Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving Prep

The turkey is thawing. Side dishes have been assigned to family members. Dinner is Friday this year. I have the ingredients for pumpkin pie and stuffing. In the freezer I have shrimp for appetizers. I need to get potatoes, a few wedges of cheese, and crackers. I also need to make...cranberry sauce!

We have always just used the recipe on the package: 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar to 1 bag of cranberries. I'm using 4 bags of cranberries so I can put up a few jars and still have enough to serve.

And in between all this cooking, I have to work an overnight shift!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cheese and...

...guava paste. Cheese and sweet papaya rolls. Cheese and plum jelly. Cheese and toast.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Queijo Fresco

I am lucky enough to be friends with a lovely family from Brasil. Through them I have learned about Brasilian cuisine, including jaboticaba, and all manner of yummy sweets. Brasilian sweets are awesome! But I digress....

Today, one of my dear friends taught me how to make cheese. We've been planning this for months. For my birthday she had one of her aunts bring cheese molds and enzymes back from Brasil and we've been waiting for my finger to heal so I could make the cheese. It's a hands-on project, to say the least! We are starting with queijo fresco (fresh cheese) but, from what I understand, from this we could make all manner of hard or cured cheeses. My friend's grandmother puts things in the queijo fresco, such as chopped up olives or herbs or peppers or whatever else strikes her fancy. The possibilities are endless, I'm told.

In order to make the cheese we needed 5 liters of raw milk. The closest place to purchase raw milk is a 40 minute drive away and I had to sign a waiver before I could buy it. It's the cutest little dairy, and I also got some local honey and a scoop of ice cream while I was at it. (Peppermint, my favorite!) Plus I was greeted by a friendly bulldog and learned a thing or two about raw milk from another customer. I spent a while there, eating my ice cream and chatting with the staff person and customer. Nice place. I'll be going back there, I'm sure.

The first step is heating the milk to "the temperature when it came out of the cow," as my friend put it. So we heated 5 liters of milk in 2 pots and it very quickly got to 97 degrees. We then combined it into 1 pot and added kosher salt. Then we stirred in 1 capful of the enzyme. I think it's a form of chymosin, but I can't read Portuguese to save my life. I'm grateful my friend translated for me. We then let the pot sit while the milk coagulated.

After about 45-50 minutes, it was ready! We cut up the curd with a knife and then let it sit for a few more minutes to let the whey separate a little. Then we strained out the whey using a strainer lined with cheesecloth. Then it was time to put the cheese in the mold.

We both expected that we would fill both the molds and were really surprised when it all fit into one. It is a process that involves a lot of kneading and squeezing the whey out of the cheese. We stuck my cutting board over the sink so the whey could just run off; the mold has holes on the side to let out the whey. They're a little small; either the mold needs more holes or just larger ones. You squeeze and press the cheese into the mold, then pinch the top to break it up and then add more in. Repeat until the cheese feels pretty firm, and then when you think it's ready, flip it. Flipping is probably the hardest part of the process. Pinch up the surface again and add more cheese to the top, and keep pressing...

and pressing...and pressing until it's all in there, smooth and firm, and less of the whey is coming out. Then put it on a plate and put it in the refrigerator, uncovered, for a night. Voila!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chicken Soup is Good For You

When you're sick, there's nothing like a bowl of hot, comforting chicken soup. When you're a mommy and you're sick, while everyone is at work and school is the time to make soup, I guess! We had a rotisserie chicken the other night so I used the rest for stock and soup. First I made 6 pints of stock and then I took the last pint of stock and the meat and made soup.

1 leek, sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 celeriac bulbs, diced
1 purple top turnip, diced
1 cabbage, chopped
5 carrots, chopped
chicken meat (I used half a chicken)
1 pt chicken stock
kosher salt
7 pt water
bay leaf

First I sauteed the leek and garlic in olive oil, and added the celeriac, turnip and carrots and sauteed them as well. To this I added the meat and liquids, and spices. After simmering for about an hour, I added the cabbage and simmered for another 30-45 minutes or so.

I put up 6 pints of stock and 5 quarts of soup. Then I ate the rest, and I feel better now.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

More Things That are Good to Know

There is a limit to how long you can microwave popcorn-on-the-cob before it chars and smokes you out of your kitchen.

For us, it seems to be 3.5 minutes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Green Eggs are Local Eggs...

...and local eggs are fresh!

If you grew up in Rhode Island, as I did, you likely remember that jingle. Except it was brown eggs. From Rhode Island Red hens. To this day, when I buy eggs I hear the jingle in my head and I always buy brown eggs. Even when there is a choice. I'm pretty sure my sister is in the same boat.

One of the nurses at work got chickens. Not just a few. She got a whole flock. They started producing eggs a few months ago and now she gets 10-15 eggs a day. The other day, she brought in a dozen as a thank you for another nurse who did her a favor. This got me thinking, so I arranged a barter. One jar of jam (strawberry rhubarb) for a dozen eggs. Cool deal!

This morning we had our first locally produced eggs for breakfast. The shells were thicker and harder. They smelled more...eggy. They tasted great! We are converted. I'm thinking there will be more bartering in our future!