Buttermilk Cheese Fail

18 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Part 2 of a two-part series: Making butter, then using the buttermilk left over to make cheese.

So, first things first: was making all that butter, just to get the buttermilk leftover, worth it? No, not really. I didn’t get very much cheese and it wasn’t worth the hours of effort I put into it – so I do have to chalk this idea up to a FAIL. The butter at least turned out great.

I also experienced a fail when it comes to the photos I took during this process. Most of them came out too dark to even share. I was using my iPhone, so what should have I expected? Not much, I guess.

This is the second time I’ve made cheese from a recipe that didn’t require cheese cultures of any sort – both times this has resulted in a cheese texture and taste that I did not like nor did I anticipate. I can’t completely blame this on the recipes or processes included with these recipes – it might just be that, due to my already making more complex cheeses at home, I was expecting a lot more than a cheese made without real cultures can produce.

Thus, no more cheese making without cheese cultures. Culture has a place, and that place is in the cheese made in my kitchen!

That said, this cheese isn’t bad. It’s a mild, sweet, curdy cheese very similar to ricotta cheese. In fact, I can’t really think of much to DO with the cheese, other than use it like ricotta. Problem is that it’s summer and I don’t feel like making or eating heavy pasta dishes.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the buttermilk left after making butter is not like the cultured buttermilk you buy at the store. It’s not something you could even use in recipes to substitute for buttermilk, as it’s not cultured. If you wanted to use it in a recipe you would have to add a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar to it. You could also substitute it for regular milk in most recipes.

The buttermilk is sweet tasting and is very similar to plain whole milk. In removing butter from the cream, I removed butterfat – so I basically made cream into milk. I’m a kitchen alchemist that way!

This cheese is such a fail that I won’t go into much detail about what I did to make it, as I would not recommend anyone go through the trouble of: 1) making enough butter to get a good amount of buttermilk; 2) making this particular cheese with the left over milk.

The general idea was that I let the buttermilk heat up to 160 degrees. It started forming curds when it hit 120 degrees, so I had no problems there.

After it hit 180, I took it off the heat and started spooning the curds into cheese cloth I had laid out in a colander. The rest of the process, hanging and draining the whey, was the same as the process I described in my blog post all about making soft cheese.

I still have the cheese in the fridge, it will probably be good until this weekend… so, if you have any recipe ideas for about 1 cup of ricotta-like cheese, I’m open to suggestions!

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Cardamom Allspice Simple Syrup

17 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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In case you’re worried about my lack of posting in the past week, I can assure you that I have a large backlog of half-written posts just waiting to be finished. It may appear as if I went on a blog hiatus, but in reality I’ve been on a “finishing blog pots” hiatus! I’ve been busy doing a lot of yard work this past week (a post about that coming soon!) and also had a busy, fun weekend filled with friends and canoeing, plus much needed recovery time spent on the couch relaxing.

Anyway, Saturday morning, before doing yard work and getting ready to head out to a fabulous housewarming party, I whipped up a batch of simple syrup. I’ve been using a cardamom ginger flavored simple syrup in my iced coffee all summer long. I made it last winter as a potential base for homemade liqueur (something I WILL get into again this winter and, I’m sure, post about quite a lot!). While the syrup tasted incredible, it wasn’t quite what I was planning for a liqueur… so, I added just a touch of vodka as a preservative, bottled it and it sat in my fridge until June, when I had the good idea of adding a touch to my coffee. YUM. Best idea ever!

I ran out of this syrup last week and wanted to re-create it, but also wanted to play around with the flavors a bit. I initially intended to do cardamom and cinnamon, but couldn’t find cinnamon sticks reasonably priced anywhere. I’m sure they will start showing up in the next few weeks, due to the upcoming fall season (which is my favorite, by the way), but since I wanted the syrup now I altered my plans.

