Homemade Nutella for Norway

 

I really wish I had a Norwegian recipe to post today. I have been really saddened by the tragic events in Oslo on Friday. As many of my readers know, I spent a year in Norway as an exchange student, in between high school and college, and I have very fond and vivid memories of my life there. The people, culture and independent spirit of Norway all have a very special place in my heart. I formed many long lasting friendships that year and still have many good friends and loved ones that live there, and a lot of them currently reside in Oslo. So  Friday and Saturday were scary days waiting to hear from everyone.

Photo Courtesy

JEG ELSKER NORGE!

I have been comforted these past few days by these words by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:

“You will not destroy us. You will not destroy our democracy, or our commitment to a better world. We are a small country nation, but a proud nation. No one shall bomb us to silence, no one shall shoot us to silence, no one shall scare us out of being Norway. We must never stop standing up for our values. We must show that the Norwegian society can stand up to these testing times. We must show humanity, but not naivety.”

I keep reading this over and over and praying for the truth in those words. As an American, experiencing 9/11 and seeing the aftermath of such events and in many ways the loss of our many freedoms and our independent spirit, I can only hope that the Norwegians will keep that alive.

Although I know this does nothing, other than feebly lend support and love to my Norwegian friends and Norwegians all over the world, you can check out some of my Norwegian and Scandinavian inspired recipes from the past. Comfort food really is a comfort and can aid in feeding our spirit during trying times.

I spent all of Friday sweating over steamy vats of curds and whey and fluffing cheese curds at The Cellars at Jasper Hill – that is something for another post though…so when I got home that night, I hadn’t heard anything about what was going on in Norway. One of my best friends lives in Oslo, and so Roberto really was worried about telling me what had happened, but luckily she had posted on my facebook wall that everything was OK, and like a lot of other Norwegians, she and her husband were out of the country on holiday.

So in lieu of posting a Norwegian recipe, I am going to post about making homemade Nutella, because the first time I ever tasted Nutella it was in Norway. The first time I had it, I thought it was a Norwegian invention, and I was hooked! When I returned to the US, after my year in Norway, I was lucky to be able to find it in the grocery stores here, and so it has always been a staple in my house. Then I married an Italian (Italy is the actual birthplace of Nutella) and we just always had a jar in the pantry…until we noticed the ingredient profile had changed and it now included soy lecithin and vanillin – artificial vanilla …so we stopped buying it. We have found and tried several organic and more healthy versions, but they never really tasted that good, and were expensive.

In comes The Spunky Coconut blog. I am an avid fan of both the blog and the cookbook – The Spunky Coconut has really changed my life in a lot of ways, her baked goods are all gluten and grain free and don’t contain weird fillers and gums, like a lot of gluten-free baked goods do. I have tried several of her recipes, and they have all been fantastic – perfect taste and texture every time – and they don’t require any tweaking, which makes my life so easy!

So when she posted a recipe for homemade Nutella on her blog, I felt like our prayers had been answered – especially for Roberto.

The only thing I changed about the recipe was by adding a bit of maple syrup at the end to taste. Roberto, the official taste tester felt that it wasn’t sweet enough. I probably ended up adding a little shy of ¼ cup of it after all was said and done. The recipe makes 3-4 small mason jars full, and she says in the comments that she actually froze one jar of it – but I am not sure if it turned out OK.

Roberto’s tasting notes: Regular Nutella is now way too sweet for us (we have cut down on a lot of sugar and don’t use any refined sugar products), and it has more of a bitter dark chocolate taste than regular Nutella, however because it is less sweet, he says it is more versatile. He has been enjoying it spread on The Spunky Coconut’s Boulder Banana Bread (minus the walnuts, I usually add about 2 TBS of almond butter).

Grow Your Own MUSHROOMS Giveaway!

CONGRATS to the winner SUSAN B.!

 

Yes, that is right, you heard correct – you can now grow your own mushrooms at home, and one of my lucky readers will get a kit to do just that!
Recently I was contacted by a wonderful company – Back to the Roots asking if I would be interested in sampling their product, for free and if I liked it, doing a giveaway on my blog. I was definitely into this – we love mushrooms in this house, but not only that, I really liked what I learned about the company and its founders.

