Sunday, June 14, 2015

Trying a New Cheese Recipe

Each week I receive three half gallons of Coffelt Farm whole raw milk.  I use one half gallon to make our yogurt for the week and the other 2 half gallons are used to make various cheeses.  So far I've made a couple of batches of brie, some quieso da vinho(wine soaked cheese), romano, manchego, traditional cheddar and caraway gouda as well as the usual mozzarella and ricotta salata.

This week I decided to branch out and try a new cheese, fontina.  The recipe comes from a book called 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes.  It is a great book, clear and concise with good instructions for the beginning cheese maker.  I actually prefer it to Ricki Carroll's book.

In any event, Sunday is cheese making day here, so without further ado, here is the recipe for fontina that makes 1 lb. of cheese.

1 gallon milk
1/8 tsp. mesophilic (I use MA4001) starter dissolved in 1 TBSP water
3/16 tsp. calcium chloride in 1 TBSP water
3/16 tsp. rennet(do not use Junket) in 1 TBSP water
1 quart saturated brine(18% salt)

To begin, sterilize all equipment.  I use Starsan for any equipment I cannot or do not boil in boiling water for 10 minutes.  I place 1 inch of water in my cheese kettle and put in my curd cutting knife, balloon whisk, and slotted cheese stirring spoon.  I bring this to a boil  and boil 10 minutes. Remove the boiled implements and place on an impeccably clean towel to dry.  Empty the kettle and cover it to maintain is sterility.   Let the pot cool to room temperature.

Place 2 quarts of hot tap water in a canning pot. Put the gallon of milk in the cheese kettle and rest it inside the canning pot to make a double boiler.  Place a thermometer into the water in the canner to monitor its temperature.  Place the whole apparatus on the stove. Keep the water in the canner at about 100F in order to slowly heat the milk in the cheese pot to 88F.

Once the milk has reached 88F, add the mesophilic starter and stir gently with an up and down motion to mix thoroughly.  Let the milk rest for 1 hour at 88F, adjusting the water bath as necessary and removing the cheese pot as needed to keep an even temperature.  I generally monitor the temperature every 10 minutes and adjust as needed to keep to the 88F temp goal.

After 1 hour, add the calcium chloride and stir gently.  Add the rennet and stir gently.  Let the milk sit for 45 to 50 minutes in the cheese pot, covered.  Again maintain the 88F temperature.  This may not be as difficult because the chemical reaction of the rennet does generate some heat.  Again, I monitor the milk every 10 minutes to be sure it's not too cold and place the pot back in the water bath if necessary.  Keep the water bath at 100F to be sure it can heat the milk when needed.

Meanwhile, heat a quart of water to 145F for use later to 'wash' the curds.

After the 45 minutes when the milk in the cheese pot has coagulated enough to give a 'clean break'   (that is when you lift a small bit of the cheese with the curd knife, the edge of the break is distinct and not soft/runny looking).   Cut the curds into 1/4 inch pea-sized dice using your curd knife.  Make cuts horizontally, vertically and then at a 45 degree angle underneath the curds in all four directions(north south east west).  Let the curds stand for 5 minutes to strengthen.  Then stir gently with the balloon whisk for 5 minutes being sure all the curds have been cut into the small dice, then continue stirring but with the slotted cheese spoon.

After stirring for 10 minutes, using a ladle, remove 4 cups of whey from the cheese in the pot.  Replace the whey with enough water at 145F to bring the cheese to 102F.  Stir gently for 10 minutes.  Let the curds rest for 5 minutes.  Then, pour the pot of curds and whey into a cheesecloth lined colander over a large pot to catch all the whey.  You can use the whey in cooking or use it to fertilize plants. Blueberry bushes love the extra acid and plant food.  Let the cheese curds drain for 10 minutes, cover them with the whey pot lid to keep them warm.

After 10 minutes, place the curds into a 2 lb. cheese mold, lined with butter muslin or cheese cloth.  Put the cheesecloth lined followed on top of the mold and using a cheese press, press for 15 minutes with 10 lbs of weight. At the 15 minute mark, remove the cheese from the mold and cheese cloth.  Flip the cheese over, gently and put it back in the cheese cloth and mold.  Press for 12 hours with 28 lbs of weight.

