Friday, April 25, 2014

Cheese Recipe: Queso Blanco

This is a great cheese for beginners to try because it requires no special equipment or ingredients. It is a traditional Mexican cheese, and it does not melt, because it contains no rennet. We like to cube it, lightly brown it in oil, and serve it on pasta dishes with marinara sauce. You can also use it in Indian recipes that call for panir, and some people use it in place of tofu in recipes. Of course, you can serve it as a snack or appetizer with crackers or a crusty French bread and a dollop of fresh pesto. Try this with cow, goat, and sheep milk to compare the different tastes of the final cheeses. You can even mix half and half for more variety.

Makes 1–2 pounds
  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
Heat the milk on low to 180°F, add the vinegar and stir. The milk should begin to separate into curds and watery whey within a minute. If it does not separate or if the whey looks milky, continue heating it a bit more. My Nigerian Dwarf goat milk seems to separate best if I heat it to 190 °F . You can use any type of vinegar as long as it is at least 5 percent acidity. My personal favorites are champagne vinegar and red wine vinegar.

Line a colander with cheesecloth, and set the colander on top of a large pot or bowl to catch the whey as it drains. Pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth. Tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and hang to drain. I usually hang mine on the sink faucet, but if you have a sloped faucet that won’t hold the bag, you can hang the bag on chopsticks or a spatula that spans the top of a tall pot. After 4 hours, unwrap the cheese and put it in the refrigerator to chill. After chilling it, you will be able to slice or cube the cheese and use it in cooking or serve it fresh.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown and Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

This post shared at the Homestead Barn Hop

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Homesteading: feminist or oppressive?

Last year after a speaking engagement in a Seattle suburb, a woman asked me somewhat sheepishly, "Don't you think this sort of thing just puts women back into a traditional role in the kitchen?" It took a minute for me to understand what she asking, and when it did finally click, I could not talk fast enough or emphatically enough to tell her that she was dead wrong to assume that I was trying to send women back to the kitchen -- by themselves!

I want women AND men back in the kitchen AND in the garden AND tending their backyard chickens AND doing whatever else they can do to live a healthier life that will save them money and is better for the planet. This is much too important a job to relegate to a single gender. Everyone needs to pay more attention to what we're eating and how our food is grown.

Katherine (left) and Jonathan (right) stack hay in the barn
Why do some people think that women are supposed to do all the cooking and yet many of our most famous chefs are men? There is no reason to automatically assume that women are doing all of the work in the house while men do everything outside. When our daughters were at home, there was nothing off-limits to them as far as work. They helped to bring in hay from the fields with their father and brother, doing exactly the same heavy lifting and climbing up on stacks of hay. They helped catch animals, often diving to the ground to grab one as it ran past them. They carried 40-pound water buckets and 50-pound bags of animal feed. And our son shared cooking duties equally with his sisters. He also knows how to can fruits and vegetables from the garden, and he can make homemade yogurt and several types of cheese -- actually more types of cheese than his sisters.

I think our homesteading lifestyle was what led our daughters to pursue non-traditional careers. Our oldest is an electrical engineer now, and our youngest will be graduating with a degree in chemistry this spring and has already been accepted into a PhD program. Chemistry and engineering are both dominated strongly by men, yet our daughters feel absolutely confident about their career goals. Our youngest daughter totally credits her life on the farm for giving her a love of science. In her graduate school application essays, she even mentioned her carrion beetle experiments when growing up and her experience doing necropsies on animals that died on our farm, as well as our experience with dewormer resistance in goats and how that sparked her interest in studying antibiotic resistance in her graduate studies and professionally.

There are many single, divorced, and widowed women who are homesteading by themselves. I've met a lot of them over the years as they buy goats from me or attend workshops that I present. They build their own hay racks and goat houses. They castrate and disbud their baby goats. They process the wool from their sheep. They butcher their own chickens. Some of the strongest and most independent women I've ever met are solo homesteaders.They amaze me with their strength and vision.

I often say that we live on an old-fashioned farm, but maybe it's time I dropped that moniker. Although we do have a diversified farm where the animals lived very much like they did a century ago, what the people are doing is not always old-fashioned.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ecothrifty lawn care

The lawn has been a part of the European landscape since the 1700s, and North Americans were quick to emulate them. Initially it was only the very wealthy who could afford the maintenance required for a lawn because it was all done by hand, but with the invention of machinery and chemicals in the twentieth century, a pristine lawn became the norm for virtually everyone with a yard. However, it comes with a high price ecologically, financially, as well as time spent on maintenance and the risks associated with the chemicals used.

