Thank you Taste of Scotland!

 

Do you all remember My First Cheese Opus? Well, if you missed it, I encourage you to check it out. It is all about my experience making a traditional and historic Scottish cheese called Gruth Dubh, or “Black Crowdie” – a fresh raw cow’s milk cheese. I contacted several companies in Scotland to learn about the cheese, since there is no real recipe, and one of the companies was Taste of Scotland. They liked my cheese so much, that they featured the blog post in their most recent newsletter, which is a HUGE honor. So here is a big THANK YOU to Taste of Scotland. Make sure to follow them on facebook, and let them know The Leftover Queen sent you! :)

Getting Cheesy…

Do you ever have a post that you wish could always stay at the top? That is how I feel about my last post, Homemade Nutella for Norway . But I suppose when faced with tragedy, the most important thing is to continue living and moving forward, and so with that, I will move on with this blog, always keeping loved ones in Norway close to my heart.

It feels like the past few months of my life have been really cheesy. It all started with the course I took at Sterling College. Then 2 Thursdays ago, while the tragic events in Oslo happened, I was standing over vats of hot curds and whey all day, oblivious to the outside world, at The Cellars at Jasper Hill. My friend Sarah, who with her husband Jason owns a fabulous catering business JDC’s, is also a cheesemaker at Jasper Hill. So she invited me to spend the day there shadowing her and seeing how a large cheesemaker operates.

It was an amazing experience, a much larger scale than any other cheesemaking experience I have had so far, either at Sterling or in my own kitchen. After getting outfitted in a pair of white plastic clogs, a white jacket and a hair net, I was able to cross the threshold from the outside work, to the curd world.

(Ladling Constant Bliss)

Sarah was in the middle of something, so she sent me downstairs to watch and chat with Calista and Evan who were ladling curds into molds for Constant Bliss . We talked about their experiences in the cheese world, which greatly outnumbered mine. But we all agreed that there was something zen-like about ladling hot curds. I would have loved to ladle with them, but didn’t want to upset the obvious groove they had going!

After a while I went back upstairs, and watched while Sarah used a big machine to cut the curds for another batch of cheese, this time Moses Sleeper. What the machine didn’t cut, we used small cheese knives to do by hand. We then took baskets of the steaming curds, dumped them on huge trays, with drainage mats (for the whey) and fluffed the curds, and then dumped the fluffed curds onto another tray, which Sarah then stuffed into molds. We did this with two different batches. It was awesome. Hot, but awesome. The second time, a film crew was there, from a new Food Network Show, The Big Cheese (which is not even on the air yet…). So who knows, our work that day may end up on an episode, but really the film crew was there for the cellars. I wish I could have gotten photos, but really the work was too wet for a camera to be safe. So you will have to imagine…

If you live in Northern Vermont, you have surely heard about the Cellars. Even if you are not in Northern VT, you may know of them. The Cellars are two thousand square feet and 7 vaults of beautifully delicious aging cheese – some of it, Jasper Hill makes, but a lot of it is from other cheesemakers in Vermont.

The largest vaults are only of Cabot’s Clothbound Cheddar. The photo above is just one vault, and is only of two rows in the vault, of which there had to have been at least 8. But it is more about cheese, it is about a local movement, and helping Vermont’s dairy farmers, and small artisan cheesemakers, continue to be viable and to thrive! I really can’t say it better than their website:

“Farm viability is at the heart of the mission of the Cellars at Jasper Hill. The state of Vermont has seen a precipitous decline in the number of viable dairy farms in the last fifty years, and the Cellars is a business created to halt that decline. Dairy farms help to define the working landscape of Vermont, and artisan cheesemaking is a growing industry that provides an outlet for New England dairy farms to turn their landscape into milk, their milk into cheese, and their cheese into profits.

However, starting a cheesemaking business can be challenging enough without the added stress of aging and marketing that cheese. The Cellars at Jasper Hill provides a place for cheesemakers to send their “green” cheeses to be ripened and marketed by staff who are specially trained to do just that. By reducing the initial investment and training needed by farms trying to diversify, the Cellars at Jasper Hill will provide opportunity to a greater number of those farms.

