Friday, 25 July 2014

Cheeseday Rolls Around

The day dawned crisp and clear. The kind of crisp and clear that makes you want to get out into the garden, even though it isn't really Spring yet. It was definitely cold enough to see your breath, but not quite frost cold, although my toes were a little sceptical about that. The lawn guy who used to bring the clippings that I mulched my garden paths with finally gave up trying to get into my pants, and with that also gave up bringing the lawn clippings. So the garden paths are now quite overgrown, and the long grass was drenched in heavy dew, soaking through my shoes, numbing my poor little toes. But with no breeze and a clear blue sky, the watery sun put out enough warmth to be able to stay out for a while and get a few thing done.
Spring is going to be very hectic, trying to get the garden in shape. The winter has been cold and nasty enough to not be able to get out into the garden, but not cold enough to halt - or even really slow - the growth of the grass and weeds. Sigh. So much to do. Eventually though, the many other things that needed doing today going around and around in my head got the better of me, shouting and yelling and clambering over each other, each vying for my attention, until finally I put the trowel and bucket away, and moved on with the rest of my day.

I have settled on a selection of cheeses to make to fill my needs, and have worked out a schedule for making them, doing one cheese a week, that should keep me in a good supply of all the types. My main cooking cheese will be Cheddar, and I will make it in a variety of flavours - Beer, herb, plain - depending on what I already have aging when it comes time to make the new one. The two other hard cheese I will do are a Wensleydale - which I will vary between Cranberry and plain - as an eating cheese, and Parmesan, for my pastas and pestos. Parmesan is the longest aging of the cheeses, requiring 10 months, where all the others only need between 4 weeks and 3 months.
The soft/mould cheeses I have settled on are Gorgonzola for the blue cheese and Neufchatel for the white cheese, being for eating with bread and in salads, and for cooking in pasta sauces and with grilled veggies (grilled mushrooms with Neufchatel... yum!). Feta is a staple for me, and now that I will be making it I will be able to use it a lot more. I use it - marinated - in salads a lot, as well as in a lot of my cooking. Mozzarella is the last of the cheeses on my list, which of course is a must for my homemade pizzas, as well as for salads.
Halloumi I only eat occasionally, and is fast enough to make that I can make it the day (or day before) I need it, and the same goes for Ricotta, which I normally only use in ravioli, cannelloni, and lasagne. So those two aren't on my cheese schedule, I will just make them as needed.
This week's cheese is Mozzarella, which I have just finished making. Meanwhile, the Gorgonzola is now wrapped and happily growing it's blue mould, the Neufchatel is happily growing it's white mould, and the Beer cheese (a type of Cheddar) is happily not growing mould at all, now that it has been waxed.
I have been eating the Ricotta Salata that I made last month, and while it is a nice enough cheese, it is not one I will bother making again, as everything it is used for, the other cheeses I have settled on will be much better for. But it has served its purpose as a quick aging cheese so that I could have a homemade cheese to use while getting my cheese schedule underway and waiting for the others to come ready.

Freshly baked Peasant bread, freshly made Mozzarella, and a Romanesco broccoli fresh picked from my garden.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rainy Sunday

Yay! I was finally able to bottle my cider on Friday. The brewing took inordinately longer than it was supposed to, because winter finally decided to make a showing and the temperatures plummeted. I only managed to finally get it done by huddling my poor brew up to the fireplace. Even then, with wood reserves low, I was lucky to get it up to 18C (64.4F). In the end I wrapped it up in a towel for insulation and managed to get it up to 20C (68F). So now it is bottled, and sitting in a dark corner for aging.
My Gorgonzola isn't terribly happy about the cold either (the kitchen fluctuating between 4C (39.2F) at night and up to 12C (53.6F) - if we are lucky - in the day), and is protesting by flatly refusing to grow blue mould. Italians can be so fussy! My Beer Cheese however, being a true Brit with true grit, doesn't seem to mind the cold at all. It is happy, healthy, and cheerfully sprouting mould - unfortunately it's not the one that is supposed to be growing the mould! Never mind. Since it has developed a good rind, I have wiped it down with salt water to remove the mould, and waxed it this morning. Now it goes up to age for 6 weeks.
Meanwhile I have a Neufchatel draining in the kitchen. Neufchatel generally doesn't mind the colder weather, so I should have a nice cheese for my bread in about two weeks. With the wind and rain still persisting, and an endless grey sky indicating it will be like that that for a while yet, I think I will bake bread and make some Mozzarella today as well, before settling in to an afternoon of embroidery.

