Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms and moms to be! We celebrated this holiday the whole weekend and had a blast. Since there are a few mothers in the family, we did our best to make sure everyone felt special. We decided to celebrate Paul’s Mom’s day on Saturday with a blinis brunch. This included savory blinis stuffed with herbs and homemade farmers cheese and fruit blinis with the same cheese, berries and a hint of cinnamon.
The preparation began on Thursday, by buying milk and yogurt, to make the cheese. We needed one gallon of milk and one quart of genuine Greek yogurt. This means reading the ingredients is essential. They should include only milk and bacteria. Many companies add pectin, carrageenan, artificial flavors, Splenda and all kinds of other stuff that doesn’t belong in your food.
Greek yogurt is meant to be thick because of the process and all the bacteria. By adding thickeners the companies are ripping you off, frankly. We went with Whole Foods’ 365 brand Greek Yogurt, as they are the most affordable we have found. Be sure to get the Greek Yogurt, because their other yogurt contains a lot of these fillers, and the thing we are after to make delicious homemade cheese is the bacteria.
We recently picked up a buttermilk starter from Portage Bay Grange, our favorite chicken food supplier, among other things. We hope to soon rely on our own bacterial cultures to make cheese. But until then, the 365 brand Greek Yogurt works well.
Recipe – ~3-4 Pounds of Farmer’s Cheese (or unsalted Ricotta)
1 gallon of Whole Milk
1 quart 2% or Whole Yogurt
Time, heat, patience, love and cheesecloth.
In a large pot warm milk, but not hotter than is comfortable to touch. Integrate yogurt. Let rest 12-24 hours, at elevated room temperature, if possible (75-85 degrees Fahrenheit). We keep ours on the stove on a hot day. If you can, loosely cover with a lid, or cheesecloth to make sure no insects or particles can contaminate the culture. Also make sure not to seal tightly, as this is a biological process and requires oxygen and gas exchange.
To determine when to proceed, use a spoon to check if the consistency has changed to that of the yogurt that you started with. If it has thickened considerably, continue. If not, wait and possibly increase temperature. You can do this by turning your oven on pre-heat, as low as it will go, turn it off when it feels warm to the touch, and put the pot inside. Proceed the next day if thickened. If it hasn’t by then, start over as the bacteria are probably dead by now.
Next, we will make curds. On a low setting on your stove, bring the culture to a slight boil. With time, you will notice the curds separate from the whey. The whey should be clear and yellow. This is a good indication that things are working properly. One word of advice; don’t go too far. If this boils over, it will create a big stinky mess. Be sure to stir, and if it starts making a lot of motion, turn it down. When you feel that you have a lot of curds and the whey has cleared to a yellow color, let it cool for a half and hour or so. Line a colander with cheese cloth, and place it over a vessel. Ladle the mixture into the cheese cloth. Depending on the size of your colander, you may have to wait a bit to let the whey drain before adding more, or even squeeze a bit out towards the end. Then tie the cheese cloth and hang from something convenient to let the whey drain out. We use a wooden spoon placed across a big pot as a frame to hang the cheese, and a convenient place to catch the remaining whey. This will usually take around an hour or two, depending on how dry you like your cheese curds. If you over do it, you can add some yogurt or sour cream to make it creamier.
Once the cheese was made we are left with around a gallon of whey. Whey can be used for many things. It can be used as a substitute for water or milk in baking. You can water your garden with it. It can be used as an animal feed, including a nutritious chicken feed (use moderately, as chickens are not built for lactose). It can also be used to make ricotta!
Recipe – Ricotta from leftover whey
~1 gallon of whey from making cheese
1 pint of Half and Half
1/4 cup white vinegar
Bring the whey and half + half to a rolling boil, being careful not to let boil over. Once rolling, take off heat and stir in vinegar. Cool until the mix reaches 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Run this through the cheese cloth, and strain as before. After straining, you can add salt or herbs to taste. This process will make a *tiny* ball of “cheese.” Four ounces is the HITS record so far. We are doing more research on how to increase our yield.
The ricotta ends up with a slightly sour taste due to the vinegar. Store bought ricotta often has things in it other than milk or bacteria, and often has a suspiciously long shelf life. We have had a container of this in the fridge for over a month, and the expiration date says that it will be good for still another. The homemade stuff will go bad IN A WEEK. Since there is little bacteria left after all the boiling needed to produce this ricotta, it spoils quickly. However, if you need to keep this or the farmers cheese long term, they both freeze and thaw very well.
Back to the blinis. For the savory we added finely grated garlic, chopped cilantro and dill, mixed with the farmers cheese and let sit overnight in the fridge.
For the fruit blinis, we chopped up blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, dusted them with a tablespoon and a half of sugar, and mixed with a pinch of cinnamon. That mixture was put in the fridge. Overnight the berries and the sugar produced a syrup. In the morning this was combined with some of the farmers cheese.
For presentation, the savory filling was spread over the blinis, and then folded into quarters. The fruit blinis were filled and rolled like a burrito, with filling in the middle.
We feel like these turned out great, and will be repeating the recipes in the future.
On Sunday, the plan was to have dinner with Lina’s family We had very little prep work to do since we were bringing baked asparagus and black bean brownies made by Lina’s coworker.
Sunday began with Paul and the girls letting me sleep in followed by a nice family breakfast. Then off to the Carpenito Brothers we went–that is where I requested my mother’s day flowers to come from. What kind of a homesteader wife would I be if I wanted cut flowers? No, I had my eye on some good looking tomato, pepper and cucumber starts! We had high hopes to grow our own starts this year, but our experiment with the fish tank has turned out to be a total failure. Carpinito’s will have to do for our fair-weather plants this year. We got eight different tomato plants, mostly heirloom, and four varieties of each, peppers and cucumbers. Sometime in the coming week we will build a home for all of these.
WE HAVE A WINNER!
As our regular readers know, we had an opportunity to give away a fantastic prize from Palouse Brand products. On Friday we drew the winner. Trying to keep the drawing honest, Lina wrote down all the email subscribers down on pieces of paper, balled them up and put them in a canning jar (sorry, no hat, just jars). Paul drew at random one of these. The winner is Lina’s sister, Era. Though a little awkward, being a family member, Era was our first subscribers, and our biggest fan. We are thrilled that she won, and look forward to dinner at her house! Thank you to all of our readers for participating, and we look forward to being able to do similar give-a-ways in the future!
Thanks for reading!