Sunday, January 25, 2015

And This is What Cabin Fever Tastes Like...

It has been a slow January here on the Coast of Illinois.

This is a good thing.

Slow means little to no bad weather requiring no extra hours donning five layers of clothing, scraping cars, stocking up on french toast supplies. Slow also means no one has been sick, despite the discount quality of the flu shot I am manditory-ly required to take every year. However, slow has the added quality of complacency.

It has become my new pastime.

I am raising sloth to an entirely new level.

I think I may have finally cracked....because today I made cheese.



Thanks to Mark Bittman and his 'How to Cook Everything' book I thought it sounded like fun. (I am clearly a victim of loca-vore, all organic, DIY peer pressure.)

I blame the media.

Truthfully, I blame my lack of original breakfast ideas and thought maybe homemade cottage cheese might fill that void.

I think the rest of my family, including the cat, would prefer I just buy pop-tarts. is another grey and rainy January Sunday, there are no ridiculously bad movies on SyFy, I can't seem to focus on anything else productive so cheese making it is.

The required stuff:
Que the Benny Hill Theme Song...
1/2 gallon good quality milk (I went with Oberweiss Dairy 2% from our new organic grocery-Fresh Thyme)

1 quart buttermilk (Fresh Thyme didn't have organic so I went with Prairie Farms as my cousin works for them and he is very nice, and clean.)

One ridiculously heavy pot (Which was a gift from my son. One day I will be too old to lift it but I love it anyway, even if it eventually kills me by cracking my skull when I pull it off the top shelf of the cupboard.)
One strainer (More on this in the caption.)

Cheesecloth (which Target sells! I had no idea and only halfheartedly looked in the cooking utensil aisle but there it was near a small display of mason jars and Hipster wedding idea books.)

One thirty year old plastic pasta strainer with two layers of cheesecloth. It will never be satisfied straining plain pasta again.

And here is how it works. Get ready for science people. Dairy science.

It is really difficult to get a picture of good quality milk, especially when the interior of the ridiculously heavy pot is also white.

Pour the regular milk into the ridiculously heavy pot. Place it over medium high heat and stir occassionally so it doesn't scorch (Which is fancy cooking for burn, leaving gross little brown burn worms floating in your lovely white milk.) Bring to a gentle boil at which point you add the buttermilk and prepare to be grossed out.
Whey??? WHEY!
What you have is a gently boiling pot of grossness which looks like tiny bits of cooked egg white - or curds -  surrounded by sausage grease - or whey. It starts the minute you add the buttermilk and takes about two minutes to completely curd up.

Now VERY CAREFULLY pour this ridiculously heavy and HOT pan of curds and whey into the cheesecloth which is precariously lining the plastic strainer which is sitting in the clean sink. If you have a fancy metal strainer which would sit over an equally fancy pot then you could skip the step of praying that you don't dump the entire contents into the sink thus wasting about six dollars worth of milk. 

Curds and whey. The signature dish of Miss Muffett. I can't believe she was frightened by a spider because this stuff is quite horrifying.

It was amazing how quickly this pot of grossness began to transform into a semi-sold mass in the cheesecloth. After letting it drain for about five minutes I twisted the cheesecloth into a ball, tied it closed with string and rinsed the rapidly solidifying mass under cold water until it was cool enough to squeeze the remaining whey out of it. If I wanted to make cottage cheese I would have skipped this step and just allowed some of the whey to drain but as the rest of my family despises cottage cheese I went ahead and completely cheesified it. It would have been wrong to deny them the experience of fresh homemade cheese. 
The cheese drains alone.
Now the cheese ball is left to hang and drain for up to 90 minutes depending on how dry you want the finished product. After you are tired of waiting for the cheese ball to finish draining (approximately twenty minutes) you get to unwrap the finished product. This is surprisingly difficult yet fun as the cheese has now taken on the pattern of the cheesecloth and somehow managed to get between the layers of cheesecloth.

Place cheese in beautiful hand thrown pottery bowl which your daughter made under the direction of one of your best friends.

And there you have it.


Sort of bland but I think it will be good for breakfast with toast and fruit. Not really so much creamy as crumbly, sort of like queso fresco, which is Spanish for fresh cheese, which I guess it is.

I have literally crossed multiple cultural borders. (Spanish. Cheese. Cultures. Think about it.)

I might need a nap.

And some professional counseling.

*The recipe for this cheese an be found in 'How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman. It is an amazing cookbook and truly does cover how to cook everything. Neither the publisher nor Mr. Bittman endorse this blog or the results of my cheese making experiment.And now that I think of it, neither does Oberweiss Dairy, Prairie Farms or Fresh Thyme. But they really should. 

**I believe I mentioned in my previous post just how apathetic and uninspired I have been. Seriously. 

***I am hoping the next week will burst me out of my funk. I am giving a cucumber eye-pad wake up regime a try. I'll keep you posted.


Just wanted to share my breakfast cheese event:
Looks healthy but still no whip cream filled donut.

I measured 1/2 cup of cheese and topped it with a little honey and added a cup of raspberries. Pretty tasty, although the cheese was quite dry - probably from cooking it a little too long. The curds were a little chewy, which increased calorie burning from all the extra chewing so WIN-WIN!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Apathetic Monday

Good morning.
Is it?
Is it really a good morning?
It is a grey, cold, damp Monday. I should clarify. It is 33F dropping to 16F by 4pm this afternoon. Which would mean Monday has already peaked. AND - it is lightly raining. Do you know what a dropping temperature does to light rain??? It magically turns light rain into invisible sheets of ice that glazes the roads and hangs tauntingly from the power lines, begging for a human sacrifice before plunging us into darkness just as House Hunters International begins.

I am usually not in such a mood here on the Coast of Illinois. I started the new year strong with several strong, well laid plans. But I seem to have contracted a raging case of apathy.
I blame geography.

So, in order to reclaim my normal sense of slightly annoying optimism and sunshine spreading I am taking us all back to the Islands...

Ahhhhhhh......I feel better already.