I am ridiculously excited about the Tour again this year. I always am, I guess, but it continues to surprise me how much fun hours of watching guys try to kill themselves on the back of a bike every single day for three weeks can be.
Every year I think the Tour de Fleece is a fun idea, and every year I blow it off. Not this year. I do hereby declare this the 2010 Tour de 70's Appliance Colors.
My goal is a very simple one, I just want to sit at the wheel for some psychologically satisfying period of time Every.Single.Day. The secret goal that I will not actually admit to myself is to get through every single thing in this photo. I have a bit of travel right in the middle of the Tour, travel that will not be conducive to wheel transport, so I will also build in that an equivalent time with a spindle also counts.
Ohai blog! I keep forgetting about you, poooor thing. ;(
I know I keep saying this, but here goes another attempt to keep up here. SO.....while I may not be able to keep up with you, I AM still cooking, and even sometimes knitting. But mostly it's cooking, cleaning, working and kid-chasing.
This time of year, especially - when I'm no longer so keen on heating up the oven, I really do love my slow cooker. When we went to bed last night, this was a 3 lb pork roast covered in a cajun rub, a sliced onion, and a 1/4 cup of cider. When we woke up, it was a luscious hunk of BBQ just waiting for the forks and the sauce. Ten minutes work for several meals of enjoyment. I call that a good investment.
For those that are curious, it's Dreamland sauce from the rib shack of the same name in Tuscaloosa, AL. Dreamland's are the ribs that broke me from almost 10 years of vegetarianism. Ain't nothin like 'em nowhere.
Thanks to the power of the internet, I no longer have to go home to get my hands on the sauce. Now I can just order it by the case....and I do.
And I mean that in the best possible way. Who else would start from "I think I'd like to make a little peach jam." and end up with "Let's spend ALL DAY over a holiday weekend working our asses off in the kitchen pickling and canning and jam-making with aprox 150 lbs of produce."?
I'm not entirely sure how or even when I stopped making cheese on a regular basis, but somewhere down the line, the habit just died off. It was probably a function of buying this old house and it utterly craptastic kitchen. A kitchen I was sure we'd be fixing up soon. Five years later, it's not even at the top of the list, and I've slowly moved back into all the old kitchen obsessions despite its limitations. We've talked a bit about the cooking, and the canning/preserving, but I haven't talked yet about getting back to one of my true loves. Cheese. I'm not patient enough for aged cheeses, even if I had a clean, climate-controlled place to age them, so I tend to stick to the fresh cheeses. Both are easy, but let's face it - instant gratification is way more fun.
Yogurt (and its relatives, kefir, quark, et al) is, of course, the easiest entry into the rabbit hole of intentionally fermenting one's dairy products, and I guess I can say that I never really stopped making that. After all, one only needs milk, a thermos, and little bit of storebought live yogurt (or other target substance) to have an almost never-ending supply. However, in addition to yogurt, there's a vast, vast world of dairy products beyond our culture's 'fresh' (I'm going to work hard not to jump up on a soapbox here about how our milk supply is so adulterated, so far from fresh as to be almost indistinguishable from the real thing. If anyone cares, email me and I'll be happy to go on and on about this ad nauseum) milk infatuation that is as varied as it is yummy.
Other things that are dead easy to make at home include things like sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese, fresh mozzerella (seriously!), creme fraiche, paneer/panir, queso blanco....the list goes on and on, and we haven't even talked about goat's milk yet.
This weekend, I threw together a batch of 'farmer's cheese', which is just a catch-all name, really, for a lot of fresh, simple cheeses. What they all have in common is very little fuss, and they tend towards creamy, lighter flavors that lend themselves well to all manner of flavor additions. How mild or tart they are is often a function of what critters are used to ripen the milk, and how long they are allowed to ripen it before turning it into cheese. There are plenty of excellent resources for specifics, but my go-to resource are the folks at New England Cheesemaking Supply. This is where I get any cultures I use, and their book seems to be the home cheesemaker's bible. The website is also full of useful info, free recipes, tips, and the like.