Cardamom Allspice Simple Syrup:

Yield: about 10 oz of syrup

  • 1 cup of sugar (normally white – for this one I used light brown sugar, I like the flavor it lends to the syrup)
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 teaspoon whole all spice
  • 7 cardamom pods (or small amounts of any whole spices that inspire you – I used about 1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger in the “Cardamom Ginger” syrup)

Crush the cardamom and the allspice with the back of a spoon. The cardamom pods just need to be partially broken, enough so that some of the seeds come out. The allspice should be broken into a few smaller pieces… this crushing process helps the flavor intensity of your syrup.

In a small pot, add sugar (packed brown sugar makes a very attractive scoop in your pot!) and water. Stir and then add the spices.

Bring to a boil over medium heat and then allow to simmer (not full boil, we aren’t making candy here) for about 10 minutes. You can let it boil 15 minutes if you want the syrup on the thicker side, which I personally like.

Remove from heat, allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then strain into a glass jar or other glass container. I used a gold filter coffee strainer set inside a jam funnel – those two esoteric kitchen implements see quite a lot of use in my kitchen, often not at all for their intended purposes!

filtering brown sugar simple syrup

To Make: recipes

12 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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I’m starting a new type of weekly post today: recipes I want to make. This is to help me bookmark and organize recipes found online, but also to share some fun stuff others might find as intriguing as I do!

  • Blueberry & Thyme Compote – A combination of flavors I need to try asap!  This would probably taste incredible spooned over homemade goat cheese.
  • Thai Basil Chicken – I have to admit to not being a huge fan of basil. I’ve always avoided it, even in Italian dishes… sacrilege, I know! However, I’ve recently realized that I love the slightly sweeter taste of Thai basil, so this is a must try recipe.
  • Summer Succotash with Bacon – Like the blueberries, I need to make this soon so that I can take advantage of the late summer bounty of fresh veggies!

In other news, my Buttermilk Cheese Post is coming soon. The cheese hung around, hidden behind this towel, in attempt to keep Ruby uninterested! I honestly didn’t get very good pictures of the process, so that’s really holding me back. I think I need to start using my real camera and stop taking the lazy-girl’s route of iPhone pictures!

Warm Bruchetta

9 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Plum tomatoes that I’d picked up at a farm stand earlier in the week were calling out to me. They were reaching the “use it or lose it” stage quickly. I paid a pretty penny for them, with no real idea as to their purpose  – totally an impulse buy.

I didn’t have enough to make a real tomato sauce, plus I think plum tomatoes are best served warm, due to their meaty flavor. So, I threw together a very tasty warm bruchetta, which I had with the fresh loaf of poppy sunflower seed bread I’d baked earlier in the day. You’ll think I’m losing it, after all this talk of cheese on my blog lately – but this bruchetta doesn’t need any sort of cheese at all. The butter adds in enough flavor to satisfy. However, feel free to grate some romano or asiago over this before serving… cheese will only make it better.

Warm Bruchetta

Serves two – you could easily double or triple this recipe to serve more. I won’t lie, I ate the entire thing myself!

  • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion (or yellow onion)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you’re crazy like me, use your own homemade butter)
  • 5-6 diced plum tomatoes (preferably in season and ripe)
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh thyme)

Sauté onion in butter on medium-high heat until the onion and butter just start to turn brown. I like to add in my spices now – I feel like the high heat without extra liquid ups the flavor. There is no science behind this! So, if you’re like me, add in the thyme now.

Add in the tomatoes and bell pepper, quickly stir around for about 2-3 minutes. The idea is to warm the tomatoes and pepper to bring out the flavor, but only cook until they are just barely tender.

Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with pieces of toasted bread! If you want to be really fancy: peel a clove of garlic and rub it on your bread prior to toasting it.

Making Butter

8 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Part 1 of a two-part series: I’m making butter, then using the buttermilk left over to make cheese.

My kitchen was a butter-coated disaster after making FOUR batches of homemade butter Saturday afternoon. The batches were defined by the amount of heavy cream my trusty stand mixer could turn into butter at one time – this amount turned out to be 1 quart of cream per batch. I started with 1 gallon of heavy cream and ended up with 1 lb and 13oz of butter.