From their website: “Back to the Roots was founded by Alejandro Velez & Nikhil Arora during their last semester at UC Berkeley in 2009. Two months away from graduation, and heading into the corporate world of investment banking & consulting, they came across the idea during a class lecture of being able to potentially grow gourmet mushrooms entirely on recycled coffee grounds. Inspired by the idea of turning waste into wages & fresh, local food, … from what was an urban waste stream, Back to the Roots has since grown to create the Grow-Your-Own Mushroom Garden which lets anyone, across the country, grow their own gourmet mushrooms at home as well!”

This is the kind of company, people and efforts I can easily support. I just love the ingenuity of Alejandro and Nikhil to come up with such a creative way to use waste products to produce food – and GOURMET MUSHROOMS at that! Who doesn’t love that?

Not only that, but they are using their success to help others! They have a facebook campaign going on where if you post a picture of the grown product on our wall, they will send a sustainability curriculum and donate a kit to an elementary school of your choice.

Features of the Grow Kit:

• Grow up to 1 1/2 lbs of tasty pearl oyster mushrooms
• Multiple crops (at least 2, though some have got up to 4!)
• Grow your first crop in as little as 10 days!
• Just 3 Easy Steps – Open, Mist, and Harvest (spray mister included).
• All indoors – just set on a kitchen window sill and mist twice a day (mister included)
• The soil inside is 100% recycled coffee grounds – safe & sustainable
• 100% Satisfaction Guaranteed

BABY MUSHROOMS!

You can learn more about their community efforts on their blog or follow them on Twitter for more updates! – these are two guys you definitely want to keep up with!

So, onto the “review” part of this post. I really love this product – it is fun and easy to use! We got our first harvest in about a week, and I am currently working on the second. Everyone that came over to our house and saw the kit was really intrigued by it, and even more so when they found out it was made from recycled coffee grounds. Who wouldn’t be? That is just awesome!

We decided to use our first harvest to make some delicious GF (gluten free) mini pizzas. I have found a wonderful millet, flax and brown rice flat bread (kinda like a tortilla) and we make mini pizzas once or twice a week. For this version, we used the mushrooms from the kit as well fresh bufala mozzarella and some prosciutto and fresh basil from the garden. They were delicious!

 

I think this would be a great gift to send to someone for their birthday (if they are a foodie) or maybe for the holidays – any family that has kids will love this!

So who wants to win a kit of their own???


How to Enter The Back to the Roots Mushroom Grow Kit Giveaway:

Anyone is welcome to enter, provided doing so does not violate any local laws of your place of residency. US entries only for this one, due to shipping restrictions, and all participants must be over the age of 18.

Please remember that for your entry to count, you must leave a separate comment for every entry you make and make sure to include your email address in the spot provided when you fill out the comment form.

1) DO THIS FIRST (REQUIRED): Tell me what you would like for me to make with my second harvest – if you have a link to a recipe, even better! I will make the winner’s recipe, and link to your blog, if you have one (provided that it is gluten free!)

Optional ways to get more entries:

2) Blog about this giveaway describing why you want to win the kit, and link your post to this giveaway. (1 extra entry)
3) Subscribe to The Leftover Queen RSS feed. (1 extra entry)
4) Enter your email address to Subscribe to Email Updates. (1 extra entry)
5) Subscribe to my newsletter (see box on top right of my blog). (1 extra entry)
6) Tweet and tell your friends to sign up for @leftoverqueen Daily Emails or RSS feeds. (1 extra entry)
7) Fan The Leftover Queen on Facebook. (1 extra entry)
8) Follow The Leftover Queen on Twitter and tweet @leftoverqueen with a link to the giveaway. (1 extra entry)

If you are already a fan of The Leftover Queen and have done all or some of the above, and wish to enter the contest just write that you already subscribe to the newsletter, facebook page or RSS feed, by email, etc. Make sure to leave a separate comment for every entry.

Why Enter?

1) Because it is free
2) You can grow your own mushrooms at home!!!
3) Because mushrooms rule!

The winner will be announced on this post Friday, July 29, 2011. The winner will be drawn at random and contacted on July 29th. The winner has until Monday, August 1 2011, by 10 AM, EST to respond before another winner is chosen.

PS – if you are a Foodie Blogroll member, you also have a chance to win a kit! Check out the details here

Posted to Simple Lives Thursday

A True Honor

 

Today is a very exciting day for me; one of the posts I wrote for my homesteading blog was featured on the blog of one of my personal heroes today, Gene Logsdon’s blog, The Contrary Farmer.

