A Simple Way to Make Cheddar Cheese and Your Own Cheese Press!

This as simple a way to make a  pressed cheddar cheese, I will also include illustrated instructions on how to make your own press!  You can create fresh cheddar curds without the use of a press. They taste good and are immediately gratifying. The aging and use of  press for hard cheeses makes the cheese special and creates a depth of flavors as time goes on. You can get creative and try different pressing and aging times, then sample the cheeses as time goes on. I did not get that far. I put my lovely pressed cheese to dry on the counter and the kids and I got too curious. We tried it and it was delicious, and gone before dinner. Either way it was fun to create and making cheese is such an art form. You can try to measure temperatures, time, weight, and ingredients just right but it really comes down to intuition and taking the time to know the process and sticking with it. Like any art.  Cheese making is a skill I am still learning and to me that is the fun of it. I’m going to outline through my experiences the easiest simplest and least fussy way to have a successful cheese. There are a whole lot of other recipes out there that go into more depth but I’m going to keep it as fun as possible, kids love this because it is a science experiment with yummy results!

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Ingredients:

Directions:

Put the milk in large clean stainless steel pot and slowly warm milk to around 80F, or just until milk feels on verge of getting hot. Sprinkle the culture into milk and stir well with whisk.

Cover and allow the milk to culture for around 45 minutes. I put this in the oven with light on and towel over top. Mix rennet in 1/4 C water and stir well into the milk. Cover and allow to sit another 45 minutes. It is now that a curd will begin to form. Using the blade of a long knife ( I use a cake frosting knife) you can literally cut into the curd. Make long cuts length wise and across to form 1/2 inch cubes. See picture.

Be gentle as the less you handle the more delicate your cheese will be. Let the now cut curds rest for 10 minutes. Then move pot to burner and heat to a little over 100 F for 40 minutes, stirring gently to keep curds form sticking together. Scoop out the curds with a strainer or slotted spoon into a colander. Allow the curds to rest in the colander and drain over the still warm pot. Let the curds drain for an hour, turning the curds to drain well and keep the whey below warm to allow the process of “cheddaring” to occur.

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It is now that the cheese will take on a squeaky texture, which the kids love to sample. Then remove the curds form the strainer and cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Put them in a bowl and toss with the salt. It may taste very salty but as the cheese is pressed, the salt comes out with the whey, so it is better to be a little heavy with the salt.

Creating a Cheese Press:

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Directions for Pressed Cheese:

Line the cheese mold with cheesecloth, I use a tea towel, and fill with the cut curds. Place on center of cheese press with pan to collect whey underneath. Place follower on top. I then put an empty mason jar which fits in lid. Place top wooden board and add 10 lbs weight for an hour. Take out cheese and cloth and turn over.

 

Replace weight and press an additional hour. Add 10 lbs and press overnight. Remove cheese and let air dry for 4 hours. You may eat fresh . Will last 2 weeks in refrigerator.  Age for flavor in cool dry place with wax for 4 weeks and   up to 6 months, even longer if desired!  The longer the cheddar ages, the sharper the cheddar becomes! Enjoy the process and let me know how your trails go!

 

 

Lemon Oat Breakfast Muffins; Learn my Quick, One Pot “Blank Canvas” Recipe!

img_9499I’m bringing muffins back! Some of you may be thinking, I never knew muffins were out, neither did I! That was until I went to research muffin recipes in my new cook book and nada! Looking further online, it seems the culinary world has turned its back in this American staple. The muffin  is underrated and seen as creation that takes little skill that has now been confused with its trendier counterpart the cupcake. Muffins were created in America, different from the English version, this muffin was a batter that required a tin, and baking powder, which wasn’t invented until the late 1800’s. Muffins were traditionally made by hand, but modern bakeries wanting to make them more light like the much desired cupcake,  added more sugar and used a mixer to add dry to wet ingredients. Personally the muffin means a lot to me. It has been a wonderfully easy way yo be creative as a busy mom, and feed my kids a wholesome snack at the same time. Muffins are versatile and a great way to use seasonal fruits an vegetables. The possibilities are endless, and in using traditional methods with high quality  ingredients its like creating a work of art. It has taken me time to be able to not have to look at a recipe, to have crate a stand by muffin recipe that I can make quickly,  be able to get creative with what I have, and double easily to share. My recipe takes one pot, little mess and little time. I usually can make these in 10 minutes or less and you can too! Think of this recipe as a blank canvas. The ingredients should be the freshest you can find. If you can take the time to make fresh yogurt  I encourage it. See my recipe for homemade yogurt. Besides added health benefits, yogurt tenderizes baked goods. The homemade yogurt makes this muffin special, and creates a feeling of accomplishment. Get cookin’!