We hope to relieve small cheesemakers – who wish to simply make cheese – of the burden of being constantly engrossed in all of the intricate details that are involved in maintaining customer relations and keeping their cheeses in healthy circulation. By having a central location from which to distribute and ship the cheese, the Cellars at Jasper Hill helps to ensure that cheese arrives to its destination in the shortest time and best condition possible.

Through all of this, the Cellars at Jasper Hill contributes directly to the expansion of the farmstead model of cheesemaking. We are a mission-based company, and our mission is to preserve all of the integrity and beauty of Vermont’s working landscape.”

(Von Trapp OMA)

…And this is one of the many reasons why Roberto and I moved to this part of Vermont. The dedication of local producers, and their willingness to help others in their industry, all in the name of keeping Vermont a happy and prosperous place. Jasper Hill is a big operation, but it needs to be because it houses so many cheese varieties from all over the state, including some of my personal favorites, like Oma, from the Von Trapp family. Yep, those Von Trapp’s.

They also house Ploughgate Creamery Cheese. In fact last night I met Marisa Mauro, owner and cheesemaker at her one woman cheesemaking show! She invited me to come over to the creamery sometime soon to see how things are done there, and I very much am looking forward to it.

The cheese world is small and feels even smaller in Vermont. I am trying to learn, and observe as much as I can from as many cheesemaking operations as I can. I have met many contacts, and hope to meet more via my friend Taylor, co-owner of Good Food Jobs (a great resource if you are looking for a job in the food industry) who used to work at Murray’s Cheese in NYC. So she knows a lot of cheesy people.

(Cabot Clothbound Cheddar)

I feel very lucky to live where I do, as an aspiring cheesemaker. There are a lot of resources here and a very rich dairy history that is well-established and in the process of being revitalized through the hard work and dedication of people like the Kehler brothers who own Jasper Hill and all the small artisan cheesemakers who are bringing back true farmstead cheeses for consumers.

As a side note, I learned another important thing during this experience – the true reason for sweat. This particular day I was there was during the big heat wave. It was about 90 degrees outside, and at least 90% humidity. The cheese room(s) have no AC. So I literally sweat my own body weight that day. Once I left, I felt rather cool, and when I got home, I felt refreshed. All I could think about all day was taking a shower as soon as I walked in the house, but once I got home, I was cool as a cucumber, and Roberto was still sweltering! I realized you have to sweat A LOT to get the cooling affects, instead of sweat just being annoying, it is miraculous! I guess that is why everyone was making jokes all day about how there are no fat cheesemakers!

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.

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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.

Deep in the Cheesemaking Process…

Lemon Cheese

That is where I am right now – it is not really a physical place, more of a liminal, metaphysical place. A place with a lot of waiting – but not at all like “purgatory”, because the whole process is deeply moving to the human soul and gratifying. Making things like cheese, yogurt, fermented vegetables and preserving at home harkens back to a time that we all come from, no matter where in the world we are or where we come from. A time when people had a hand in making much of their foodstuffs and worked with their natural surroundings using natural airborne elements, like yeasts, bacteria and molds as well as more physical elements like milk and vegetables to make special foods. This is a time where people had the skills to take care of themselves and could feed their families much by their own hands or the hands of their neighbors.

There is something very meditative about making cheese, all the watching, stirring, simmering and pouring. For me, it is a combination of things – the fact that I get to pull out my special cheesemaking supplies from my special “cultured things” drawer in the kitchen. There is also the use of special elements, like culture and rennet that magically transform milk into what the Scots used to call “white meat”. Then there is all that beautiful, creamy milk, from cows that I know at Applecheek Farm, being poured into large pans and pots. Who can forget cheesecloth, that magical helpmate that strains the cheese and separates the curds from the whey? – my favorite part. Making cheese makes me giddy. Hearing about cheese and the history of cheese has me enraptured – writing about cheese, well, that is fun too!