I am really in awe right now and truly honored. Gene, along with Wendell Berry and David Kline, among many others, notably, Joel Salatin, are such amazing and down to earth (literally, in so many ways) advocates for the agrarian movement. Their writing has inspired and taught me so much. So to have my writing featured on a blog of Gene’s writings is well, just WOW.

Thank you so much to Dave Smith and Gene Logsdon for featuring my post! If you want to follow my homesteading adventures, please check out my blog Got Goats? – we are on facebook too and would appreciate if you could “like” us! THANK YOU!

Easy Herbed Chevre Stuffed Squash Blossoms

 

Everybody has heard the old saying, that during the summer, people’s squash plants grow so rapidly and abundantly, that they have to put them on their neighbor’s porches in the middle of the night just to get rid of them! Well, there is another way – which is far tastier. Just take the flowers, and make stuffed squash blossoms!

Well, we have been having the opposite problem in our garden this year – an abundance of beautiful blossoms, but only a few fruits just beginning. We weren’t sure – was the soil missing nutrients? Or maybe the soil temperature just wasn’t hot enough? Last year we got our squashes in too late and they were killed off by an early frost. This year we started them indoors and they turned out beautiful, but we were beginning to worry that we were going to have another dud crop this year – which would be so disappointing as we planted a TON for winter storage.

So I started doing some research into the matter. There are male and female squash blossoms and in the beginning of the season, the vine produces primarily male blossoms. The females are the fruit producing blossoms, and the males, do not produce fruit. I learned that it is the pollen from the male blossom that is needed for the female blossom to turn into fruit. This of course is done by bees and other insects, which is why the bee issue is so important to gardeners (and should be to anyone that eats). Luckily, both male and female blossoms grow on the same vine, and so if there are enough bees buzzing around, there shouldn’t be any pollination problems.

How can you tell a female blossom from a male? Female blossoms have a bump or immature mini fruit between the blossom and the stem, and the males lack the bump.

So if you have too many fruits, you can use some female blossoms to make the stuffed blossoms. If you don’t want to lose any fruits, be sure to use the male blossoms, since those will not produce fruit anyway.

This is perfect for a quick and easy summer treat. Very little prep time/work and ingredients you probably have on hand.

Herbed Chevre Stuffed Squash Blossoms

INGREDIENTS:

6 squash blossoms (any kind of squash will do!)
¼ cup chevre
1 TBS of fresh herbs minced – I used a mixture of thyme, basil and chives
1 egg – beaten
Olive oil
Sea salt

METHOD:

Place about an inch of olive oil in the bottom of a skillet (I use cast iron) and heat it up slowly on low heat. Wash the blossoms and gently pat the dry, remove the blossom stamens any seeds or unwanted hitchhikers. In a small bowl mix the chevre and herbs together. Using your fingers, get a small amount of the chevre mixture and place in the blossoms (some people like piping the mixture out of a pastry bag, but fingers work just as well). Then dip the stuffed blossom in the egg and place in the hot oil. Fry on each side for about a minute, or until brown. Remove from oil and place on a cooling rack with a paper towel to drain and sprinkle with salt. Serve immediately.

My First Cheese Opus: Gruth Dhub and Flowery Crowdie

Dedicated to my dear friend Cat, her Granny and all my ancestors before me.

My final project for my Value Added Products class at Sterling College was to…dun, dun, dun…make a value added product!  My initial reason for taking this class was two-fold. The first was to begin my journey to becoming an artisan cheesemaker, by learning some more skills in the dairying process, beyond yogurt, kefir and fresh cheeses all of which I have been making at home for some time. The other was to learn the processes around making age old foods from scratch using traditional methods. I got both of those things out of the class, and so much more.

Over the past year or so, I have really enjoyed exploring my ancestry through food. Food is the cornerstone to all cultures, and by learning what traditional foods are in certain areas, you learn a lot about the people and landscape – what kind of climate they have and thereby the types of foods that were available before our global economy where so much (too much?) is available, as well as what other cultural influences helped to shape the modern food cultures. There are several great cookbooks I have acquired over the past year, and I will likely be sharing some more of those recipes soon. One of them is Scottish Traditional Recipes: A Celebration of the Food and Cooking of Scotland: 70 (Check!) Traditional Recipes Shown Step-by-Step in 360 Colour Photographs . It is a great overview of key products and foods of Scotland. I knew for this final project I wanted to make something quintessentially Scottish and this book was a good base.

