Friday, June 24, 2011

June is....? DAIRY MONTH!

Remember how last year for dairy month (June), we finally got our first milk cow?  Well, she's still kickin and doing wonderfully, and since I recognized that I could probably not top last year's dairy month contribution, I decided to at long last, try making some cheese.  Thankfully Mark's cousin Vanessa and her chef friend Gill were enthusiastic cheese-making virgins too, so we made a date for cheese night and became dairy queens together.
It all started when I arrived in BEAUTIFUL Bonshaw, PEI with a trunk full of milk and cream, rennet and a book of cheese recipes.  Seeing as it was our first time and I personally couldn't stand the anticipation of waiting four months through the aging period for a nice hard cheddar or something similar, I picked the "30 minute mozzarella" recipe out.   I had also read about it in "Animal Vegetable Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver and it sounded like a good, fool-proof way to spend an evening (or as suggested, 30 minutes).

First of all, let me just say that the 30 minute part probably refers to the microwave section of the recipe and as would be expected, without a microwave, it took much longer.  I was also considering later that because of the nature of microwave heat, I can see now how different the stretching and kneading part would be.  Anyway, it was certainly a fun adventure and although it did not turn out like we expected, we still called the night a grand success.
Since I was a of the cheese process, I brought along some cream to make butter, since I knew that was fairly fool proof.  And it was, sort of. 

Something about the first batch was a bit odd, although it tasted fine.  The second batch of butter turned out more normally and when that was done, I knew at least we would all have some nice yellow butter to take home, if nothing else.  :)
Do ya think Dairy Farmers of Canada might use this in a campaign?  Probably not if they knew it came from illegal and raw milk. :)

So we started out by canvassing the neighbourhood for a big enough pot to do a double batch (yes, confident).  When we finally got everything ready to go, milk ripened and thoroughly mixed with the citric acid and rennet, the moment of truth- would there be a curd?  And the yelps of celebration when the knife sliced cleanly through the semi-solid milk could be heard ringing through the Bonshaw hills I'm sure. 
 Then we stirred the curds for the recommended length of time, watching the temperature like we were dealing with an armed bomb rather than a batch of cheese.  Admittedly, my curd cutting skills could use some work.  Consistency was not my forte. 
Here's Gill draining the whey from the curd. For perspective's sake, this started out as 8 litres of milk. We agreed that it was the most expensive cheese on the planet, 30 minutes or not.   Evidently we got a bit wrapped up in the process and missed a few steps in the photography recap, but after much kneading, stretching, discussing, comparing, heating, stretching and comparing some more, here were are making small balls (we were aiming for the bococcini (sp?) we see in the grocery store-albeit a bit prematurely).

 The recipe said that the cheese is best eaten warm, which we did a little bit of, but it said to otherwise, put it it in ice water to chill it evenly all the way through.  The formerly soft, smooth, shiny, perfectly pearl-like balls of warm, stretchy cheese immediately turned to rock hard, less than perfect balls of er...well, chewy off-white ...cheese?.    Anyway, it is certainly gooey and it has a VERY mild, cheese-like flavour, but it needs some work. 
I think there's a couple factors at play here.  First of all, the recipe does not call for any 'starter' so it is not REALLY a cheese, as such.  There's no 'live cultures' so, it's more of a solidified milk than a cheese.  Secondly, it's 30 minutes, so designed for a microwave and thus, not likely to have the consistency of a real, cultured, cheese. All that said, it was really exciting and a great introduction to cheese making, and maybe just the right amount of challenges to make us want to keep going and perfect our dairy queen-dom. 

In other farm news, the season rolls on, despite the cool temps and lack of sun.  Today for example had been hailed all week as the sunny day we've been dreaming of, but it is fairly cold and dreary out there right now.  BUT breezy, so few bugs!  The dairy farmer we often get manure from has been in the field next to the house cutting the clover for first-cut silage (don't get any illusions that this means it is either a)warm or b)dry).  The kids had a great time running the length of the field a few times after the bulky clover was down.   I included this next picture because the sense of freedom on their faces when they came in was just perfect.  So far from the house and so happy!  You can hardly see them at all, and I'm sure there are some moms in a bit of dismay at a 2 and 3 year old 'out on their own', but I don't think there could be a much healthier or safer place to play on earth. 

 My sister had asked for a picture of my garden, after sending a few nice shots to me of hers (which looks lush, dark and weed-free) and I'd been waiting until something came up.  I've given up waiting and here's what it looks like so far.  Finally my first beans are up, and obviously, the onion sets are established.  My pepper plants are behind the windows and there are tomato plants up there by those black boxes.  I got my transplants from my friend Jen Campbell and they are so healthy!  She shared a bit of crabmeal with me as well, on the advice to put it in the hole with the transplant.  It is a very fine powder, which I was not expecting, but it smells like I expected.  Anyway, the plants seem pretty darn happy, so success on that front!  Since this pic is a little old, my yellow beans, beets and a couple cucumbers are through the ground now too. Oh! And my corn.  A bit spotty, but there.
Lastly, I celebrated my 29th birthday this week and as I sat at the table, being drooled on by a baby, poked by the grubby, chubby finger by a 2 year old and giggled at by a bespectacled 3 year old, sitting across from my smiling, patient, callused-hand husband, eating home made pizza and organic chocolate cake, I decided that, I done good

To top it off, Mark's sister Martha had gotten us tickets to go see The Full Monty at the confederation center and although I don't go the theatre often, it was one of the best shows I've ever seen on stage.  Hilarious!  If you're coming to the Island this summer, I highly recommend it. 

Hope this finds you enjoying the scent of fresh cut silage/haylage/hay.  There's nothing quite like it. 



  1. i could not agree more about the kids running free or the fact that "you done good". every blog brings back a great memory .
    thanks sal

  2. I agree: You have 'done good' Sal. I am in awe of you. And like Bruce; I often find myself reflecting on our own wonderful upbringing on a farm. There IS truly no better or healthier place to be child than on a farm (Amazing how the years change a teenager's perspective, uh?)
    Thanks for humouring me with the garden pictures!