Cheese Press and Making Petit Brie

For the past two weeks in my Value Added Products course at Sterling College, we have been making dairy products, mostly in the form of cheese. Currently I am sitting at my computer looking towards the kitchen to the cheesemaking process. I am making a special cheese for my final project – something I will share with you next week. I am really excited about this cheese, because I kind of made up the recipe myself based on all the amazing information I have gotten through the course these past weeks. It is a historic cheese, and so because of that, it was pre-rennet and pre-cheese culture. So in order to implement these items, I have had the pleasure of working with a few sources, one is Rory Stone from Highland Fine Cheeses and the other, my instructor Anne. I have been going back and forth with them with ideas for how to make this cheese, and so I have decided to make 2 versions, using two different methods and I can’t wait to share them with you!

Saint Maure, Yogurt Cheese in Herbed Oil and a huge pot of milk (Hi Anne!)
But first I figured it would make sense to share some pictures and show you what we have been making these past two weeks:

Mozzarella Curds (not the 30-minute Mozzarella)
Lemon Cheese with Dried Fruits
Yogurt and Herbed Yogurt Cheese in Herbed Olive Oil
Butter
Ricotta (lots and lots of Ricotta)
Chevre
Queso Fresco
Petit Brie
Cultured Butter and Real Buttermilk

And this is just the group I was in! While we were making all of these, the other group made:

Fromage Blanc
Panir
Crème Fraiche
Butter
Mozzarella
Reblochon
Feta
Cultured Butter and Real Buttermilk
Saint Maure

Making Butter – special thanks to one of my group members – Karen for being my hand model in these photos…

So far, we have tasted the mozzarella, lemon cheese, ricotta and butters and by far my favorite was the lemon cheese. Everyone else seemed to love it too – and the best part is that it was SO EASY to make and the smell in the kitchen when you are making this – OH WOW. I am serious, people. Here are the ingredients: milk, heavy cream, lemon juice, salt, lemon zest and dried fruits. That is it – no special cultures or rennet needed. This cheese would be great as a dessert cheese served with a little glass of limoncello, or as an appetizer – as it is not too sweet.

There are several different ways that cheese curds are formed. I am not going to get all science-y on you – I couldn’t if I wanted to, but I will just say, if you were around in the 90’s and know what a koosh ball is, you are halfway there…an inside joke for cheesemakers.

ANYWAY, curd is formed through an acid – usually in the form of lactic acid bacteria – those friendly bacteria that are in all cultured foods from yogurt to sauerkraut. In the case of lemon cheese, you use lemon juice. What makes cheese really different from one another is the medium you use to form the curds (and various other factors like cooking temperature, size of cut curds and whether external pressure is used) which either leads to a quick acidification or delayed acid production. For example this lemon cheese and a cheese like fresh chevre are both quick to acidify. Whereas Alpine style cheeses, like Emmentaler are not.

So I leave you with these delicious (and easy!) Lemon Cheese and Yogurt Cheese recipes and the knowledge that the students, faculty and staff at Sterling College eat really really well – check out the beautiful platter of lemon cheese that went to the dining hall for lunch!

Lemon Cheese with Dried Fruit
From Garde Manger by the Culinary Institute of America

INGREDIENTS:
3 quarts whole milk – we used cows
1 quart heavy cream
10 fl oz lemon juice, strained and chilled
2 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
4 oz chopped dried fruit (apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins, etc)

METHOD:

Day 1:

1) Heat the milk and cream in a double boiler to 100F
2) Remove from the heat and add lemon juice. Stir very gently and briefly until milk and cream mixture starts to curdle and thicken
3) Rest at room temperature for about 3-4 hours
4) Drain the cud for 8-12 hours under refrigeration in a cheesecloth-lined colander or in a cheesecloth or muslin bag set to hang over a bowl

Day 2:
5) Transfer cheese to a bowl and work in the salt, lemon zest and dried fruits
6) Press into a cheesecloth lined mold, top with a weight and allow to rest overnight under refrigeration. (If you don’t have a mold, I would put it back in the cheesecloth lined colander – you will have a round ball shape and the cheese will be more spreadable – as you won’t be pressing any more liquid out, but just allowing it to drain a little more naturally).

Day 3:
7) Unmold and serve. Can be kept wrapped under refrigeration for up to 4 days.

YOGURT CHEESE

An even easier recipe is for yogurt cheese – just get any kind of yogurt and strain it, in the refrigerator, in a cheesecloth lined colander for 12-24 hours. Then you can mix it with salt & herbs and use as a dip for veggies or to spread on bread or crackers!

