Archive for the ‘Dairy’ Category

The Cheese Stands Alone

We have been indoctrinated over the past 60 years that every food must be refrigerated immediately upon use or otherwise we’ll all die of food poisoning. Not true. Not true at all. That kind of thinking and propaganda has left most families dependent on a refrigerator for all of their food needs. What would we do if every house didn’t have a refrigerator freezer in the kitchen? We’d do the same things our ancestors did. Depend on ourselves, put in a little effort and have fresh food available far longer than the refrigerator shelf life of most of those items.

I notice more and more as I talk to people that very few know very little about preserving food beyond putting it in the freezer or keeping it in the refrigerator. Casually conversations while standing in line at a market leaving me wondering what other skills are completely lost to them. It is a sad state when you think about it. A generation of adults who can’t cook unless it is from a box and most likely won’t be able to teach their children anything more than how to open a box or a can. Just the other day Colby and I were in Walmart getting cleaning items and things I had coupons for and the lady behind us had 27 frozen dinners, a bag of salad and several cases of diet drinks. I am betting she doesn’t cook. At all.

Let’s take a look at the average American refrigerator. What’s in there? Milk, butter, eggs, cheese – the basics usually.

Eggs. Eggs do not have to be kept in a refrigerator to remain fresh. Eggs can sit on the counter top for as long as six weeks and be perfectly fine. The chances of losing one or two is there but that is rare. Eggs coated in mineral oil can sit in a cool area for up to 9 months and still be as fresh as the day they were laid by the hen. They can be placed in lime water or water glass and keep as long as a year. No refrigeration needed.

Butter. Milk fat. Butter can sit on the kitchen counter and be fine for long periods of time. Not margarine or other butter substitutes – those things are horrible chemicals and hydrogenated oils that aren’t good for you to start with. Take a stick of butter out of the fridge and spread it on your toast. Can’t do it without ripping your bread to shreds. Leave the butter on the counter. At room temperature it is spreadable for your toast. It is also at the proper temperature to cook with – especially baking.

Milk, yes, milk needs to be kept cool – grocery store milk spoils quickly. Fresh milk from grass fed cows needs to be kept cool too but if it isn’t it won’t rot and stink and fast as other milk. Raw milk also can be used to create other items we find in the fridge – yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, buttermilk, butter, creme fraiche, clotted cream and with a little effort all sorts of cheeses – soft and hard.

Cheese. What is cheese? Cheese is preserved milk. You can make it yourself or you can buy it. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love cheese. I love cheese. I have eaten gouda in Gouda and edam in Edam. Right this minute I wish I had a nice round wheel of cheese fresh from Holland. I would be in heaven.

Have you ever gone someplace on vacation or visiting and had such a wonderful cheese that you wish you could bring it home? Do you have friends in Wisconsin and wish you could bring home a giant wheel of cheddar? I know I do. Guess what? You don’t have to worry about your cheese going bad. When you find a great hard cheese that you really like you should buy it and bring home. Don’t worry about the refrigerator. You can have your cheese – as much as you like – and eat it too.

Cheese is wonderful to keep on hand for all sorts of dishes and snacking. What would a party be without cheese dip or those lovely little cheese cubes to nibble on, not to mention fondue? It wouldn’t be much of a party if you ask me.

Have you noticed how much the price of cheese in the grocery store has gone up? The cheddar cheese that we like, Colby cheese, has increased from $7.00 for a two pound block to $10 in the last couple of months. Outrageous prices that fall in the same category as the rising gas prices.

When I noticed the prices starting to increase I bought an extra block every time I had to go to the store and put them in the freezer. Once I had several pounds I set about working on my cheese to keep it fresh and lovely without the need for the freezer or the fridge.

I took my cheese out of the freezer and allowed it to thaw. Once it was at room temperature I placed in the fridge so that it could chill completely through to the center – about 3 days for me because I was busy with other things. When I was ready it took just a couple things and an about 30 minutes time to keep the cheese fresh as the moment I opened the package. The cheese needs to dry on the outside a bit and form a little crust. There is still a ton of liquid in that cheese.

This is an old crock pot that I picked up at a thrift store for $2. I keep cheese wax in it. When I need it I turn it on low and give it a couple hours to gentle warm the wax until it is liquid.

I wrap the cheese in a single layer of cheese cloth. This helps give the wax something to stick too.

I waxed one block without the cheese cloth so you can see how it slides off.

Then I carefully dip the cheese in the wax until I have built up several layers. Every spot of the cheese and cloth must be sealed in wax. The wax locks out bacteria and oxygen that will cause mold and locks in the cheese keeping it safe and wonderful.

This is how cheese is kept and aged all over the world. Cheese sealed in wax will remain preserved for as long as 25 years without refridgeration. I wrote the type of hard cheese and the date on a piece of paper and then waxed over it for reference.

If you cut open a block of waxed cheese you simply need to rewax the opened end to keep it fresh. The cheese will continue to slowly age but it won’t go bad.

I forgot to mention one thing. Wear gloves. It keep the cheese free of any bacteria that might be on your hands. It also keeps the hot was off your fingers as you dip or brush.

Baked French Toast

If you are looking for a way to get ahead in the morning I have a great recipe for you that your family will love. It only takes a few minutes work in the evening to have an awesome hot breakfast the next morning.

I take a casserole dish and butter it well – or like in these photos I use small ramekins so that there are no leftovers to tempt me.

