Homestead News, Volume 10

Life on the farm, or homestead, is trucking right along. The one man ‘crew’ we hired to help with some of our projects is back from an extended vacation, so he and Frank are back at it.

They started Monday morning by doing some of the finish work on the greenhouse. Now the vents are all in, the outside and top corners are closed in and the flashing has been added where the roof meets the side of the house. The doors will be installed later.

Yes, that’s a radio antenna in the background on the other end of the house.

 

This is used to block rain from blowing in under the edges.

 

8:30 am in the greenhouse

This morning before it got hot, I went out and swept out the greenhouse in preparation for placing the water barrels. On one of the trips to the barn to bring down supplies for their work, Frank loaded up some of the barrels that have been stored there. As he took them out of their cardboard containers he found the invoice. We ordered these barrels from Emergency Essentials in 2009. They had a great sale with free shipping, so we ordered ten 55 gallon barrels. We couldn’t believe we would get free shipping for these in our rural location, but we did. That is how long we have had this plan for a greenhouse. We already mentioned that we had the slab poured in 2008 when we first moved here and had the porches added to the house. This project is definitely a long term dream come true.

 

The reason for ten 55 gallon barrels of water is multifaceted. Initially, it was a place to store water in case of emergencies. It will still be good for that, but the reason these barrels are being placed in the greenhouse is for temperature regulation. It probably won’t make much difference in the summer. The shear impact of hot air temperatures, will create a very hot environment in there. We plan to use the greenhouse in the summer to dehydrate, or dry many plant materials. Right now it easily gets 105+ degrees by noon each day. But in the winter, as the sun heats the greenhouse, and thus the water in the barrels, it will help raise the temperature not only during the day, but all night long. Our hope is that the heat absorbed by the barrels during the day and radiated overnight will help keep any plants that are growing in there from freezing. Will it work? We will find out over the coming months. We will place a 3/4″ sheet of plywood over two barrels, one barrel at each end of the plywood, then will have a working area. This should give us about five areas to pot, store, dry and grow plants or food.

 

The placement of the barrels has to take into account the vents, and shelving against the wall of the house.

This window will be removed and a door installed in it’s place before long. We don’t know if there will be room for another set of barrels in the middle of the floor, it depends on how the stairs work coming out of the house. We’ll figure that out when we get that far along.

These two concrete block were left over from when we had the house leveled. They’ll make nice steps coming into the greenhouse.

The grass and weeds are already trying to grow up inside the sheathing on the greenhouse. After I finished sweeping, I trimmed the grass and pulled everything out of the way. We will spray some of the foam stuff around the bottom of the siding to prevent plants and bugs from finding their way in so easily. Speaking of tools (in the last article), this is one tool that I haven’t taken very good care of. It lives outside under a roof, but the blades were starting to rust. After I finished trimming, I got out the wire brush, gave them a good cleaning, then sprayed them with WD-40. Maintenance of tools is essential if we expect them to last.

 

The projects the men worked on yesterday included replacing the rotting trim around this window and door. The materials that were used to construct the building were of very poor quality and didn’t last very long. Frank chose to replace them with some of the cedar we had left from trimming the windows in the house. While they are at it, they are going to replace the trim on the other window and the other building as well, instead of waiting for the same thing to happen to them. They also chose to put an angled board above the window for rain runoff. Not only is it functional, it looks very nice.

Remember that big patch of zinnias we had in the garden earlier in the year? They’re coming back up everywhere! That’s okay. I hope they bloom enough to make more seeds. They look great, attract pollinators and are supposed to deter some bugs. Besides all that, we really like them.

This old shed was here when we moved here. It has seen better days and needed some roof repairs. We had covered the old aluminum vent system that went down the middle of the ceiling with a tarp a while back because the roof decking was starting to rot.

Well, yesterday off came the tarp and rotted boards, replacement boards were installed and a roll of shingle material was applied the length of the roof ridge. That should hold it for a while. We also put vents in both ends of the building.

New light on top, old light on bottom

Today Frank installed a new light fixture up at the ceiling level. This is a great improvement. The old light was down at head level on the bottom of the rafter. These rafters are not even six feet tall. The man that built this shed was short and he only built it tall enough for him to walk under. I can walk under it, but Frank has to duck between each truss or bang his head. Anyway, the lighting up at ceiling level instead of truss level is a vast improvement. Maybe we won’t need to use the flashlight all the time to see.

