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Over the summer, D, his younger sister M, his mother M Sr. and I took a cheese class at a dairy outside of Indianapolis. We learned to make all sorts of fabulous milk-based products, but I left more glum than ever: With no access to raw milk locally, how would I make such wonderful goods? [I would like to note this is M and M Sr.’s first appearance in this blog. I heard Jr. trolls diligently for a mention instead of studying.]
Maybe I’ll say those rawless days are over. Maybe I won’t. But I will say I happily made some homemade ricotta and lived to tell the tale– and how easy it was!
With a 1/2 gallon of milk I produced just over 2 cups of ricotta to sprinkle on the lovely pizza above. There may have been more, but I had to…er… test… the cheese as the curds were nice and warm and forming.
Dust off those nursery rhyme days. Remember Ms. Muffet? Eating her curds and whey? In truly simplified terms, one way to get curds is to treat milk with an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice) or rennet, letting milk sour will also form curds. The leftover liquid is whey.
Traditional ricotta is made with the leftover whey of cheese production (it means “recooked” in Italian). In this instance, I made whole milk ricotta (made from well, whole milk). Unfortunately, when you make ricotta using whole milk, you cannot use the leftover whey to make more ricotta as all the proteins have bound together into curds. The leftover whey can be used to take a milk bath, in a shake, in bread, to feed your chickens or, in my instance, I added the leftover whey to a roasted tomato soup. It has so many great minerals and vitamins in it you don’t want to waste it.
Ricotta is so simple to make and you will be surprised at how delicious the results are. It might even cause you to get your cannoli dough ring out! I have heard from someone that everyone should have one homemade cheese recipe up their sleeve. With ricotta being possibly the easiest cheese to make (shall we say it’s a gateway cheese?), why not give it a try?
Use a high quality milk. If you do not have access to raw milk, try to acquire minimally pasteurized organic milk or other good quality organic milk.
In the class I took it was suggested to make the ricotta in the morning before you go to work, let it sit undisturbed for the day and then drain it at night.
This is the recipe I received from the Indiana farm.
Makes 2 cups
Active time: 30 minutes. Inactive time 4 hours
1/2 gallon good quality milk (raw is best)
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
salt to taste
1) Pour milk into a heavy bottom, non-aluminum pot, and warm over medium heat. Stir the milk occasionally as it warms. As the milk heats, stir occasionally. Steam will rise and small bubbles will begin to form around the edge. Measure the temperature with a thermometer.
2) When the milk reaches 180-185 F remove from heat, add vinegar and stir gently for one minute (curds should begin to form immediately). Add salt and cover with a clean dry kitchen towel. Let sit for at least 2 hours, undisturbed.
3) Once rested, assemble a double layer of damp cheese cloth in a colander set over a large bowl (enough to hold a 1/2 gallon of liquid. Slowly and gently pour the ricotta into the cheesecloth. Let drain for 2 hours.
4) Lift the cheesecloth by the four corners, twisting gently. When dripping has stopped, transfer to an airtight container and consume withing 7 days. For a more firm ricotta, let drain longer.
Oh, and what about that glowing pizza, right? It’s a whole wheat, millet flour and thyme crust with pureed beets mixed into tomato paste as the sauce. Topped with local pastured spicy sausage, crimini mushrooms, homemade ricotta and fresh basil. A healthy option for pizza does exist!
My fondest memories of holidays were spent at my grandmother’s house, packed with relatives and friends, and tables piled high with Latvian sauerkraut, kielbasa, honey ham, savory meat-filled pancakes and Jell-o. Thinking back, these were probably the best holidays because they meant toys and candy were soon to come my way. I’ll believe in anything imaginary as long as I get my basket of jelly beans!
Easter always involved a production, which is why I loved it so much. My family arrived at my grandmother’s house early in the morning. My grandmother, cooking since 6 AM, would be studding her massive loaves of saffron raisin bread before they went in the oven. A few dozen eggs boiled away in onion peels on the stove and set up on the kitchen table were the “children’s eggs,” store-bought kits for us to dye eggs. (Thinking back, I now realize these eggs were the “throw aways” for us kids to hide, break and maybe find, while my grandmother’s natural eggs were the table’s centerpiece and center of conversation.)
With eggs dyed and breakfast consumed, the adults hid eggs. We used to stay in-house, but the year after the still discussed “disappearing egg” was found rotting behind a book a few months after Easter, all egg activities were moved outside. My brothers and I followed the adults, baskets in hand, destroying the house then digging up the garden, searching for eggs. We were rewarded with an early dinner and a basket of sugar.
