When you come home from a successful hunt, are you already thinking about how you’re going to prepare the meat? Generally speaking, you’ve got some decisions to make. What cuts of meat do you want? How much to grind? Do you plan to store it all in the freezer? Or are you going to preserve it using other methods: canning, smoking, fermenting, or dry curing?
Swiss Hills Ferments
To me, most of the good stuff with cheese happens during aging. Flavors are enhanced and deliciousness ensues. The problem for the home cheesemaker, however, is that instructions are usually far more detailed for the actual cheesemaking part of the recipe. It’s harder to come by in-depth instructions for aging your cheese. I’ve been making cheese for a few years now, and I want to share with you some things I’ve learned. Specifically, here are three things I wish I had known about aging cheese when I first started out.
This one is easy. And surprising.
These pickle pastrami bites are made with just three ingredients: pickles, pastrami, and cream cheese. Umm, kind of the simplest thing ever. But you know me. Even if it’s simple, I have to complicate things.
When I was growing up, my mom would make a molasses rye bread that we called “Dorothy’s Bread.” As far back as I can remember, it was the only type of bread that we ever made in the house. If we made bread, it was Dorothy’s Bread. Round loaves, soft and brown with a coating of butter fresh out of the oven. And we would never wait. We’d dig in and eat half a loaf of bread in one sitting, covering it with butter and filling up on pillowy soft bread goodness.
It always bothered me as a home cheesemaker that there wasn’t an easier way to control temperature and humidity for my aging cheeses. I don’t live in the countryside with a built-in cheese cave. I can’t dig a root cellar on my property. I don’t even have a basement. When I decided I wanted to age cheeses, I needed to find a way to keep them cool (but not refrigerator-cold) and increase humidity so they didn’t dry out.
Then, a couple years later, after we had been making fresh sausages successfully, James and I wanted to add salami to our repertoire. But what we had cobbled together for aging cheeses wasn’t exactly ideal for drying sausages. As we started to research what we would need, we realized to what lengths individuals were going to create their own curing chambers. I am terribly un-inclined when it comes to mechanics, and the thought of constructing one of these chambers on my own intimidated me.
Thankfully, I have a husband who (1) isn’t afraid of putting things together and (2) sees business opportunities everywhere he looks.
I have been reading a book about the history of wine, which suggests that ancient wine-makers produced primarily soured wine. Without modern methods of sanitation or airlocks, our first vinters produced wine tinged with vinegar. (Not exactly the quality that our modern wine aficionados would appreciate. . .)
These days, it would seem like a defect to drink a wine that has soured. Yet today, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m taking soured wine (also known as wine vinegar) and making it drinkable. Why? Well, because it’s surprisingly good.
I’m going to talk today about butterkäse. It’s a German cheese, mild in flavor, soft and smooth in texture, and highly meltable. In short, it’s a perfect sandwich cheese. It’s made in Germany and also in Wisconsin where I grew up. And now that I know how to make my own cheese, it’s made wherever I live as well.
It’s easy to feel like there’s not enough time for hobbies or to get the things done that you want to do. With responsibilities to uphold, jobs to go to, children to watch, relationships to nurture . . . that doesn’t always leave time for hobbies or interests. But I’m going to argue that it’s worth it to try to make the time. Hobbies help us to grow as people, and they add “life” to our lives.
So, we made some goat prosciutto. Generally, prosciutto is made from the leg of a pig, but we were looking for something that would cure in a shorter amount of time. Goat leg it was! And the plus was that by de-boning the goat leg, we were able to finish aging the meat in just a month. (Another speedy bonus was that the farmer we bought the goat leg from only had half legs available at the moment . . . It took much less time)
Smoothies are important in our house: a regular lunch-time staple. To be honest, I don’t usually adhere to smoothie recipes. I throw in some fruit and some yogurt, and that’s about it. But every once in a while, it’s fun to come up with a real recipe and present something a little more put-together, like this winter smoothie.