 

We also had vents installed in the garage today, as well as some electrical repair. These vents had been stored in the barn for a while and had been blown around by a few storms. This one had the screen backing torn, so I did a little repair job before it was installed. Bellen, you’re right about having sewing supplies on hand and knowing how to use them, even if it is in unconventional way.

 

This morning after I finished sweeping the greenhouse, I swept out the old shed as well. Small price to pay for such great improvements.

The goats were waiting impatiently for their breakfast and milking when I arrived this morning. They are always ready to eat.

The pigs continue to do well. Liberty, our gilt, will let me pet her all over while she is eating, even under her stomach, which is very good. I will be monitoring her closely over the next few months trying to figure out if she is pregnant. We haven’t seen any signs of breeding or a heat cycle, but since we aren’t familiar with raising and breeding pigs, I don’t know if we would recognize it anyway. We will see. There is one barrow I don’t particularly care for. He is always jumping up at the bucket or at my hand with his mouth open for a taste or bite or something. I just don’t trust him. He will be the first one on the dinner table when the time comes.
 

10:45 am in the greenhouse

 

This is where the water barrels have been stored for the last six years. These two still need to be taken down to the greenhouse, then the mess cleaned up.


We have been using some of our lumber store while working on our many projects. It won’t be long before we will need to restock this supply. This is one way we are investing our money in tangible assets, and is something we think is very valuable. Let’s face it, when the SHTF, we are not going to be ‘making’ 2×4’s or plywood, fence staples or barbed wire.


Here are some more supplies we will be using in some upcoming projects. You can tell by the layer of dust that they have been here for a while, kind of like the water barrels, just not as long. 

 

This is an area that will soon be involved in a project, along with these water barrels. We are really looking forward to this one as well.

The porch is full of tools that are used daily in our projects. The weather isn’t as hot as it was a month ago, but the humidity sure makes it feel that way. The men start early in the morning and stop in the early afternoon. It makes for a shorter day, and keeps them out of the hottest part of the day.

I want to thank everyone for their well wishes on my sinus dilation. I went back for a checkup on Monday and found out that I was already growing scar tissue back over an area the doctor had worked over pretty good initially. He was surprised at the rate I was healing. I told him it was because I don’t eat chemicals. I don’t think he believed me or paid much attention to that statement. I do think that is the case, though. But because of the scar tissue trying to close off the left maxillary sinus, he had to cut it out. Suffice it to say that it was gruesomely painful and extremely difficult for Frank to see me hurt that bad. It took a while to quit shaking, and I was exhausted. 
 

Noon in the greenhouse


Yesterday I made some mozzarella and waxed two wheels of cheddar which filled up the small cheese frig. Now I need to try making cottage cheese again. There has to be a recipe somewhere that will work with our goat milk. 

Thanks for the flower seed, Grace.


Today I was glad I felt up to sweeping and helping Frank install the light in the shed. Tomorrow I plan to butcher a few roosters, maybe only two for fresh eating, but it will be a start. I already feel better each day and can only pray there will be no more cutting when I go for my next checkup.


As you are aware, the stock markets of the world have been, and continue to be, on a major roller coaster ride. The politicians continue their playground antics pointing fingers at each other and exposing themselves for the weak, ineffective people they are. The world leaders continue their saber rattling and posturing. And most people continue to stare mindlessly into screens small and large for the diversion of the day that is meant to distract them from the fact that the temperature of the pot is fast approaching the boiling point. Folks, you need to work hard and fast to get as many things in order as you possibly can. Many, many indicators are getting closer and closer to that red line, and when they cross it there will be no turning back. 

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 3

Even with historic rainfall, it seems we have managed to stay busy on our homestead. There are a number of projects that are either ongoing, getting started or waiting in the wings for next week to arrive. Here is a rundown of some of our recent events.

 

Frank has wanted to put another layer of gravel on the road going up to the barn. We had this road constructed when we bought our place, but it was time to increase the gravel depth and width. This should do for this road for years to come.

 

We also wanted a load of gravel placed in the backyard so Frank could spread it out in our parking areas and in a number of other places. Unfortunately, the dump truck got stuck before it could make it down the hill. This necessitated dumping the gravel by the chicken house, which means Frank will have to make many, many trips up and down this hill to place the gravel in the desired place.

The dewberries are ripening, so my friend Grace came over today and between rain showers, we picked a few berries. I hope to pick many more in the next few days. By the way, yesterday and last night we got another 1.4″ of rain, and then today we got another 0.4″. But! This is supposed to be the end of it. There is no rain in the near forecast. Hallelujah!

