Tuesday, 19 June 2012

When Cheese Goes Wrong!

by Gavin Webber from The Greening of Gavin and Little Green Cheese.

I could wax lyrical about all the cheese that I have made that went according to plan, but I don't think I have ever mentioned one that has gone terribly wrong!  This is one of those times.

It started out looking kind of nice and something like this.  There was enough curds for two small and one rather large cheeses.



Over the course of the last few weeks, I totally neglected these cheeses.  They required turning every 4 days and humid conditions.  At the 30 day mark I was to scrape off the mould and it would have looked nice.

Anyway, because of the neglect, this is what they looked like on Monday night!



The large one had mostly had a melt down, but was salvageable of sorts, but the two small ones had totally lost their form and were runny inside.  A bit like blue cheese Camembert I suppose.  As for the taste, well they were fantastic.  A great creamy blue cheese flavour.

This is what I managed to do with them.


I scraped all of the mould off of the large cheese, then wrapped it in cheese wrap and put it into the normal refrigerator to see what happens.  I could use it now, but it would be just good for spreading on crackers like a blue cream cheese.


As for the two small ones, we stored them for a day in the fridge and turned them into a wonderful blue cheese sauce.  Kim cooked up some Penne pasta and lots of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot and corn, mixed it all together with the some rue which she added the cheese to make a blue cheese sauce and baked it in the oven.  The flavour was amazing and the meal was delicious.  Our son Ben went back for seconds as did I!

If this is what is known as a disaster in the cheese world, then I am happy with it!  I love it when we learn from mistakes that can be turned around to something edible and yummy.  It just goes to show that cheese making is not all about recipes and following rules, it can be about serendipitous mistakes as well!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Lemon Cleaner

by Linda from The Witches Kitchen


No don't look at the Callistemons.  They are lovely, and we have them in flower now, adding a bit of colour in the kitchen.  Though I'm really a very practical gardener I'm coming more and more to appreciate growing flowers. Natives like callistemons in particular are great attractants for insect eating birds - many insect eaters are also nectar eaters (insects for protein and nectar for sugars).  But I have to admit, I even have jonquils which will start to flower so early in spring that it's really still winter, and a gorgeous scented climbing rose that flowers most of the summer.

There's something about a vase of flowers, especially scented ones, that brightens the whole day. And it's the kind of gift you can give without awkwardness for no reason at all.  

No, look at the vase.  Isn't it shiny? Half a lemon dipped in coarse salt, rubbed over it and rinsed off.  No chemicals and very very little elbow grease. It's my kind of cleaning, and it works on anything metal - stove, sink, laundry tubs, brass, copper, silver.  And right now, we have lemons galore.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Extending Dishwasher Powder

by Amanda of Live Life Simply


This year we added a dishwasher to our kitchen. It wasn't a decision that we made overnight. We thought long and hard about the pro's and cons of having one and in the end there was more positives than negatives. We use it every second day. I like having a dishwasher.

I have been experimenting with dishwasher powders and tablets, trying to come up with a way of reducing the costs by making our own. I tried a few recipes I found on the internet and also tried halving the dose of a tablet and powder, but I wasn't getting consistent results. One of my Facebook readers suggested a recipe which I adapted and it works brilliantly for me. Because it isn't made entirely from scratch and still uses commercially prepared cleaner I have labelled it an 'extender'. It is tripling the use of one bottle of powder cleaner - saving us money!

This is the recipe I am using and love:

1 cup of Ecostore Dishwasher powder
2 cups of bi-carb soda
1/2 cup of salt

Store in a glass jar out of children's reach.
Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load

Many other recipes use citric acid, borax, essential oils, regular dish washing detergent and a 1/2 cup of vinegar poured into the base of the washer. So far I haven't added any of these to this recipe. Unfortunately homemade recipes don't always work for everybody and little bit persistence and trial and error is required. I'd love to read any recipes you have found work for you!

Amanda x




Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Butter Production on the Farmstead

by Throwback at Trapper Creek





Often times the only thought of dairy products on people's minds is fluid milk, and with a weight conscious society, butter is frequently overlooked.  I happen to think though, that good fat is what's missing in many people's diets.  Enter the family cow, a real workhorse for the farmstead if you have adequate land and pasture to support a bovine.  Milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream are all delicious and are necessary items for the home kitchen.

If you're reading this blog I am probably preaching to the choir, so I'll just run through my butter making scheme to give you a general idea of what is possible for stocking the home larder with butter.

Jane is raising her calf in addition to providing enough milk for the house.  A purebred Guernsey, she is currently giving about 6 gallons of milk each day.  Two plus for the calf, and four gallons for the house.  As the calf grows larger it will drink more to support its growth and we will take less. 



I milk twice a day, and strain the milk into wide mouth gallon jars with the idea in mind that I will be skimming the cream for butter.  It takes about 24 hours for the cream to rise completely, so I skim the cream from the milk after that time, and when I am going to make butter.  The real method to my madness (and it is madness this time of year) is to make as much butter with early lactation cream as I can and store it for later.  I freeze my butter, but you could also make ghee if you don't want to use electricity to store your butter.  Why early lactation you ask?  Because I am a lazy churner, and during the early lactation period the fat globules are larger and it churns faster.  Of course, Mother Nature designed this to benefit the calf, but anytime I can hop aboard the lazy train and make hand churned butter in 7 - 10 minutes I do it!  So I churn to beat the band in the first three months and about the time I have a good amount of butter stocked up, and the calf is needing more milk, the fat globules are getting smaller and the butter takes longer to come.  Sure, I could buy an electric churn and who would care how long it took to get butter, but also the urgency to stockpile is part of our genetic make-up and I am harvesting sunlight after all.  That means I have to behave in a seasonal manner and stock up on the bounty when there is truly a bounty, not a faux bounty that the store bought mentality has given us.

