Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

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Part three of the new food resolution is our attempt to make homemade mozzarella cheese. We eat a lot of cheese, and mozzarella is a common ingredient in a lot of my recipes. So while not a new food, we had never tried to make it ourselves.

It is surprisingly easy to make your own cheese at home. The easiest kind to make is a fresh cheese like ricotta.  For ricotta, you need just whole milk, cream, and some lemon juice. Mozzarella is a bit more complicated and takes some specialized ingredients; rennet, and citric acid, some recipes for it will also call for calcium chloride as well.  It’s also a good idea to have a very good thermometer as well, such as a specialized candy thermometer.

Like so many of these new food adventures, when I say “we”, I really mean Ms. J.  I didn’t really do a whole lot in the making of the cheese, but I did track down the rennet, citric acid, and calcium chloride.

It turns out that finding a supplier of rennet is just about impossible here in New Hampshire.  No local store had it.  No gourmet food store, food making supply store, or even beer making supply store had it.  I tried our local organic food supermarket where I spoke with several people who had no idea what rennet was until I explained that it was an ingredient used in making cheese.  ‘Oh, ok, you should talk to Brian, he’s the cheese expert, I’ll go get him.’   Brian soon appears and explains that the best way to get rennet is to contact a local farmer to see if he has a sheep stomach available soon that he could give you. You then can make your own rennet at home from that sheep stomach.  How exactly you make the rennet I have no idea since I became a bit nauseous listening to Brian the cheese expert explain how to make rennet at home using some kind of giant sheep stomach grater, so I stopped listening to him after a few seconds.  We might be do it yourself food makers, but we’re not quite as hard core as Brian is.

I finally was able to find it on the internet.  Of course I should have just tried that to begin with, but even there it was not very easy to find.  I finally found it on a home sausage making ingredient website, which is where I found not just the rennet, but also the citric acid, and a lot of other very specialized stuff.  And yes, at some point we plan on making sausages too, so I went ahead and bought some of their sausage making ingredients as well.

I found all the ingredients before Christmas, so guess what Ms. J received as a gift ?  Nothing says ‘Merry Christmas’ like a bottle of rennet, thermophilic starter culture, citric acid, mesophilic starter culture, and calcium chloride!!

Anyway, I had little to do with the making of the cheese, I was occupied with shoveling snow, and then trying to fix the broken toilet supply line that conveniently broke during last week’s blizzard.  I do know that Mr. C had a great time helping to make the cheese since I at least heard Ms. J and Mr. C making the cheese as I tried in vain to fix the leaking pipe in the bathroom.  I had reached the limit of my do it yourself skills and had to call in the plumber on that one.    Once the cheese was made we had to decide how to use it.  In a lasagna, or some other dish ?  We couldn’t wait that long to eat it, so we just had it with slices of tomato and olive oil.  It was very good, with a much fresher taste than store bought cheese.  This new food gets a five star rating.

For a recipe, I would suggest checking out the book ‘Artisan Cheese Making at Home’ by Mary Karlin.   Or you can check out the best food blog I know:  Jovina Cooks Italian .   She writes in such detail that it helped to inspire us to try this to begin with, she really does make it look easy, as long as you can find that rennet.

 

 

Growing mushrooms

While not exactly a new food, I’ll consider this to be part two of the ‘new food series’ since it’s at least a new do it yourself project that is food related.  Ok, it’s not actually me, it’s Ms. J who is in charge of this.

As a Christmas gift, she received a mushroom log from the Lost Creek Mushroom Log company of Perkins Oklahoma.  The fact that there was a company that sent out logs that have been injected with shiitake mushroom spores came as news to me, it seemed like a fun thing to do especially since Mr. C likes to see how plants grow.

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Once you receive the log, you immerse it in a container of spring water.  You’re not supposed to use tap water since some of the added chemicals in tap water, like chlorine, can kill your mushroom spores.  Let the log sit in a somewhat shady area, and then a week or so later, you have mushrooms growing on your log.

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The fun thing is that the mushroom spores don’t grow all at once, you can harvest the first set of mushrooms that grow and then water the log again and more will grow.  Mr. C loves to check it out every day to see how it’s doing and lets us know when it looks like a new mushroom is coming in.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do with the mushrooms yet.  Maybe mushroom soup.

 

2015 Resolutions

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There are many, many, resolutions for 2015, I’ll combine two into one post.

We have a lot of unread books in the house, so one resolution is to read more, especially books that I would not normally consider reading. Seems like it would be a good idea to mix things up and read something unusual this year, some books and authors I have not heard of. A good source of books I would not normally read would be Ms. J’s pile of unread books. While we have a lot in common, we don’t normally read a lot of the same things. Looking through her selection of unread books, I picked out ‘Bright Day’ by J. B. Priestley, which was first published in 1946. I picked it out based mostly on the fact that I had not heard of the author, and it looked like a nice edition, a hardcover from 1966. ‘Bright Day’ is a novel about a screenwriter who travels to Cornwall to finish work on a screenplay. While there he meets two people from his past, the memory of their prior relationship causes him to recall a number of details from his youth.

One of the other resolutions is food related. Not only do we have a lot of books, we also have a lot of cookbooks, many of which we do not seem to actually ever use. So the other resolution is to use those cookbooks more often and come up with more interesting meals. That could mean one new thing a week, or one new thing a month, I haven’t figured that out yet. I’ll try for one new thing a week and see what happens.

The main character of ‘Bright Day’, Greg Dawson, starts off his visit to Cornwall by ordering a ‘Pink Gin’ at the hotel bar. Here is where there is a connection between the two resolutions; I will allow for new cocktails as being part of the resolution, especially as a toast to start off the new year. I looked up what a ‘Pink Gin’ is and it turns out to be Plymouth Gin with a dash or two of Angostura bitters. (I always wonder if a writer is implying something when he has a character order a certain drink, or eat a certain food. Dawson was in Cornwall since he was having trouble finishing his screenplay in his usual worksite of Hollywood. I’m guessing he was having trouble finishing his work since he was drinking too much. Just a guess, I haven’t finished the book yet.) When ordering a Pink Gin at a bar, the bitters are shaken into the glass and then if the bartender is well versed in his craft he will ask ‘In or out’. This means that the bitters can be shaken into the glass and then swirled around the glass to coat it, what remains can be left in the glass, or they can be discarded.

While I did have Plymouth gin, I did not have Angostura bitters. I did have Orange bitters though, and it turns out that Plymouth gin and Orange bitters, with the addition of tonic water is an actual drink; a ‘Gin Orange Tonic’. The addition of the bitters adds a strong taste of orange to the well known gin and tonic. I tried it both ‘in and out’ and it really does make for a stronger orange flavor if the bitters are left in.

So far these resolutions are starting off well.

2015 starts off with my new favorite drink, thanks to J.B. Priestley, Fee Brothers Orange Bitters, and Plymouth Gin.