Oh and if you want to see what our fermented and cured meats are up to, check it out!

Let’s Get Cultured! Quark!

Quark is my new obsession. Even the name is fun to say! It is a fresh cheese traditionally made in Germany, which makes this another exploration into the foods of my ancestors (last week I was exploring my Scottish heritage with a traditional Burns Supper ).

Quark is one of the the oldest cheeses in Europe and has been enjoyed by Germanic people since at least the first century CE, when Roman author Tacitus described it in his writings. Tacitus kind of makes my blood boil, but I do like to imagine the Barbarian hoards sweeping through Europe with quark in their saddlebags. But what can I say, our little family are just berserkers at heart. Cheese, Barbarians…I am really starting to appreciate this lineage.

Back to the cheese: Quark comes in three types – a lower fat version called Magerquark, which can be used much in the same way as yogurt and viewed as a health food in Germany and Austria, a full fat version with added cream called Sahnequark or “cream quark” that is typically a base for a variety of many delicious desserts and then regular quark made with whole milk.

I first tasted quark a few months ago when I saw it at the store produced by Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery. and quickly found many delicious uses for it. It is a bit pricey at almost $4 for a small tub. Once I realized this was going to be a staple for me, I decided to consult my favorite cheese making book, Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses to see if there was a recipe. To my delight I found a recipe on page 99, and discovered how easy it was to make using a buttermilk culture. A word about the book, if you are at all into making cultured dairy products, and don’t have this book, you should get it. For under $10 it is a real treasure trove of fantastic recipes, from really really easy, to artisanal and the instructions are very down to earth.

Be warned one recipe makes a lot of quark – so you want to make sure you have some ideas of what to do with it once it is made. I tried my hand at a no-bake cheesecake using agar-agar to create the right texture but it didn’t congeal and so I put it in the freezer and tonight we will have frozen quark cheesecake for dessert. I will keep working on a recipe though and post it once it has been perfected.

This is a very versatile cheese – you can use it like sour cream or yogurt. I like to put a dollop on homemade nachos, or add on top of a steaming bowl of beans and rice or tomato soup. For the sweet tooth, you can swirl with raw honey or maple syrup or fruit for a nice and satisfying dessert and I am sure it would be a good ingredient in a variety of cakes, muffins, pancakes and breads. This is an ingredient I will be experimenting with a lot now that we have it in such abundance.

I chose to make the full fat, cream added version of quark, and the texture is wonderfully creamy.
SAHNEQUARK INGREDIENTS:
1 gallon creamline milk
1 packet direct-set buttermilk starter
2-3 TBS heavy cream

METHOD:
Heat the milk to 88F, add the starter and mix thoroughly. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 24 hours or until set*
Ladle the curds into a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and drain overnight (with the colander still underneath). If the quark is too dry the next day add a few more TBS of cream to the finished cheese. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Makes 1-1/2 lbs of fresh quark.

*if you live in a colder climate or prepare this during winter be prepared to wait longer for the curds to thicken and develop. You basically want it to look like runny yogurt before moving on to the next steps.

This post is part of  Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop!

Cheese, Glorious Raw Milk Goat Cheese

goat_cheese_on_plate

I am obsessed with cheese. I really am. I have been fond of cheese for as long as I can remember. I spent a very dismal year as a vegan once. I was already a vegetarian, but I thought that I was lactose intolerant (turned out I was SOY intolerant), so I stopped eating cheese. I was not a happy girl. Maybe it was that I was OD-ing on soy, but I like to think it was the lack of cheese that was messing with my brain chemistry. My brain really likes dairy fat, something I have proven to myself several times over. I mean, my ancestors do have a long history with dairy animals. Plus, if it works for The Slayer, it works for me.

buffy5_400

(image courtesy of DARKHORSE.COM)

Speaking of Buffy, I laughed so hard during a Buffy episode one time, I almost split my side. It went something like this:

Potential Buffy Boyfriend is talking to Buffy’s Best Friend and asks her to tell him more about Buffy – what she likes, hobbies, etc,….

Buffy’s Best Friend, Willow says: “ She likes cheese… I’m not saying it’s the key to her heart, but Buffy… she likes cheese”.

