Monday, February 9, 2015

Cheese #2: Fromage Facile

Easy cheese!!

No no, luckily not cheese in a can. I'm sure that would be far from easy to make, require more than 4 natural ingredients, and generally just be disgusting.

This on the other hand was simple, low cost and quite delicious. Also, my lovely husband surprised me with a new fast-reacting and easy-to-read thermometer AND the correct cheesecloth, so this time around was much easier and more successful than the craziness that was my ricotta-making experience.

This fromage facile called for milk, cultured buttermilk, lemon juice and salt. That's it! You start by slowly (holy crap, soooo sloooowllllyyy) heating the milk up to 175 degrees. Once it comes to temperature, you stir in the buttermilk and lemon juice and take the pot off the heat. You pretty much instantaneously see coagulation.

My kitchen has weird lighting for this sort of jazz.

I let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes, came back and gave it a stir, and then poured the curds and whey into a cheesecloth-lined strainer. Below you see what it looked like immediately after pouring the cheese into the colander, and then how the cheese looked after having had drained for about 5 minutes and had salt stirred in. Also, I finally remembered to pick up some Malden sea salt crystals and it was a good move. I love the texture and flavor, and like that I can finish a cheese with the pretty crystals. Kosher salt is fine and all, but this is obviously superior. Obviously. 

Oh, I doubled the recipe, so I had enough curds to make two formed cheeses. One half went into a plastic wrap-lined ramekin for a few minutes, and the other half I shaped into a log on parchment and rolled in herbes de Provence. 

And tadaaaa, here they are in their unmolded/unwrapped glory:

Cheese through the heart! Also, feet. Whatever.

Overall, I was pretty happy with the results. I do think I need to try a different colander next time around, as I feel like the curds were still a bit too wet when it came time to form them, but luckily everything turned out ok and they held their shape. The cheese itself, when cool, was ever-so-slighly firm, had a clean, milky flavor and was nice and creamy. We sliced the herb-rolled log and just bit into it, but the plain cheese was a bit creamier (I think because the log sat in the fridge in parchment, which drew out some excess moisture) and lended itself to dipping. One snacky afternoon I covered the remainder in salsa and scooped it all up with torilla chips, Don't mind if I do! 

So, yaay, fromage facile! I would definitely make this again. Even my husband--disliker of soft cheeses--liked this one, as did our almost 2-year old. 

I have two cheeses left in the "creamy and spreadable" chapter of One Hour Cheese. See you soon!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cheese #1: Meyer Lemon Ricotta

After more time than I intended had passed, the stars aligned and I finally had everything I needed and could take the time to make the first "actual" cheese in the book. 

This recipe was for Meyer Lemon Ricotta. Traditionally ricotta is made with whey (the leftover liquid from milk after you separate the curds during cheesemaking), but you would need a ridiculous amount of whey to make even a slightly significant amount of ricotta. So, this recipe uses milk and cream, and Meyer lemon as the acid.

Mmm. Ever try those Miracle Fruit Tablets? To me, Meyer lemons taste how real lemons taste when you're "on" a miracle fruit tab, haha. Delightful. 

Anyway, the instructions were to combine all three ingredients and gently heat it, stirring here and there to prevent a skin from forming on top and the milk from scorching on the bottom. Once steam was rising from the top I continued stirring and temped the mixture every few minutes until it reached 190 degrees. During this time coagulation was occurring. Theoretically, at least.

Unfortunately, the amount of coagulation you see above is pretty much the most I got. I guess this could have been a temperature issue, or a milk issue. Or maybe my lemon wasn't quite acidic enough? 

Once the mixture reached 190, I removed the pan from the heat and let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes, This allows the curds to release more whey. After the 10 minutes passed, I poured everything into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl and let it drain some more. Luckily during the 10-minute sit there was a tad more separation, so that was a bonus for me and my cheese.

In the background you can see D's grain mill, loudly grinding away. I was also making chicken stock, so it was a pretty food-hippie day.

After 10 minutes of draining, I had to gather the cheese up in the cheesecloth and give it a squeeze to get out any addition whey. 

What. A. Debacle. 

I had a few issues with this for various reasons. First, the cheesecloth. I stupidly didn't listen to the author and tried to use regular cheesecloth, not fine cheesecloth for cheesemaking. I just doubled it over and crisscrossed two pieces, but in doing that it not only made the cloth not porous enough, but cheese was oozing out of the areas where the cloth was crisscrossed and doubled (but really, quadrupled) over. Uuuugh. So with much annoyance and mess, I managed to get the ricotta into a new piece of cloth. But because I had coagulation woes, the fine curd of the ricotta was just passing through the larger holes of the cloth in big plops. What the heck. Finally, I was able to just double over some cheesecloth and basically get some whey out. Whew! 

Note to self: Do not make more cheese before correct cheesecloth is acquired. Also, get a thermometer better suited to cheesemaking.