Winter isn’t exactly the peak of smoothie season. There’s not a lot of fresh fruit options out there, and a lot of times we may feel like cuddling up with a mug of warm eggnog rather than a smoothie (And yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but eggnog isn’t just for Christmas, people. I refuse to be past eggnog season!) But even if we may feel like cuddling up with a warm drink, there are still some winter-worthy fruits and spices out there that I’m capitalizing on in this smoothie recipe.
Kimchi pancakes are my favorite way to eat kimchi (at least that I’ve tried). We don’t eat a ton of kimchi in our house, but this makes a delicious side to bulgogi or stir fry or whatever else you feel like pairing with it. I have also found that for tiny palates that aren’t yet used to spicy foods, it’s a gentler way of exposing them to kimchi.
Last time I posted, I broached some questions. Questions like, how do our food choices reflect our values? How do they make us who we are? Are we really what we eat? I talked about how colonials in New England were shaped by the fact that they owned their own land, planted diverse crops, and were independent in their food sourcing. Maybe even to the point that it influenced their pursuit for political independence.
I asked a lot of questions, which was good food for thought (ha!). But I wanted to know more. I wanted to know if there was more current research that could shed some light on how our food choices shape us.
And I found this: a 2001 study on food choices whose results completely fascinated me. And since you probably aren’t going to take the time to go read a research paper, I’m going to share these results with you, as well as my own interpretation of them.
The other day my 4-year-old watched a TV show. And then she spent all of lunchtime re-telling the story to me. She shared the dialogue, all the plot lines, and all the best parts with me (at least as well as her 4-year-old mind could elucidate). And then it hit me: she is just like me. I don’t do that so much with movies, but when I read a book, I have an insatiable urge to tell someone all about it.
Well, guess what? I read a book.
I came back alone from an orchestra concert last night, and my house was quiet. I kind of wanted to crack open a pint of ice cream, but it seemed a little strange to do so by myself. When I was growing up, my parents would sometimes take me out for ice cream after a performance. (Food traditions are powerful. They stick with you.)
I kind of love Indian food. It doesn’t have good looks, but it has amazing taste. Every concoction of Indian food that I have made is gloppy-looking (including this recipe), but who cares when it’s so delicious. I love the use of sauces and creams and coconut milk and spices. I just love it.
You’ll have to forgive me for being completely behind in my posting. We came back from Tennessee months ago but somehow this post never made it onto the blog. In any case, there were two things we discovered while there that delighted us, and I wanted to share them with you. Mostly these two things have to do with dedication to a craft and the ability to hold onto tradition.
I don’t really make New Years’ resolutions. Maybe I did once, at James’ insistence, but I don’t find them to be particularly motivating. Even though we make them ourselves, they seem more like external motivation to me, which is never fulfilling. Like someone hanging over our shoulder and nagging, “did you do this yet?”
But I do think that the New Year is a good excuse to be thoughtful and reflective of our lives on this little blue sphere. Are we headed in the direction we want to be? Are we making headway toward our dreams? Are we behaving like the person we want to be?
Not too long ago, I shared how James and I dry cured two pork jowls to make guanciale (pronounced gwan-chee-ahhhhh-la). Dry curing whole cuts of meat is stupid easy. Besides time, it just requires a space with a specific temperature and humidity range. That space, of course, is what we’re working on designing for you all: The Cave, a place to ferment just about anything (from lagering beer to fermenting yogurt to dry curing guanciale). It’s not ready for production yet, but you can be sure that when it is, we’ll be enthusiastically promoting it from the digital rooftops. (By the way, you can sign up to our email list over on the right to be the first to be notified when it does become available for pre-orders.)
Well anyway, guanciale takes at least a month to make. And now we’re ready to tell you about how it tastes and what our favorite use for cooking up guanciale is.
I didn’t grow up drinking eggnog, but a few years back James and I made our own, and we’ve been hooked ever since. To be honest, we keep failing at making it. There was the one time that James added valerian root extract instead of vanilla (why yes, that’s something else we’ve made). It tasted a little “off.” And then there are plenty of times that we’ve curdled the eggs in our haste to bring it up to temperature. (I think we both like to multitask in the kitchen, which isn’t all that great when you’re supposed to be stirring constantly.) But you know what? Even our failures were pretty delicious. Homemade eggnog is the best, even with the occasional curdled bits of egg in it.