I tried to find a video, but alas it was not available. I am guessing though, that even if I found the video, my readers might not laugh. It is kind of a joke, that only the cheese obsessed could get. I mean, I’d like to think that people who know me well, might say something similar if asked about my likes and dislikes.

For someone that loves cheese and trying new cheeses as much as I do, I admit to having my favorites – Brunost, Pecorino Toscano Fresco, Vermont Sharp Cheddar, all manner of raw milk cheeses, and probably my number one favorite– Goat Cheese.

The thing that I love so much about goat cheese is that it is very easy to make, and extremely versatile. You can eat it on crackers – and enjoy it with pesto on top, just as well as raw honey, put it in eggs, use it in dips, stuff it into lasagna, etc. Plus you can use the whey to make other recipes. Which totally fits into my “Waste Not Want Not” philosophy. There is just so much to love.

I love cheese so much, that I plan on getting my own goats and sheep in a few months, so that I can have fresh raw goat’s milk and sheep’s milk to make cheese from.  That is what I call a commitment to cheese. I have several other cheesy plans in the works as well.

I told you I was obsessed.

Anyway, goat cheese is as easier to make than you would ever dream of. All you need is a gallon of goat’s milk (I got raw goat milk from the farmer’s market, but you can also used pasteurized from your grocery store, you can also make a half recipe), cultures and directions. The only equipment you need is a large pot, a kitchen thermometer, cheesecloth and a container to let it set in – I recommend this one.

This recipe makes about 16 oz. of fresh delicious goat cheese – all for about $6-8 which is about 3x the amount you get at the grocery store for the same price. Which is why you can afford to put it in lasagna. You know you want to.

Come to the dark side, we have cheese.

goat_cheese_on_plate_2


Goat Fromage Blanc with Garbanzo Crackers

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Well I have been up to a little kitchen experimentation, lately. First I wanted to tackle another batch of Fromage Blanc made with goat milk. The last time I made it , after draining it for 12 hours, I gave the cheese cloth a bit of a heavy handed squeeze which resulted in a dry and crumbly sort of cheese. I liked it. It was good for stirring in eggs and other dishes. However this time I was hoping to yield a softer more spreadable cheese. Basically I followed the same procedure as last time , except that I used pasteurized goat milk, instead of raw, let the cheese drain for about 15 hours (instead of 12) and did not squeeze the bag. It came out perfectly! Wonderful and creamy and perfect to spread on crackers…except there were no crackers!

That was an easy fix. I have been wanting to play with some of the recipes from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients. Jeff and Zoe, along with Monica from their publishing company, St. Martin’s Press, are generously hosting 2 months of giveaways of this book on Foodieblogroll.com! I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the book from Monica and really wanted to get baking. I was particularly interested in the gluten-free breads. So I was delighted to find a gluten free version of the Olive Oil bread, I use so often from their first book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. The gluten free recipe called for soy flour, and I have a soy sensitivity and I didn’t have rice flour on hand either. So I decided to make a modified version, using what I had available – since I really wanted to enjoy some cheese & crackers.

These crackers are not gluten free, but what I call transitional crackers. Although you could make them gluten free by using rice flour in place of the WW flour. I used kefir and raw apple cider vinegar to soak local whole wheat Vermont flour – from a farm we visited in Vermont this fall and then used garbanzo bean flour to cut down on some of the grains in this cracker. The garbanzo bean flour had a very strong smell and so I really wasn’t sure how it would turn out if I used exclusively garbanzo flour. I used over half of the dough to make crackers, and then used the other part to make a small loaf of bread. The bread was not great, but the crackers were wonderful! The bean flavor in the flour really complimented the nice crispy crackers. Here is my recipe inspired by both Gluten- Free Olive Oil Bread and Gluten-Free Cheddar and Sesame Crackers from Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.

Seedy Garbanzo Crackers (NOT Gluten-free)

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ TBS yeast

1 TBS sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp raw apple cider vinegar

2 large organic eggs

½ cup of homemade kefir

2 cups filtered water

3 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups garbanzo bean flour

½ cup corn starch

Cracker toppings: seeds: white or black sesame, fennel, flax, etc, salt, za’atar spice or any other spices or dried herbs you like.