We have had some issues with the egg turner in our incubator this year and were afraid we would have a very poor hatch rate. Today, the day before our actual hatch date, we already have eleven, no make that sixteen, new baby chicks. We were surprised and pleased with this development. Frank will fill you in on the details in an upcoming chicken story.

Our house was built in 1983 on a stem wall with floor joists. Over time it has settled in the middle and needed to be jacked up and leveled. It was hard to find someone to do this kind of work, but today two of our friends arrived and began this project. After this job is completed, they will be helping us replace some of our 30 year old carpet with new flooring. We are really looking forward to that.

Next week the window company will be here to replace our windows. Many of them are clouded over on the inside, and one on the north side lets the cold air in if it is very windy. This is another project that has been on the drawing board for awhile.

The pigs are growing, and will be given more room sometime in the coming week when we let them out into the larger pig pen. First we need to add a few stock panels up against the barn. The last set of pigs really rooted out a lot of dirt under the edge of the slab the barn is sitting on. We don’t want to allow any more of this dirt to be removed. All of the pigs are becoming tame enough to pat and scratch while they are eating, and occasionally when they are not. They greet me each time they see me, especially if I have a bucket in my hand. 

Easter on top, Bo in the house

Tomorrow our last two kids will be separated from their mothers for weaning. Easter, our Easter Sunday doe, and Bo, our little bowlegged wether will be joining the adult wethers, the teenage wethers, and the billy goat. The teenage wethers and Patch, another young doe, have been separated from their mothers for eight weeks now. One Stripe is Patch’s mom, and she is no longer being milked, so Patch will be rejoining the doe herd tomorrow. I will be glad to have her back with the ‘girls’ so I can give her more attention. She is already a very sweet, tame doe and I look forward to adding her to the milking line up next year.
 

Patch


Tomorrow morning Faith, our friend that bought Penny to milk, is coming over for a cheese making lesson. We will be discussing how to make soft cheese and making a batch of mozzarella. Faith has been reading a lot, but learns best by watching and taking notes. She is just beginning to put together a list of needed equipment and ingredients. We will have a fun time talking goats, milk and cheese.

The garden is growing despite all of the rain. The zinnias we planted in and around some of the vegetables are starting to bloom. And they are beautiful. 

It seems we are busier than ever, with much to do on our plates. Once the few projects I mentioned are complete there are about a half dozen more waiting to be started right behind them. We’ll let you know what they are and how they go. Life on a homestead always gives you many things to do. Some planned. Some not. Either way, you learn, you work, you live. It’s a good life.

Until next time – Fern

Fern’s Cheese Making Tips

Now that Frank and I have been making cheese for about four years, we have worked out some kinks, developed a working routine, and figured out how to solve some problems that were

Our first wheel of cheddar

affecting either the ease of the process or the flavor of the cheese. Except for reading my cheese making books, or articles online, I have never met anyone that makes cheese. Much of what we have done, and continue to do, is trial and error. And, as with any new venture, once the basics are somewhat mastered, the time of real learning can begin. It’s like gardening. Once you have grown a particular plant for a few seasons, then you really begin to figure out how to increase production through proper soil conditions, moisture requirements, insect pest control and companion planting. I once heard an analogy of comparing learning to an onion. As you peel off a layer, it reveals more of the onion. I think cheese making, gardening, and many other ventures are the same. The more you learn and master, the more is revealed that you can learn.

Making cheese. It takes some time, equipment and good, quality ingredients. All of the cheese we have made comes from our own goats’ milk. There have been a few batches of mozzarella along the way that I tried making with milk that I had skimmed the cream from, but it just doesn’t taste as good as whole milk, so we don’t skim the cream before making cheese. I have already written articles about making several different cheeses, as well as how I wax our cheddar, and will list them here for your convenience. 

 

There are also several more articles and recipes for using some of these cheeses, like making cheesecake from Chevre, listed under the page, The Things You Can Do With Milk, found at the top right hand corner of the blog under Things To Read.

I included a picture of our first wheel of cheddar for a couple of reasons. One, I was very excited to actually begin making cheddar, and two, because it tasted awful. It was rather disheartening to finally have a dream come true, only to have to wait a couple of months to find out it was very bitter with a strong after taste. After two years, yes two years, we began to wonder if all homemade cheddar was supposed to have this strong, bitter aftertaste. Well, it’s not. Most of our cheddar up to that point ended up with a reddish kind of mold inside the wax. It wasn’t mold in the normal sense, like that stuff that shows up on your bread or old leftovers in the frig, but it was something that was obviously growing in there. So, I read all of my cheese making books and did many online searches. That was a couple of years ago, so I can’t give you the sources of my information, because I don’t remember where I found them. But this is what I discovered.