Deciding not to maintain a lawn is simply not possible for many people because of homeowner association rules, municipal codes, and the wrath of neighbors. So, what can an ecothrifty person do? Avoiding chemicals is usually the easiest way to save money because there are usually no rules or ordinances mandating their use. You will only have to deal with the raised eyebrows of neighbors when the dandelions are blooming in the yard.

An old-fashioned reel mower is the most ecothrifty option for maintaining a lawn. We used a reel mower when we lived in the suburbs. It works well on city- and suburban-sized lots, and there is not the deafening drone of a power mower. The caveat, however, is that you must mow the lawn regularly because a reel mower cannot handle the grass if it gets too tall. This may mean cutting it more often than once a week during seasons when it is growing especially fast.

If your lawn is too large for a reel mower, an electric mower is a more environmentally friendly option than one powered by gasoline. Although an electric mower initially costs more to purchase, it costs less to operate because the cost of electricity is far less than the cost of gasoline, and this difference will continue to increase as the cost of gas is increasing faster than the cost of electricity.

If you have a riding lawn mower, you probably know that it is a gas hog. And it is the worst when it comes to creating air pollution from emissions. When we first moved to the country, we bought a riding mower and mowed about two acres every week. It didn’t take long for us to realize how bad it was for our budget and the environment. Most of our yard is now garden or pasture.

Lawns can be converted to attractive and productive garden space. Instead of converting the lawn to an edible landscape by planting fruits and vegetables, another option is to replace grass with plants native to your area, such as succulents and cacti in the desert Southwest or prairie plants in the Midwest to create a hardy and low maintenance garden.

Savings: Our electric mower costs only 3 cents to charge, meaning we pay less than a dollar a year to mow our lawn, which is now less than half an acre. By canceling the service of a company that sprays chemicals on your lawn, you can save several hundred dollars a year. If you are able to eliminate your lawn and replace it with native plants, you will be able to save everything you previously spent on fertilizer, herbicides, mowing, and other maintenance. And if you replace it with an edible landscape, you will save even more in food costs.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Upcoming classes for homesteaders

Spring homesteading classes are beginning on Antiquity Oaks near Cornell, Illinois! Even if you do not live in our neighborhood, you might consider attending our classes if you want to learn new skills in homesteading and self-reliance. We've had people attend from Iowa, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, and other states. Here are the classes we have scheduled for the next couple of months:

Cheesemaking Basics

We'll talk about the difference between cow, goat, and sheep milk, as well as the history of dairy in this country. Deborah and Mike will demonstrate how to make mozzarella and queso blanco, and we'll talk about how to make a variety of other fermented dairy products, such as chevre, yogurt, and buttermilk. You will also learn what equipment is needed to make soft and hard cheese. A handout with recipes, a list of books, and sources for purchasing equipment will be provided.
Saturday, April 26, 9:30 a.m. to noon
Fee: $36 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Soapmaking 101

You'll learn the history of soapmaking, how modern soapmaking is different, and how to create your own soap recipes. Watch every step of cold-process soapmaking from start to finish using goat milk. Learn to make your own soap recipes using whatever oils you prefer. Each participant will receive handouts, including a list of references for future use, and two bars of soap in your choice of scent (or unscented).
Saturday, April 26, 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.
Fee: $40 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Cheesemaking 201: Aged Cheese

If you have taken Cheesemaking Basics or have made a few cheeses at home already, this is the class for you. Deborah and Mike will be making camembert and colby. The skills learned in this class can be used to make other mold-ripened cheeses, such as brie or St. Maure, or washed curd cheeses, such as gouda. We'll take you through the process from ripening the milk to pressing, draining, and waxing. We'll also talk about the aging process and what to do if you don't have a cheese cave in your basement.
Saturday, June 14, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Fee: $79 per person. Class is limited to eight people.

