This post is part of the “Find Your Whey” yearlong cheese challenge, run by Rachel over at Another Year Without Groceries.
After curdling milk with lemon juice, white vinegar, and apple cider vinegar, and using rennet to firm up the curds, it is time for me to move on to bigger challenges: cultures. I’ve avoided taking on cheeses that require sanitization and little packets of bacteria because, frankly, they scare me. I decided to make chèvre, a single goat’s milk cheese, and then spent a few weeks hemming and hawing over the intimidating cleanliness requirements, until I broke down.
Screw it. I’m doing this the lazy way.
I made mozzarella back in December ’11, and wrote about the experience here. February’s cheese challenge topic happened to be this cheese again. Since I’d already tried making it all by hand, with burning hot water, and no microwave, I took this opportunity to try it the “easy” way: nuke it.
Nuke it hard.
Continuing to be inspired by one young would-be farmer, who treated her search for a farm internship like grad school applications, I set out in December to find myself a good position for 2012. The basic process I followed was:
- 1. Research
2. Make a short-list
3. Contact farms on the list
4. Visit farms
5. End up with multiple choices and pick the best
I’d like to write about my process for finding the internship in this post. A following post will describe my new internship.
In my book, holiday celebrations should always feature special foods. Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce, turkey, and Aurora’s celery-sage stuffing, and my birthday should always include angel’s food cake and whipped cream. Problem is, in our family growing up, food traditions stopped about there. Christmas was Thanksgiving Redux (with more pies), and I don’t recall Easter having any special dish. When my now-husband and I prepared to celebrate our first Christmas together, we brainstormed a new tradition to carry on in our new little family.
“Ham?” I suggested. Russell wrinkled his nose. “Rabbit?” he countered.
I have a complicated attitude towards rabbits. Or an uncomplicated one, depending on how you take it. Let’s not mince words: I dislike them.
Alive, that is.
[disclaimer: graphic photos of animal butchering after the cut]
So I was feeling pretty good about my challah-bread-making prowess, and decided to take on cinnamon rolls as my next bread project. They use yeast, so they count, and they are delicious, which is high on my list of requirements.
The simplest kind of cheese is nothing but dairy and acid. Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, sheep milk. Whole milk, skim milk, yogurt, buttermilk. Lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid. Mix and match any of the above, and you’ll land on some traditional simple cheese. Ricotta and paneer both fall into this category, so when Rachel chose this style of cheese for the first month of the Cheese Challenge, I knew I didn’t want to repeat what I’d already done. After flipping through my new copy of Home Cheesemaking (yay Christmas presents!), I also settled on queso blanco (“white cheese” in Spanish).
Having now made three different simple cheeses, I definitely don’t understand why they all turn out different. They do though, so hey.
I am also not a big New Year resolution person. I can’t even remember the last time I wrote out resolutions. Maybe never?
This year, though, I am feeling different. 2011 was a year of big changes for me, changes that have set me up to feel more solid than I have for, oh, 10 years? Since before college for sure. Going into 2012, my job, my living situation, and my partner are all stable. And that makes me feel optimistic about taking on projects and actually finishing them.
So, I’m always pretty averse to writing down goals for the new year because, well, they’ll inevitably end up being a record of what I didn’t do that year. But. Sometimes they are useful as a thought organization exercise, so here goes. Here are the crafty, DIY-type things I’d like to accomplish this year, in 2012:
1. Complete a second farm/ranch apprenticeship. I’m in the process of contacting four different farms, two of which I’ve heard from in some form or another at this point. Two are up in northern Washington State, two are in eastern Oregon. Two are goat dairies, two are (primarily) beef cattle ranches. At any and all of them I would learn many new skills and build upon what I learned last summer at Pokrov.
I am stoked (that’s right, stoked) to take part in Rachel’s Cheesemaking Challenge. Look for more posts in the months to come as I make more types of cheeeese.
Last month, fresh off the success of making whole milk ricotta that tastes like ricotta, except better, I wanted to try a more difficult cheese. I initially had visions of nutty cheddar, or creamy brie. Maybe a pepper jack. Probably something grape-leaf wrapped. Fortunately, my “ooh fun flavor!” impulse was in direct competition with my less adventurous, yet highly vocal “that sounds complicated, and easily fail-able” inner voice. Not wanting to give up on cheese-making before I’d really gotten rolling, I settled on trying my hand at mozzarella.
I didn’t tell my hand first, or it may have taken a vacation that week rather than repeatedly manhandle cheese pulled from almost-boiling water. I wouldn’t have blamed it.