Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Home Made Ricotta

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

Those of you who read my blog may know that I am a passionate amateur cheese maker. I took a cheese making course at my local community house about two years ago, and haven’t looked back since.

I have made the following cheeses so far with great success; Feta, Wensleydale, Gouda, Pepper Jack, Pyrenees with peppercorns, Parmesan, Romano, Camembert, Stilton, Yoghurt Cheese and Caerphilly.

However, not all cheeses have been successful. For instance, once when making Wensleydale with UHF Full cream milk (which is not advised), and I had a total disaster when the curds did not set. I thought back to the cheese making class, and I remembered that one of the ladies mentioned that if the curds doesn't set after a second go, never throw out the milk because you can always make Ricotta out of it.

So, out with the cheese making book and off I went. I brought the milk to 90°-95°C stirring all the time to ensure that the milk didn't burn, and then added half a cup of white vinegar. This is meant to separate the milk into a basic curds and whey. Guess what? Nothing happened! This was the most stubborn milk I had ever come across. So in a panic, I threw in another half a cup of vinegar. It finally worked. The whey was visible and the curds were so tiny that you could just see them. I strained the curds and whey through cheesecloth in a colander and waited for 5 minutes. The cheese was still very hot so I had to be careful not to burn myself.

After a bit of mucking around, I ended up with two containers full of creamy Ricotta. I added half a teaspoon of salt to each container and stirred well. I now make ricotta with fresh whey that is left over from when I make a cheese, and add one cup of full cream milk to it. That way, I don’t get very too much ricotta and none is wasted. To make a small amount, just use 2 litres of full cream milk and quarter of a cup of white or cider vinegar. It works fine this way as well.

I used it in the filling for some ravioli that I made the next day. It tastes very nice indeed and much better than the store bought stuff that they try and pass off as fresh ricotta.

The old saying is true;

“When at first you don't succeed, try, try again.” Or “Waste not, want not!”

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Holidaying away from the web

Aurora @ Island Dreaming

I am writing this post whilst lazing in bed, 200 miles from my computer and Internet connection. I had considered rescheduling my post for when we returned home, but realized that this was a good opportunity to try out a much hyped piece of modern technology - the smartphone. This isn't my own, but my much more gadget minded darling other half's, who over the years has amassed quite a collection of electronic wizardry and the assorted tangle of spare cables and wiring that go with it.

This week we are away visiting family, who aren't connected to the Internet. If I was at home, I would be logging on first thing in the morning and probably also in the evening too. If something interesting is occurring somewhere in the world - and there always seems to be something - then I would probably be checking in on that during spare moments too. I have blog feeds to catch up on, email to check and reply to, news sites to read (all of which seem to offer live blogs of various news stories on a seemingly daily basis now). I occasionally take a look at Facebook just in case anyone is trying to contact me. Then there are the forums that I check into on an on-off basis. All of which come embedded with hyperlinks that allow me to hop around the web reading the background, sideshows and tangents of every story I come across.

All in all I could probably fill entire days with online activity. At the end of which I would have achieved very little of actual value and would have a headache. Most of what I do online is a complete energy and time drain that detracts from the things that I would like to be doing. This week I haven't had that luxury. This tiny screen and infuriating touch keyboard, combined with very temperamental mobile broadband has made all of my usual online activity a chore. It has also drawn my attention to the things that I really miss being able to do, the things that when I get home I should use my nice ergonomic PC and Internet connection for.

My own priorities are to streamline my blog feeds and decide whether I need to be reading them everyday. At the same time I would like to be writing and tweaking my own blog a little more often (though I blame pregnancy related brain fog for my recent reluctance to string words together), simply because I enjoy it. I plan to check news sites no more than a handful of times a week and to ignore all the hyperlinks encouraging me to delve into non-stories far more deeply than I need to, instead using the Internet to research things that I actually need and want to know about, not the things I "should" know about.

Everyone's priorities will be different, so how do you manage you time online? Do you find yourself distracted constantly or have you managed to strike a balance?

Thursday, 24 March 2011


by Amy of My Suburban Homestead 

Well, dear readers, I haven't been as active in writing about my homesteading experiences as I have been in the past. This is largely due to the fact that I am pregnant, and most of the time struggling to keep my eyes open and nausea at bay! Most often I've been curled up under the blankets catching up on movies I've wanted to see over the last few years but have been too preoccupied with other projects.