Ingredients

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Everything here except the Baking Soda and Powder

  • 3 C flour
  • 1 C Rolled Oats
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 Tsp Salt
  • 3/4 C Sugar
  • 1/4 C Maple Syrup
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 C yogurt
  • 1/2 C Butter (melted)
  • 1/2 – 1 C add ins- see below.

For Lemon Oat Muffins:

  • Juice and Zest of 2 Meyer Lemons
  • Powdered Sugar for dusting.

Other ideas for ad ins for both sweet and savory muffins include ; Apple sauce, Fruit puree or whole berries, chocolate chips, almond butter, roasted nuts, pureed vegetables like carrot or cauliflower, cheeses, grated zucchini, and the list goes on! You can adjust the add ins by decreasing the amount of yogurt or butter used. For example if you want to add 1 C apple sauce use only 1/2 C yogurt.

Have fun creating new muffins to try with your family. The portable nature of a muffin makes it such a great convenience and a way to pack nutrition into your day without hitting the drive thru, taking time and money. Remember these also freeze great for later use so stock up when you have some extra time to bake!

Directions;

In large pot melt butter. If making Lemon Muffins as pictured above, add lemon zest and juice. Let butter cool slightly. Add sugar, yogurt, maple syrup and oats, stir.

Place sifter over pot and sift in flour, salt, baking powder and soda.

Make a well in center of flour crack in 2 eggs. Using a fork beat the eggs until yoke and whites combined, then fold into dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Do not over mix, batter should be lumpy and this is OK. Spoon into buttered tins.

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You can never over fill and muffin tin!

bake 350 F for 15-20 minutes, or until tooth pick comes out clean. For Lemon Muffin sift tops with powdered sugar and additional lemon zest. Enjoy!

 

Art to FEED; “Community Hearts” and the Children’s Center at Modesto Gospel Mission

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Myself, Lilly and the lovely Angela, a volunteer at the center. 

Sometimes reality can  hit you hard. Going to the Modesto Gospel Mission to volunteer at their children’s center one evening with a group from church, I remember thinking, will there really be a need? Do we have too many volunteers to really help, will we be standing around, wanting to be helpful but doing so in vain. Many different thoughts come up whenever we try to do something of value. We start to believe all the negative voices, the ones that keep us from getting up and out to help. The sad reality is our world is a fallen one and the need is overwhelming. In entering the children’s center I had to take a seat. I was hit with this reality that exists in my own back yard. Children, infants, families without hope. I also write this having lost a childhood friend last month, after drug addiction and living on the streets ended in tragedy.  I don’t believe you need a worldly perspective to look around your own community and know things aren’t right.

Modesto is increasing in it’s population of homelessness,(Modesto Bee, August 2015). An increase in alcoholism, drug addiction, low literacy rates and mental illness seems to be only fueling this problem. It is easy for many to ignore this issue, how would one even begin to help?  One only has to drive down the La Loma neighborhood of Modesto, an area I used to ride bikes as a child, and one can see this growing problem first hand. The Modesto Gospel Mission exists here to help, and the children’s center offers a safe place for children who otherwise would have nowhere to go but out on the streets. This is a home to many, a community to many. It is at times a chaotic and volatile place, but there are much needed rules, structure, warmth and encouragement. The Mission has aims to improve community with a larger medical facility, women’s center and a newly purchased warehouse in order to teach skills for employment to its participants in their program. We donated our “Community Hearts” painting, done at the Homestead Market Fair in Ripon, CA. The painting was done by the community, who all painted their “hearts” as a symbol of support for the children’s center at the Modesto Gospel Mission.

Many homeless desire to work and be productive. Art to Feed has a vision in line with our philosophy that connecting people with food and agriculture improves community. This year we plan to create a small maintainable garden providing fresh produce for a salad bar daily for the children, women and men that come to the mission for meals. The garden will also teach skills and allow for a positive environment for the residents and the community that surround the garden. We also hope to incorporate some children’s programs with the help of a local garden club. We envision the garden growing every year and possibly leading to the selling of produce at local farmers markets, providing employment and skills for our homeless community. There have been successful models with a similar concept by Sol Food Street Farms, and we can only aspire towards this. For now a garden. I am not naive to think that this will solve all of our problems. But its a small step, and as one resident said in hearing of our plans, a much needed bit of “life.” Giving something living to take care of and watch thrive in an environment that is so accustomed to  failure is enough of a step for me and one I cant wait to get started.

If you are interested in donating towards the garden I will be having an art show thru February at the Carolyn Huff Gallery in Modesto, also a part of the down town art walk. All proceeds will be used to fund this garden. If you are interested in volunteering for the Modesto Gospel Mission, or just to learn more you can attend their monthly tours, and visit them online to learn more or donate at http://modestogospelmission.org/