Goats 101

Learn the basics of keeping goats, whether as pets, for milk, or for meat. Most of this class will be held in the barn and pasture, as we discuss what goats need for housing, fencing, and nutrition. We'll also talk about basic health care, including deworming. You'll see first-hand how to administer medicine to goats and how to trim their hooves. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long, well-worn pants or jeans. Be forewarned that our goats are very friendly and may jump on you like a dog, and their feet are not always clean. This class is free for one person per family who is purchasing or has purchased a goat from Antiquity Oaks.
Saturday, May 24, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 9:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Fee: $28 per person, one child free with parent.

Goat Breeding and Birthing

If you want milk, you have to breed your goats to freshen yearly. In this class, we'll talk about how to detect heat, pen breeding vs. hand breeding, nutritional requirements during pregnancy, signs of labor, and the birth process. If goats are due around the date of the class, you should get some hands-on experience in checking tail ligaments, assessing udders in relation to kidding time, seeing how the belly changes when a doe is close to kidding, and perhaps even seeing kids born, if timing is just right. You will see kids and learn to determine if a kid is polled. We'll talk about bottle-feeding vs. dam-raising kids and how to do each one. Castration, disbudding, and tattooing will also be covered. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes and long, well-worn pants or jeans. Be forewarned that our goats are very friendly and may jump on you like a dog, and their feet are not always clean. This class is free for one person per family who is purchasing or has purchased a goat from Antiquity Oaks.
Saturday, May 24, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 21, 2014, 1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Fee: $28 per person, one child free with each parent.

Directions to the farm will be emailed to you after your registration is processed. Books will be available to purchase at all classes.

Coming in August! 

You can visit Antiquity Oaks and four other nearby farms in the Third Annual Livingston County Farm Crawl on August 23 and 24. The event is free, but you will be able to purchase homegrown and handmade items at each of the farms. A variety of demonstrations will be performed through the day on various farms.

The Third Annual Mid-America Homesteading Conference will be held at Joliet Junior College on Saturday, August 30, with a full-day goat workshop being held on Antiquity Oaks on Sunday, August 31.

Mark your calendars!

Shared at the Mountain Woman Rendezvous!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

False pregnancy in goats

Were you absolutely sure that goat was pregnant, but she never kidded, and now she doesn't look as big as she did last week?

It is possible for a doe to get bred and stop cycling and even to get a big belly and develop an udder and appear to be pregnant in every way, yet not be pregnant. “False pregnancy” is used synonymously with "hydrometra,” which simply means water in the uterus. Because the hormones are involved, a blood test shows a false positive. An ultrasound examination is the only foolproof way of determining pregnancy, but blood tests are still popular because they are less expensive and breeders can learn to draw blood themselves, reducing costs further. Because false pregnancy is rare, blood tests are still considered very reliable. A false pregnancy may not last for five months. It usually ends in a “cloud burst,” which is basically a release of all the uterine fluids without a kid or placenta.

Some false pregnancies started with a real pregnancy that terminated very early but the body didn’t recognize there was no longer a fetus. However, in some cases of false pregnancy, the doe has not even been exposed to a buck.

This is an excerpt from Raising Goats Naturally: The Complete Guide to Milk, Meat, and More by Deborah Niemann.

This post shared on the HomeAcre blog hop

Monday, April 14, 2014

Gardening is a great investment

There are few things you can do in this world that offer as much reward, financially and personally, as gardening. A tomato seed, which costs only pennies, can grow into a plant that can produce twenty or more pounds of fresh, organic food. In addition to the financial benefits, gardening provides you with a reason to go outside, breathe fresh air, and get some exercise. And once you’ve tasted a garden fresh tomato, you will understand why it is the number one vegetable grown in backyard gardens. But the benefits don’t stop with tomatoes. Practically every vegetable tastes better when it’s fresh and ripens on the vine, and it is more nutritious. From the time produce is picked, it starts to lose nutrition, and if it is picked green, it has lower nutritional value than if it is vine ripened.

Sometimes articles or books make gardening sound like a terribly expensive hobby, requiring high-priced tools, raised beds, and gravel-lined pathways. In reality, you can start growing some of your own foods for less than $10 by purchasing a few inexpensive bedding plants at your local garden center. If you have never had a garden, start small with your favorite, most-often purchased vegetable. Nothing is more disappointing than seeing a garden consumed by weeds because it was too big for you to be able to tend through the growing season.

