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

Would You Be Interested ... ?

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Back To Basics Living Bundle 2018 will be available Jan. 17 - 23, 2018 and that's it! Those dates are approaching quickly so if you'd like to join us, now's the time!

November 10, 2017

"Bones" for the Milking Room

I didn't have much to show in my last goat barn post, but since then Dan has framed out the milking room and feed storage.

The next step will be the bones for an overhang in back.

This will serve as a loafing area for the does plus keep the doorway area dry when it rains.

After that we can figure out the roof and the rest of the siding. It's almost hard to believe that after all those years of planning and delay, we've finally gotten this far!

November 7, 2017

Autumn Color

Our trees are late in changing color this year. Autumn color is usually an October event, but we're just getting it now. Curious how it can be so different every year. Back before television went digital and we could get the local stations, the fall color season was newsworthy every year, because folks like to take a drive into the mountains for the color and fall festivals. Every year the prediction was for great color, "Experts say the color will be spectacular this year because of the high rainfall amounts this summer," or "Experts say the color will be spectacular this year because of the summer drought." I used to wonder about those experts, until I finally figured out that the media is full of baloney.

Anyway, while not sweepingly spectacular, we have spots of color to enjoy.

The view across the neighbor's field.

Dogwoods, for example. We have several around and they can always be counted on for lovely deep reds.

Dogwood in the woods.

Dogwood between the pastures

Near the house is our biggest dogwood.

Then there are the yellows.

I don't even know what kind of tree this is. Likely some
escaped ornamental, but it always gives a respectable yellow.

I have a few wild muscadine vines sporting some yellow. The
green is pecan leaves. They never offer much in the way of color.

Neither do our white oaks, of which we have a lot.
These usually range from brown to yellow.

Our maples are mostly silver maples.

Silver maple leaves turn mostly yellow with an occasional red.

Crepe myrtles offer orange.

Our crepe myrtles are at different stages of color
change. This one is just beginning to turn orange.

In the front yard we have an ornamental called a "burning bush."

When we first bought the place we tried to get rid of this
bush. But it was persistent and now I'm glad it won.

Back on the wild side, even the poison ivy is making a showing!

Poison ivy sports either red or yellow.

Our first frost was the last week of October. Now the turning leaves, shorter days, and rain storms coming out of the northwest all signal autumn. More-so than the calendar, anyway. Then there's the time change, which is just a nuisance. The critters don't care what the clock says, they just know they're hungry and want to eat!

How about you? Are you experiencing a change of season? Spring? Summer? Winter? Fall?

Autumn Color © Nov 2017 by Leigh

November 4, 2017

A Most Beautiful Gjetost

A couple weeks ago I showed you how I'm learning how to make gjetost, a Norwegian goat whey cheese. I'm really please with my latest one ...

Isn't it pretty? After Mama Pea read that first post and how I had a little trouble getting the gjetost out of the glass bowl mold I used, she went to her cupboards, pulled out this, and sent it to me.

A very nice springform pan with with an extra fluted bottom.

It's just the right size.

The only thing I did differently from my first gjetost, was to cook this batch down a little longer. Also I added a little cinnamon. The spring form pan made it much easier to remove than the bowl, although removing the fluted bottom was a bit tricky. I had buttered it but still had to pry. It was a relief that it came off and left the gjetost in one piece!

I almost hated to cut it, but we were also anxious to taste it. I served it for dessert that night with graham crackers. What a treat! It has a permanent place in our homestead cuisine.

I also tried one that I cooked down less, to make a spreadable version called "primost."

Almost gone! For this batch I added whole
milk instead of cream. This worked very well too

It has a lighter color because it didn't cook as long, but it has the same delicious tangy, nutty, slightly sweet flavor. Such excellent things to do with leftover whey.

Before I close, I have a couple of cheese related thrift store finds too.

A cheese slicer or plane. This is what they use in
Norway to shave off lovely thin slices of gjetost.

A traditional American style cheese slicer.

These were 25¢ each; how could I go wrong with that! The best part about the American style cheese slicer is that it's adjustable.

Thumb screw to adjust cheese slice thickness.

And! It's not plastic!

The most beautiful gjetost would be lovely on any holiday party table, don't you think?