Curd Knives

When purchasing a curd knife you have two basic options – a roasting or carving style knife or a large frosting knife. The names are pretty self-explanatory, but to give you a better image: if you’ve ever been to a restaurant or buffet with a carving table, you’ve seen the exact kind of knife I’m talking about. I haven’t personally frosted a wedding cake, but I imagine an industrial size frosting knife is what most bakers use (see below).

A frosting style curd knife.

I prefer the roasting knife  because it’s sharpened. The edge makes it easier to cut your curds and it can be called into service to cut roasts if needed (I know I cut meat more often than I frost behemoth cakes). Just be careful – they’re sharp! You may want to purchase a paper sleeve to protect you and your knife. Just make sure you get one with a straight, not serrated, edge. If you opt for the frosting knife, make sure to buy one that has a straight handle (some, though usually only home kitchen sized ones, have an offset handle for ease of use).

A craving style curd knife

With either option I recommend purchasing one that is a at least 10 inches long. As with most cheese making supplies, bigger is better! To make cheese in 2 gallon or more increments you nee a large and deep pot, and the curd knife needs to reach the bottom of the pot without dragging your knuckles through the milk. For reference, I have a 12 quart pot and a 12 inch knife works nicely with it.

The best place to get either of these is a specialty shop or a restaurant supply store. If you’re placing an order for cultures or other cheese making supplies you can probably just add a curd knife to you’re order. However, for the best deal, and a chance to test the feel of the knife, a drive to your local restaurant supply can be worth your time. There are a number of other useful cheese making items you can pick up while you’re there! Of course there are plenty of online restaurant suppliers, or if you’re lucky you may have a local store that stocks quality cheese supplies.

Happy Shopping!

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Cheese Making Parties

Interested in learning how to make cheese? Want to host a unique part? Why not have a cheese making party!

Imagine beautiful chevre logs of every variety proudly displayed on your cheese boards, or bowls of crumbly and tangy marinated feta set as an antipasto. Cheese making is easier and more rewarding than you might think!

You and your friends will learn the principles of cheese making, and will be able to successfully make a variety of basic cheese by the end of class using mostly supplies you already own. I have a number of lesson plans available, or I can cater to your preferences. Noshing on the cheeses being made is included. I can travel to Philadelphia and its suburbs, Reading, Quakertown and Allentown areas.

For more information contact me via the comments section or  the contact section below:

Gin Twist Pickles

Recently I found bags of perfect baby pickles on sale, so it was time to come up with pickle recipes! I love juniper berries, and I just happen to have a pound bag full in my cabinet which I need to put a dent in. For inspiration I riffed a gin flavor profile by including juniper and and several other traditional gin herbs and a few more savory  elements to ground them. They turned out surprisingly sophisticated. Not genuinely ginny, but with some of that herbaceousness and a bit of zip mimicked by the lactic acid.

This recipe is for a lacto-fermented pickle but could easily be adapted for regular canning methods. I left the cucumbers whole to help maintain their crispness. If you use small ones they fit nicely in a mason quart jar. It is also helpful to included a source of tannin which helps create a crisp texture. You can use several natural sources – more on that another time – but the easiest way method is to steep a black tea bag in the brine. Yes, it will slightly tinge your brine, but one you get everything in the jar it’s hardly noticeable. I used 1 tea bag for 4 quarts. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to lacto-fermentation, so check out some other sources if you’re not familiar with the process.  I don’t add whey for these reasons.

I didn’t have the foresight to document this at the time, so sorry there’s not photos!