Next, I gently stirred in some sea salt and there I had it, Meyer Lemon Ricotta cheese (kinda)! 

As you can see, the cheese is still pretty wet and is a bit too creamy, but I've got to say, it tastes pretty good. The ricotta is fairly sweet and very rich. I have another lemon and plan on zesting it into the cheese to give it a little zing and maybe cut the richness.

So, not a huge success, but it wasn't a total let down. I may try this recipe one more time to see if I can get better results. 

Again, the book I'm working my way through is One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Hey, it's been awhile, yada-yada-ya. NEW PROJECT

 My job has been related to cheese for more time than I'd like to think about or admit. But that being said, I love cheese. Being a foodie (god, can we come up for a different word for that?) I of course love eating cheese. But I really love to learn about cheese; sucking up as much knowledge about varieties, processes, terroir, science and the like as I can.

I've been wanting to make my own cheese for quite some time now. For Christmas, my lovely guy gifted me the book One Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero. I've only had it for 4 days, but it's great so far. The writing and recipes are not only delicious-sounding but are clear and uncomplicated. In the introduction there's a recipe for a 30-minute cheese, and yesterday I made it. Because, duh.

I've made mozzarella once from a kit, and it was not a very good experience. We had quite a bit of uncertainty due to the instructions, and our resulting cheese was rubbery, weird-tasting, and never really broke down in your mouth. But making the 30-minute cheese--which was basically a farmer's cheese--was the total opposite. It was easy to make and best of all, really delicious. Here, look!

I slowly brought some milk up to a slight boil (this was the longest part of the recipe), lowered the heat and added some acid (I chose to use apple cider vinegar), causing the curds to begin separating from the whey, which you see on the left of the above photo. I lowered the heat a bit more and continued stirring for a couple more minutes. Then I drained the cheese really well, added salt, pepper and a few pinches of herbes de Provence et voila! There you have it on the right--my first successful cheese!! Eating warm, freshly made cheese is the best. This farmer's cheese is firm, ever-so-slightly squeaky to the tooth & really quite delicious. Woohoo!

My plan is to work my way through the book, making one cheese a week. I'll share it here because it (in theory) keeps me going. And I like writing, so there's that added bonus too. Plus, you know you love reading about cheese. Right? Right?!

Right. Til next time.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

New Things: Pregnancy, Labor & Delivery! But basically, hey, look at what my belly did.

As I write this my 10 week old son is laying on my lap, asleep, with his arms over his head & his right leg bent with the knee up in the air with his foot resting on the left leg's ankle. He's wearing a grey romper with a red, white & blue pirate face on it, & is half heartedly sucking on a green & white pacifier with a bird on it. It's raining outside & Lucy the Cat is sitting like a loaf of bread near the door, though she was just on the ottoman at my feet. So, basically, he's the most adorable, life is pretty good & motherhood is surreal.

I'm not sure that I'll share the birth story that I wrote; I may want to keep that for us only & not share it with the masses. And while I have some new mom stories & whatnot, my main purpose in writing & sharing today is to show my belly progress photos.

I've always liked seeing the progression of a pregnant belly, so gosh darnit, I'm gonna do one!  These were taken at a pretty irregular interval; mainly whenever we realized that it had been awhile since taking a snapshot of ye olde belly, or if it was a holiday. Some of these were taken after work & before bed, so be there's definitely some frazzliness. Plus, hey, I was pregnant so cut a lady some slack. Here we go!

I may have been getting a little delirious at this point. This was my due date!

 And the next day, April 26th I went into labor, but I didn't realize it until about 6pm. By 11pm (after eating burgers & fries with friends & taking a shower) we were at the hospital ready to have a baby, & at 3:12am on April 27th, Finnegan Walter was born!

Fresh & new! It's so insane that this little guy grew inside of me. Love!

Life is a crazy whirlwind, guys. Enjoy it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

This blog needs some prunes!

Welp, so much for finishing up those 31 Days of Awesome. And, you know, updating any other time since mid-August. Ah well. Someday, perhaps, I will get better with this blogging thing.

Anyway, here's some fun stuff I've been up to since my last update. I'll try to keep it in chronological order (for my own particularness, really)

-We went to Vermont for our yearly "camping" trip. I say "camping" because while it used to be legit roughin' it camping (in Maine), it is now wonderfully cushy camping in a mobile home with electricity and running water and a fridge and not only an ATV, but a golf cart. And our cars are within sight, not a mile hike down a craggy mountain inhabited by a crazy hoarder of a lumberjack. And we don't have to worry about eating meat that might be spoiled, due to it being stored in an ice-filled cooler for two days. Anyway, it's great fun, & this arthritic old lady likes not having to climb a mountain with a 50 pound pack on my back & junk in my hands. We had good times with friends, enjoyed the outdoors, a dip in a lake in New Hampshire, great food, fun games & ATV vs golf cart races. Which resulted in a tipped-over ATV. Sshhh, everyone was fine!