After the 12 hour pressing, remove the cheese from the mold and soak it in the saturated brine for 12 hours, turning it after 6 hours.

Once the 12 hour soak is done, remove the cheese from the brine and dry it out on a cheese mat all at room temperature.  I usually cover the cheese with 2 layers of cheese cloth so no 'beasties' get into it while it is drying. Dry it for 24 hours turning at least once.  When dry.  Place the cheese in a ripening box and store at 55F-60F 90-95% humidity (I place a wet paper towel in the ripening box with the cheese to maintain the right moisture level.)  After three days and every other day thereafter for the first month, wash (gently pat) the outside of the cheese with a simple brine solution, turn the cheese over for even flavor development and drying.  (Simple brine solution - 1 tsp salt in 1 cup boiling water cooled to room temp).   Wash and turn the cheese two times a week for the next 2 months.  After the three months, you may wrap and refrigerate, use when you like it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

San Joaquin Sourdough Bread in a Dutch Oven-Camping In Style

For the past 5 months, my husband and I have been living in a yurt on Orcas Island as our home is being built on the same property.  It is an adventure every day.  Today's adventure was baking bread in a dutch oven over charcoal.

I had been thinking about making this bread for several months as its process lends itself well to a lifestyle with few utensils. I did use a Brod and Taylor proofer to maintain temperature for the bread during the fermentation periods.  The recipe for this bread can be found on, a wonderful site for all things bread related.  We used a 10 inch dutch oven when baking the bread and brought the temperature to 450F before placing the loaf in the oven.  The bread baked for 30 minutes with a 180 degree turn of the dutch oven about half way through baking to ensure even temperature.  I also improvised on the timing once the loaf was taken out of the fridge from its overnight rest.  I left it out at room temperature for an hour, shaped the loaf, then placed it in a well floured cloth lined bowl and fermented it for 1 1/2 hours at 72F before baking.

Here's the resulting loaf -

The crumb on the loaf is glossy and open -

This is a very flavorful loaf due to the addition of a small amount of dark rye flour and its 12 hour 'nap' in the dorm-sized refrigerator overnight.  We will be enjoying this with some chicken soup later this evening.  Bon Appetit!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

It's been a long time!

Well, I'm finally back online.  Since I last wrote, so much has happened.  We sold our home in California and moved to Orcas Island, Washington.  What a change!  Right now our new home is under construction and we are living in a 16 foot yurt on the property.  We've done a lot in our 5 months here and have established ourselves as full time residents of Orcas Island.  We have yet to go back to the mainland but are planning a trip soon to select appliances for our new home.

What's foremost in my mind right now is a small garden plot (12 ft x 4 ft) raised bed that Michael built for me that I planted with shelling peas, snap peas, spinach, kale, cabbage, beets, turnips, scallions, onions and soon to be garlic and saffron crocus.  This is my 'tasting garden' as a friend of mine here calls it.  I hope we get more than just a taste of everything on the list.  So far, the peas, spinach, kale, cabbage, beets and turnips have sprouted.  I am still waiting on the onions and scallions to show signs of life.

Cooking here has been a challenge on a two burner Primus camp stove.  I have a small Coleman oven that sits on one burner that I use to bake bread and other goodies.  Right now I'm getting the oven heated to bake a loaf of sour dough whole wheat toasting bread.  It's a pan bread that I've been making every week since we arrived here.

Tonight's dinner is going to be a chicken, zucchini and cabbage stir fry.  Many thanks go to George and Molly Orser of Orcas Farm who run a small CSA (12 members).  What a change from our 900+ member CSA in California.  The vegetables and fruit from Orcas Farm are superb and the farm itself is less than 2 miles from our house.  That's local!

We've been able to source local meat, seafood and eggs here too on Orcas Island.  There is very little we lack except maybe a local source of wheat.  For that we have joined a buyers club and will probably buy wheatberries from this club to be stored in the pantry.  200 lbs of wheat berries should do us for the year.

