Adventures in Cheese Making: UPDATE

I have pulled the lemon cheese out of the nut milk bag. I used a quart of milk and I have a soft cheese ball that is slightly smaller than a tennis ball! I put it in a bowl and mixed in some dried dill weed. Then I rolled it up into a round ball, wrapped it in plastic wrap, and put it in the fridge to chill until tomorrow. Tomorrow, the big taste test! And pix! And hopefully cheesy happiness! (Pun intended.)

Also, I now have a mason jar full of whey in my fridge that I need to figure out how to use… ideas?

Adventures in Cheese Making: Part 1: Nut Milk Bags and Lemon Juice

Over the past few weeks I have been on a dairy adventure. Having never done so, I decided to try my hand at cheese making. I’m a decent baker of bread, maker and canner of jams, I’ve even made my own lox. I get a kick out of making things from scratch that most people do not or cannot. How hard could it be to make my own cheese? I set to work researching various cheese recipes on Pinterest, natch. I pinned about a half-dozen recipes in all. Many needed rennet, an enzyme present in the stomachs of baby animals [calves, kids (baby goats) etc] which helps them break down their mother’s milk. In cheese-making, it is used to aid in the separation of the milk into curds and whey. I did a bit more research and found out that my local beer and wine making supply store also carried rennet tablets and quickly planned a field trip there (about an hour away) with a foodie friend. In the meantime I checked out a couple of the recipes that did not use rennet, but did their milk curdling using acid (lemon juice or vinegar typically) and decided to give them a whirl. A goat cheese recipe made with lemon particularly peaked my interest. I visited my local grocery and picked up some goat’s milk:


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I was so happy I even tweeted about it!

Then, I stopped at my local kitchen supply store to grab some cheesecloth and actually ended up settling on a nut milk bag instead– a fine mesh bag used to make your own nut milks. You know, like almond milk or cashew milk… Apparently, you can also use them to make cold brew coffee. What a neat versatile little item! Plus, it’s fun to say nut milk bag. I was ready to Become A Cheese Maker.

Initially, pre-rennet, I was working from these 2 recipes for Lemon Cheese & Goat Cheese. I juiced my lemons (it ended up being about 2) and got my goat’s milk heating on the stove. Both recipes called for the milk to reach 180ºF. The goat’s milk reached the magic number, I added the lemon juice and waited for the curdling to commence…. NOTHING. One recipe said it would take 20 seconds. I was heartbroken to find that I waited 10 minutes…15 minutes and still nothing happened at all. What had gone wrong? I started to poke around on the interwebs for answers and here’s what I came up with: a few cheese makers said they let their milk reach 200ºF, a few said leave the mixture on the heat to wait for the curdle, most said remove it from the heat (neither recipe was very specific about this), and all said YOU CAN’T CURDLE ULTRA-PASTEURIZED MILK. Hold up, the milk I bought was the same as the milk pictured in the recipe…

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I was so upset I tweeted about it. 😦

Literally the exact same. So how come she was getting curds and I was getting lemony milk? Something was afoot. I had one more quart of goat’s milk left so I tried this recipe that curdles the milk using vinegar. Nada. I was feeling very discouraged, and sadly put away my nut milk bag to try anew after the rennet field trip.

In the meantime I continued to pin cheese recipes (and also some nut milk recipes- what the hell, I have a nut milk bag now) when I ran across this little gem– it’s a recipe for cheese made from Greek yogurt. It’s Middle Eastern in origin- they call it Labneh and it’s served with freshly-squeezed lemon juice and olive oil and a bit of black pepper. It takes about 4 days to make and is currently in my fridge successfully dripping whey. 

Because i am a glutton for punishment, I needed to try that lemon juice recipe again with milk that was not ultra-pasteurized. The bad news is raw milk is not legal to sell in retail stores in my state. It’s some kind of stupid government milk conspiracy I’m sure. So if I want raw milk I would need to purchase it directly from a dairy farm. Perhaps when I get further into becoming a cheese maker that’s something I will try. I had to really look hard to find normal pasteurized milk in my local grocery- turns out the milk I normally buy for drinking is also ultra pasteurized. So I tried the infamous lemon juice cheese recipe with regular pasteurized milk, let it get to 200ºF (almost starting to boil) and got a small ball of small curds that are dripping whey in my fridge. Winning! 

When I picked up my rennet tablets I also picked up this mozzarella and ricotta kit: 


The booklet included with the kit says you can also use powdered milk and a little cream to make your mozzarella. And the microwave? So once the labneh and lemon cheese are completed (hopefully successfully) this will be next on my cheese-making agenda. 

Stay tuned for Adventures in Cheese Making: Part 2 



Food Trends: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

You go to the supermarket- it’s there. The other moms at the playground won’t shut up about it. Your still-hip high school friend is Facebooking about it. Just where did this food come from and why is everyone obsessing over it? Welcome to food trends. Fear not, soon you will be able to find this item at your local McDonald’s and that is how you will know it is almost over. Some food trends will get you excited, some will make you scratch your head, and if you’re like me some will make you FURIOUS.