Fitting butter churning into an already busy farm schedule takes some planning, and is dictated by the amount of milk in the fridge.  I can only store so much milk, and I only have so much time.  It doesn't take any longer to churn two pounds of butter than it does one, so I go with my two gallon churn and churn every other day, rather than use a smaller churn and make butter every day.  That works out the best for me.  It's half the cleanup too, which is where the largest portion of my time is spent when I say I spend and hour and a half a day "milking" the cow.  The actual milking, "pails" in comparison time-wise to the milk handling and processing. 

I skim the cream into squatty wide mouth half gallon jars that I have just for cream.  With hand skimming, it takes about 4 gallons of milk to yield a half gallon of cream, mileage may vary depending on the cow, stage of lactation and your hand skimming skill.  To keep from exposing the milk to bacteria over and over, I wait until a few hours before I am going to churn to skim, and I skim all the jars at the same time.  The cream needs to be at about 60 degrees F to churn fast, much colder it becomes grainy  - much warmer and it is greasy.  I know that sounds funny, but butter has lots of similarities to dough and all its quirks, once you see and feel these subtle differences you'll know what I mean.  After skimming, I leave the milk to reach room temperature or 60 degrees and then I have a little leeway to do other chores or fit in churning while fixing dinner.

After churning the butter needs to be washed and worked thoroughly to get out all the buttermilk, this is very important for longer storage.  Adding salt at this time is a personal preference, I have never found that it makes much difference in the keeping quality.

To figure out how much butter I need for the year, I use my loose 52 week plan I keep in mind when I am canning.  How much butter do you use per week?  One pound, three pounds?  Multiply that figure by 52 and see what you get. We fall somewhere in between that number, and luckily that works out to be an attainable goal for the resident butter maker.  At this point I am getting about a pound a day, so if I can keep up that pace, in four months time and when the sunlight is starting to fade I can have 120 pounds of butter stored up, maybe. 

So there you have it, from 4 gallons of milk, you get 1/2 gallon of cream, which magically turns into a pound of butter and a 1/2 gallon of buttermilk.  Plus you still have almost the 4 gallons of milk that is perfect for cheese of some sort, or clabbering for hens and hogs.  And after all that there is gallons of whey too.  The family cow, the true workhorse of the farmstead :)

Jane Butterfield

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Mandarins


Posted by Bel

Where we live in Australia, it's citrus season.  When I drive along our country roads I see trees laden with bright orange and yellow fruit - in parks, paddocks, beside shops and in backyards.  What a bounty!



Our most successful citrus trees so far, on the farm, are two different varieties of mandarins.  Our children eat lots of mandarins, especially the loose-skin variety - easy to peel and sweet!  We also juice mandarins and make ice-blocks from the juice.  And still there are more on the tree!  Here are some of our favourite recipes...

Mandarin Jam (about 3 jars)
8 mandarins
1kg sugar
3 cups water
Wipe mandarins with a damp cloth, cut them in half horizontally then in half again. Using fingers remove seeds and discard them. Peel away skin and reserve the skins of 4 mandarins. Using a sharp knife cut skin into fine slivers. Place mandarin pulp in food processor, process until pulp is chopped (few seconds). Place pulp in a large pan, add rind, sugar and water – mix well. Mixture should be about 5cm deep in the pan. Stir jam over medium heat until shugar has dissolved, increase heat slightly, boil gently, uncovered without stirring for around 50 mins. Check occasionally during last 10 mins of cooking to make sure mixture isn’t burning on the bottom. Test to see if jam will jell on a cold saucer. Remove scum from surface, pour jam into hot sterilised jars. Seal when cold. Label and store or give as a gift.

Mandarin Muffins (18)
1 cup mandarin pieces, deseeded
1 cup mandarin juice
2 cups wholemeal spelt flour +
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rapidura sugar
1 egg, beaten
250ml natural yoghurt
1/2 cup macadamia oil
1/2 cup nuts, chopped
Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners. Jucie the mandarins. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb, salt, sugar. In another bowl, comine egg, yoghurt, juice, oil. Stir nuts and mandarin pieces through dry ingredients, then add the liquid mixture. Stir only until moistened. Fill lined muffin cups until 2/3 full. Bake for 25 minutes. Ready when spring back to the touch. Freeze well.


Mandarin syrup (Cordial)
1.5kg sugar (I’ve used white or raw)
900ml water
450ml mandarin juice (or orange, grapefruit, lemon etc)
few strips rind
Bring the sugar and water to the boil – when it starts to thicken slightly, add the juice and peel. Simmer 5 minutes. Strain well into a jug. Pour into sterilised bottles. Seal and label. To serve, mix with chilled water or soda water. Nice as a mixer for cocktails. To enchance flavour, add mandarin (or lemon) juice icecubes to drink – YUM.

To Freeze Mandarins:
Peel, de-seed and freeze in a syrup for use in cooking at a later date. Syrup may be useful as liquid measure in some recipes as well.

Remove pith and freeze sections as a cool treat.