Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheese Update

After turning the cheese daily for 6 days I've decided to leave it alone for longer periods of time.  Today was the first time I looked at it in 3 days and found the beginnings of a little mold, which was expected.  I washed the cheeses with a light brine, turned them, and sealed them back up.  The texture seems a little softer, which is what I was hoping would happen.  Progress!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Duck and Mousse

What a Christmas Eve dinner that was!

I'm working a ton this week (with a plan to not work next Christmas, I hope!) and tonight was the night we planned our Christmas feast.  Because my husband had the day off and I didn't, he made the duck.  We found this web page that details, step by step, how to make a delicious and crispy roast duck.  He followed it to the letter, including the glaze.  And let me tell you, it was amazing!  Not only did we end up with an incredibly tasty duck, we rendered 3 cups of duck fat which are now solidifying in jars in the fridge.  We also saved the leftover glaze, which is honey, molasses, orange juice and soy sauce.  We skipped the sriracha sauce but, in retrospect, I suppose we could have added a few Brasilian hot peppers had we wanted it to be spicy.  Since we wanted the kids to eat it with us it's probably best we skipped the spicy things, because...

even the 8 year old ate the duck and really enjoyed it!

We also had a mixed rice dish and some green beans to round out the meal.  The rest of the duck bones are now in the freezer with a plan to resurrect the Turducken soup.

I decided we had to have some level of fancy dessert to go with all this savory goodness so I found this recipe for chocolate mousse and it, too, was glorious.  And easy.  And surprisingly rich for how light and fluffy it was.

We are very full, and now we just have to wait for Santa!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Robiola Due Latte, Day Two

This morning I made the brine around 9:30 so it would be cool enough to work with by 10:30.  I boiled 1 gallon of water with 36 oz kosher salt, 1 T. calcium chloride and 1 tsp. white vinegar.  According to, I can keep the brine for future batches so I'll be storing it in mason jars, maybe in the fridge.

Step six: (10:30 am) The cheeses were placed in the brine for an hour.

Step seven: (11:30 am) The cheeses were removed from the brine and put on a rack to dry.

Step eight: (4:00 pm)  The cheeses were placed in the bin on sterilized racks, two soaked sponges tucked in the corners, and placed in the garage.  I'll check on them tomorrow evening.

Hopefully, aging.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Robiola Due Latte, Day One

Now that the weather is cold enough outside, and my garage is reliably in the 50's, I can finally put my aged-cheese-making plan into action!

For my first attempt, I'm making a robiola due latte.  I'm using 1 gallon of goat's milk and 1 gallon of cow's milk.  Since both are pasteurized I will be adding calcium chloride as well.  When we made cheese last spring, Paul recommended keeping notes for each batch so I'll do them right here, on my blog.  Here goes!

The whey is starting to separate
I started with the milk as listed above.  The recipe calls for whole milk but I didn't see that the cow's milk I bought was fat free until I got it home.  I contemplated adding a little butter but decided against it, figuring the goat milk had fat and maybe that would be okay.  I have a jug of bleach and water mixture and I am sterilizing the utensils in that and letting them air dry before I use them.

Step one:  (noon) Milk was heated in a big pot until about 72 degrees, then 2 packets of buttermilk culture were sprinkled over the top.  After 2 minutes, I stirred that in, covered the pot and let it sit for 4 hours.  To keep it from losing temperature, since it wasn't in a hot water bath or anything, I put the pot halfway between the front and back burners on the stove and set the oven to warm.  This way, the heat from the oven would warm up the back burner.  This seems to have worked; I checked the temperature every hour or so and it was always 73-76.

Step two:  (4:00 pm) After 4 hours, I added 1/2 tsp. of calcium chloride diluted in 1/4 cup of water (that had been boiled to sterilize it).  I then added 2 tsp. of my liquid rennet (more than the recipe called for, but my rennet is old and not the same formulation so I guessed a little based on the instructions on the bottle of rennet).  The rennet was also diluted in a little sterile water.  I stirred that in and waited 25 minutes with the oven now turned off.

Stirring the curds
Step three:  (4:30 pm) After 25 minutes the rennet seems to be working, there is a curd which I cut once with a knife just to check.  Now I have to wait and check on it frequently until the whey starts to come to the surface.

