November 23, 2017

A Tale of Two Fetas

In my last cheesemaking post I mentioned how even small changes in the making of a cheese can make a difference in the results. Here's an example of two fetas. The photos below were taken after each was pressed and sliced. They look like very different cheeses!

Feta #1

Feta #2

Quite a difference, eh? Both are made from my goat milk, following the same recipe with only a few differences.

Feta #1
  • whey as a starter culture
  • heat maintained at 90°F (32°C)
  • light pressure in the cheese press

Feta #2
  • kefir as a starter culture
  • heated (accidentally) to 100°F (37.7°C)
  • firmer pressure in the cheese press

Interesting, isn't it? For each feta I salted the slices, allowed them to air dry, placed each in it's own jar of brine, and allowed to age in the fridge.

Taste test results?

Top: Feta #1; Bottom: Feta #2.

Dan was recruited as my taste tester. He thought the biggest difference was in texture, but the flavor was very similar and very good.

Feta is traditionally a salty cheese, so I add no extra salt when I use it in cooking. We've been enjoying it in salads, scrambled eggs, and omelets.

Homegrown salad

Do you see why cheesemaking is so challenging on the one hand but so intriguing on the other? It's a good thing I'm not a perfectionist! The potential for subtle but delicious nuances is endless!

Feta #1 stored in herbed olive oil with fresh sprigs
of thyme and rosemary. After we eat the cheese
the oil will be used for salads and sautéeing.

As Dan says, how could anyone ever get bored with homesteading?

A Tale of Two Fetas © Nov 2017 by Leigh

November 20, 2017

Goat Barn: Loafing Overhang

In my last barn blog post I mentioned that the next thing to do was to build a loafing area for the girls off the back of the barn. This will be an open area that will protect doorway from rain, especially heavy rains that make the area muddy. That was Dan's project last week.

The bent laid out on the ground.

Knee braces

Dan drills a hole in the bottom of the posts and sets them down on top
of the rebar. That way they don't kick out on us while securing the bent.

Raising the bent.

Securing it.

Plus roof rafters!

Next will be nailers for the entire roof and then the sheet metal!

November 17, 2017

A Day in the Garden

Yesterday was a beautiful day - sunny and 65°F (18°C). I spent the afternoon in the garden, because I wanted to do a little weeding, planting, and cleaning up. Here's what's happening.

The Savoy cabbages are beginning to head.

As are the heading collards. We have been
enjoying the leaves sautéed with onions over rice.

The broccoli is heading too. I'll harvest this one for Thanksgiving.

In the hoop house I have two more broccoli plants
sharing a bed with chickweed. It's good in salads.

In this bed I planted mache (corn salad) on the left
and sorrel on the right. The mache made a poor
showing, so I planted more, along with arugula.

The sorrel adds a nice tangy green to our salads.

Young chicory leaves add a touch of bitter
(which is very good for the liver).

I found a few violets blooming in the chicory patch.

My garlic is doing very well.

As are the multiplier onions. Both need mulching.

I was pleased to find sugar beets where I pulled
away the weeds. The seed for these was a
couple years old so I wasn't sure it would make it.

The last chore was to pull the dead tomato and okra plants.
I found this one lone green tomato had survived the frost.

I also planted spinach and more lettuce and radishes. Last year I had miner's lettuce (claytonia) volunteer like crazy, so I didn't plant any this year in hopes it would do the same. Alas, it didn't. I hope I have some saved seed somewhere!

Temperatures will go back down tomorrow, but it's that time of year so I can't complain. A lovely day in the garden was very welcome. Anyone else having lovely, pleasant days?

A Day in the Garden © Nov. 2017 by

November 14, 2017

Pepper Cheese

I found the idea for pepper cheese in Gianaclis Caldwell's Mastering Basic Cheesemaking. It wasn't a specific recipe, just a description illustrating one way to flavor a cheese. She used it as an option for what she calls "Farmhouse Cheese," but it's the same basic basic rennet curd cheese I've been making from David Asher's The Art of Natural Cheesemaking. Dan and I like pepper cheese, so I thought I'd try it.

The description called for rehydrating hot pepper flakes. I have some dehydrated cayenne peppers, and used six for a cheese made from one gallon of milk. I cut off the stem end, shook out most of the seeds, and chopped them up in my blender. They were rehydrated in a half-cup of boiling water. The soaking water was supposed to be added to the milk just before the rennet, but I was also trying to make lunch at the time, discuss the barn with Dan, plus work on the cheese. I'm lousy at multitasking, so I forgot to add the pepper water. I remembered when it was time to cut the curds, so into the curd bath water it went. (If you're unfamiliar with the process, click here for the basic cheesemaking steps.) The soaked pepper flakes where added when the curds went into the cheese mold. After pressing, the cheese was salted, flipped occasionally, and allowed to develop a natural rind.

It's a cheese meant to be eaten fresh, so a couple of days later we gave it a try.

It turned out just right in cayenneiness for us, so even with a blooper, all's well that ends well.

Then I had to decide what to do with the whey. It was pretty spicy after adding the pepper-soaking water, so I knew the whey wouldn't be good for gjetost. Instead it became a spicy ricotta and I used it to stuff enchiladas. Those turned out good too!

So that's one idea for variety without having to follow a different cheese recipe. I like to stay with only one or two types at a time, because there can be many factors that influence the outcome of a cheese. Sticking with only one recipe for awhile helps me explore these and more easily identify changes in results. That helps me be more consistent. My cheese journal helps me know whether to repeat a factor or not!

Gianaclis's book (mentioned above) and also 200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes by Debra Amrein-Boyes have quite a few good ideas for simple flavor variations. I'm taking notes!

The other cheese I've been working on is feta. More on my experiments with that soon.

Pepper Cheese © Nov. 2017 by Leigh

November 12, 2017

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