Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Curds and Whey FAIL

Usually, when my cooking hits a snag, it's at least recoverable in a way that is edible, even if it is not pretty. But not today.

I swung by the raw milk dairy again and picked up a couple of gallons. The cheese making went smoothly, even if I did forget to add salt. That's OK, the final product just won't have salt. It's still cheese. But I had hoped to take the leftover whey and make ricotta. It is, after all, a whey cheese, and it's supposed to be easy.

The amount of whey left over from a gallon of milk was probably 3 quarts. According to the recipe in Home Cheese Making, I was to just heat the whey until foam formed, let it set for 5 minutes, skim off the foam and then strain in butter muslin. I even invested in butter muslin in order to have a better chance of making this work. I followed the directions. I poured. No ricotta.

I heated up the whey again, got more foam, went through the whole process again. The amount of ricotta on the muslin was barely a quarter of a teaspoon, not the promised quarter of a pound. I'm not even really sure what I did wrong. All I know is that I now have just over 2 quarts of whey left and no clear plan for what to do with it. I have heard that some people drink it, and others use it in soups to add nutrition. I'm storing it in the fridge until I figure it out. Suggestions welcome.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Holiday Gift Delivery

It is time! I've been stocking up my gift stash over the last 4 months, getting ready for the holidays. There are a gazillion people on my Christmas list, I think. All my neighbors, people I work with, the mailman, the kids' teachers, the trash collectors, and so on.

Today I went to the cookie store in town (an amazing place, and one of a kind) and bought 5 dozen cookies for the folks at work, to augment the canned goods. Some of the cookies go to the ancillary departments around the ER but with about 2 dozen I made a basket for the nurses, techs, secretaries, and other staff in the ER. The cookies got individually bagged and placed among the jars of jam, pickles, relish, and some crackers (for the relish). I think it looks great - it's the first time I've ever really assembled my own basket...
What do you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010


I've said this before: everything is better when baked into a pie.

Today I trotted out the apple pie filling so I could make a pie for a family gathering. I made my own crust. It's so much better when I do. I even thought ahead and cleared enough space on the counter to roll it out. Which I did in saran wrap so the crust wouldn't stick to anything. Worked GREAT! I am returning my mother's pie plate to her today, so what better way than with a pie in it?

The pie used 2 pints of the pie filling. I suppose I could have shoved a third pint in there, but then it might have overflowed. So, while the top crust isn't as high as it would be if there had been 9 cups of fresh apples, it's pretty. I dolled it up with the hearts, as you can see. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Remember back in August when I picked all the blackberries I could find in my brother's backyard? And how I froze a quart of them, waiting for the opportunity to make barbecue sauce? Well, I just couldn't seem to find the right recipe for what I had in mind. So I waited. And I bought mangoes. And I waited. And, wait... mangoes?


In the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a recipe for Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce. I've made it before. It was divine. I don't know why I didn't think of this before but, mango-blackberry BBQ sauce it is!

After thawing the blackberries just a little, I ran them through the blender and ended up with almost 3 cups of coarse puree. To this I added enough chopped mango to make a total of 6 cups of fruit. The rest of the recipe is the same (page 263). It's merrily bubbling away on the stove, thickening up until it's the right consistency and then I will process it. Last year's batch made only 5 jars, so I suspect I won't get much more than that this time. Preliminary taste tests indicate a success!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mango + Quince = Mmmmm!

On my failed attempt to get to the mall the other day, I found myself near a relatively new and much lauded Korean grocery store and in completely stalled traffic. I turned into their parking lot, figuring I'd just check it out and see what all the fuss was about.


I've never seen anything like it, even in Korea! At least, for the most part, I could recognize the food, even if I couldn't read the characters on the packages. It is more of an all-Asian grocery superstore. The produce section was huge. With amazing prices. There was an entire wall of kimchi and a whole area to buy meat and sides for Korean BBQ. Oh, and the fish... fresh and frozen and sushi grade and, and, and.... It was all I could do to restrain myself, but I managed to get out of there with only a few things. 2 of those things were a case of mangoes and 3 quinces.

Quinces are hard to come by and, when they are around, they tend to be expensive. Here they were 99 cents each. I had been meaning to make another batch of Mangorine jam, but there were no nectarines, and there were quinces, and I thought, why not?

This morning I made 2 batches of Mango-Quince jam. Here's the recipe for 1 batch:

3 c. mangoes, chopped
2 c. quince, chopped
2 T. lemon juice
6 c. sugar
1 pouch of Certo

cooked up in the standard way. I ended up with 9 half-pints and 10 half-cup jars, and I think my gift stash is complete!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Solo Cheese Making

Did I mention I was going to cook a lot this weekend?