In preparation for the new addition to our family, I've sold off all of my extra chickens. I had been selling their fertile hatching eggs on e-bay (which is a great way to make some extra money from home, by the way if you have a rooster) because I would like to focus on just our family needs. I find that when I have too much going on and try to make a little extra money for myself, the effort that I spend in doing so ultimately means that I have less time to spend on things that would save me money in the long run, such as making my own laundry detergent or growing food or even building a fire in the wood stove. Like they say, time is a precious commodity.

On my personal blog, I wrote recently about our first experience in raising our own pig for meat and lard. If this is something you've been considering, you might find this an interesting read, and if you are a veteran in raising pigs, I'd love to hear your feedback on your experience.

I've also got three runner ducklings in the brooder, and am hoping that they will help me keep the slugs and snails under better control this year.

I'm finishing up my master gardener course, and have learned a lot. I hope to apply all that I have learned this year and will keep you updated on the progress and new varieties that I am attempting to grow. I have a lot of vegetables growing in the house already, and it should be quite the productive season! 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Reaping the Rewards

by Chiot's Run

If you've been reading here for a while you've heard me talk about my experimentation with winter gardening. This past winter I covered 3 of my hoop houses in the back garden with greenhouse plastic. They were filled with all sorts of greens, onions, leeks, and celery. I've been checking on them all winter, just waiting for the chance to harvest my first salad. Eating the first salad from the garden in the spring is kind of like kicking off the season. Once your body tastes the fresh healthy greens it starts to crave green in earnest.

The First Harvest

Last week I finally enjoyed a salad of greens that I planted last fall. If I had planted the seeds in the spring this year, I'd still have at least another month until I could harvest anything. Truth be told, I could have harvested a salad a few weeks ago, but I've been too busy and it's been to rainy to get out into the garden.

First Harvest of 2011

There's nothing quite like the first salad of spring. It's amazing how your body craves what it needs. I harvested spinach from the garden that contains: vitamins A, B1, B2, B6, C, E, K, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, calcium, potassium, and many more. In addition to homegrown spinach, I also harvested some bitter cress and dandelion greens. These are also full of health benefits including tons of vitamins and they are said to have detoxing benefits for your body. Just what we need after a winter of being cooped up in the house eating too many baked goods.

First Harvest of 2011

Not only is it healthy for the body to grow some of your own food it's healthy for the soul as well. There's something extremely satisfying about producing some of your own food and foraging for some of it in the wild. Perhaps it harkens back to our hunter gather nature.

What are you harvesting from your garden right now?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Bloom Where You Are Planted

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

When I think about the culture around me, I think it is a culture of excuses; the truth, is I used to be a part of that culture. All around me I hear the statement if only; if only we had the money to have land, we would hang out sheets to dry, if only we had a bigger kitchen, we would make jam, if only we could afford it, I wouldn't work so much. I used to believe those lies myself. I used to think everyone else had easier options because they had houses in the countryside, or more money, or less demanding jobs. Slowly but surely through small, little steps in my frugal, simple and green journey I began to see the truth.

-I may not have land to plant, but I can grow herbs in my kitchen
-I may not have acres for chickens, but I can volunteer at a farm
-I may not have a garden, but I can hang my sheets inside
-I may not have a big country kitchen, but I can make jam and preserves and cook from scratch
-I may not have solar panels, but I can reduce, reuse and recycle
-I may not have a big garden compost, but I have my vermicomposter in my little city flat

The truth I discovered is this: in almost any circumstance, you can choose to bloom where you are planted, or choose to stay underground. Listing all the reasons you can't simplify, or make frugal, green choices, will never let you break through the barrier to a purposeful life. Thinking everyone else has it easier, or is able to make choices you can't is debilitating. But when you see a life filled with choices and options and gratitude, you begin to bloom into something that grows before your very eyes. Your life may look different to others, you may have unique strengths, challenges and barriers, but your bloom can be just as beautiful.

I'm attempting to choose, even in more challenging times, to bloom where I'm planted, are you?