Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Cheese Making Course

Do I ever love to learn something new, and cheese-making has been on the list for at least 10 years! Today, I finally got to go to a course in a neighbouring town, taught by the very knowledgeable Bee. The focus on today's course was soft cheeses and we made a yogurt cheese, chevre, paneer, and cotija (a delicious Mexican taco cheese). Bee not only taught us the methods, but the science behind the methods, which I really appreciated. 
In the picture below are two types of coagulated milk. The pot to the right has been coagulated using an acid (vinegar) and the action is instantaneous and dramatic. Those curds became paneer. The pot on the left has been coagulated with rennet, an enzyme which produces a different kind of coagulation that is slower and gentler. These curds became chevre, a goat cheese.
 Here she is demonstrating a "clean break," the method used to show if the curds have formed properly and are ready for the next step.
 We very gently ladled the curds out and into a cheesecloth to drain out the whey. The cheesecloth that you find at the grocery store is not the kind that you would actually use in cheese making, as it is way too loosely woven. In this picture, she is actually using a do-rag, which even has the very handy ties to hang up the curds. Hilarious! She says it is the best cheesecloth she has found.
 The paneer curds were also transferred into cheesecloth to drain and then were pressed. Since we were short on time, we cut down the pressing time and froze it quickly before frying it up to eat.
She pressed the paneer initially by wrapping it in cheesecloth and pushing it on an upside down bowl. This kept the curds out of the whey.

 Next, she shaped it into a square and placed a plate over top with a full jug of water on top for weight.
And this is what it looked like finished.

 She had a very helpful diagram up on the wall to illustrate all of the processes for us!
 The cotija was a more-involved cheese. Instead of just ladling the curds out, we cut them, much the same as you would if you were making a hard cheese.
 We had to heat them and stir the cubed curds over heat, so that they would shrink and release more whey. The stirring process is very gentle and usually doesn't involve lifting the spoon out (this picture was just to illustrate the size of the curds).
It was amazing how much the curds shrunk up.

 For cotija, the curds are left in the pot and the whey is ladled out. When most of it is out, the curds are transferred into a cheese cloth. The curds are weighed and then we added 5% of their weight in salt and stirred it in. The curds are then transferred to a cheesecloth lined cheese mold and more whey is pressed out.

 You can use something as simple as a yogurt container with drainage holes cut into it for a cheese mold.

Because we ran out of time, we had to do a much shorter pressing time, but the cotija still tasted delicious! Very salty and I can imagine that it would taste delicious sprinkled over refried beans.
 Here is some of the paneer that was fried. So delicious, especially with some lime juice sprinkled over top.
And I left the workshop with a little kit of supplies to try making some of my own cheese. I am so excited! (Plus, she is going to be holding another workshop on the next level of cheese making!)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Dandelion Syrup

We made a batch of dandelion syrup the other day. We headed out to pick some blossoms on a South-facing slope- the first dandelions to appear. Kesten brought along his bucket to help me pick and even Cedar caught on to the idea and picked several flowers herself (which she promptly ate). Back at home we prepared the syrup using the recipe in the Boreal Herbal. We had so many dandelions left over, that I plucked all of the petals and set them out to dry on a couple of cookie sheets. We can use them for dandelion mustard or for Cedar's dandelion cake (her first birthday is just over a week away!).

Monday, April 27, 2015

Made From Scratch

Well, I finally did it! I made a meal from scratch using only what I have grown/raised in my backyard (excluding the salt). 
Using my home-raised eggs and home grown wheat, I made a pasta dough.

 I used my pasta maker to cut it into noodles.
 Then, I used the spaghetti sauce that I had made from my home-grown tomatoes, onions, garlic, thyme, and oregano. I made the sauce last summer and froze it until I could get around to making pasta.

 I'm very proud of this meal and the hours that went into making it from scratch! The wheat I used was Blue Tinge Ethiopian wheat, which gave the pasta a nice bluish-purple colour.
 The kids enjoyed it too!

I really want to try making a bread that is from scratch...someday. My wheat field is planted and sprouting in preparation.

Monday, April 20, 2015


The sewing machine was really busy for a bit this spring, whipping up some nice projects for us.
Kesten requested an apron in his size. He wanted a white apron and when I told him I wasn't sure I had any white fabric, he requested a "man" apron. Haha, not sure what that means! I used a tea towel and trimmed the top to make it "apron" shaped and sewed some ribbon to edge it and make ties.
 I added a denim pocket and embroidered an apple, lemon, and orange, just as he requested. What a guy! He likes to wear it when we make pancakes and when he plays in his kitchen.
 My Mother-in-law sent me this beautiful fabric to sew Cedar a dress. I used this easy-peasy pattern, which involved all of 10 minutes of sewing. The other side is reversible with pink elephants.

 Next up is a little dress that I made up a pattern for. I wanted to try out some smocking, since I learned how ridiculously easy it is using a machine!

And finally, I made a dress for myself using the Washi dress pattern and expansion pack by Made by Rae. I really love her patterns. She gives very clear instructions and makes you feel like you can really sew! I've made the Geranium dress several times now.
 I've always wanted a dress with a Peter Pan collar. I'm excited to make other styles of this dress.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Screen Printing Fabric

My little girl is turning one in just over a month and I don't know where the time has gone. Since she is a May baby, and May is the month of dandelions here, we are having a dandelion themed party. I wanted to make her a dress with dandelions on it, but the fabric I found cost way too much to ship. So, I decided to make my own! I bought a cheap sheet and made a design on my screen. I screen printed the design over and over to make the fabric.

When it was dry, I ironed it to set the ink and then sewed her a dress! I had to pick and choose which parts to cut the pattern from, because some of the designs were blurred but it all worked out. I think it is darling! I used the Geranium dress pattern and then drafted my own pattern for the sleeves and the collar.
I thought some sunny bloomers might look cute too. This time I carved out dandelion leaves and flower in potatoes. Since I didn't want to do a bunch of extra work, I cut out the pattern pieces ahead of time from another cheap sheet and just stamped onto them.

I set it with an iron again and then sewed the bloomers using this free pattern:
 I have been having so much fun sewing lately, I'll have to show you everything I have made!

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