But always, through the years, my grandmother’s eggs stuck with me. She dyed eggs a vibrant marbled amber with a handful of onion peels and some vinegar. I worked with this, and a few other colors for an upcoming article. Above are my results.
The onion peel eggs are at top, the lighter marbled egg was wrapped in peels, secured with rubber bands and boiled for 15 minutes. The darker one was boiled loose in the peels for about 25 minutes. Top right, the striped one was wrapped in rubber bands and dyed in beet juice (who knew that beet juice, which turns everything magenta would turn eggs a dull grey-green). The speckled egg next to that was boiled for 15 min in spinach then left overnight to soak. Blueberries are the indigo eggs (1 cup frozen blueberries, 2 cups water, 1 tsp vinegar, boiled 15 min). The one in the middle had star-shaped stickers adhered before dying (just make sure the egg is totally dry before removing stickers or they will run– I lost a dinosaur with running dye!). At left, my favorite surprise, are turmeric dyed eggs. These were left about 15 minutes in 3 cups water, 1 teaspoon vinegar and 1 tablespoon turmeric. They are true golden eggs. I dripped blue crayon on the one at left to produce the polka dots.
I thought of mixing blueberries with turmeric to get a vibrant green. I bet it would be fantastic. And I’ve heard red cabbage, boiled 15 minutes with 1 teaspoon vinegar and left overnight produces a fabulous teal. I heard soaking in pomegranate juice produces red, but mine turned out a putrid brown.
Natural egg dyes turn Easter into a fun guessing game and a fabulous science experiment. They are also safer than store-bought dye kits which, though they are “food safe,” processed food dyes are mostly coal tar-based (and many of them are banned in the EU).
So have fun, use your imagination with regular household items, have a wonderful holiday, and enjoy your egg salad! I’ll link to my story once it is out.
(Don’t forget! You have until Friday to enter the Cool Beans Giveaway! Leave a bean-related comment in the post for your chance to win a 3-pack of Cool Beans. Beans are a delicious and healthy snack! Deadline is 3PM, March 7)
Is it too early to think about summer? Too early to write dreamily about foodstuffs like fresh corn? Let us take a moment out of our hectic lives, meetings, winter gloom, and think about sweet July corn (non-GM, of course). Close your eyes and meditate: Ohmmmmm Cornnnnn.
The above soup, was in fact, made this past summer. It is a corn chowder, and while I speak of other chowders, I thought it was appropriate to post. While the bitter winds of winter blast through us, we can take a deep breath and think of summertime corn (D’s favorite).
Most people think clam chowders are the only true variety [an aside: New England is the true chowder!]. A chowder is traditionally a salt pork based soup. Meaning? Bring on the bacon! Traditionally, it is also a thickened soup base, whether it’s by crushed crackers and milk, flour, or another means, is your decision.
I make this corn chowder every summer when it is available for bargain prices (we’re talking farmstand, 12 ears for $2.00 prices). I eat it cold, though when it is fresh and slightly warm it is hard to resist. On a cold day like today, it would make a soothing warm soup.
So while I dream of summer, maybe I’ll have to purchase some frozen corn and make a batch of this soup. I suggest you do the same. With it’s vibrant colors we can wash the winter away.
Note: I thicken this soup base with buttermilk. While I despised, caught, and promptly disposed of my mothers attempts to pass buttermilk off as regular milk as a child, (a warning to all you mothers hiding foods from your children! I still can’t drink the stuff) it makes a wonderful soup base. The slightly sour nature cuts the sweet corn perfectly. You can find another version of this soup with seafood here.
6-8 servings. Prep time= 30 minutes. Cook time= 30 minutes.
2 strips bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 onion, cut into thin slices
4 ears of fresh corn (or 1 16oz bag frozen), removed from stalk, keep ears
1 stalk celery, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 russet potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 carrot sticks, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 quart buttermilk
salt/ pepper to taste
fresh parsley (cilantro or chives would be nice too)
1) Prep ingredients. To remove corn kernels from stalk, hold ears vertical, resting one end on a cutting board, holding the top. Use a sharp knife and slice downwards, as close to the stalk as possible. Work your way around the ear until all kernels are removed. You can slice the bottom half, flip the ear and slice the top half to avoid fingers.
2) In a stock pot over medium high heat, fry bacon. Once browned, remove bacon bits and set aside. Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes. Add 3/4 of the corn, the stripped ears, celery, potatoes, carrots and stock. Cover and bring to a boil.
3) Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer, 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Turn heat off and stir in remaining corn, buttermilk, bacon and salt and pepper to taste (add salt at the end because the bacon will add a lot of salt). Serve warm or cool in the refrigerator for 2 hours before serving. Top with parsley.