At the time I started thinking about what to make for my project we were in the midst of sausage making. So at first I wanted to make black pudding, something that makes use of some of the less desirable parts of animals, including blood and organ meats. I have enjoyed various versions of blood sausages, in Norway, on the Navajo Reservation and in both Scotland and Ireland and have loved every single bite. I think a love for certain tastes, especially unique tastes are programmed in our DNA, and blood sausage is just one of those things. It is very common in all cultures that raise sheep. Sometimes it is made from pork.  But finding the ingredients to make such a dish was more than daunting. I had also thought of making haggis, but again, getting all the ingredients at this time of year didn’t seem possible in the amount of time I had.  Then I realized how silly I was, a budding cheesemaker, who wasn’t thinking about making cheese for this project? Ridiculous.

Then I read about Black Crowdie, or Gruth Dubh , as it  is known in Gaelic, which is literally translated as “black curds”. I will get into the reason behind the name soon, I promise.

One of my obsessions in the world of food is historic, traditional foods. So when I read about Crowdie, I was spellbound. I had to make this cheese. It was made even more enticing when I did a google search for a recipe and literally came up with NOTHING. Well, I shouldn’t say nothing, but when recipes say things like: heat the milk to blood heat” you just know there is a lot of work ahead trying to make sense of it all. But nothing excites me more than a historic recipe, with very vague directions to get me going! I had to make this cheese! So I first asked around to some of my Scottish friends and Facebook friends to see if anyone had a recipe. The saddest thing is that I got several responses from Scottish friends about how their Granny used to make it, but after she passed the recipe was lost. All the ancestors started screaming in my head : “YOU HAVE TO MAKE THIS CHEESE!

Next, I found several companies in Scotland that sold this cheese and on the advice of my friend and fellow online entrepreneur Nikki, contacted them for a recipe. Well, I ended up with the best guide possible into this historic cheese – Rory Stone from Highland Fine Cheeses, an award winning cheese producer, and from my understanding a pioneer in creating Crowdie for the mass market.  Rory and his family have been making cheese in Tain for a very long time, and like me, have been interested in some historic cheeses too – Crowdie and it’s cousin, Caboc as well as a cheese his mother invented, Hramsa, which is basically Crowdie flavored with ramps (wild leek).

See, Crowdie, is a true farmstead cheese, meaning it was made by every crofter, being referred to as crofter’s or porridge cheese because it provided a very practical way of ensuring that nothing was wasted. Crowdie is traditionally a skimmed milk cheese that is the byproduct of butter making.  This uniquely Scottish cheese was even once used as part-payment of rent in the Highlands. But it goes back much farther than that.

(photo courtesy of)

Crowdie making skills were given to the Scots by the Vikings. In terms of my passion and goals, we are 2 for 2, being that I have both Scottish and Viking (mostly Danish) ancestry.  Viking culture greatly influenced that of Scotland, including the cuisine of Scotland between the 8th and 14th centuries and much of that influence is still seen today. Things like blood sausage, smoked fish, and skimmed milk cheese. Similar skimmed milk products are still made in Sweden and Norway, today. Until the early 1700′s most Scottish cheese was made from skimmed milk after butter making, and did not travel well.

To make Crowdie homemakers would preserve the skim, which would naturally sour made by placing a fresh jug of skimmed milk beside the stove to sour and curdle. By keeping it nice and warm, the natural lactobacillus culture in the milk would ferment and set. Next they would scramble it, perhaps add some cream, add some salt and hang it up in muslin to produce Crowdie. The low fat content means it can be stored for long periods of time without refrigeration or salting. So the original Crowdie was a raw milk cheese. So at this point in the process I was happy to have a very reliable and trusted source of raw cow’s milk – Applecheek Farm. The Scots were a cattle herding culture, although they do raise sheep as well, it is possible that the original cheese handed down by the Vikings were a sheep milk cheese.

Because the milk is now pasteurized a lactic acid element needs to be added to encourage coagulation. To learn more about cheese and the importance of lactic acid action, see my last post Deep in the Cheesemaking Process. Then, in the making of Crowdie, the curds are heated, mashed, mixed with salt and then hung the traditional way in muslin bags.