For the Brine:

  • solution of non-iodized salt and water in a 2 table./1 quart ratio.
  • some sort of tannin for crispness

For 1 Quart Jar of Pickles

  • 2 large sprigs of rosemary
  • 2 tea. coriander
  • 3 table. crushed juniper berries
  • 1/4 tea. mustard seed
  • 1 garlic clove sliced into several pieces
  • a few sprigs fresh dill fronds
  • 5-6 baby cucumbers
  • 4-5 small pickling or pearl onions
  1. Rinse the cucumbers, onions and fresh herbs. Slice the tips off both ends of the cucumbers and peel the onions. Prepare fresh herbs.
  2.  Add onions and garlic to bottom of the jar. Add dry spices. Add the cucumbers so they are standing on end while also layering in the dill and rosemary between them.
  3. Fill the jar with brine so that everything is well covered. Try to leave an inch or two of head space. Weight the cucumbers so they don’t float (word of warning, they might not float initially, but don’t be fooled – they will later on). Screw the lid on loosely so the CO2 can escape as the fermentation happens.
  4. Store in a dark temperature stable for about a week. Fermentation will progress at different speeds depending on the ambient temperature. After a week start tasting your pickles. Keep fermenting them until you achieve the desired amount of zing.
  5. Once they’re done, tighten the lids and store in the fridge.

Flawless Ricotta Every Time and Other Thoughts

If you’ve ventured into the world of cheese making, you’ve probably made ricotta. Since it’s very easy to make, yet yields a surprisingly sophisticated product, it is an ideal starter cheese. But, don’t be dismissive of ricotta. Even after graduating to much more complex cheese projects, I find myself returning to its delicate sweetness and ephemeral texture. Not to mention, it’s a workhorse in the kitchen and a mainstay of Italian- American cooking.  Cheese makers of all levels should be interested in a quick but excellent ricotta. So, if you’ve had problems with your ricotta making or would like to improve an already good recipe, I have a tip for you – baking soda.

While doing research for the cheese making class I teach, I read and tested a number of published ricotta recipes. As you may already know, ricotta is an acid precipitated cheese. That is, instead of using cultures or cultures and rennet to make the milk solids, (i.e. curds separate from the whey) an acid is used to complete the reaction. The specific acid varies from recipe to recipe, but the most common are citric acid powder and vinegar, either the white or apple cider variety.  After comparing several recognized recipes’ methods and ingredients I was surprised to find the recipe I’d been taught as an apprentice had an addition – baking soda.

Recipes frequently warn you not to use too much acid when precipitating the curd. This is because excess acid will impart sour or bitter flavors to your finished product. However, you want to get as much solids out of the whey as you can for the best texture and yield. If your whey still appears milky after you’ve added your acid and stirred, it’s suggested you slowly add more (with vinegar 1 teaspoon at a time) until it achieves complete precipitation – i.e. all the ricotta you’re going to get is floating in completely used up whey. If this is your first time you may not know what to look for, and the thought of possibly ruining your beautiful cheese is daunting. Or, if you want this to be quick and easy as can be there’s a simple solution – baking soda.

Baking soda is a basic compound and acid is, of course, an acid. As you probably learned in grade-school science class, if these two opposites meet, a chemical reaction occurs.  When you add the baking soda (after you’you’ve strained off the whey), any unused acid left in the ricotta reacts with it and is then neutralized. Yes, there will be some white foam like those science fair experiments, but that means it is doing its job – getting rid on any potential off flavors.

I agree you don’t want to go unduly overboard with your acid, but I also want this to be a “can make it in your sleep” kind of recipe. So, instead of trying to find the perfect equilibrium of acid for curd formation, I just add a splashes or “glugs” of vinegar one at a time until I think it looks right. If I overdo it a little I don’t worry – the baking soda will correct my liberal hand. It eliminates any sour flavors while also removing cheese related stress!

Here’s my tried and true ricotta recipe, but the addition of baking soda will work in any recipe, so feel free to incorporate it into your own. Just add it after you’re done straining and watch it work its magic (or really chemistry!). With this method I have never had anything but sweet, delicate fluffy ricotta. (Yet, anyway!).