The weather here has been mild so far and we hope to be in our new home before the worst of the winter rains.  We shall see.  So much to do here the weeks go by very quickly.

Monday, January 20, 2014


I've been inspired by the book Japanses Farm Food to go out on a limb and try making some Yosenabe.  There wasn't a recipe for what I wanted in the book, but I did get some inspiration for this dish and added ingredients above and beyond what the book called for in its vegetable yosenabe.  Here's my riff on yosenabe --

Chicken Yosenabe

2 boneless chicken thighs (or more if you want a meatier soup) sliced thinly
3 leeks, small and tender, sliced into 2 inch sticks and then cut in half and washed to remove all soil
2 large carrots slieced into 2 inch sticks
1 small head of cabbage, cut in quarters then cored and sliced in 1/2 inch lengths
2 watermelon daikons or 1 large white daikon, thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth (homemade is best (see recipe for dark chicken broth on this site), but canned will do in a pinch)
3 cups water
2-3 TBSP soy sauce or more to your taste
1-2 TBSP mirin or more to your taste
2 rectangles of bean threads, roughly 2 inches x 4 inches by 3 inches each

In a 5 quart soup pot, heat the chicken broth, combined with the soy and mirin.  Bring to a boil, add the remaining ingredients except for the bean threads and cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegies are tender.  Add the bean threads and reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot.  Cook 2 minutes more.  Ladle into bowls and enjoy with a bowl of steamed rice on the side.

You could add some diced butternut squash if you like or maybe even some sliced shittake mushrooms, maybe some greens if you have some, like mustard greens or kale.  The possibilities with this soup are endless and it is a good way to clean out the vegetable bin before those vegies go bad.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

What's in this week's box from Eatwell Farm

This week we are getting more great fruit and vegies from Eatwell Farm.  They include:

Red cabbage
Red or Green Mustard
Celeriac or celery
Mei Qing choy
Butternut squash
The pomelo and mandarin oranges sure are tasting good and a great way to get your vitamin C to keep the flu bug away.  A chicken stir fry makes great use of the Mei Qing Choy and broccoli.  Red cabbage along with apples, onions and a bit of brown sugar and apple cider vinegar braised with browned sausages or pork chops on top is a warming winter meal.  Carrots, mustard greens, celery root, leeks, some butternut squash cubes in a chicken broth with bits of cubed chicken and some bean threads, a touch of soy sauce, mirin, and a few shittake mushrooms, can you say yosenabe?  Finish off the yosenabe dinner with a fresh salad. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Great fruit and vegetables this week from Eatwell Farm

This is the list of fresh fruit and vegies coming this week from Eatwell Farm:

Romaine or Red Leaf Lettuce: Store in the crisper in a plastic bag....

 Red Russian Kale: This veg and cold weather love each other, the red tinge in the leaves turns the greens sweet. If you have never eaten kale raw just one taste is all I ask. Store in the crisper

 Bok Choy: Great for stir fry’s, we also add them to soups. Store in the crisper.

 Celeriac: Our celery succumbed to the freeze but this crop came through just fine. For Thanksgiving Lorraine mixed potatoes and celeriac with lots of butter and cream into the most delicious mashed potatoes. Store in the crisper.

 Baby Tadorna Leeks: The selection of this variety of leeks was not under my control as it was a group purchase with Riverdog, Terra Firma and Full Belly Farm. They wanted leeks good for the wholesale market and stores. This year we have ordered our own and I have at least four varieties selected. These have longer white shanks and I think they should have improved flavor. Store in your crisper.

 Green Cabbage: Store in the crisper.

 Carrots: From Terra Firma in winters. Our carrots are still small and we just do n to have sandy enough soil to germinate them well. We always grow delicious carrots but getting a crop to germinate is our main problem. Store in the crisper.

 Butternut Squash: Always a reliable crop here on the farm. Next year we will have a nice cosy warm dome for the butternuts to live in. They like 50F and will keep well into May. Our big project going forward is the farm buildings, we need secure storage for all our stuff. We will have to do it in stage which is why the domes work so well for us.