 

One. Before you wax any cheese for aging, brush the entire surface well with apple cider vinegar, then let it dry for a bit. Do this after you have let it sit and form the rind for a few days, according to the directions for the type of cheese you are making. The vinegar will help kill any surface bacteria on your cheese before you encase it in wax. Two. Keep your wax as hot as you can get it during the entire waxing process. I wax with a brush, not the dipping method, which is much faster that applying layers of wax with a brush. There is a post

listed above about waxing. At first I was melting the wax, then turning off the heat. According to my research, the wax needs to be as hot as possible during the entire process. This also helps to kill any bacteria on the surface of the cheese. The result? No more strong, bitter aftertaste, and a wonderful cheddar flavor. Needless to say, I was very happy after two years of making cheese to finally discover the reason for my much less than desirable cheeses.

And the best way to clean up those wax drips from the stove and cabinet? Paper towels.

Some other tips I found along the way for making cheddar have caused me to adjust a few things. I only ripen the milk and buttermilk for 45 minutes instead of an hour. This will lessen the acidity somewhat. Reasons for too much acidity can vary, with one of them being the animal you milk. I also use just a hair less rennet than the recipe calls for. As we’ve have gained more experience, and identify certain flaws in the process, research has been very helpful in increasing the success and flavor of the finished product.

 

Another thing I discovered recently is how to keep the wheels of cheese from being very difficult to remove from the mold after the last 24 hour press. It appears that it is natural for some bacteria to grow between the cheese, cheese cloth and cheese press. This can make it extremely difficult to get the wheel out after is has sat for 24 hours. To alleviate this, wipe down the inside of the mold, the surface of the press and the follower with apple cider vinegar. I did this the other day and it worked great. The only place the cheese stuck was to the base of the press. I put the vinegar on the follower and mold with a cotton cloth, but forgot to do the base. But because I overlooked the base, it showed me just how effective this technique was.


Making buttermilk from a commercial culture is very easy, as I outlined in the article above. About the only thing we do different now, is keep a continual supply by using about 1/8 cup of our existing culture to inoculate the next batch. This limits our need for commercial buttermilk culture to the first batch of the year when we begin renewing our cheese supply. With the double batch of cheddar we started this morning, it was time to culture another quart of buttermilk.


Mozzarella cheese is fairly easy to make and doesn’t take the time or attention cheddar does. We can make a quadruple batch of mozzarella in about four hours, while an equal amount of cheddar takes about eight hours and more babysitting, meaning you have to tend to the next step more often, so you can’t get really involved in any other projects or chores while making it. The hardest thing to learn about making mozzarella is the stretching process, and it’s almost impossible to describe in words. The first batches I made tasted okay, but the consistency was like rubber. Really. Kind of like chewing on one of those rubber balls kids used to play with. But we ate it anyway. Frank is a wonderful man that way. He will usually try to eat anything I make, even if it’s like rubber or has a strong, bitter after taste.

There are a couple of things I am doing different this year when making mozzarella. First, I read that you can save the brine and reuse it many times. That was great news. It always bothered me to use 1/2 cup of salt per batch of cheese, only to pour it out. That seemed like such a waste of salt. We tried adding the salt to the curd, like some recipes recommend, but like it much better when the cheese is soaked in a brine. Second, I am using water to stretch the cheese instead of whey. I liked the idea of using whey since it is a natural byproduct of making cheese, but it seemed to be the cause of the cheese souring long before I thought it should. Since I have changed to water, we haven’t had that problem.

Chevre. Even though chevre is versatile and can be used in many different recipes, including cheesecake, I have never really liked it much. We have tried seasoning it a number of different ways, from dill, to garlic, to ranch. Frank likes it in a celery stalk, and I will eat it, but I can just as easily do without it. We haven’t made any this year because we still have some in the freezer. Chevre is by far the least labor intensive cheese to make. Just remember to roll it back and forth in the cheese cloth before you leave it to hang. It gets a lot of the whey out, and leaves a nice soft cheese.

I’m still experimenting with the pressed herb cheeses. So far the only type I have made is with small green onions and fresh garlic. The flavor is good, but the texture is not. The only thing I can figure out so far is that I press it too hard. It is a little dry, and it squeaks in your teeth, which I don’t care for. I haven’t tried any more herb cheese yet since we are working on our goal of getting 30 wheels of cheddar waxed and aging before the garden produce starts coming in. We have a number of herbs growing in the herb bed that would make a nice herb cheese, so I will be experimenting more later in the summer.