Whole Milk Ricotta

• 1 Gallon whole. raw or pasteurized, milk
• ¼ White vinegar
• 1 tsp. baking soda
• Salt to taste (optional)

1. In a 6qt+ non-reactive pot slowly bring 1 gallon whole milk to between 185-195 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir frequently to prevent scorching. This should take 15 minutes or more.
2. Add ¼ cup white vinegar.  Stir once and let stand for 10 minutes. You should see the curds start separating from the whey. Check periodically. If the curds are not separating enough add 1 tablespoon of vinegar at time until whey is not milky looking.
3. While you’re waiting, line a colander with damp cheesecloth (depending on the weave you may need to fold it a few times) and set colander over a pot or in a sanitized sink.
4. Drain ricotta into colander. Don’t scrape the bottom! It will get scorched bits in your beautiful ricotta. Let drain briefly – the longer it drains the thicker and drier it will be.
5. Transfer to container and whisk in baking soda.
6. Add salt if desired, then refrigerate.

No Strain Greek Yogurt at a Glance.

Simple Greek Yogurt Recipe

  • 4 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (no preservatives or additives)
  • 6 cups milk
  • ½ cup powdered milk
  • Stainless Steel Pot
  • Thermometer

1. Let yogurt come to room temp (this makes it easier to incorporate.)

2. Add powdered milk and milk to pan. Heat to 110F over medium heat. Stir regularly to prevent scorching. Smooth out any powdered milk lumps with spoon.

3. Once 110F is reached, add the yogurt and remove from heat. Try to completely incorporate the yogurt and work out any lumps.

Image

4. Transfer to sterilized containers for incubation.

5. Maintain 110F for 6-12 hours (longer incubation creates tangier flavor). This is easiest  to do in a cooler with 120 degree water added to it or in a crock pot, turn the heat on and off as needed to maintain temp. (Test the temperature of your crock pot before using. Many will run to hot, even on warm, to leave it turned on.).

6. Chill for 6 hours and enjoy!

This is what your finished product should look like. There may be a little whey sitting on top, but overall, it should be thing and move away from the jar as a blob.

Trying to find a gift for a cheese maker or lover in you life? Here’s some lust worthy items.

Classic looking cow and goat themed labels for you cheese wheels. Identify you cheese through the wax while looking good.

Set designed to properly store your beautiful cheese. Includes wooden trays, paper bags, and sticker labels. Cute enough to gift cheese with!

 

 Cheese markers you can write on (and reuse) for severing your home made cheese. Never be confined by pre-labeled markers again!

What’s better than home made brie? Gooey baked brie!

Whey in Lacto-fermentation

If you make cheese, particularly any volume of hard cheese, you’re going to have left over whey.  If you happen to find miniature cucumbers on sale, like me, you’ll want to make lacto-fermented pickles! After scouring many recipes on the inter-webs I found an interesting  phenomenon – many lacto-fermented recipes call for the addition of whey to your brine. While this initially seems like a good idea, if you think about it for a moment, it doesn’t make a whole lot sense. Whey has been inoculated with whatever cultures you used in your cheese making. These cultures have been chosen for their ability to efficiently convert the milk sugar lactose into lactic acid. But, veggies do not have lactose! The lacto in lacto-fermentation actually refers to lactic acid that is produced by Lactobacillus – not milk lactose.  Lactobacillus is a naturally occurring good bacteria present on veggies. While the end product of these different bacteria is the same and desirable for similar reasons, the pathways are not – they don’t eat the same thing. The similarity in name may explain some confusion about adding whey to fermenting veggies. While adding good bacteria to our food is the basis for many wonderful products, and this blog, adding incompatible bacteria doesn’t make sense, and in my opinion, is asking for problems.

I did a batch of wild fermented pickles using a salt brine with added tannin from black tea. They turned our crisp and zingy. No whey needed! If you are concerned about letting your beautiful produce ferment wildly, you can purchase cultures selected for lacto-fermentation at sites like Cultures for Health.

If anyone knows of another reason for including whey in lacto-fermented veggies, I’d love to hear from you!

Stay tuned for more whey related posts and ideas how to use that sticky golden leftover!

Learn How to Make Your Own Cheese Molds – Hoegger Article

Learn How to Make Your Own Cheese Molds

Learn how to make cheese molds for soft and and semi-firm cheeses from recycled materials in my recent article at Hoegger.

http://hoeggerfarmyard.com/home-made-cheese-molds/

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