Step four:  (8:35 pm) At this point the curds have a little bit of whey pooling on the top.  The curds were cross-cut at 1.5 inches and then rested for 5 minutes.  Then they were cut with a spoon and stirred gently for 5 minutes.  The curds then settled while I got the molds ready.  I have 3 cheese molds and that turned out to be not enough, so I used 2 colanders as well, which are more like the basket molds the recipe suggests.  Each mold was lined with sterilized butter muslin and then the curds were ladled into them.  Once all the curds were divided among the 5 molds, they were wrapped with the cloth, flipped over, and allowed to drain for 10 minutes.  Then they were flipped again, unwrapped and flipped again, then rewrapped.  Now they're resting/draining for another hour.
Curds in the molds and draining

Step five: (10:35 pm) The cheeses have been unwrapped, placed back in their molds, and are draining overnight.  I've covered them with clean tea towels while this happens.  Tomorrow we brine.

Gift Giving

Yesterday, the label printer was working overtime.  I was printing out gift labels for the jars of jams and jellies I am giving this year.  My husband asked, "How many labels are you printing?" because the printer just seemed to go on and on...


He was amazed at the sheer number of gifts.  Now, I think, he understands why I start working on the gift stash in the spring.

First up:  my work colleagues.  I've found that when I make gift baskets with jars of jam in them for the nurses' stations, there is this weird reluctance to open the jam.  I'm not sure why, but maybe because once it's in the fridge no one really thinks about it or goes looking for it?  Having dealt with that fridge, I try not to go looking for things in there, either.  So the nurses' stations get cookies.  But the docs and NPs and the administrative assistants get jam.  That's 24 right there.  I delivered almost all of them yesterday, and have a few more to go.

Next is the neighborhood; that's another 20.  Plus the various teachers, hairdressers, and other support people in our lives.  It does work out to about 50 in total.  If you include the gifts I give throughout the year, that's a lot of jars!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Early Christmas

Since my family doesn't all live in the same place and, since it's easier to travel before or after Christmas rather than during the holiday week, we have part of our Christmas celebration early.  Today, as a matter of fact.

I still had the pie plate from the chess pie my sister-in-law made for Thanksgiving so I felt it was time to return it, filled, of course, with pie!

Today's pie is pear cranberry, from this recipe, but with the addition of some ginger.  I say, "Some," because I just sprinkled.  Maybe it was half a teaspoon, maybe a full teaspoon.  Hard to say.  I used my holiday pie cutters to put snowflakes and holly leaves on the crust.  This crust was 1/4 leaf lard and 3/4 butter (I ran out of the lard) and it was more elastic than usual.  I am not sure why that is.  It was very interesting to work with, much more likely to stretch than to break.  It came out nice and flaky and buttery tasting (we ate the accompanying tarts for breakfast).  Now I can't wait to dive into the pie!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Thanksgiving was wonderful, with lots of food and family and friends, and having a few days off equally wonderful.  I have turkey bones and turkey meat in the freezer for soup making but just haven't had the energy to do it yet.  What I do seem to have the energy for is breaking almost all my plates (the stack of clean dishes fell from the counter back into the dishwasher...) and, this morning, dropping the full sugar bowl on the floor.  I have decided the universe is trying to tell me something - either I have too many things in the air (literally) or not enough sleep.  Or both.  Likely both.

Anyhow, today's project was something I've been planning for a little while.  I just needed pears to go on sale.  I had a cup of black walnuts in the fridge from my little foraging expeditions, and thought the flavor would go really nicely with pears.  Today I made 2 batches of Pear-Black Walnut Conserve - 12 jars in all.  An excellent addition to the gift stash!

Pear and Black Walnut Conserve

4 cups chopped pears (I used Bartletts but I think any would do)
1 T. lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
4.5 cups sugar
1/2 cup chopped black walnuts

Cook the pears, lemon juice and pectin until hot, then add the sugar all at once.  Bring to a boil and boil hard for 1 minute.  Turn off the heat and stir in the walnuts.  Pour into jars and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes. 

Now I'm going to spend the rest of the day trying to pretend I don't have the dropsies.  And work on getting the sugar out of the hardwood floor.