2 of my cider, and my freshly waxed Beer cheese.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Cheesy Chusday

The Chorizo turned out fantastic! I'm thrilled I am able to do sausages now, as I had given up totally on pre-made sausage, with their preponderance of large pieces of gristle. The final straw was several years back when I thought I would try some 'gourmet' sausages that had come on the market from a local artisan place (having given up on standard store-bought almost a decade before). Wow - the gristle pieces were even bigger than standard sausages. Then came the real crunch - literally! I cracked a tooth on a very large piece of bone in the sausage. Gourmet? For Klingons maybe, but I certainly wouldn't class them as even edible, much less gourmet.

Meanwhile, here we are over half way thru winter, and winter has finally actually set in. Brrrr! I am hoping for a sunny day soon, so I can bottle my cider. At the moment it is WAY too cold in the kitchen to do much of anything. Even putting the jug on is a quick dash before rushing back into the lounge and the warm fire. Oh, what I wouldn't give for a wood stove! Fortunately, the entire long 'outside' wall of the kitchen is mostly window, and faces the sunny side all day, so even in winter, when it is sunny it warms up real fast.

The last two sunny days we had I made the cheeses I had been waiting to make. On the first sunny day I did the Gorgonzola, which is a blue cheese. It is the oldest (i.e. first) blue cheese, reputed to date back to ancient Rome. Blue cheeses are quite fiddly to make, this one needing 10 hours set aside for it.
I only like blue cheeses when they are relatively 'fresh'. Unfortunately, even the 'fresh' ones in the shops are not at all fresh. Not that I can actually afford to buy them anyway. The last small (and I do mean small!) piece I bought for a pasta dish was 50g (1.76 oz) and cost almost $9.00! So making my own now is a real boon. Blue cheese dressing, blue cheese pasta sauce, ... mmmm...
Two days later we got another sunny day and I was able to do the Beer Cheese. This is a hard cheese that will be waxed for aging. For this one I soaked the curds in a Cooper's Best Extra Stout, a wonderful, rich, aromatic brew. Cooper's is a great Aussie artisan style beer - my favourite brand for using in breads, cheeses, meat dishes, and stews.

On the left is the Beer Cheese wheel, air drying in preparation for waxing. On the right are the Gorgonzola wheels, salted and ready for maturing to develop the mould, after which they will be wrapped and aged for a scant 4 weeks to produce a wonderful fresh blue cheese.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Chorizo - Further Fabulous Food Forays.

My food forays are becoming more advanced, and I have to say, I couldn't be happier! Finally, I have made the leap to sausages, and today made my first Chorizos.

I had actually planned on doing sausages quite a looooong time ago, and even forked out for a hand operated meat grinder and a sausage stuffer around four years ago, but then found I was unable to get the sausage casings, so the grinder and the stuffer were stashed away, and slowly over the years got buried under a pile of other stuff.
Then Mad Millie came out with sausage casings. Yay! I really do like Mad Millie! So last week I ordered the casings, which came Friday afternoon, and then spent a couple of hours digging out the grinder and the stuffer, washing them, and trying to figure out how to assemble them (Chinese made, no instructions, not even a diagram).
Saturday I was busy with other things, and didn't have a chance to get up town, so on Sunday I popped up (and by that, I mean walked several miles) to our local big chain butcher, which advertises that they have everything, and you only have to ask. Well, they don't have pork fat. Apparently they don't actually do their own sausages on site (like their advert suggests). Well, surely one of the small butchers will have some. Four hours of walking around later, nope. Most of the small butchers don't have it (they don't actually do their own sausages apparently), and the odd one or two that do, won't sell it. I began to think my sausage endeavours were going to be back-burnered again. Desperate, and on the off-chance I might get lucky, I stopped in at Pac 'n Save. They are a big chain supermarket, but they do still do their own butchery (many don't, they just buy the stuff in). Yes they do have pork fat (because they do their own sausages), but they don't sell it, and, being afternoon by this time, they didn't have any left anyway. But a lovely butcher there said that since I didn't want a huge amount, if I came in early the next morning, when the whole pigs arrived, he would sell me some. So up I walked again this morning, and sure enough, the wonderful butcher had half a kilo for me, at a very moderate price. Big smile on my face.
Here are my lovely chorizo sausages, freshly stuffed, and even properly linked (thank you stu8944 for your great video on how to link sausages).