Monday, January 23, 2012


We have not made beer in years.  15 or 16 years!

Yesterday we were near the home brewing store and decided to stop by.  We left with a kit for an Irish stout and a lot of plans.  You see, they sell cheese presses, cheese wax, and all sorts of other do-it-yourself foodie things.  Squeeee!

So we hauled out our well preserved brewing equipment, took a trip back to the brewing store to replace the tubing, and got started.  First we steeped the grains at 150 degrees for 20 minutes to make the wort:
Then we boiled the wort and added the malt extracts and the hops.

Once the wort was cooled to about 70 degrees (we went out to dinner while this was happening, since it was going to take a while) we added more water to make the total volume about 5 gallons and the specific gravity about 1.050.  Then we pitched the yeast and closed it all up, with the airlock to keep out the bad beasties, and put it in the basement to ferment.  More later!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Successful Yogurt Making

Yesterday I tried to make yogurt again.  I did 4 things differently:  I used pasteurized whole milk, I kept the milk at 185 degrees for a longer period of time,  I had the heating pad turned up all the way, and I strained the yogurt in butter muslin to make it less runny.  We didn't really have time to try it yesterday but I just had some today and it is much better!  It was a little lumpy but thicker and creamier than the last time.  Yum!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Another Round

This morning I had enough time to whip up another batch of the Meyer Lemon Curd.  It's so wonderful and easy, if you don't mind whisking for 10 minutes straight... but now all that is left of my citrus spree are two grapefruits and no plan.

Do you have black squirrels where you live?  We have one; I think he lives nearby.  They are still a little rare in eastern Massachusetts, but very common in parts of Canada and in an ever-growing circle around Kent State University in Ohio.  They seem to be more aggressive than their grey counterparts, and the one in our yard is dominating the bird feeder.  All the other squirrels have to wait until he's done!  He's also larger - once I caught a quick glimpse of him and thought he was a cat!

In terms of recent cooking, last night we had salmon with a mango-blood orange salsa.  I took some of the blood orange jelly, which is still pretty runny, and mixed it with diced mango, minced fresh ginger, and some of the pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped finely.  The salmon (caught by Lisa in BC, thanks again!) was grilled and the salsa spooned on top at the last minute.  It was very good!  This morning we had blueberry pancakes, using the frozen wild blueberries we picked last summer (7 one-cup bags left) and the last jar of raspberry syrup.  We are certainly eating well!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Again With the Citrus

Not to overdo it or anything but, did I mention I like citrus?

Ha.  Today, in the hour and a half after the kids left for school, I made 2 citrus curds.  I started with grapefruit and made a double batch of curd.  One big ruby red grapefruit yields 1 cup of juice which is perfect since that is what a double batch requires.  How convenient!  Using the same recipe as the Meyer lemon curd but without the zest (it seemed like grapefruit zest might not give the desired effect) I ended up with 3 half-pint jars and one half-cup jar of curd.  I tinted it a little pink with 4 drops of red food coloring, just for the grapefruitiness of it.

Then I set to work on the Meyer lemons.  4 lemons makes 1 cup of juice and, since I didn't have any more half-cup jars, I made 3 half-pint jars and topped off an open jar in the fridge.

I generally store these in the fridge, even though they are sealed.  I didn't before, but then I decided that if it's going to take a while to get to them, it might be better if I did.

There are enough lemons left for another batch, but I need to get more unsalted butter and that won't be happening today.  I have other errands to do!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Citrus and Cheese

Most of my family knows I have a weird thing with citrus.  I love citrus flavors - all of them.  Oranges, blood oranges, limes, even grapefruits (especially the grapefruit jelly fruit slices), really, anything citrus.  I even ate a Bergamot orange last night.  It was amazingly fragrant and tart!  But, as much as I love citrus, they have to be in the correct form.  Huh?

Let me explain.  I can't stand foods that are citrus flavored when they aren't supposed to be.  Lemon chicken?  Out.  Orange beef?  Nope.  I don't even like lemon juice on fish.  To me it's just wrong.  I'm not sure why I feel this way, why I taste things this way, but there it is.