Savings: How much money you save will depend on what vegetables you grow. If you plant easy-to-grow, prolific and expensive vegetables like bell peppers, you will save a lot more than if you plant inexpensive vegetables like carrots, which yield one carrot per seed and can be a challenge to germinate. Assuming half a pound of fresh produce per square foot of garden space, you can expect about 300 pounds of produce from the average 600-square-foot garden. At $2 per pound, that adds up to $600 of fresh produce. The average investment for a food garden is $70, providing you with a savings of about $530 annually.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The London Dispatches: Unexpected Aquaponics

By Cadence Woodland 

You may have heard or seen the term “aquaponics” more frequently lately on homesteading, urban agriculture, or small farming sites and forums. Though water based agricultural and multi-level systems have existed throughout human history, I’ve noticed an uptick in interest in it recently and have been curious to see it in action. As it happens, I got a chance recently – London’s superb and surprising agricultural scene delivers again!

Welcome to Farm:shop, a kitchen and a cafĂ© within a shop that is based entirely on the aquaponics system. Located in the Hackney area of London (yet another somewhat run down area with a surprising history of reclaimed garden and agricultural space) Farm:shop is easily one of the strangest shops I’ve ever set foot in from a design perspective alone. 

A glimpse of the herb wall, the fish tanks, and the cafe seating.
 Aquaponics can be described at its most basic, as a symbiotic system that incorporates both plants and aquatic animals in a closed recirculating system. Animals and plants feed off of one another’s chemical and organic byproducts. In some cases this can drastically reduce a plant’s reliance on soil for nutrients, making it attractive to some food growers with little land or space. 

Though a smaller system space-wise than, say, an acre of farmland, I had an idea that such system itself must require a significant degree of upkeep and management. But, as the worker on duty explained to me, aquaponic systems are so self regulating in design that a fairly small amount of care and intervention is needed. It’s more technologically reliant than other farming techniques but amazingly self-contained.

A diagram of the Farm:shop system.
Billing itself as the world’s first “farm in a shop,” Farm:shop’s enclosed space is almost entirely taken up with its system. Diners may eat their freshly prepared food amid the growing plants and sounds of trickling water. Leafy vegetables take up the majority of one wall, herbs another, with fish and shrimp basins and tanks all around. 

In the garden at the back of the shop, a greenhouse houses more vegetables as well as a number of tables for dining and meeting. Simply stepping in off the high street to relax amid the greenery and soil – and the chickens! – is encouraged. They also rent workspaces for a nice alternative to coffee houses for freelancers like me, and make the site available for event hire. Altogether it's an active hive of sustainable effort and opportunity, contained in a modest shop front on a London high street.

I can never resist a photo opp for urban chickens.

Primarily concerned with urban farming, Farm:shop stocks a number of homemade or organically sourced items for sale, but by far the most interesting buying options are those that allow you to garden in space and time sensitive ways. This is part of a concerted effort to encourage fresh food grown locally, and like so many of the other places I’m visiting in this series, Farm:shop believes than an urban setting is no barrier to that goal. Their goals and ethos are both wildly ambitious, but they've been open since 2010 without any signs of stopping.

Are you interested or using aquaponics systems? What has your experience been like? Since this is my first up close and personal encounter with the method, I'd love to learn more from readers. Weigh in with your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

Cadence Woodland is a freelance writer, editorial assistant, and marketing consultant. Her journalism has contributed to the New York Times, the National Wildlife Federation, and other venues, but she can be found most often at her blog where she writes about her adventures across the Pond in London.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How many kids can a doe feed?

About a month ago, one of our does gave birth to quintuplets, and one of the most popular responses to the event was, "Can the doe feed that many?"

I never say "never," but I will say it is highly unlikely that a doe can adequately nourish five kids. This is a Nigerian dwarf, and when bottlefeeding kids of that breed, they need 24-30 ounces per day. Multiply that times five, and a doe would have to be producing 120 to 150 ounces or more than a gallon a day! The only does that even come close to producing that much are the ones that have placed at the very top of the milk test lists, which means that less than one percent of does would be able to produce enough milk to feed five kids.

Quads are fairly common with Nigerians, and unfortunately a lot of does do not have the genetic capability to feed that many. Again, do the math. Four kids multiplied by 24-30 ounces a day is 96 to 120 ounces -- or three to four quarts a day! My best milker in her prime peaked at 6 to 6.5 pounds a day, so she would have produced enough milk to feed four kids, but based upon milk test lists that I have seen, I would assume that only about 10-20 percent of does can produce that much. And remember, that was in her prime. What if a first freshener or a nine-year-old doe has quads? However, the doe's ability to produce is only part of the equation. The doe's temperament and the kids also play an important role!