So of course, because we love our homemade eggnog so, I began to wonder if there was a way to ferment it. Because, as you should know by now, everything tastes better fermented. I wanted to know if I could make eggnog yogurt.
A couple months ago I made some gochujang, and I had just a small amount leftover that wouldn’t fit into my half gallon mason jar. I was concerned about this small amount, because I hate food waste, but yet I didn’t know what to do about it. Was it worth it to save it and put it in its own little smaller jar to ferment? So I asked James about it in all earnest. This is what he told me.
“How much did you make already?”
“A half gallon jar.”
“I think you know my answer. (another long pause) What are you going to do with all of it?”
Well, James, this. This is what I’m going to do with it. I’m going to make a MILLION potstickers and eat them all, using one tablespoon of gochujang at a time, because this is the most amazing food that ever was. (But seriously, if anyone local to us would like some, we have way more than we’re going to use up).
In my last post, I walked you through what diastatic and non-diastatic malt powders were, when you might want to use them, and how to make them yourself from scratch. Basically, they are bread enhancers, and they can help you to get higher rise, browner crust, and tastier crumb. This post will look at three real side-by-side comparisons of homemade diastatic malt powder to see how they help enhance your bread.
I know, it’s got a weird name. But this stuff is magic for bread-baking. It makes your loaves rise higher, brown more beautifully, and taste delicious. When I first saw a recipe that called for optional diastatic malt powder, I just ignored it because I didn’t know what it was or where to get it, and I assumed it was just some unnecessary processed chemical being added. I’ve since changed my tune.
You may have noticed a bit of a lag in my postings the last couple of weeks. The truth is, I have tried to be away from the computer as much as possible since the birth of our son two weeks ago. Since bringing our new little man home from the hospital, we have been filling our days with all the newborn activities you might expect: diapers and nursing and naps and lots and lots of newborn cradling. We are head over heels in love with this tiny new person who has popped into our world.
I don’t usually spend too much time or thought on snacks. But this is one that I’ve been thinking of making for a while, ever since I saw this post over at Nourishing Gourmet. These snacks are conveniently portable and easy to munch on, plus they have the added benefit of being full of healthy probiotics.
It can be really easy to overlook people who are different from us. If they have different ideologies, life experiences, culture, or more, it can be hard to find common ground to talk about or relate to. Segregation happens all the time by interest, economic status, ethnicity, or any number of factors.
Some of this segregation can be for the good. It can be inspiring to find like-minded individuals with similar passions, or therapeutic to find someone who has faced the same challenges. Similarities drive community. The trick, of course, is to be able to find the familiar in even those who on the outside seem different from us.
I love caramel apples. They’re sweet and seasonal and festive and the perfect dessert for Halloween. This year, we took our caramel apples up a notch with homemade caramel made with crème fraiche, and it made the process extra-special. This is our version of crème fraiche caramel apples.
**First of all, my apologies, because most of the pictures I’m posting today have little to do with the content of my post. I just thought I would spice up my mourning the return to Arizona with lovely positive pictures of all the greenery from our vacation.**
We came home last week after seven days of visiting with family, celebrating a lovely wedding, and enjoying the fall colors of Tennessee. We walked barefoot through the Smoky Mountains, my children saw their first worm, and they got to roll down a grassy hill (see picture). We had a wonderful time.
I have been making yogurt for years, long before I started making cheese. It’s tangy and sour and makes the best breakfast food. And, like many cheeses, yogurt cheese can pair surprisingly well with both sweet and savory flavors.
Who doesn’t love soft, warm, pillowy, sweet bread? I don’t make it very often (I have this thing, where I find it almost impossible to make a bread product without adulterating it with whole wheat flour), but it is oh-so-very-good. These are sweet little sourdough surprise buns filled with gooey insides. And if you make them like me (haphazardly and without a map) they really will be a surprise, because you won’t know what’s inside each one.