 

We have worked out a very good routine for making cheese as well. The equipment we use is well suited for making a large double boiler. It also processes many vegetables for the canner in the summer. Using a double boiler makes it easy to control the temperature of the milk and curd without scorching or overheating the milk on the bottom of the pan. Long thermometers work very well for our 12 quart stock pots. Any type of cheese press will work. We prefer this version because it doesn’t take up much room. Our kitchen is small and many times when we are making cheese, cabinet space comes at a premium. 

I have tried to ‘hurry’ the process along before by trying to put hot instead of cold water into the double boiler. This just doesn’t work. Regardless of what type of cheese we’re making, the curd ends up separated and kind of stringy instead of a nice, solid mass. I have also tried using milk fresh from the barn before it has been chilled in the refrigerator, but I get the same loose, inconsistent curd. So the lesson I have learned from this is, allow adequate time, use chilled milk with cold water, and follow the directions for whatever recipe you are using.

Temperature of the milk/curd

Temperature of the water in the bottom pot

When you are heating the milk or curd to a specific temperature, let’s say 88*, don’t heat it all the way to the desired temperature if you are using a double boiler. Does that make sense? Probably not. I got the temperatures too hot, if only by a few degrees, more than once, and ended up taking the cheese pot out of the pot of water, to either maintain the correct temperature or to cool it off. I’ve learned to turn the fire off when the temperature reaches four to six degrees cooler than the desired temperature. So in the example of 88*, I turn the fire off at 82*, wait about ten more minutes, when the desired temperature is reached. The pot of water is usually warmer than the milk or curd, which is how the correct temperature can be maintained over the 30 to 45 minute time period most curd is allowed to ripen or set up. I occasionally don’t keep a close enough eye on things and still have to take the pots out so they don’t get too hot, but I was glad to figure out a better process so I could leave the curd in the double boiler for a more consistent temperature.

Making cheese is one of those things that I provides me with tremendous personal satisfaction, not to mention something good to eat. I hope these tips have been useful, and if you have any questions I can answer, please let me know. I am by no means a skilled cheese maker, I think I still fall in the category of a novice, but I will be happy to share whatever I have learned.

Until next time – Fern

Homestead News, Volume 1

We decided to start a new feature and call it Homestead News. Every so often we have given you an update of things that are happening around here, and we’re running out of names for those articles. So, now they will just be called Homestead News and be numbered by volume. It may not be very original, but it simplified things for us. We have also added a new page to the list of Things To Read, at the top of the right hand column, titled Homestead News where you will find links to these articles. Now that we have explained our new feature, on with the news.

Pearl wants some attention while I wait for a goat to finish eating on the milk stand.

We are now milking five does twice a day. That sounds like a lot of milk, but really it’s not…..yet. Copper and One Stripe have been providing us with the bulk of the milk so far since their babies are being weaned. Our three young does have only been giving us a little, morning and evening, until this morning. Last night was the first night I penned up the young babies away from their moms since the youngest, Easter, is now two weeks old. The young does are developing their udder capacity, which will continue to increase over the next few months. This morning from a full milking with all five does we got a gallon and a half of milk. Tomorrow will be less because this morning I wormed Copper and One Stripe. I will still milk them, and keep their milk for the animals for five days before we keep it for human consumption again. In the meantime, we will be getting the milk from the young does.

 

With all of this milking we have been making cheese two to three days a week. Now that we have plenty of milk we use four gallons every time. That makes a double batch of cheddar and a quadruple batch of mozzarella. So far we have six wheels of cheddar waxed and aging and two more in the cheese presses on the kitchen counter that we made today. There are several batches of mozzarella in the freezer. Our plan is to make 30 wheels of cheddar for the season. Mozzarella? Well, we always eat some fresh when we make it, then freeze the rest. I separate each batch into three pieces of cheese that are probably around half a pound. The supply in the freezer is building, and that’s okay. We are eating more cheese on our low carb diet and there is nothing like homemade, just like with any food.

In our efforts to successfully grow cabbage for humans instead of insects, we are trying something new this year. Our first batch of green lacewing and praying mantid eggs arrived in the mail today. I’ve already had some friends tell me that it sounds weird to order bugs or to get bugs in the mail. That’s okay, though, because they already knew I was weird. And they’re still my friends! The bug thing will be an ongoing process and I will do an article about it as we get farther along.

