Archive for the ‘March’ Category

Growers in winter

Growers

After raising our baby tomato and eggplant seeds on a heating pad in February, they started growing nice big leaves that needed overhead light in March. So this UV light was attached to a homemade table-top stand to get them through the last few weeks of wintery days.

Worked like a charm–even if the neighbors were suspicious.

Fifty plants are currently growing, but we plan to keep just 24. If everything goes smoothly in the transition outside, we will give the remainder away.

Fifty plants are currently growing, but we plan to keep just 24. If everything goes smoothly in the transition outside, we will give the remainder away.

We were much better about labeling this year. Each of our seven varieties of heirloom tomatoes have been marked with a plastic tag using a wax pencil.

We were much better about labeling this year. Each of our seven varieties of heirloom tomatoes have been marked with a plastic tag using a wax pencil.

2008-04-24 08.52.07

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Stretching more than imagination.

Happy March!!!

Last weekend was marvelous. I stayed home, finally finished reading Animal Vegetable Miracle, and made the best batch of mozzarella ever.

I’ll admit that cheese making is another Barbara Kingsolver inspiration (I’ll be moving on to Amy Cotler next), but how could I help it? When she wrote about visiting the Cheese Queen in New England and making six different kinds of the stuff by lunch time, I was like, “No whey! I have got to try that!”

So I looked up the Cheese Queen myself, and ordered me a starter kit.

The first batch didn’t turn out quite right, and I royally ruined the second batch. The Third batch was pretty good, and this one–well this one is close to perfect.

Making cheese from scratch may be an odd  hobby for a 20-something living in this 21st century, but it is so simple, inexpensive, and relaxing. As a blossoming locavore, I personally enjoy the added benefit of knowing exactly what is in my cheese, and precisely where it came from. And I really enjoy the simple task of stirring, waiting, stirring some more… yes, it may be cheesy, but it’s also a great way to unwind. (Not to mention a fun date activity for an almost-spring Sunday afternoon.)

I like to dream of starting a cheese-making revolution, calling all my hippie pals to band together and revolt against super-processed cheese from super-sad milk. And while that may just be a silly thought, I wanted to share how it’s done–out of curdesy–just in case.

This is all you need to make mozzarella: milk, citric acid, rennet tablets, and a little cheese salt.

___ __ __
The only equipment you need is a helper (for fun), a pot (stainless steel is preferred), a thermometer, some cheese cloth, and a stirring spoon.


Step 8                                Step 8, 9, and 11                Step 12                                 Bella ball’a mozzarella!

1. Dissolve 1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid in 1 cup of water and pour it in your pot.
2. Add a gallon of whole milk (NOT ultra-pasteurized and stir.
3. Heat to 90 degrees while gently stirring and contemplating your day.
4. Dissolve 1/4 of a rennet tablet in 1/4 cup of water and add to your milk by stirring with an up-and-down motion.
5. Remove your pot from the heat, cover it, and let it sit for 5 to 8 minutes.
6. The milk should have separated into curds and whey, and the substance should kind of look like custard or cheesecake. Break the curds apart with your spoon and heat to 105 degrees while stirring.
7. Remove from heat again, stir for another 3 minutes, and pour into a cheesecloth-lined colander. (Save the whey for bread, pizza dough, or stock!)
8. Move curds to a microwave-safe bowl and stretch the curds with your hands.
9. When the proteins break instead of stretch, put them back in the microwave for 30 seconds, drain, and stretch again.
10. Add a teaspoon of cheese salt
11. Repeat step 9. 3 or 4 more times, pulling the curds like taffy–and make sure you taste it! (The more you stretch, the firmer the cheese.)
12. When you’re happy with it, make it into a shape you like and put it in a ice-water bath for 20 minutes so it holds its shape.

And that’s it! Easy-cheesy.