Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goat's Milk Ricotta Cheese at Home

Do you ever wonder what can be done with goat's milk other than drinking it? Well baking and cheese making ranking pretty high around here as well. The simplest cheese on the face of the planet to make has to be ricotta. In fact I had no idea that I could have been making my own ricotta even from grocery store milk all along. It was one of those revelation moments such as I had when I started preparing my own buttermilk.

Here's how I go about making our own fresh, creamy ricotta cheese. Heat two quarts goat's milk to 180 degrees on the stove top stirring frequently but gently to distribute the heat. As it nears the 180 degree mark, stir in two tablespoons of either apple cider or white vinegar. As you continue to heat the milk, you will notice that the acid in the vinegar will begin to coagulate the milk and the yellowish whey will begin to separate. You may have to raise the temperature up to 200 degrees to achieve separate of curds and whey but do not let it go any further than that. If you have reached 195 degrees and there is no separation, add an additional tablespoon of vinegar and that should do the trick as it continues to climb to the 200 degree mark. Once you see the curds really begin to form, remove from the heat and allow to cool. The curds should float on the whey and form a semi-solid mass. For the creamiest ricotta, allow to cool undisturbed for a half of an hour. You can then gently lift the curds off of the whey with a slotted spoon and place them into a container. You may occasionally need to drain extra whey from your container as you fill it with the warm curds. Refrigerate and use within the week.

That's all there is to it. Once you're comfortable with making your own ricotta, next thing you know you'll be hankering for some semi-soft cheese as well. It's easier than you think and more rewarding as well. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rotten Eggs

"Last one home is a rotten egg!" Ever hear that before? It was a frequent phrase while I was growing up, but I must admit I never stopped to wonder what was so bad about a rotten egg. Do I ever know now...

Raising your own hens for fresh eggs has always been a desire of mine since we adopted a bantam chicken when I was a child that appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a suburban LA neighborhood. Now that we have the property to keep chickens, we do. Their eggs are fantastic. We love them and so do our occasional customers. However, with that said it bears repeating that eggs are only as fresh as you allow them to become.

I will admit that during the times we are not providing eggs for customers, my egg collection habits can get a bit sloppy. And yes, we have a couple of roosters hanging around so the eggs are fertilized. So now imagine the scenario...eggs get fogotten under hens or the lucky child sent to get eggs does not want to bear the wrath of an angry hen and doesn't search for any under particularly annoying ladies. That same eggs escapes coming into the house for more days than it should while receiving the incubating warmth it needs to develop. One day the egg is unsuspectingly collected with the others and brought into the house. It may sit around awhile in the fridge before it's used, and then one day, it's cracked open to the panic of the cook. And boy does it smell...reek...of a most distasteful, putrid odor. No matter how fast you rush that egg and its watery contents out of the house, you're left with a lingering reminder of your careless mistake.

So, here's how I should be protecting myself from further odoriferous adventures other than the obvious of prompt egg collection and refrigeration. Eggs can be floated in a bowl of water and observed. Those that lay flat on the bottom are as fresh as fresh can be. If they begin to tilt upwards at a 45 degree angle, they're ok but the yolks may crack upon breaking. A little more age on the egg, and it will float on its end on the bottom of the bowl. I'd still use this egg but maybe just in baking. Once that egg is floating on top of the water, it's gone. The last test for a dead-ringer of a bad egg...give it a little shake. Any sloshing inside is an indication that all is not well inside and you should get that egg to an outside garbage asap.

After another incident with a rotten egg, I have vowed to be more careful with egg collection at our home. With cooler weather coming, the eggs do stay fresher outside in our refrigerator temperature weather here. But all the same, they do belong inside in the refrigerator.

I guess life raising animals to provide your family with healthy and nourishing food can throw you a twist now and again. Any harrowing stories you'd like to share? Love to hear and laugh along with you.

Tomatillos from the Garden

One of my favorite cookbooks is Mexican Kitchen by Rick Bayless. It is pure and simple authentic Mexican cooking. As such, it is one of my main resources to turn to when the garden is full of produce utilizing vegetables and fruits native to Mexican cooking. Specifically, I love the recipes using tomatillos.

I had never heard of tomatillos for many years until I stumbled across them in my seed catalog and decided I should try growing some. They are an unusual looking... small green globes covered in a papery husk. I also hadn’t realized they were the main component of many of Mexico’s green sauces. They are also prolific. These small, innocent little plants usually get planted among peppers and other 1’ x 1’ square plants in my garden, as I seem to forget every year how they grow. They sprawl and crawl and take over an enormous amount of space rivaling that of a well-manured zucchini. Hence, after planting two of these guys this year, I will be way over my head in tomatillos.

Rick Bayless advises using the tomatillos whose husks have turned papery but have not become golf-ball sized yet. After collecting a bowlful of the ripest tomatillos, it’s time to head to the kitchen and remove the paper husks. The husks leave behind a slightly sticky residue so a rinse under cool water is necessary. My favorite way to use them is his “Essential Simmered Tomatillo-Serrano Sauce” although I don’t add as much heat as the recipe calls for and adapt it slightly.

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa

1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
Fresh chile peppers (1 ounce Serrano or jalapeno for spicier, 2 ounces banana for milder taste)
2 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 small white onion, finely chopped
¼ cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (if needed)

Place tomatillos on baking sheet and place under broiler. Boil until skins blister and blacken then turn them over and repeat, about 10 minutes total. Cool.

Roast chilies and garlic in a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally until blackened in spots and soft, 5 to 10 minutes total. Cool and then remove stems from chilies and peel garlic.

Place cooled tomatillos and their juice into food processor along with cooled roasted peppers and garlic. Pulse until reduced into a coarse-textured puree.

Scrape the sauce into serving bowl and stir in ¼ to ½ cup water to thin to a spoonable consistency. Place the chopped onion into strainer and rinse thoroughly to remove its hot taste (trust me on this little extra works). Shake dry and add to salsa along with cilantro. Season with salt and add sugar to taste if too acidic.

Grab your bag of chips and enjoy!
Blog Widget by LinkWithin