Goats only have two teats! Because does have to be standing for kids to nurse, that means a doe with four kids will have to spend twice as much time standing as a doe with only two kids. Some does simply do not have the personality to do that.

Having only two teats also means that bigger, stronger, and pushier kids have the advantage. Baby goats want to nurse all the time, so if their mama is standing, they think they should be nursing, and they will not hesitate to knock a sibling off the teat so they can nurse longer. When a doe has more than two kids, it is not unusual to have a runt, and the poor little thing will not have a chance. When we had our first set of quads in 2004, we naively assumed that the doe would feed the kids, even though one of them was much smaller than the other three. At two weeks of age, my daughter found the smallest kid almost dead. We wound up having to tube feed her to bring her back, and she became the second bottle baby ever raised on our farm. Unfortunately that was not the last time I over-estimated a doe's ability to feed quads, but I did eventually learn.

With our last set of quintuplets, we watched the kids nursing several times a day, weighed them, and offered them a bottle of fresh milk from another goat. Within two days one of the quintuplets had completely given up on trying to nurse from her mother. When we would walk into the barn we would see her standing there with her head and ears hanging down while her four siblings were fighting over the two teats. We began bottlefeeding her exclusively, and when one of her sisters had gained only 8 ounces by two weeks, we switched her to a bottle also. Her siblings had all doubled their weights by then, which meant gains of 3-4 pounds each! Clearly she was not able to get her fair share of the milk!

Over the years I have become increasingly skeptical about the ability of does to raise more than three kids. Unfortunately there are quite a few people online who happily share that they had a doe raise four or five kids. However, I also see a lot of sale ads that say a kid is small "because it was a quad." Being a quad is not a reason for a two- or three-month-old kid to be small. By that age, kids are small because of genetics, parasites, or not getting enough to eat. Nigerian kids can survive on about 16 ounces of milk a day, but they don't thrive. They grow slowly because they are not getting enough protein and calcium, and they have lowered resistance to parasites and disease because they are not getting enough antibodies from their mother's milk.

Although I am not a fan of bottlefeeding, I would much rather bottlefeed one or two kids from a litter of four or five than wind up with sickly or dead kids.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ecothrifty alernatives to disposable diapers

As hard as some people try to argue against them, cloth diapers are definitely the ecothrifty choice for babies. Disposable diapers will cost $1,500 to $2,000 by the time a child is using the toilet, and if you use disposables that are biodegradable and not bleached with chlorine, you can spend up to $2,500.

If you have more than one child, start multiplying. On the other hand, two or three dozen cloth diapers will last through many babies and continue to serve you for dusting furniture or cleaning up spills throughout the years. The cost of washing those diapers is minimal, especially if you use homemade laundry detergent and hang them to dry on a clothesline.

There are so many options available today that you don’t have to worry about how to fold the diapers or accidentally sticking your baby with a pin. Velcro or snap closures make cloth diapers as simple to use as disposables. You can buy traditional white diapers and covers, or you can make your diaper covers part of your baby’s wardrobe because there are so many different colors and patterns available.

Savings: You can get started with two dozen diapers and six covers for as little as $100. By following the ecothrifty suggestions for laundry in [Ecothrifty], a load can cost as little as 30 cents, only adding about $30 to the cost of using cloth diapers for a year, and saving about $2,000.

This is an excerpt from Ecothrifty: Cheaper, Greener Choices for a Happier, Healthier Life.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Cheese Recipe: Ricotta

Most ricotta recipes call for using whey and have a very low yield. I discovered this variation one day when I was in the middle of making queso blanco and a goat went into labor. I had just added the vinegar when I was called out to the barn. A few hours later, I came back into the kitchen and realized I had completely forgotten about my queso blanco, which had cooled to room temperature. I tried draining it in the cheesecloth, but it would not knit. It fell apart into crumbles when I opened the cheesecloth. Of course, I was disappointed at first, but then I realized that it looked a lot like ricotta, although a little drier. When using Nigerian Dwarf goat milk, which is 5 to 6 percent butterfat, this recipe makes enough for a 9 X 13 inch pan of lasagna. If you are using milk with lower butterfat, you can double the recipe.

