopped chives, and you'll be in heaven!

I bought my cheese press and cheese cloth here:

And here is a good place to buy cheesemaking supplies as well:

I have this book and it has been very helpful:

When I actually do make it "in my sleep", I'll report back here! Wish me luck!

I must add a safety caution ~ when you melt your cheese wax, be certain to do it in some sort of double boiler set up, because if you melt it directly over heat, it can get too hot, explode and burn you terribly! NEVER take a chance with wax.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cooking by "feel"

I clearly recall watching my mother make some soup. She was standing there shaking salt into it and I thought to myself, "How does she know how much to put in?" It was incomprehensible to me that she didn't measure it exactly. Now I know. Of course, it just comes with experience.

Yesterday evening I made some potato salad so we could have it for lunch today after Church. I had boiled some whole potatoes in a Crock Pot and let them cool on a platter earlier in the day. So, here is how I make potato salad:

1. Peel the cooked potatoes and cut them into smallish chunks. Place them in a bowl that will leave plenty of room for stirring.

2. Peel and dice an onion. At this point you need to decide how much onion you want in your salad, and freeze the rest for use in some other dish. Add that to the bowl.

3. I use real mayonnaise, not "salad dressing" or Miracle Whip. Pour in mayonnaise and stir the potato/onion mix until it looks like everything is nicely coated, but not gloppy. Sometimes I make my own mayo in the blender, but not always.

4. I keep my sea salt in a container that I can reach into with my fingers. I take a generous pinch of that and sprinkle it over the salad.

5. Add some Dijon mustard, a bit of sugar and some sweet pickle relish.

6. Lastly, I add some hard boiled eggs that I have chopped.

7. Stir gently, taste to see if you need to add more of anything, put all the salad in your serving/storage bowl and sprinkle the top with paprika to make it look pretty.

Of course, you can add other things as the mood strikes, like chopped celery, sliced green olives, or if I have green onions, I will use those instead of the large bulb onion. (In fact, it was after dark and I was too lazy to stagger out through the mud to retrieve green onions from the greenhouse... but don't tell anyone.)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

More about milk goats

I ran into this article on the web this morning, thanks to, a blog I follow. This is a wonderful, and easily understood introduction to keeping dairy goats: Enjoy!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Update on Kefir - Chapter 7

As I think I mentioned before, if you would like your kefir grains to propagate more quickly, you can gently pull them apart and return them to the brewing jar. I did this about 3 months ago. The pieces I had after dividing them would be about the size of a peanut. Here, in my hand, you see what ONE grain looks like this morning. They can get very large. The big flattish areas you see are actually more like balloons, being hollow inside. Pretty amazing!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Milking at home

About a year and a half ago, I got milk goats, again ~ after 14 years without. I could go on and on about the benefits of drinking raw milk, but you can read about that here: Because of eating some contaminated grapes, I had a chronic digestive problem. No matter what I did, it did NO good, and after tests and tests and trying various things, I felt inspired to try raw goat milk. A friend helped me locate some and after drinking just one glass, I could tell that this was the answer. So, my dear husband helped me get this project going. We already had our nice little shed/barn with a room I could use for milking and hay/grain storage, and we had a big fenced pen. We went looking for goats and found these two lovely does. They are American Alpines. The gray/white girl has now been traded for a different doe from her original owner. Here it is January and we are still milking nearly a gallon a day! Both of my does are due to kid in early May, so in March and April I will not milk them. I am so excited, looking forward to the kids and lots of milk so I can make more cheese.

If you live in an area where it would be legal to keep animals, I highly recommend milk goats. They are sweet and personable and just loads of fun, easy to care for, and if you are scrupulous in your milk sanitation, you will have the most lovely, creamy sweet milk you can imagine.