 Satsuma Mandarins: From Bill Crepps in Winters. The paperwork of organic farming drives Bill crazy so he is not certified. That does not change how he farms. The taste tells us he is organic and I have known Bill for many years.

 Pomelos: From our own trees these have come through the freeze in good condition. there is some ugly marks on the outside but as we all know what on the inside is what counts.

We will be enjoying some winter salads with lettuce, pomelo or mandarins and toasted pecans or pine nuts and blue cheese, maybe even chop up some of that kale and put it in the salad as well.  Bok choy and kale might also be great stir fried with some chicken.  I haven't made borscht yet this year but I still have some beets so along with carrots and cabbage and a few potatoes I have stashed away along with some homemade chicken broth that seems like a good option served with some homemade onion caraway sourdough rye. 

I'm starting to run low on butternut squash cappellacci de zucca in the freezer so the butternut squash will be roasted, mashed and used to fill some pasta.  When frozen, these little pillows of pasta make a great quick meal along with a salad.  I just dress them in some melted brown butter and sage and top with a sprinkling of romano cheese. 

How about some potato, leek and celeriac soup with a bit of ham hock, also a good winter soup.  I freeze the soups and defrost as needed during the week for lunches or dinners with a slice of bread toasted with cheese, very tasty, filling and nutritious. Or I haven't made a leek and goat cheese tart in a very long time.  Great light supper with a side salad.  Lots of possibilities- I'm sure there are many more.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Buttermilk Rolls and Sourdough Bread

Michael is a having a pot luck at work tomorrow (Christmas day), so I thought a batch of buttermilk rolls would be a good addition to the pot.  The recipe is from the website   I changed it a bit and added a couple of tablespoons of butter to the recipe.

Buttermilk Rolls
(Makes 12-18 rolls)

6 to 6 1/2 cups bread or all purpose flour (750grams)
1/2 TBSP salt
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast or instant yeast or 1 15 gram cake of fresh yeast
1 TBSP warm water
1 3/4 to 2 cups buttermilk (I used 2 cups)
2 TBSP butter, melted
1 TBSP honey (you can be generous here)

Glaze:  1 egg beaten with 1 TBSP water
Topping: sesame seeds, poppy seeds or grains(cracked wheat or rolled oats)

Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Combine the warm water and yeast in a 2 cup measure and allow to rest for 10 minutes.  Add the buttermilk to the yeast to the 2 cup mark and stir to combine.  Melt the butter.  Pour the yeast, buttermilk, butter and honey into the flour and mix well.  If the dough is too sticky add more flour, if too stiff, add water or a bit more buttermilk.  You want a shaggy mass of dough that is kneadable.  Knead by machine or hand for 10 minutes to produce a smooth pliable dough.  Using a TBSP of vegetable oil, oil the large bowl and place the dough in it, turn the dough over to coat it completely with a thin film of oil.  Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap, set the bowl aside and allow the dough to rise for 90 minutes or until doubled in bulk.  Divide the dough into 12 to 18 equal pieces( I usually go for 15 equal pieces that I measure on my scale to be sure they are of equal size).  Shape each piece into a neat ball and place in a well greased pan (I use some butter or shortening for this) with rolls touching each other.  I use a 9 x 13 pan to hold all the rolls and make 5 rows of 3 rolls each.  Some folks use a springform pan. 

Let the rolls rise until doubled in bulk (about 45-60 minutes).  Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425F if using a metal pan, or 400F if using a glass pan.  Once risen, mix the glaze and brush lightly over the tops of the rolls, sprinkle the topping.  Bake 25-30 minutes until the rolls are firm and make a hollow sound when tapped.  Serve warm or bring to your event and reheat.  Enjoy!

Next up, San Francisco sourdough - here are the two loaves after preshaping.  Next they will be given a final shaping placed in brotforms (bannetons) and put in the fridge for an overnight rest, baked tomorrow morning.
The loaves after baking --