Slice your favorite bread – egg bread, challah or a nice sour dough and then line the dish with one layer of bread making sure to cover the buttered surface of the dish. Toss in some raisins if you like. Often I use bread with fruit already it in.

I often will thin slice apples and tuck those inside as well.

Top the dish with more thin sliced bread and press it down and make it fit tight.

Next whip up some eggs. I use 6 eggs and 1 cup of cream. Add in a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg for another layer of flavor.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Press it down and let the bread soak up the liquid. You’ll be surprised how much that bread can sponge up.

At this point you can pop it in the fridge and cook it the next morning or you can do what I do. I usually mix this up while I am getting supper ready. I let it sit until I am ready to watch a program about an hour before I go to bed. When the show starts I put the dishes in a 375 degree oven and set the time for 25 – 40 minutes give or take. When the timer goes off I take them out and open the oven door. I let most of the heat escape then I put the dishes back in the oven.

At 5am or 6am the next morning (Gracie gets on the bus at 6:30am so we have to be up and early around here) the dishes are still just slightly warm. I slice and serve with a warm drizzle of syrup. My kids have had a hot homemade breakfast and I did not have to put in a lot of effort – but don’t tell anybody. No one really has to know how easy it is and you get all the credit for your amazing hard work.

Milk Made

When we talk about canning, freezing, smoking, pickling and drying foods we are talking about ways in which we preserve fresh food for later use. When it comes to milk and other highly perishable items we might think about freezing a gallon or two of milk for later use but for the most part most people don’t think about preserving milk.

In this day and age of instant gratification with gallons of milk available in every quickmart and supermarket refrigerator case I think the value of milk has been lost. Not just in the pasteurization and selling of a dead nutrient. Heating and super heating milk changes the protein chains and kills off all of the good bacteria that is helpful to the human body. So in the case of drinking pasteurized dead milk I agree with all those people who insist cow milk has no benefit to a human. On the other hand milk that is so filthy that it has to be pasteurized to kill the bacteria in it that makes people sick – well, duh!, it isn’t fit to drink to start with. Fresh, clean raw milk is beneficial to the body. The good bacteria and the unchanged proteins are exactly what the human body needs to be nutrient complete. The fats are required to insulate the fatty insulation in our brain cells. Not to mention the good probiotics that help to replenish and flourish the needed bacteria in our digestive tract. Fermenting that milk, making yogurt and kefir, changes the lactose into lactic acid and thereby those who often claim they are lactose intolerant more often than not are able to consume raw dairy products without issues. Also artisan cheeses are being crafted everywhere using raw milk and aging for 60+ days makes them totally safe for consumption.

Also at a loss is the connection we humans have with our food and the sources of those foods. I have dairy goats but I still long for a family cow or two to call my own. The nuzzle of a wet nose, the lick of a giant slobbery tongue, the press of my face into a warm fur blanket as cold hands milk in winter. Very few have that connection any longer. Those who would mock me for my ‘homely’ tendencies haven’t a clue most times what it is they put on their plate or in their mouth. I am a domestic diva in a game they can’t even begin to compete. w00t! I know some of you are as well. Double w00t!


“More milk, please and thank you, lovely Guernsey cow.”

Isn’t that a lovely cow? I want one.

Now, back to the preserving of milk.

Cheese is preserved milk.

I know when I talk to many people they don’t even consider that idea. Many people think of cheese of as a highly perishable commodity in the fridge. It’s not! It’s preserved milk. A waxed wheel of cheese is protected and will remain perfectly fine and edible for 25 years as long as that wax rind is not broken. If you have ever visited countries where cheese is their thing you’ll understand the beauty and the glory of a wheel of cheese. Go to Holland during a cheese festival. I have. I have eaten my way across the country. Gouda in Gouda is beyond gooda. Edam in edam is, well, dam-gooda, too.

With my birthday coming up next month I asked for one thing. The Weck electric canner. You’re wondering what that has to do with cheese, aren’t you? You see, this pot has a thermostat on it that holds temps right where you want them from 85F to boiling. No more running back and forth adding adding boiling water to the sink and trying my best to hold a temp at 95F for thirty minutes.

The giant pot was delivered just in time to participate in Summer MilkFest 2011. With many! gallons of milk to work with I set this baby on the countertop and never looked back.

I made:

1/2 gallon cow’s milk yogurt
2 quarts goat’s milk yogurt
1 quart and 1 pint sour cream
5 lbs of queso fresco
1.7 lbs ricotta
1.5 lbs chevre

Isn’t it pretty?

And it is delicious!

Plus there was almost 5 gallons of whey left to share with the barnyard birds. Share and share alike -as my grandma said.

Today the pot is in action again with 4 gallons of lovely goat’s milk. I am making sainte maure (say it like “saint moore”). It’s another French goat cheese. The initial cheese process is inoculated with Penicillium Candidum – a white mold that makes that lovely white outer ‘bloom’ on the rind and creamy interior to cheeses like brie and camenbert and other lovely types of cheese.

Fingers crossed that this goes well. It’s the first time trying it.

There will me more gallons of goats milk this afternoon. What will I do with it? I don’t know, yet! Maybe mozzarella?

Tell me, have you given in and made the cheese yet? If so, tell me about it. If not, tell me your plans. If you don’t plan to make cheese then tell me that too!

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