Goats are herd animals and they need a companion, but it need not be a goat. It can be a horse or sheep, or if you have happy children that will play with them every day, that will do, also. Their needs for housing are very simple. A crude shed where they can get out of the wind and have some bedding (like straw) when the weather turns cold, is all you need. If you want to milk and cannot afford more than that, you can put your milking stand right in the shed. It can be nailed together from scrap lumber. You will need to get a milk filter funnel, something like this: . These folks also sell a larger more expensive model. And you will need the disposable filter disks. Then if you have a stainless steel bucket or pan with a lid, you are all set. There are many approaches to feeding goats, but here is what I feed mine: A mixed grain ration, good hay and a handful of Calf Manna at each milking. We store our extra hay on some pallets covered with a waterproof tarp, as our shed is small. We like to buy enough hay to last a year at a time. When the weather is fine, I put them on leashes and take them into the woods so they can browse. They really enjoy that. Currently, I have "Abby" and "Gracie." If all goes well, I hope to keep a doe kid to raise this year. I really love my goats.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Saving money on laundry

I had read in various places that you can successfully launder your clothing in cold water and save quite a bit of money on the hot water bill. I was skeptical, but finally, it occurred to me ~ What is it that I SOAK clothing in to remove stains? Cold Water of Course! So, I have been doing it for some time now and have found very few things that it won't work for. I also hang nearly all my laundry to dry. Outside during fine weather and inside when it's cold or rainy. I still use the dryer for a few things, like when I pre-shrink fabric before I cut it out to sew, or if I wash something that has down in it, it needs at least some dryer time to fluff up the down. This greatly reduces the electric bill for laundry. I also swear by Charlie's Soap: It is very economical to use and there is no need for fabric softener. It leaves no residue or odor in the clothing. I love it! If you go to their website and check it out, if you buy more than one product the price per product is reduced. And the prices listed include shipping. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Using food on hand

The daily decision, "What's for dinner?" can be pretty stressful at times. One thing that helps now that it's just me and my husband, is that I often cook more of something than we need and freeze the extra for future meals.

Today, I thought, "Ok, what do I have on hand?" And this is what I came up with ~ It all started when I was a young girl and went to Girl Scout Day Camp. We cooked something called "Brownie Stew" which was a simple stew made with ground beef and vegetables and I LOVED it! Today I decided to make Brownie Stew for us using what I have. So, here goes:

Brownie Stew (easily tweaked for what YOU have in your home)

1/2 pound ground venison (or beef or anything you've got)
1 nice onion, diced
1/2 or so cup of sliced celery
1 T oil (I used extra-virgin coconut, but you can use anything you have on hand)
1 quart green beans, not drained
1 pint sweet corn kernels, not drained
3 big (or equivalent) potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
1 quart whole canned tomatoes, drained


2 T Bragg liquid aminos (you can substitute salt to taste)
freshly ground pepper
2 tsp. kelp powder
1 T nutritional yeast
1 T dried basil

In a large heavy bottomed pan, saute' onion and celery in the oil on medium heat until they start looking a little limp. Then add all the other ingredients and simmer, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender.

I will serve this with homemade whole wheat bread and some home canned peaches. Easy, quick, filling and delicious!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Easy Sunday Chicken Dinner

Do you know why having chicken on Sunday became a common tradition? It is because in my parents' generation, chickens were expensive. There were no factory farms like today. So, chicken was considered to be a fancy meal. My sweet mother always made us fried chicken, mashed potatoes, milk gravy, green beans and salad for Sunday dinner. It was the BEST ever! (Wow I miss her.) So, since I try not to do more work than I need to on Sunday, this is how I sometimes fix chicken for our mid-day meal:

In a cast iron dutch oven, place a whole frozen chicken. Sprinkle it with salt, a little pepper and dried basil. Peel a whole onion and cut it in half and lay it on the chicken. Scrub a few potatoes and put them in there along with some peeled carrots. Put on the lid and place in the oven. Turn it up to 325 degrees F. and let it cook for 4 hours. If you put it in at 8 a.m., it will be ready by 12. We usually get home about 12:30 and so it is ready and waiting for us. If you have to put it in much earlier, set the temp at 300 F. instead.
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