I typically start the night before, and can have fresh cheese with lunch the next day with only about 20 - 30 minutes of active work on my part over the span of that time. There are only a few bits of basic equipment needed, & I'll talk about those as we go. It's very easy and it goes like this:
1 gallon milk 1 packet mesophilic or buttermilk cultures (see #2 below) 5 drops rennet diluted in a couple ounces of room temp water aprox 1 tsp kosher salt
1. In a large-ish pot (I'm using my small dutch oven in these pictures, but any basic stockpot will do for this cheese) on lowish heat, bring a gallon of pasturized (but not ultra-pasturized) milk up to 85 degrees F. (A low-temp thermometer is probably one of the few bits of equipment that is a real necessity for cheesemaking, along with real cheesecloth, but more on that later. Mine cost me a whopping $6) and hold at that temp for a few minutes while adding the other ingredients. It's important for the milk not to be too hot or too cool at this step, so this is the one place it pays to be attentive.
2. Add either one packet of mesophilic direct set culture, or one packet buttermilk culture, depending on how tart you wish the final cheese to be, and stir for a few minutes. Buttermilk culture will add a bit more tanginess to the finished product, a flavor not entirely dissimilar from a fresh feta. The straight mesophilic culture will tend to be a bit less acidic and have a milder flavor. There's also info on culturing your own starters in the cheesemaking book, which makes this even more economical, but for early cheesemaking adventures, I stuck with the packets until I was sure I wanted to keep going.
After stirring in the cultures, stir in the diluted rennet. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and let sit at least 5-8 hours or until set in a jello-like consistency. Time elapsed = maybe 10- 15 minutes? Here's the part where I go to bed & leave it to do its thing overnight.
3. Wake up. Have coffee. Peek under pot lid to see the chemistry magic. Is it jiggly? IS it?
4. OK. Assuming jiggly has been achieved, using a long knife, gently cut the set curd all the way to the bottom of the pot into a grid of aprox. 1/2 cubes. Like this:
As the curd is cut the whey (yellowish, thin liquid seen here) will begin to separate.
Once the grid is cut, let the curds settle for 10 minutes, at which point more whey will have settled out and it will look something like this.
5. Return the pot to heat and raise the temperature slowly up to 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally to keep things from sticking.
6. After 10 mins at 90 degrees, gently pour the curds into a muslin-lined colander to drain for an hour or so, then mix in salt to taste, gather up the corners of the muslin, and hang until your desired consistency has been attained.
By lunchtime it should be a creamy, lovely, spreadable cheese, similar in consistency to a neufchatel. Left to drain longer and the cheese will firm up and begin to resemble a fresh chevre. If you think you can wait until dinner, then after a few hours of draining take the bag down, and stack a couple of cutting boards on top of it to press out even more of the whey.
By the end of the day, it will look like the picture at the top, with a texture very similar to a fresh feta. The beauty is that you can stop whenever you want. Or so they tell me.
Perfectly set strawberry jam without commercial pectin. It's kind of a golden fleece around here. Don't get me wrong, I am anything but a pectin snob, for real, but I'm never fond of the texture that seems peculiar to the pectin/strawberry jam combo in my experience. I'm excited to finally hit on the right set up.
I just used the same basic Ball Blue Book of Preserving
recipe for no pectin jam that I've always used, but I did two things differently. The first was making sure that a couple handfuls of the berries I used weren't completely ripe because the green/white berry tips have far more natural pectin in them. The second change was that I started the night before. I just did the crushing, sugaring and initial boiling stages on Saturday night and let the boiled berry/sugar/lemon mixture sit, covered overnight. Then I got up on Sunday morning and boiled it again to the gelling point. A quick hot water bath later and, before lunch even, I had fresh strawberry jam.
I love that even though I KNOW it took exactly the same amount of my hands on time that it always does, it felt like it was WAY faster because I did it this way. Hooray for psychology.