I wish I could say that I took pictures during the process, but it was too much of a mess! I took pictures of the mess instead. Making butter is easy and one single batch is not much to complain about – but after making batch after batch butter started falling on the counters, the floor, it was on my hands, I accidentally stepped on some and every utensil in the kitchen was dirty. Oh and  that one time I started checking facebook while the mixer was going and HEY! the butter was done earlier than I expected; I lost a bit of buttermilk due to it sloshing all over the place.

However, I really enjoyed it. At one point, while I was cleaning a huge chunk of butter, with my (clean) hands, in a large bowl of iced water, I realized that working at a small scale creamery would be awesome. I love making dairy products and I find all of the processes involved, plus the science behind it, fascinating. Sure, even a small scale creamery uses a more effective process to wash the butter than just hands and iced water (I should have used the blender or food processor, but was too lazy to drag either out), but it would still be fun.

I’m not going to go into too much of a description of making butter, it really is very easy.

Whip heavy cream in a standing mixer (or with a hand mixer, or even shake the cream in a jar) until it goes though it’s various states: frothy, whipped cream, really whipped cream, butter.

Plus others have already explained the process. Here are a few links I found helpful in my process:

How to Make Butter @ Omnomicon – The first time I made butter I followed Aleta’s directions!

Cooking for Engineers – Making Butter

Butter through the ages – lots of good background info here

The butter tastes great. Thus far I’ve used it to cook with, on homemade bread (homemade butter on homemade bread!) and on toast. I’ll probably eventually use a lot of it to bake with – I left it all unsalted and froze it so that it would stay fresh.

I did end up with the buttermilk I need to start on part 2: making buttermilk cheese. I didn’t measure the amount of buttermilk I ended up with – though I know I could have been more efficient in the process and ended up with more. This was supposed to be fun though, so I didn’t worry about it! In the next part of this series I’ll talk about the cheese I made with this buttermilk:

Time to Bake the Granola!

7 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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I’ve only made homemade granola once before today, last summer during one of my “gluten free” stints: it turned out OK but I promptly turned it into granola bars that were not very tasty. They tasted very “healthy” and not in a good way. I brought them to a party, no one really ate them (except for the “pity tries”) and I wasn’t very surprised. Those got mostly tossed.

I eat granola on a daily basis – at least one meal each day consists of greek yogurt, granola, raw nuts, a bit of honey or a bit of raspberry jam. This has been one of my favorite meals for years and it’s very often my lunch at work. I normally shell out the big bucks for small containers of healthy granolas that are high on nutrients and low on sugar and other uneeded crap.

So, with my granola recipe I was looking for something versatile that I could add nuts or dried fruit to – this time I’m using pecans and dried cranberries, my current favorite combo (another recent favorite is almonds and dried apricots). I read through a number of recipes before deciding to just make up my own recipe this morning – it turned out great, so I’ll share it with you! And just in case you were wondering, Ruby waited on the back deck while I cooked in the kitchen.

Granola

Yields about 6 1/2 cups, fit into a 7 cup container perfectly

NOTE: Due to the fact that my pecans got a little dark, I think I’ll wait until the last 5-10 minutes of cooking time to mix those in next time.

I used:

  • 5 cups rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1 cup pecan halves broken up into smaller pieces
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons canola or other cooking oil
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a very large cookie sheet or baking tray by spraying it with non-stick spray.

In a small sauce pan mix the liquid and spice ingredients: honey, brown sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, and canola oil. Cook over low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar melts and the mixture just begins to bubble around the edges. It will smell AWESOME. Remove from heat to cool just a bit.

Measure the oats and break up the pecans, mixing them into the oats. Slowly pour the sugar mixture over the oat mixture, stirring with a rubber spatula – though, like me, you may find it easier to just stir with your hands, to ensure everything is evenly coated!