The whole lot o' us!

-A week after returning from Vermont, D & I found out that we would be welcoming a baby! Holy crap!! This explained the constant sleepiness & napping I enjoyed in Vermont, plus that random spell of nausea I experienced in the car. Oh, & that insatiable hunger, which is hard to balance with constantly feeling like barfing. Ah-ha! 

-As part of his birthday gift, I gave D a gift certificate for surfing lessons, a lifelong dream of his. We headed to the beach on a nice August morning & he did really well for a first timer! It was fun to watch, too. Here he is being awesome:

And here he is being adorable:

After surfing (& me baking in the sun), we were starving & headed to Crazy Burger for a lovely pre-birthday breakfast on the patio. Oh, summertime.

-We took an archery class! It was pretty awesome, despite the fact that I accidentally let go of the string at a bad point & in a bad position, resulting in some intense stinging & gnarly bruises on my forearm. I wasn't that great at it for a first-timer, but it was fun & I'd love to do it again.

-We had our big August birthday bash! D planned a fun scavenger hunt, made a delicious cake & also got us an Allie's donut cake:

It was loosely a turkey, he had written on it, "I wasn't the only one getting stuffed that November." Dirty!

-I literally wore a lot of hats on my actual birthday!
I was also secretly pregnant, mwa-ha-haaa!

-We went to King Richard's Faire & D got to be FiFi in Jacques ze Whippeur's show:
It was pretty hilarious. And it brought much joy to D.

We also enjoyed the King's Nuts!

-We had our first ultrasound! We had that on a Friday & by Sunday we had told our parents & some near & dears. It was overwhelming & fun & memorable!

-Had D's cousins over for their yearly fall sleepover. We went to a corn maze, wandered through a pumpkin patch, carved jack o'lanterns & watched cider get pressed:

D made me hold this pumpkin in front of Pumpkin.

-For our anniversary we headed back to Vermont (a different part) for a day & a half of relaxation. We went to the Ben & Jerry's Factory, a maple syrup factory/store/museum & stayed at a really nice inn on a lake. It was really nice to just get away & be lazy
Our view was beautiful! I have better photos, but the files are in quite the state of disarray at the moment. Sadface.

Alright, so the above was written in the middle of January. It is now April 18th. Aiaiai. I honestly don't have it in me to backtrack from October (OCTOBER!) events through to current events...So I won't. It's my blog & I'll do what I want!

But hey, guess what? My due date is a week from today. Let me type that again. OUR BABY IS DUE IN ONE WEEK. Like, seven days. Or anytime, really. This is craziness.  

Here's a photo of me from the beginning of April, looking tired & frazzly haired in Pumpkin's newly finished room.

Well, there you have it. A blog post. It's nothing stellar, but I wanted to at least get it out there. I'm sure with impending motherhood (yowsas!) I'll be pretty busy, but maybe I can try to pop on here for less epic posts...& I'll try to not make them all baby-related. I'll throw some cat stuff in there too ;) 

This year's definitely gonna be full of clam handles! And some will be covered in poop.

I'll leave you with that image. Thanks for reading! 



Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Days 11-14 of Awesome

Ah, the slump. It has happened!

 The last few days have pretty much just been full of working & preparing for our camping vacation to Vermont. Let's see...we had D's grandparents over for dinner (which we owed them from Christmas), visited with my parents & pups for a tad, had a banjo lesson, & I bought some fun new sunglasses, a scarf (yes!) & t-shirts....Yeah.  Whew. These last few days sure have been jam packed with amazing awesomeness. In all seriousness, things have been busy & simultaneously boring, but there have definitely been some nice things sprinkled throughout.  And I'm on the last episode of My So-Called Life, aagh!

We leave for vacation today, so here's to fun stuff in the next few days!

Here's a cute picture of Lucy to make up for the boringness of this post. 

 The Loveliest!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Day 10 of Awesome

After a rollicking good time at work, I headed to my friends' house for some quality hang out time. I hadn't seen some of them in over a month!! Lame. It was lovely to see everyone for awhile. I helped them figure out what colors to paint some rooms, plus I won two games, yes!

Also, yesterday Fang Island's new video for their single Sisterly premiered on MTVu. Here's the link:    GO WATCH IT NOW! NOW, I say!

Oh, hey, you're back! Isn't the video so fun? And how 'bout that song?? Share it, & then go to your local record store & buy Fang Island's albums. Then see if they're playing a show near you! You'll want to high five the crap out of everyone you know, you'll like Fang Island so much. Need added incentive? My lil brother is the drummer, so this is all out of sisterly love, not annoying promoter-y whatnot. But still, you should totally do what I said ;)

( it!)