I’m kitting a few dishcloths for a wedding shower gift for a young couple at church. I think it’s always nice to get something homemade.

We spent half a day trying to program a radio scanner that we can’t figure out. That was very frustrating. It is now in a box on a shelf. But we do have another one we are going to take a look at. 

Frank has been talking to a young man at church about survival radio. They are now working on setting up a class that Frank will teach for some of the folks in the area. This class will provide information about getting a ham radio license at the Technician level. But even more than that, Frank will provide information about using CB, GMRS, FRS, MURS, scanners and shortwave radio more effectively. They will be talking about how to use a small solar panel to power the battery in a car, or any battery, and allow continued use of radio communications when the power is out. Frank feels very strongly about trying to set up a network of local people that will be able to communicate via radio if there is a natural disaster, emergency or collapse situation, whether it lasts a few days or indefinitely. We really look forward to this class and the relationships it will build with people in our surrounding area.

Cowpeas
Cushaw winter squash


The garden is growing, so the masterpiece has begun. We have had so much rain that it is still hard to get into the garden and get a handle on the weeds, or plant a few more seeds. So far, the old pinto bean seeds I planted have not made an appearance. I don’t know if they are too old, or it has been too wet. There are many people around here that haven’t started their gardens yet because it is so wet. We are grateful that we have so many things planted and growing.

 

I am very excited to see the wild blackberries blooming. We now eat berries every morning with our breakfast, and I look forward to serving fresh berries we have harvested instead of having to buy them at the store. I will be picking every berry I can get my hands on this year in an effort to freeze enough, so we won’t have to buy any. I don’t know if I can do that or not. I would also like to can more peaches and pears, but I’m trying to figure out if I can do it without sugar. I know in some recipes, sugar is a sweetener, but it also provides part of the preservative properties. I’ll have to do more research on that.

We have been picking a variety of things from the garden and herb bed to include in a salad about three to four days a week. I’ll be doing an article on that before long as well. I have to tell you, the herb bed is doing wonderfully this year. I hope to actually start harvesting and using what’s out there. Instead of only growing the plants, it’s time to learn to preserve and put them to use. The new comfrey bed is doing well. I pick comfrey everyday now for the chickens and the goats. 

And Frank the funny photographer took some beautiful pictures after one of the latest rains. We had a nice double rainbow for a short time.
 


There is always a lot happening on a homestead in the spring. It’s the time of increased activity after a long winter’s rest. Now, if it would just quit raining for a day or two we might get to mow the grass before it gets knee high.

April 13th

April 18th

April 19th

Keep an eye on Yemen. It looks like things are heating up in the Middle East. We just pray it doesn’t boil over.

Until next time – Fern

All That Cheese? Let’s Make Lasagna

Lasagna is a great meal. It is fairly simple, it just takes some time to put together. Way back when I first tried making it, the recipe said to boil the noodles first which is one more step. Then on one of the lasagna noodle boxes I bought it said to put the noodles in uncooked and add 3/4 cup water as the last step. I tried it and it worked great! I have used that recipe ever since. It saves a step, time and energy. My kind of recipe.

 Ingredients

The ground meat is our chevron, the tomatoes we canned a few years ago (which need to be used up) the bowl has cottage cheese I made a few days ago, and the mozzarella we made last summer and froze.

I start out making the sauce. I make it just like I make spaghetti sauce. Start off browning the ground meat.

Add one large can of tomato sauce and one jar of canned tomatoes.

Add the spices. This will remind you of the post on making pizza.

Parsley

Oregano

Basil

Garlic

We buy dried onions in bulk, too.

Onions

Let simmer.

Grate the mozzarella. It calls for three cups, but I don’t measure it anymore. This is mozzarella that we made last July. It keeps well in the freezer and since we are making more and stocking up the freezer for the coming year, I need to use up last year’s cheese.

Mix two cups of the mozzarella with two cups of cottage cheese, 1/2 cup of Parmesan, and three tablespoons of parsley – more or less. 

I made this cottage cheese and it is probably the best yet….but it still isn’t very good. I will post the next batch I make to show you how.

Mix the remaining mozzarella with 1/4 cup of Parmesan.  




The original recipe was enough to fill a standard 9×13 baking dish. I have one that is 10×14 (I think) that I use for most casseroles and lasagna so I can make a larger batch and freeze the extra.

The recipe calls for a layer of sauce then four noodles. I have extra room……






So I fill this space with more noodles.


Add half of the cheese mixture……

 

more sauce….

More noodles….