Although, I'm not sure making cheese is properly classified as "cooking." We took a trip out to Eastleigh Farm today to get more milk as I wanted to make more cheese. This weekend Mrs. Claus was visiting the farm, and they were giving hay rides and tours of the milking barn. The owner very kindly showed us how they milk the cows, pointed out the differences between their set up and other dairy farms we have seen, and even took us to the cooling tanks so we could see where the milk ends up before it gets bottled. So, after a lunch of ice cream, we had our tour and hayride, then returned to chat with Mrs. Claus and pick up the milk. We even got a free T-shirt!

Almost as soon as I got home I started on the cheese. This time I decided to make 2 cheeses, one with olives and one plain, so I heated up both gallons of milk in 2 pots. I added 4/5 of a capful of the enzyme to each gallon and let them sit for almost a hour, just like before. I had 2 strainers with cheesecloth set up and, once the cheese was mostly drained, I mixed a small can of chopped olives into one of them. I am hoping that by adding less curd to the same sized mold the cheese might be a little softer. They are now in the fridge setting up. I will have to check on them more frequently to drain the whey off the plate, since I didn't press as much out as last time.

Solo Sausage Making

This weekend is going to be a cooking weekend for me!

I've been looking forward to making sausages ever since our lesson over the summer, but then got delayed by my finger. That darn pinky sure caused a lot of problems! Anyway, I bought casings on line from the Sausage Source and, while I was at it, got another cookbook. You can never have enough cookbooks. Yesterday I made Maple "Breakfast" sausages. I put "breakfast" in quotes because, well, since I didn't have sheep casings they were not going to be breakfast-sausage-size. I don't think it will be a problem to have them for dinner tonight. Or to have larger sausages at breakfast.

First, the mise en place: the meat (a pork shoulder) was cut up and frozen for 30 minutes to make it easier to grind. The spices and liquids were measured out. I had the right amount of chopped onion. The grinder was set up and ready to go.
I started the grind. Even with the cold meat, the grinder did get clogged and I had to disassemble, clean and reassemble before I could complete the process. Once the meat was ground, I added the chopped onion and ground it again. Then I mixed in the spices and the maple syrup and milk. Everything went into the fridge at this point because I had it in my head that I had to go to the mall.

I never did make it to the mall. The traffic was amazingly bad.

After I got home, I prepared the casings and started stuffing. I had been planning on waiting for my husband, since it is easier with 4 hands, but couldn't wait and did it myself. Instead of twisting each link as it was filled, I filled the whole casing and then twisted them when they were done. That was a lot easier, as long as the casing wasn't overstuffed. 15 links total.

They've sat overnight in the fridge and I just froze 2 bags of 5 links each. The other 5 links are for dinner tonight! Isn't anticipation great?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Soup

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? We did. Turkey and stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, Brussels sprouts with pancetta, cranberry sauce (plain or with habaneros); squash soup, fig-pancetta rolls, and shrimp cocktail for appetizers; pumpkin and pear-plum pies for dessert! We hosted this year so had lots of leftovers to eat. I love turkey sandwiches with stuffing! We are almost done with them all, except for the mashed potatoes - we always make lots more than we need...

Anyway, I've been trying to get the time to make turkey soup and stock. This morning I had a few hours so got to it - the turkey bones with some meat, and 12 pints of water, with salt, pepper, thyme and a bay leaf. Usually I skim off the stock before I make the soup, but I wasn't sure I was going to can any stock so I made the soup first, and then when it became clear I had too much liquid, I skimmed off 2 pints of stock while I was canning the soup. Here's the soup recipe:

Bones of a 15 pound turkey, with some meat
2 medium onions, diced
1 c. diced carrots
2 small sweet potatoes, diced
3 potatoes, diced
6 celery ribs, chopped
12 pints water
kosher salt and pepper
1 bay leaf

I ended up with 3 quarts of soup and 2 pints of stock in the pressure canner. Clearly, 12 pints of water was too much to add! I suppose I could have added more vegetables.... The amount I canned was actually limited by the number of empty jars I had at the moment. Had I simply looked on the drying rack, I would have found 2 more. Oh, well.

I put all 5 jars in the pressure canner and processed for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. I had to leave at a very specific time, and managed to get the canner going with exactly the right amount of time. Which meant I turned it off and walked out the door. 4.5 hours later, I returned and opened the canner and everything was just fine. That was reassuring! One of the first times I used the canner I left it to cool overnight and had to use a screwdriver to pry the lid off because I waited too long.