  1. Kale: My God. Kale is everywhere. Sautéed kale, kale in salads, kale chips. Here’s what: I don’t think that kale is any better for you than arugula, endive, spinach, or any other greens out there. And, it tastes terrible. Kale chips are not real chips. C’mon people.                                                                                                                            Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 10.51.46 AM
  2. In-house charcuterie: I am super-excited about this one. This trend came about with the morphing of 2 trends: head-to-tail eating (in other words you purchase an entire animal and eat ALL of it’s bits and pieces) and the pork-everywhere trend. Both of which are trends I am fully on board with. I think this may also be, at least partially, a backlash from the vegan food overload we’ve been seeing in the last few years. Charcuterie was my favorite class in culinary school and homemade pâtés and terrines are very nearly a lost art. LOVE.                                                                          charcuterie
  3. Pretentious food: It’s so very avant-garde (eyeroll)! What? You’re not a fan of deconstructed burritos? There’s a tiny stack of tortilla strips over there, and a small smudge of refried beans here, and some artfully arranged beef in the corner and a smattering of shredded cheese sprinkled over the whole thing. Under the heading of pretentious food is deconstructed anything, anything prepared in a sous-vide (AKA French boiling bags), and anything that Gwyneth Paltrow puts on GOOP.gallery_main-gwyneth-paltrow-meme-01
  4. Canning/brining/pickling: This is uber-trendy at the moment and I’m all over it. I learned to brine my Thanksgiving turkey a few years ago from Aunt Martha– to which my Southern Belle Bestie replied “How else do you make a turkey?” I got a canner at Christmas and I’ve been happily canning soups and tomato sauce ever since. I’ve even made some jams out of wine! So trendy! And let’s talk about pickling and brining. I will literally eat ANYTHING that is pickled or brined– except those weird pale tomatoes at the kosher deli. They’re just creepy.                                          portlanda-pickles
  5. Asian cuisine: It’s not just about Chinese takeout anymore. A few years ago the trend was Pad Thai, then Vietnamese Pho, and now suddenly it’s any and all things Korean. Bulgogi and Kimchi are not words that were in the average American’s food vocabulary 2 years ago and now Korean BBQ places are popping up all over and dishes like Korean Short Ribs are showing up on fine dining menus. A coincidental combination of #4 and #5: you can buy a kimchi pot from Williams-Sonoma! Make your own kimchi at home, and then can it!!                                                                    kimchi-1
  6. Cupcakes and macarons: When I was growing up, cupcakes were what your mom brought to school when it was your birthday and a macaroon was something that was made by Manischewitz and came in a canister. Today, high-end cupcake shops are all the rage and feature humungous cupcakes in interesting flavors. Food Network is running a competition show called Cupcake Wars You can even pair your cupcakes with wine! The macaron (not macaroons) that you’re seeing are are delicate, adorable, fussy, tiny French cakes (although historically they are Italian in origin) made from meringue, sugar, and almond flour (no coconut as present in the macaroons). A sweet trend!


    These are actual cupcakes made by moi to be paired with wines. From the top: dolce de leche, red velvet, lemon drop.

  7. “Weird Dairy” and non-dairy Dairy: Wow. The dairy section in your local supermarket has grown! The yogurt you didn’t want to eat as a kid now comes in flavors like passionfruit, watermelon, and key lime. You can get an extra protein boost from Greek yogurt (best with a drizzle of honey) or the truly brave can try the weirder dairy products like Kefir. Kefir is a yogurty drink, originally from Russia (remember those Russians that ate yogurt and lived forever?) that contains both bacteria (of the probiotic variety) and yeast. If your local grocery is really trendy you will be able to find quark, a weird dairy product made from coagulated sour milk. It is used in many German baked goods and often as a breakfast spread. The other side of the weird dairy coin caters do non-dairy eating folks like vegans and the lactose-intolerant. There are no shortage of dairy alternatives for you. Gone are the days where the only non-dairy dairy you could get was soy. Today you can get almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk, cashew milk and even hemp milk!                                        milk
  8. Farm to Table: Farm to Table is huge here in the Midwest and it seems to be a trend that was MADE for America’s heartland. This trend includes things like eating local, eating seasonally, and knowing where your food comes from. The trend has even spawned a new foodie term: “locavore”- one who eats locally. Restaurants are getting away from using the big food suppliers and forming relationships with local farmers, some are even cultivating gardens and raising fish in-house!folk and roots fest 08
  9. “Ancient Grains”: Ancient Grains include grains such as quinoa, spelt, amaranth, buckwheat, millet, barley, and rye. Five years ago I probably couldn’t have told you what half of those are (the only Buckwheat I knew was on The Little Rascals) much less how to pronounce quinoa (it’s KEEN-wa by the way). Quinoa is super-trendy right now as a substitute for rice or pasta. I think that this trend began as an offshoot to gluten-free diets. But be wary, some of these grains (barley, rye, and spelt) DO contain gluten!                                                                                                              ancient grains
  10. Slow cookers/Crockpots/Pressure Cookers: These used to be your grandma’s bag. The roast would go into the crockpot so she could get household chores done. Today, families are BUSY. Mom and dad work all day, there are sports and rehearsals for the kids after school but most people would like to keep fast-food eating to a minimum. Enter the crockpot/slow cooker. Set it up in the morning and come home to a hot meal ready for the family! The traditional pot roast and chili are there, but also some fun outside-the-box stuff. How about breakfast in your crockpot for Christmas morning? Or a chocolate cake? Bread? Pumpkin Spice Latte? I got my crockpot as a wedding present, and for years I only used it for heating up Glühwein, but in recent years I’ve used it tons more. This is a great trend for families, homemade meals, eaten at home, possibly together? Definitely a good thing.                                                                                                         Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 11.13.44 AM