The last half of the cheese mixture (I had too much so we get to use the rest in another meal.)……….

  
Add the last of the sauce and the mozzarella and Parmesan mixture. See the cup of water? I have forgotten this last step more than once and ended up with kind of chewy noodles.
Pour 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water around the edge of the pan. The amount of water will depend on how ‘wet’ you like your lasagna. Some like it kind of oozing out and others like it to be able to ‘stand’ on it’s own when it is cut and served. You will need to adjust to your own taste.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Uncover and bake for 10 more minutes.

Let sit for 10 minutes before serving – well, usually. We needed to be somewhere, so I didn’t let this set for very long before serving. Looks yummy, doesn’t it?

When I was young and newly married, the thought of making lasagna was too intimidating. I thought it was too complicated and fancy for my abilities. When I finally got up the courage to try, it was much easier than I dreamed! I had built it up in my mind as something that was too difficult to do. 

What is it that you really want to try to do but haven’t? Are you afraid you might fail? Are you limiting yourself by thinking something is beyond your capabilities? Try something new. Something you are interested in that will benefit you and your family. And after you have succeeded, and you will if you set your mind to it, share it with someone else.

Until next time – Fern


Making Pizza

We learned to make pizza from scratch when we lived in bush Alaska. There are times when you have a hankering for something that is not easy to get when you live way out in a remote area, and if you really want something, you have to make it yourself. So we did.

The pizza dough recipe came from a friend of ours that got it off of a flour sack. I still wrote it down as ‘Bob’s Pizza Dough’ because that is where I learned to make it. I start off with the dough so it can bake for a few minutes before I add the toppings.

 2 3/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
2+ tbsp. olive oil
1 cup warm water
1 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. yeast
Add flour, salt, oil & 1/2 c. water to bowl. With the remaining 1/2 c. water, add sugar & yeast, let sit.

We buy everything we can in bulk to save money. Most things we buy from a warehouse market.

The spices I buy in bulk and refill my smaller spice containers. 

We grind peppercorns in this small coffee grinder.

I really hope to can my own tomato sauce this summer. We will see how that goes.

While the yeast is softening and starting to bubble I carefully measure the spices and add them to the tomato sauce. I add this much seasoning salt….

 this much pepper……

this much oregano……

this much parsley…… 
(Frank said, “Isn’t that a lot?”)

this much basil…….

and this much dried minced garlic.

All precisely measured by hand. I couldn’t tell you how much of anything there is….I have never had a recipe. This was another instance of making it up as you go along. I tend to do that with many things. So add whatever tastes good to you and your family. In my opinion,

the sauce makes the pizza – not enough spices and the pizza will be bland, but too much and it will be overwhelming. 

Stir up the sauce and spices and let it sit while you get everything else going.

This is ground chevron or goat meat. We butchered some of our wethers last fall.



 

Brown the meat, add salt and pepper to taste. Of course, you can use any meat – sausage is good too.


 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Now that the sauce and meat are going, add the yeast to the flour and stir it up. 

Turn out the dough onto the counter that is sprinkled with flour and knead until smooth. The dough should be a little sticky but not so much that it will stick to your finger when you poke it.

Note the date on the shortening can? It is July 2010, three years old and in excellent condition. Coat the pan you are going to use with shortening. I use a large cookie sheet. This batch will probably make two pizzas if you are using a traditional pizza pan.  

I tried rolling out the dough and transferring it to the pan once. It didn’t work very well, so I just put it on the pan and work it around by hand.



Now I bake the crust for about six to eight minutes before I add the toppings. 


The meat should be about ready by now, so it is time to shred the cheese and chop the vegetables.

This is the mozzarella we made a few days ago, along with an onion from a neighbors garden, a few of our anaheim peppers and a few black olives.

Okay, the crust is ready.

 
Add the 

sauce……

Add the meat and veges……..

Did I say we like onions and peppers? Mmmm……..

Add the cheese…….. 

Bake for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees.

I have learned to lift up the pizza with a spatula and look at the bottom of the crust to make sure it is done.

This was one of the best pizzas I have made! No, really. The crust was just right, not too many spices in the sauce, fresh vegetables and fresh mozzarella cheese. It doesn’t always turn out this way. And we have leftovers to eat for the next few days while we work in the garden. Life is good.

Until next time – Fern

Making Mozzarella Cheese

Mozzarella is another cheese we have had success making – after a time of trial and error. Frank prefers it over cheddar and we can cook with it or eat it for lunch with deviled eggs and crackers. Mozzarella is a fresh cheese that does not need to be waxed or aged. In fact, it is very good right after you make it.