Rory was a great help to me. We discussed at length desired taste, and texture when it comes to Crowdie, and we also discussed the process to how it becomes Crowdie – and the main component is that it needs quick lactic acid production. The process sounded quite a lot like making chevre, so I decided to make two different versions by  using  two various cheese cultures commonly used in chevre making – mesophilic starter culture MA 11 and a Fromage Blanc starter and by making a skimmed milk version as well as a full fat version. Although Rory’s recipe for Crowdie includes both starter culture and rennet, I decided to forego the rennet. Really, Crowdie was created before rennet existed as a product. Between that and the fact that Scottish and European rennet is so different in terms of strength from US rennet, I was left a little on my own.  So basically I made up my own recipe for Crowdie , using all the info I got from Rory and processes I had learned during the course at Sterling.

Having never tasted Crowdie prior to my experiments here, I so wish I could have invited my Scottish friends over for a taste test! I plan to make it the really traditionally way soon by allowing the raw milk to curdle naturally as well – and see if there is a  big difference in terms of taste and texture.

So what exactly is Gruth Dubh (Black Curds)? As the legend of the cheese goes, a cattle herder had put his cheese in the same container that he had earlier had his oatcakes in. The cheese got accidently covered in oats because of this. However, he found that he enjoyed this taste and then shared it with others – which is also why this cheese is traditionally eaten with oatcakes. This is how I served them to the class.

What was the result like? Well it was delicious. It was bright, tangy and acidic. The texture was soft, but also more crumbly than chevre, somewhat like a mix of chevre and cottage cheese or ricotta. I made both a full-fat Gruth Dubh and my own version – “Flowery Crowdie” which is the skimmed milk version rolled in Uncle Roy’s Flowers of Scotland

containing: starflower and coneflower petals, heather, thyme, bay, rosemary, tarragon, juniper berries, allspice and salt. Both were delicious, but I have to say I enjoyed the Gruth Dubh the most, even if the Flowery Crowdie looked nicer.

****************************************************************

CABOC – a relative of Crowdie

The MacDonald’s on Skye thought that they should produce something better for their Chieftan – a “white meat”. So they took the skimmed milk and made Crowdie with it but took the cream and matured it rather than churning it into butter. The mature cream was kept in a barrel and then after 4 months again hung to dry. It would then be split and reversed to get more of the moisture out and salted. “Caboc is a hybrid of “Cabag”, Gaelic for a homemade cheese and “Kebbock” which is a Scot’s word or Dorric for a farmhouse cheese and refers to the shape of the product rather than the style as they were all pretty much the same cheese. The shape being a bit like a stilton.” ~Rory Stone.

What did this historic cheese taste like? Well since I have never made it, I will quote a very humorous explanation from Rory Stone: “For some it tastes like rancid butter rolled in oatmeal, some might say nutty, but with that much fat there’s little of any flavour. Selling the cheese is a nightmare as it really is a Scottish specific line, the French say it is butter, the English just don’t get it and so it’s mainly eaten by people with triple heart bypasses and purple noses. At 70% butter fat it’s a kind of heart grenade”.

Sounds like another fine challenge to me!  Here is what is a very simple recipe for Crowdie/ Black Crowdie/ Gruth Dubh looks like. But just know that it took a lot of thought and understanding to get it to this point! So I hope you try it and I really want to give a huge shout out to all those who helped me through this process: Rory Stone and Highland Fine Cheese, Anne Obelnicki, Cat Thomson, Nikki Meisnere Accardi and AppleCheek Farm.

I have to say that creating a standard recipe for a historic farmhouse cheese based on my limited experience was a wonderful and successful challenge. I hope you enjoy making Crowdie as much as I did!

CROWDIE

INGREDIENTS:

1 gallon raw cow’s milk
1 pacakge MA11 or Fromage Blanc starter
3:1 Scottish (pinhead oats) to cracked black pepper for Gruth Dubh and less than one ounce of Flowers of Scotland for “Flowery Crowdie”

METHOD:

Heat milk to 72 F, add culture, let set for about 24 hours, until set like yogurt. Then cook over low heat (curds and whey), until curds scramble like eggs (do not exceed 100 F). Once curds have tightened a bit and look like “just cooked scrambled eggs” drain off the whey. Hang the curd over the sink in a muslin bag or clean pillowcase for about 4 hours, then salt and put in fridge for a few hours to harden up before shaping and adding flavors. Makes about 1 lb of Crowdie.