Monthly Archives: November 2009

Making Mozzarella

And you thought I’d forget to post about this… 😉

Gathering Supplies:
When I wanted to make mozzarella I knew the place to go was cheesemaking.com. I had heard of Ricki Carroll the “Cheese Queen” more than once. She is the go to person for beginning cheesemaking. I am not going to describe the cheesemaking process step by step here. Instead I’ll offer up what I learned and refer you to her site for the rest. I was going to buy her 30 Minute Mozzarella and Ricotta kit. After breaking down the price and reviewing the mozzarella recipe I decided to order my ingredients separately. It was more cost effective for me because a)I already had a thermometer and b)I didn’t need muslin that came with the kit as I didn’t plan to make ricotta (and would probably make due with something else anyway).

I placed my order on a Wednesday for two items:

Vegetable Rennet tablets (item R4)
Citric Acid (item C13N)

I was seriously impressed when I opened my mailbox on Friday (only 2 days later) and found my order in there. I paid for it with my debit card and they didn’t actually debit my account until the following week. Talk about fast!

A note about ordering through Ricki’s company: First off, I felt like it was only right to support her business since I knew I was going to use her online tutorials to make my cheese. Second, before fully recommending her I did snoop around online a bit and compare prices. I didn’t find lower prices at any of the other cheese supply places. I suspect you could find citric acid cheaper at a bulk foods store but I don’t think it would be worth it for the extra time and shipping. Ricki’s business is good at what they do so I’m going to stick with the pros.

As I said, I already had a thermometer that read over 110 degrees. I had a gallon of raw milk from our cow share, although according to Ricki’s site you can make mozzarella with some store bought milks and even with a combination of cream and dry milk. I used my big stainless steel pot with non-stick coating (no aluminum) and wooden and plastic utensils. I also got out my big plastic mixing bowl and my Pyrex bowl as well. Time to make cheese!

Following the recipe
Ricki has posted extensive directions for making mozzarella here. I suggest reading through the entire thing first: both the picture subtitles and the written directions at the bottom. I found several differences between the two sets of directions so just went with the written directions on most things.

Flipping and pressing the cheese

When it comes time to “knead” the cheese I did not flip it out on the counter. I dividing the curds directly into two big bowls (one wouldn’t hold it all). I microwaved one while I was pressed and kneading the second one with a slotted spoon. I just flipped and pressed, flipped and pressed, with the spoon while the cheese was in the bowl. Then I poured off the whey and swapped bowls. When I couldn’t get much whey out anymore I set both bowls in the fridge to cool. More whey came off while cooling so I poured that out every few minutes. Finally, I combined the cheese in to one lump and wrapped it in plastic wrap. I set it on a hand knit dishcloth in the fridge. The cloth absorbed any extra runoff, plus as the cheese cooled it created a neat design on the one side.

I rinsed out the original milk jug. After the whey had cooled I put it back in the jug and froze it for later use in baking. You can see how much there is – almost a full gallon.

Getting a Cheese You Like
You’ll see in the directions that letting the curd set up longer and handling the cheese more are both supposed to produce a firmer cheese. The first time around I following the directions exactly. The cheese was too soft to shred well, which is what I wanted to do with it. This last time I let the curd set up for 10 minutes plus a little extra because by then I was mixing up a loaf of bread. I also heated the cheese and pressed it several times (4 or 5). Then, as described above, I continued to pour off all the whey I could during the cooling process. I’m much happier with the cheese this time although I’m still not sure it is quite hard enough to shred easily.

Finished product

Another view showing the thickness

While I am thrilled that the cheese LOOKS exactly like it should, I’m not as happy with the taste. It doesn’t taste bad, it just doesn’t have much flavor. I think the solution to this is adding lipase. According the recipe webpage, “Lipase may be added to the milk to provide a typical italian cheese flavor.” On the lipase page it gives directions for adding a very small quantity to the milk. I plan to order the lipase soon and try it. I wish I would have ordered it originally to save on the shipping – which you may want to do if you anticipate making the cheese very often.

In Summary
I was pleasantly surprised by how easy is is to make mozzarella. This gives me hope that I can make more cheeses in the future. It is nice to know exactly what we’re eating instead of using cheese from the store made with who knows what. Plus, I like it that I can still use the whey for baking so I’m not using up an entire gallon of milk. We’re one step closer to an all local diet, I gained a new skill in the process, and I might be a little closer to convincing hubby to get me that milk cow. 🙂

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I Like It

I like this post so much that I think you should all go read it right now.  It’s safe to click, I promise. It describes what I have trouble saying… yes I care about the environment and yes I want to keep myself healthy but I really could take that way too far if I tried.  I was laughing out loud the whole time I was reading it!  Enjoy! 🙂

Time Takers

At the risk of sounding cliche, I’m beginning to think in terms of goal-setting as we approach the new year. I want more focus in my life. Perhaps this is just how life goes but lately I feel like I’m running in 10 different directions! Dave Ramsey says (yes, Dave says Dave says Dave says, I know, just bear with me) a big part of why the TMMO principles work is because they call for focused intensity. You zoom in on one debt at a time and nail it to the wall. Why not apply that kind of focused intensity to other areas of life?