There are several steps in making mozzarella that are the same as making cheddar. You will find links back to the cheddar cheese post in some of these directions.

This recipe calls for one gallon of milk, but if I am going to do that much work, I want more for the effort. The first time I made it I was very surprised at how little cheese I got from one gallon of milk, so now I use four gallons – the same amount of time with more results.

2 gallons of milk for each pot

We use the same double boiler method we use for cheddar cheese.

The first step is to add 2 1/2 tsp. citric acid powder to 1/2 cup cold water. Stir until dissolved then stir into the cool milk for 30 seconds. 

Slowly heat to 88 degrees stirring occasionally for even heating. Since I have started making mozzarella regularly, I buy my citric acid powder in bulk.

Add 1/2 tsp. of rennet to 1/2 cup of cold water. Stir this into the milk for 10 seconds and let set for 15 minutes to coagulate.

I always think it is neat to see the curd form. It will usually pull away from the side of the pan a little. Sometimes there will be a thin layer of whey on top.

Cut the curd and let it settle to the bottom of the pot and rest for 10 minutes.

Slowly heat the curd to 108 degrees. Then let it sit and ‘cook’ for 35 minutes keeping the temperature at 108 degrees.

Pour off the whey and let the curd drain in a colander for 15 minutes. It looks good, doesn’t it? I usually flip it over a time to two so the whey will drain better. These curds are the same color, but the angle of the picture make them look different.

When you make mozzarella you use a brine made of one quart of cold water and one cup of salt. You can adjust the salt to your taste. It is a lot of salt to use up and pour down the drain, so I tried adding salt to the curd after I poured off the whey. It wasn’t near as good as the brine, so I still do it this way. When times get tough and I don’t have the salt to spare, I will do away with the brine and just add the salt directly.

 You can put the cheese directly into the bowl with the brine and it will conform to the shape of the bowl. I found that I liked the cheese to have a little more shape, so I use this cheese mold.



Now comes the weird part – stretching the cheese. When I first started making mozzarella, I had no idea how to stretch it. I tried to follow written directions and posted questions at a few places on the internet, but didn’t get any responses. So, I just followed the directions the best I could and kind of made up the rest. After a while of trial and error, the cheese started to take on the correct consistency and quit bouncing, I mean chewing, like rubber. 

So….. to stretch the curd, heat some of the whey or water to 160 degrees. (I have always used whey.) You will need two spoons. I use large regular and slotted spoons. I have also read that you can do this step wearing rubber kitchen gloves, but I prefer not to.

Put the curd in the pot of hot whey (one at a time if you are making two batches – the curd from both would be too much to work with). You have to stretch the curd for it to soften and melt when you use it to cook with – like on pizza and in lasagna.
The books describe the consistency of the curd as taffy-like and shiny when you have stretched it enough. The first few times I did this, I had no idea of how long to stretch it and it came out pretty rubbery. It tasted good, but the
consistency was rather chewy. Raise and lower the curd into and out of the whey until it starts to become stringy and sticky like you would expect mozzarella to be. It will take about three to five minutes. Then it is finished.

It is a challenging feat to get the cheese from the pot into the brine without it stretching out and falling off the spoons. I just kind of juggle it over there. At this point you can shape the cheese any way you want – flat, balls, sticks, etc. If you choose smaller pieces the brine

time will be less, or it will be too salty. The cheese will float in the brine which isn’t a problem. The first few times I made it into balls and just rolled it over so all sides would have a chance to soak. Now I weigh it down with a glass bowl and let it sit. 
 
The amount of time you allow the cheese to brine will depend on your personal preference. I have tried 10 minutes, 20 minutes and 30 minutes and have settled on 20 minutes.

When the time is up set the cheese out on a towel to dry, turning it several times to allow the whey to drain out from the wrinkled areas. The better it dries the longer it will keep. Any leftover whey will spoil first.

As the cheese dries it will spread out and flatten. I have tried letting it sit in the cheese mold because I like the shape, but it doesn’t allow the cheese to dry well enough.

One batch will go in the refrigerator for fresh eating.

One batch will go in the freezer. Freezing does not affect the quality of this cheese. I wrap it in a paper towel and put it in a freezer bag.
 

We store up cheese in the summer when our goats’ milk production is at it’s peak. It’s nice to go to our own ‘store’ to get cheese for that pizza we want to make for dinner. Hmm….that can be another post. Sounds good, doesn’t it?


Until next time – Fern