METHOD:

1) Whisk together flours, cornstarch, yeast and salt, and put in a large lidded bowl.

2) Combine all the liquid ingredients and gradually mix with the dry ingredients using a spoon, or 14 cup food processor.

3) Cover (not airtight) and allow the dough to rest at room temperature for at least2 hours, but better for those with grain intolerance, to let it rest for 12 hours and up to 24 hours.

4) The dough can be used immediately after its initial rise or you can refrigerate in the lidded container and use it over the next 7 days. The flavor will be better if you wait for at least 24 hours of refrigeration.

On Baking Day:

1) Thirty minutes before baking time preheat the oven to 400 F.

2) Cut off an orange sized piece of dough, place dough on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat. Then cover with more parchment paper or plastic wrap. Use a rolling pin and roll until you have a 1/16th inch rectangle. Peel off the top layer or wrap or paper, and place the dough on top of the paper or mat onto baking sheet.

3) Using a pizza cutter gently score the dough into the shape you want the crackers (be careful not to cut the silicone mat, if that is what you are using).

4) Just before baking, using a pastry brush, paint the dough with water and sprinkle the top with black and toasted sesame seeds, salt and za’atar spice.

5) Bake for 15 minutes, or until crackers are golden brown. Allow them to cool before eating.

6) Serve with fromage blanc!

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Convenience Food: Soaking Legumes, Grains and Making Yummy Dairy Products!

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Are you looking for Finest Foodies Friday? If so, please go over to Foodieblogroll.com. From now on, all Finest Foodies Friday posts  will be featured over there! Click here to check out today’s featured blogs!

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It has been almost two years since I have written a non-Finest Foodies Friday post on Friday on this blog! So I decided to post something simple, yet profound (for me, in any case). A few months ago I posted about Breakfast being the most important meal of the day. What I like to call my “Breakfast of Champions”.  In that post I mentioned that I soaked my grains or grasses (buckwheat/quinoa) for 24 hours before cooking them in my breakfast. The post also explains my reasons behind soaking. I got a lot of comments about how good the breakfast looked, but about how it was too time consuming with the soaking for most people to make everyday.

I have wanted to write a post addressing this for a while, so yesterday as I was doing my weekly soaking and dairy product making, Roberto reminded me that I should post about it. So here I am. Basically I am here to say that you can soak your grains, grasses and legumes and make dairy products on a weekly basis, without taking much time out of your busy schedule. In fact, doing this helps you to save time during the week, because you have food ready to go. As I was telling Amy the other day, that this is my idea of convenience food. You can check out her time saving efforts here.

Basically prep time for getting beans and grains soaking is about as long as it takes to boil a cup of water and mix it with apple cider vinegar and more water to cover. Then it does the work itself over 24 hours. If you want to take it further you can cook them to almost al dente, and then freeze them for throwing into quick meals later in the week. The beauty of that is that while they are cooking, you can be doing other things. You can even cook them in your crock pot, and you don’t even have to be home!

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The same can be said for dairy products. Every week I make yogurt, kefir and some kind of cheese. If you let your milk come to room temperature before cooking it to make these items, the whole process takes about 5 minutes. Maybe 15 for yogurt. Then you let it sit for 12-24 hours, while you are doing other things.

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This week I made creme fraiche, which is a delicious version of sour cream! It is well worth the extra few minutes in taste as well as health because you can monitor exactly what goes into it.

All you need is 2 days – and really only about an hour or two on both of those days of actual labor. If you don’t have that much time, you could break it up into ½ hour over several days. Between yesterday and the day before, I made 8 cups of homemade turkey stock in my crockpot. I also soaked chick peas, buckwheat, 2 kinds of rice and oatmeal AND I made yogurt, kefir and creme fraiche. If you can spare 2 hours a week, you can do this too! It is fun, easy, a way to save money, and much better tasting than what you can buy at the store in cans, as well as better for your health! So try it today!

To get you started on the benefits of soaking beans, grains, grasses and making your own stock, please check out: Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats

If you want to get into making dairy products, please check out: Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses

Have fun and enjoy!!!!