Today I dared the Whole Foods and came away with blood oranges, Meyer lemons, and some grapefruit.  I have it in my head that I'm going to make a bunch of jellies and curds with them.  Pure citrus.  First I made Blood Orange Jelly.

2 cups blood orange juice
2 cups sugar
1 pouch liquid pectin

This yielded 3 cups and a little bit, and I'm hoping it will gel up soon.  The little bit in the fridge is still runny but it might take weeks to set up.  We shall see.  I plan to make Meyer lemon curd and try to make grapefruit curd over the next few days.

Last night my husband, a friend and I went to a cheese tasting class at a very dangerous store, even more dangerous than the Whole Foods!  Formaggio Kitchen is in Cambridge, MA, and they import some amazing cheeses, charcuterie, and specialty goods (this is where I purchased the Bergamot orange).  We tried 8 different cheeses, paired with wines and beers and honey and fruit and even cacao nibs.  (The cacao nibs go amazingly with blue cheeses!!!)  Anyway, afterward, my husband asked, why doesn't your cheese come out like the fresh goat cheese?

Good question.  It must have to do with using chymosin as opposed to lemon juice or vinegar to separate the curds and whey.  So today I made some goat cheese.  I bought a quart of goat milk from Whole Foods and followed the instructions here.  Obviously since I only had a quart of milk I used only a tablespoon of lemon juice.  The cheese is currently hanging over a bucket, draining the whey.  Hopefully tomorrow I can put it in a container with a little salt and let it sit for a few days.  It's still pretty runny.  What will really test this theory is if I use cow's milk with the lemon juice and see if it comes out more like chevre than queijo fresco.  We'll see.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Queen of Hearts, She Made Some Tarts

We're having dinner with friends tonight, and I suggested that I bring dessert.  I'm trying something new (for me) - making tarts!

I made up a batch of pie crust and cut big circles out to fit into a well greased muffin pan.  Then I added my apple pie filling - one pint was perfect for 12 tarts.  I dotted each tart with a little butter.  Lastly, I rolled out more crust and cut out hearts, using milk to make them stick together.  Sprinkle a little sugar on the tops and they're good to go!
These were baked for 10 minutes at 425 degrees and then for almost 20 minutes at 375.  I let them cool for 10 minutes and then took them out of the muffin tin.  Thanks to the very generous greasing of the tin with butter, they came out easily but, since some were more fragile than others (likely due to the thickness of the crust in the first place) I put them all into muffin cups just to protect them.  The crumbs of crust were so amazingly short and yummy, I can almost not wait until this evening to eat one!  I'll bet my kids will have the same problem.

Fortunately, I thought ahead:

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Experiments with Milk

Happy New Year!  It's been a busy holiday season, hasn't it?  I gave out well over 60 jars of preserves, celebrated the holidays with family, helped throw a surprise 50th anniversary party, hosted a guest over New Year's, and took a 1250 mile road trip.  Now that school has started, work is settling down, the outdoor lights have been taken in, and we're all where we're supposed to be, I can get started again.

I drove out to the dairy farm today and picked up 2 gallons of raw milk.  When I opened the door to leave, I was greeted by a very brightly colored chicken, surveying the doorway.  As I got into my car, I saw a little boy pet it.  The chicken wasn't exactly pleased, but tolerated it nonetheless.  Made me want to have a chicken - it was so pretty!

Today's projects are - a batch of queijo fresco and a batch of yogurt.  I've never made yogurt before, but my mother used to.  She used to keep it warm in the oven while it... what?  Cultured?  Grew?  Incubated?  What is the correct word here?  Whatever.  The instructions I found suggested using a heating pad under the pot to keep it warm.  Great idea, and I have it set up in the basement so the heating pad is on the concrete floor.  That way the heat won't hurt anything.  I made a half gallon, and used a few spoonfuls of Fage yogurt as the starter.  It's due to be ready at 9:45 this evening and I'm looking forward to trying it.

As far as the cheese goes, we're not sure if the enzyme is too old, as I've had that bottle in the fridge for a little over a year.  We'll just have to see what happens in an hour!