Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homemade Cheese and New Years Resolutions

So, I've been lax in the blogging, mostly because I don't have time, and also mostly because I didn't have anything interesting to write about. Then again, perhaps what seems boring to me would actually be interesting to those who follow this (or used to follow it)... but I still feel that in the end, it's fairly boring.

Anyway, my apologies for the boring-ness, but I now have a new fun thing to talk about on my blog! (yay!) It being a new year and the time for resolutions, I have decided to make some myself. Generally, they all fall under the category of "live a healthier life", and so far there are only two, but hey, it's a start, right?

Anyway, so resolution number 1: get in shape. I'm not fat, but I'm certainly not in shape either, and I feel that if I could get in shape, I would feel better about myself and the world in general. And being that over the summers I engage in hard manual labor, it would be nice to be in shape for when those jobs come round. I am not a fan of sports, though, or activity, really (well, anything that involves running is a bit tedious to me). In fact, the only sort of physical activity I truly enjoy is contra dancing, but you can't really do that on your own. There are contra dances here in Chicago, and I do hope to go to at least one, but I needed something more practical, but equally disguised as physical activity. And so yoga popped into my brain. Not that yoga isn't physical activity - it is. That's the point. But my brain doesn't recognize it as physical activity (largely because there's no running), and that's what makes it great. So I can get the physical activity I need without it being an odious task like going to the gym or running a mile or three. So I went out today and bought myself a yoga mat (it's very pretty, has a tree on it). We'll see if I can keep it up over the next year (or more).

Resolution number 2: eat better. This comes mostly from me being a graduate student with little to no time and eating meals with little to no nutritional value. I'm eating better than I was last year (which is good), but I'm still not doing well on a food scale. SO (and this is the main point of this post) I am going to be cooking recipes from one of my cookbooks (How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) at least three times a week. The goal is to eat healthier while also learning a bunch of new, fun recipes. I will then post about them here, on my blog (because it's interesting, and much of my life isn't so much) and tell you about the wonders I create as well as the things I royally messed up (or burned, destroyed, etc).

This first post is to talk about what I have already made (because it's so easy I almost can't believe it worked). For lunch, I made a spinach-grape-pine nut-parmesan salad with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. It took literally two minutes, and much of that was me trying to find not rotten grapes (I am NOT happy with the grocery store here - no fresh grapes, no fresh tomatoes, no fresh spinach, and their ad campaign claims that all their produce is fresh! Ahem!). Anyway, the salad was great, took absolutely zero cooking skill, and is now something I will probably make quite often.

I also decided to make bread, but to make extra dough so that when I want to make more, it just has to rise and bake. So I used a simple french bread recipe in my cookbook that worked well (though I think the flour to water ratio was a bit off...).

But the crowning glory of my day today (and largely why I'm writing this now) is that I made cheese. That's right, you heard me: cheese! And in roughly an hour! Turns out that all you need is milk, buttermilk, and some salt (two parts milk, one part buttermilk, a pinch of salt) and you get cheese!

So here's the recipe, in case you're curious (it's great, and you can flavor it any way you want, and it's probably cheaper. Even if it isn't, who cares? It's fresh and HOMEMADE cheese!).

This makes 1 pound of cheese (I halved the recipe when I made it because Iw asn't sure it would work, but I assure you - it does):

1 half gallon milk
1 quart buttermilk
1 pinch salt (optional)

1. Heat the milk on medium-high heat, stirring enough so it doesn't scald.
2. When it bubbles up the sides (about 10 minutes), add the buttermilk all at once and stir constantly until you get curds and whey. It looks like egg whites floating in a yellowy liquid. Add the salt if you want (I forgot to, and mine came out great anyway).
3. Remove from heat and add any flavorings you might want (herbs, spices, etc).
4. Line a colander/strainer with a cheesecloth (or muslin or really, a cotton bandanna worked for me) and pour everything into the cloth. The curds will remain in the cloth while the whey drains out.
5. Gather the corners of your cloth and start twisting the cloth so that the curds form a ball. Careful, it's hot! Rinse it under cold water if you need to. Keep twisting and squeezing out the water until the ball becomes firm.
6. Tie the top of the ball tightly with some string, yarn, twine, or whatever. then tie the other end so that the ball is suspended over the sink (you can tie it to the faucet - works fine). Let it cool and set for about an hour (basically until you think you can unwrap the ball without it losing its shape). Then it's ready to serve! It can stay good in the fridge for up to 3 days, and you can freeze it for longer.

And I must say, as I sit here and eat a baguette that I made with my homemade cheese - it's definitely a recipe you all should try.

No comments:

Post a Comment