Turn out the entire mixture onto your prepared cookie sheet. My cookie sheet was FULL, so I patted it down and smoothed out the top.

Cook for about 30 minutes (the longer you cook it, the crunchier it will be), stirring it around at least once or twice. You may find it easier to remove the pan from the oven to stir the mixture around – my pan was so full I didn’t want to risk oats all over the bottom of my oven.

Once the mixture is browned to your liking (at 30 minutes the granola was perfectly crunchy for me, but most of the pecans were too browned for my liking), take out and place on a wire rack until completely cool.

Once cool, put into a storage container and mix in the dried cranberries. This should keep indefinitely in the fridge – but I’m going to try keeping it out of the fridge in an attempt to ensure it stays very crunchy.

Foodie Plans – Non-foodie Plans

6 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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I’ve got some fun foodie plans in the works that should make for interesting blog posts. Also I’m hoping my fellow cheese-nerd friend Chris will contribute a guest post in the next few weeks (with pictures!) about his second foray into making cheese at home!

For my slate this weekend (or as soon as possible):

  • Making a large amount of homemade butter, mainly so I can then use the left over buttermilk to make a form of buttermilk cheese that (according to the recipe) you cannot find in stores. Buttermilk leftover from the process of making butter is quite different than the cultured buttermilk you can buy in stores. Unique cheese no one else has ever had? Sign me up! I will definitely post about this entire process. I’m very excited.
  • Flavored Simple Syrup – I love simple syrups. They are easy and very useful – I’ve run out of the brown sugar, cardamom, ginger simple syrup I’ve been using in iced coffee over the summer, so something similar is on my plate for Saturday… though I’m going to experiment with cinnamon instead of ginger this time. I’m thinking fall flavors here!
  • Greek frozen yogurt – I’m planning to kind of wing it when it comes to the recipe, but I’ll loosely follow David Lebovitz’s recipe (as posted on the website I linked to – but it’s available in the ice cream book he published a few years ago that I should really get around to buying!
  • Homemade granola – I have granola on a daily basis and I’d like to make my own to see if it can help me save money (tasty, HEALTHY, granola is expensive!). I’m thinking of attempting the recipe from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, with a few changes of my own. I’m going to stick with pecans and dried cranberries as far as nut/extra additions go, and I want to try and lower the oil and sugar amounts. If anyone has any great granola recipes I’d love it if you’d share them!

In other non-food news, I’ve been doing a lot of running with Ruby lately (gotta burn off all that cheese and bread). As a result  she’s is becoming a much better running partner. It’s not that she doesn’t want or like to run, believe me she does! It’s that she’s a hound-dog and scents come before anything else for her – so if she catches a scent that she can’t resist it causes my pace to falter. I’m also not really training for anything and not worrying about pace lately, but it’s still nice that she has gotten better at recognizing my “we’re running!” command, so she stops what she is sniffing and runs on. Unless she sees a squirrel or bunny. Then all bets are off.

Another, slightly hilarious, issue we’ve faced is that sometimes she cuts right in front of me. Normally she is on my left when we walk or run. Yet every once in a while, she sees or smells something on the right that is so strong that it over comes her training. I’m sure you can imagine the scene it makes when a clumsy tall girl trips over her own dog. We’re working on this one! It’s so sporadic it’s hard to actually come up with a training plan for it.

Anyway, due to the nice weather forecast for Saturday, I’m planning a nice long run for Rubes and I. Not sure where we’re going to go – there are a few options, but a trail run at the Hopkinton Reservoir is at the top of the list. The only downside there is that, though there are leash laws, most people keep their (uncontrolled) dogs off leash. Ruby is a good girl and is a PEOPLE dog. She loves people and is very social. She does not like meeting other dogs when she’s on-leash though. I keep her away from other leashed dogs – but when a dog is off-leash and the owner is either not paying attention OR (most likely) really has no verbal control over their dog, it makes it very hard. Just because you are calling your dog and saying things to me like “sorry! she just wants to play!” does not make it ok that you cannot control your dog!