The first step to accomplishing this is to identify what activities are draining your energy and causing you to lose focus. I’m going to start today by identifying some of those little things that take up a lot of my time.

Internet: If I’m home, I have the laptop open. This isn’t all bad. However, I have several irons in the fire with this blog, the Living Like No One Else forums, Ravelry, MySpace, and now Facebook. Not to mention e-banking through two different banks, constantly checking my e-mail, watching crop prices, googling new recipes, and just googling in general. I’d also like to get back to the Farmer’s Forum a little more regularly.

Cleaning the house: It isn’t so much that I spend a lot of time doing this. More so I feel the constant pressure of needing to get it done. Of course it is never really done!

Git ‘Er Done projects: The end is in sight on this one. We’re down to the wire and I’m spending more and more time on this again.

Knitting: This should be kept only for fun. I let myself feel obligated to make something for everyone and every event. Lately it isn’t even relaxing anymore.

Canning: This is done for the season. I need to find ways to be more efficient next year. I thought about putting an ad on craigslist offering to teach someone the basics in exchange for help. What if I get some weirdo showing up here though? Hmm. Anyways, I spent all my spare time for weeks and weeks canning. I do have a lot to show for it (update still in the works!) but it doesn’t seem like that much considering all the time I gave up. A big part of the problem is that the food I glean for free is not as nice in quality as that which I could buy. For example, it takes much longer to prepare and can apples from our friends neglected trees than it does to peel and slice near perfect apples from the orchard. I love gleaning but I’m going to take a closer look and may consider buying at least apples next year.

The farm: I’m constantly think about the farm, especially the financial aspect. I want to get a marketing effort going and keep putting it off. I spend a lot of time reading on the topic, both online and in print. We really need to take the next steps if we are going to grow a viable business.

There are many more but these are the big ones. If you’d like to participate I’d be interested in what takes up your time.

The Best Carrot Cake Ever

I served this tonight at my sister’s birthday party. Everyone was raving about it! I was a little apprehensive when my sister requested a carrot cake but it was very easy to make.

I’m not going to repost the recipe here since I didn’t make many alterations to it. The recipe can be found in its entirety as Carrot Cake III on allrecipes.com. There it has over 2100 reviews and still gets 5 stars!

Here are my alterations:

-I followed the cake portion exactly except to add in a couple dashes of nutmeg and omit the nuts.

-For the frosting I dropped the confectioners’ sugar to 3 cups and added splashes of milk until I got a nice shiny, smooth consistency. The original recipe would have been way too stiff! I also omitted the nuts.

-I baked mine in (2) nine inch round cake pans. After cooling they were flat enough to stack without any trimming. One batch of frosting was plenty to go between the layers and frost the outside. I even had enough to dye some orange and add “Happy 17th Tresa” on top and a border around the bottom. And eat a little, of course.

I would have posted a picture but it was gone before I thought to take one! Enjoy!

Gleaning Pumpkins

This is my post for Works for Me Wednesday. Check out other great tips today over at We Are THAT Family.

***Imagine a big picture of my pumpkin here. You know – that picture that I haven’t got around to taking. ;)***

I love gleaning things. According to Wikipedia:

“Gleaning is the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on fields where it is not economically profitable to harvest.”

In a more general sense I consider gleaning the process of taking unused foodstuffs from people who don’t want it or don’t have a need for it. This time of year is great for gleaning pumpkins. Our neighbors sell pumpkins but I never got around to buying any this year. Without kids around no one really seems to care or notice if I decorate so I didn’t bother. I was really craving pumpkin seeds though!

My cousin gave me 4 pumpkins that she had sitting by her back door. She didn’t have time to carve them with a new baby around. Unfortunately I left my tailgate down and lost 2 of them. Good thing they were free! Then I brought home a big pumpkin from work. It was just sitting in our entryway and no one wanted it. There are a lot of pumpkins still sitting on my neighbors’ porches that I could ask about if I wanted more. They’re just going to rot anyway if they don’t get used!

What do you miss?

For the most part I think the readers here are the type to make sacrifices in an effort to either help the environment or save money, or both. Around here we’ve given up almost all processed and prepackaged goods. I generally don’t miss these things.

I really miss Kraft Mac N’ Cheese. In a box. Really, really miss it.

mac

So quick. So easy. And cheesy. And delicious. Oh my. I really miss it, did I mention that?

Am I along here? What do you miss?