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Kitchen Loving - Cheese, Pizza and the simple joys of not working full time

Pictures are at the bottom...

Ahhh, my first Friday off since I went to Russia! It was fabulous. I got sooo much done, and it felt great to just have all this time ahead of me to do things, and no-one around to bother me. (Not that bothering's such a bad thing, but it was a nice day) The weather sure helped. After about 9-10 days of low wet cloud and 7-9C, more like english winter (while england was buried in snow in -5C) than icelandic, the weather broke, and we went back to delightful, wonderful, changeable, swirling icelandic weather. Driving to Kópavogur to order a bathroom mirror (thought it might be time to get one of those) I had snow, blue skies, rain, and swirling grey and dark grey clouds of various heights.

It's so nice to be out doing errands, and not have to rush back to work, and just wander off down a path, take some pictures, or to just go for a stroll, just because it's nice out.

During the week, my christmas present to myself a cheesemaking kit had arrived as well, so one of the things I was looking forward to was finally making some!

After realising that my kit didn't really include exactly what I was going to need for making cheddar (my true desire!), and that I don't have a pot big enough for cooking 4L of milk at a time, I decided to make something different, a fairly basic soft cheese. Something to get my hands dirty and get a bit of a feel for this cheese making idea. (home cheese recipes are often in 4L size batches, because the work is the same for 1L as it is for 4L. (Actually, 4L is just because it's about a gallon, and 1 gallon gives about a pound of varioius cheeses))

Oh yeah, and this was the first cheese I'd ever made, so this is a bit of a record for myself. I'd wanted to make cheese for a while, (mostly just to get good hard cheese here in iceland, where it costs a fortune, and doesn't have a very good range.) Onwards!

I chose to make Lemon Cheese, which is in Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. Don't bother with this book by the way. I find it to be poorly written, poorly edited, and targeted at new agers who own s small herd of goats. It's also too new agey, and doesn't cover enough of the whys, just, "you need this special bit or this special culture, and if you don't get the temperatures JUST RIGHT you'll COMPLETELY SCREW IT UP!" The recipes are inconsistent with each other, both in terms of units used for the same ingredients, and in using the same descriptions for the same methods. However, it probably provides a good counterpoint to the much more casual DIY style of David Fankhouser

But anyway, the chhhheeeeeese!!!! As I made it...

First, I heated the milk in a saucepan I'd "sterilized" to ~87-88C over a medium stove. "Sterilized" as per Dr Franky, by putting a bit of water in the bottom and letting it boil for a while. I probably won't do this in the future, as I didn't sterilze any of the utensils, but it's pretty easy to do while you're getting the rest of your stuff together.

At 87-88C, it's frothy on top, and if haven't been stirring it well, you'll probably have scorched milk. I had a bit, but it didn't seem to cause much of a problem.

I added 50ml of lemon juice, took it off the heat, stirred it well, and lete it sit, covered for 15-20 minutes. I was told to look for clear separation of curds and whey, so there should be no milky whey left.

After 20min, the whey was still milky, so I added another 20ml of lemonjuice and stirred it and let it sit another 10. It was then clearly separated. (I'd combine these steps next time)

I then poured the pot into a big colander over the sink lined with "butter muslin" that came with the kit. I used it straight out of the packet. This is just cloth. Dr Fanky talks about using a pillowcase, Ricky insists on using proper butter muslin. I had it, I used it. For soft cheeses you want a pretty tight weave, as sometimes (allegedly) the curds can be really small and fall through otherwise. Whatever.

I tied up the curds in the muslin into a knot and hung it off my shower. I didn't squeeze it, but I tied it up reasonably tight. I'm not sure how important that would be. Three hours later, (book says 1-2, I went out for a stroll) I gave it a bit of a gentle squeeze to see how drained it was, and unwrapped it, ready to eat.

It needed salt. The book says salt here is optional, but the salt made it much much better. I added about a desert spoon of salt and stirred it up well. Then it tasted pretty good.

Feeling inventive, and having a game of Risk to go to later that night, where I could show off my l33t mad skillz, I decided to herbify some of my cheese. I spooned some of the cheese back onto the muslin, and tried using the muslin to make a bit of a sausage. That didn't work so well, so I used a small chopping board (a ruler would probably work too) to hold the top of the muslin down, and then pulled the bottom layer of the muslin toward me, which basically sort of winched the cheese in a bit, wrapped up in a thin sausage of muslin. That probably sounds really complicated. Just think of making sushi.

I then sprinkled first paprika, and later a mix of fresh black pepper and turmeric on the chopping board, and rolled my cheese sushi/sausages on the board.


But! Aha! I was not finished! My sister had given me a women's weekly cook book for christmas, the same one my mum has, and that I'd used growing up. After having fun baking scones earlier, and remembering how easily Wolfgang had made wonderful pizza in the past, I decided to try making pizza bases. More kitchen excitement! I'd never used yeast in the kitchen before either, so that was fun. And just like the scones, and the cheese, the pizza came out most wonderfully. I used some left over roast leg of lamb (first oven roast of my own was new year's eve) and some of my own cheese (with other cheese, this one doesn't melt very well) along with such goodies as mushrooms, red onions and garlic.

Kitchen love!

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