Makes 2–4 cups

2 quarts milk
2 tablespoons vinegar

Heat the milk on low to 190°F. Add the vinegar and stir. When the curds and whey separate, put the pot into a sink filled with cold water. The water should come up to the level of the milk in the pot. Stir to reduce the temperature quickly while keeping the curds separated. When the temperature is down to 90°F, drain the curds through a cheesecloth-lined colander. The curds can be used immediately in your favorite recipe or can be stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Do not buy “ultra-pasteurized” milk at the store for cheese making because it has been heated to 280°F and will not turn into cheese, yogurt or anything else that requires cultures to grow or curds to form.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

This post was shared on The Prarie Homestead Barn Hop!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cheese Recipe: Easy Mozzarella

A few years ago when my husband realized I was intent on making cheese with goat, sheep, and cow milk, he asked if I was going to get buffalo someday because their milk is used for real mozzarella. It is an intriguing idea, but I think I’ll stick with my smaller dairy animals. A mesophilic culture is used to produce really flavorful mozzarella. It takes a few hours to make, but we have been so spoiled by this quick recipe that we have not made the more authentic recipe in years. We use goat milk to make it, which is more flavorful than cow milk. When made with whole Jersey milk, this cheese tastes buttery, which is delicious, but not exactly mozzarella flavor.

This is a very forgiving recipe. We have made just about every mistake imaginable over the past few years of making it at least weekly, and it always turns into mozzarella in the end. One thing that will not work, however, is using ultra- pasteurized milk. Unfortunately, most organic milk in the store is ultra-pasteurized, so make sure you read the labels. Of course, you can always buy your milk from a local farm if you do not have your own dairy source. Using an induction cooktop on any heat setting other than low can completely ruin your cheese because the pot can get hot on the bottom so quickly that it can damage the milk the same way that ultra- pasteurization does. A gallon of milk makes enough to cover one or two pizzas, depending upon how cheesy you like it and depending upon the richness of the milk.

Makes 1–2 pounds

  • 1 gallon milk
  • 1/2 tablespoon citric acid diluted in 1/4 cup water
  • 20 drops liquid rennet diluted in 1/4 cup water (10 drops of double-strength)

At any temperature between 55°F and 80°F, add the diluted citric acid to the milk and stir. Over low heat, increase the temperature to 90°F. Without turning off the heat, add the rennet while continuing to stir. The milk will start to thicken, and suddenly there will be curds, which will start to separate from the whey. (This part is similar to making queso blanco.)

At this point, my husband and I do things differently. Remember, I told you this is a very forgiving cheese. My husband continues to stir, which he insists reduces his kneading and stretching time. I, on the other hand, use a large slotted spoon to press the curds together against the side of the pan while continuing to increase the temperature to 100°F.

Whichever way you decide to do it, you will use a slotted spoon to take the curds out of the whey at 100°F and put them into a microwave-safe bowl. Put the bowl of curds into the microwave for 1 minute and microwave on high.

Remove the curds from the microwave and knead like bread dough. Mike uses a big spoon and folds it over on itself again and again; I put on a pair of heavy-duty plastic kitchen gloves and knead it by hand like bread dough. (I have a special pair of gloves designated for handling food.) It is really not a good idea to do this by hand without gloves because the temperature of the curds will be 135°F–140°F at this point, which is hot enough to cause serious burns. Kneading will cause whey to squirt and dribble from the curds, so it is a good idea to do it over a sink. Once you can stretch the curd at least 12 inches, it is mozzarella. My husband can usually accomplish this without any additional heating. I usually need to heat the curds a second time for 25 seconds. Sometimes, if I’m having a bad cheese day, I have to heat it a third time before I can get it to stretch.

After you get it to stretch, shape the cheese into a ball and flatten it, then immerse it in a bowl of ice water to cool quickly. After about an hour of cooling, the mozzarella is ready to go in the refrigerator. It freezes nicely. In fact, when we are drowning in milk during the summer months, we make extra mozzarella to freeze for using through the winter when we won’t have enough milk for cheese making.

This is an excerpt from Homegrown & Handmade: A Practical Guide to More Self-Reliant Living.

This post shared on the Old-Fashioned Friday blog hop, the Friday Frenzy blog party, and the Simple Saturday blog hop!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...