I have thought time and again about the disposition of this blog,
and its constant neglect. I started out here with the idea that it
would be a record of many types of exploits, but somehow I only began
to show up here (if at all) when there was knitting or spinning or
other fibery exploits to share, making it, effectively, a
knitting/fiber blog. Lately my time for those exploits is slim. Sure
there's the kid and work and all the normal stuff, but I am also
spending most of whatever free time I have in the kitchen. We've
started a share at a local CSA, as well as a share at a local meat CSA,
and those exploits (along with pretty much everything else, since I'm
trying to do the 365 project) seem most often to be documented over in
my Flickr stream.
I believe it's time to try to merge all of these online parts. For the
folks who frown on the blending of blog types - you know, assuming
anyone still reads the blog at all - I fear that I am about to
dissappoint you. For everyone else? There's kim chi!!! Come on over.....
There WERE two quarts worth, but somehow by the time it made it into the jars, a pint had gone...erm....missing. In ma belleh.
I will never buy kim chi again, and neither should you. This 80 kinds of easy to make, only took about an hour of total work time (and that includes stuffing it into these jars) and is oh so good. I used this recipe to get the brine and process, but made all manner of modifications to the ingredient list, as follows:
- 1 head regular green cabbage (instead of napa ) roughly chopped into 1/2 inch-ish bits
- added yellow carrots, sorta-kinda julienned
- used an entire bunch of scallions, sliced
- instead of the asian hot peppers, I went with a blend of 1 Tbs hot, smoked paprika and 1 Tbs of regular paprika so that I could get that same hot/sweet combo but with a lower heat value. Consequently it has a definite kick, but is far milder than an average kim chi, which is exactly what I was after since I'm planning to feed it to my kid.
- added just a touch of soy sauce to the seasoning paste
The initial cabbage-only fermentation was overnight Saturday night, and then other veg & seasonings were mixed in Sunday and it sat until tonight - 6 days.
There was a fair bit of brine leftover & I couldn't bear to throw it out, so I poured some over a jar of cucumber spears and a small jar of whole garlic cloves. Those are now buried in the back of the fridge to keep me from eating them too early. With any luck, I'll forget they're there for a couple of weeks and come back to find nirvana.
ChicKnits Twist Cascade 220 Heathers...Turtle, I think. 6 balls, plus a teeny bit of an 7th.
Mods: Lengthened the sleeves and body quite a bit, 2 1/2 inches or so, because sleeves are always too short for me, and there were so many of these that looked shorter than I would have liked for me on the folks in the Rav galleries that I was afeered of that translating to shorty mcdumpypants on me.
In the end, I didn't really need either of them lengthened (please to note folded up sleeves), and while I love the way this turned out, if I had it to do all over again (which, of course, I DO) , I would probably make the pattern as written. Oh, and? I would make the next size down for a bit of negative ease.
Here you can see the temporary button choice because - SHOCKINGLY - despite it's vastness, the button stash does not seem to have THE perfect buttons. However, I am too damned impatient not to start wearing this thing before I can get to a store, so here we are. One, lonely, temporary button. And not very well placed on the button band either...honestly, this is not actually about to pop off.
I've been trying for a couple of weeks to figure out what to do with the last bit of a bag of shrimp that's been in the freezer longer than I am happy about.....which really is any amount of time in the freezer, honestly. Growing up in the South where Gulf seafood is plentiful and cheap, by comparison, I never even acknowledged that frozen shrimp existed. It's only since we moved up here that this has become a requirement for us, and I am not yet so savvy with prepping foods that account for the differences between frozen and fresh. Seriously people, I FLY CRAWFISH IN from Louisianna when I need a fix. Not even kidding. Also it's really not any more expensive (and WAY tastier) than buying the pre-shelled, frozen tail meat in the grocery store....but I digress.
So anyway....it turns out that if you go all old skool and fill an aluminum pouch with sliced onion, the (still frozen) shrimp, lemon halves (after squeezing their juice all over everything), and a whole bunch of a favorite seasoning mix, then toss it in a medium-hot grill for somewhere around 20 minutes, what comes out is pretty darned good peel-n-eat shrimp that takes less than 10 minutes to prep. Color me excited.