Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Raw milk

I found a source of raw milk to use for making cheese. It's $2/litre, which is about 20c cheaper than the stuff from the supermarket.

This guy …

… is called Merrill McNeil; he has a farm over the other side of the harbour and sells raw milk to whoever wants it. The only drawback is that although his farm is quite close to my house as the crow flies, it's a long long way around by road. I've taken him a lot of empty two litre bottles, and will pick up the milk and drop off the next week's bottles on Fridays after work. We'll see how it goes, but I'm hoping I might be able to make butter every now and then too.

It'll be interesting to see the difference between raw and bought (standardised, pasteurised and homogenised) milk cheese.

Here are two of the girls in the paddock next to the milking shed:

Jersey, or Jersey cross, which have very high fat milk, and just look at the udders on them. Poor things, the bovine equivalent of an H cup, if there is such a thing.

Here are their wee calves:

So sweet, they're just a couple of days old. Merrill raises all of his calves; none of this sending them off to the works as bobby calves. He supplies a lot of "lifestylers" (people who have five or ten acres fairly close to town with a few animals but a proper job as well) with house cows. No doubt the bull calves are eventually turned into beef, but at least they're a decent age (i.e. have stopped being small and cute and pitiable) when that happens.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sandwich bread, and thanks to Mel

I've blogged before about making cakes for Murray at work, who fixes things for us. Murray is the electronics expert, and he's the one you go to if you want your heater fixed or anything like that. He's easy to make things for because he likes fruitcake and his wife has left him so there's no-one at home to make them for him. Mel is another guy at work who will fix things; he's actually an electrician but had to stop doing that because of ill health, so he runs our photocopy room and gives a hand in the mechanical workshop - his hobby is model engineering. Because he likes mucking around with metal, he's the one you go to if you want something made. Last week I got him to make this lid for my big bread tin:

See the lid at the front? It slides over the lips on the tin so you can make square-topped sandwich bread; Mel whipped it up from a bit of scrap stainless steel.

Here's the inaugural sandwich loaf:

And here are a few slices:

He's a marvel, is Mel. He's also very difficult to do anything for; he has a perfectly good wife who looks after him very well, and he's also diabetic, so no cakes.

He's just this year been warned off white bread and orange juice and, in consequence, is about half the size he was six months ago. This is a very good thing, as Mel was sort of spherical before. But it also gave me an idea of what to make him - some nice multi-grain bread. I'd like to post the recipe, but there was a fair bit of "hmmm… that looks a bit wet, better put some more flour in" in the making, so I'm not 100% sure exactly how I did make it.

I know I started with about 1/3 cup kibbled wheat that I cooked in just enough water.

When it was soft and had cooled a little I added three heaped tablespoons of rolled oats, the same of polenta, and one each of oat bran and wheat bran. I left it to soak overnight.

This morning I added about 300g of strong white flour, 300g of wholemeal flour, 400ml of water, two teaspoons of yeast, and a good glug of olive oil. I mixed it in the Kenwood (DeLonghi in America) mixer using the dough hook, adding more strong flour (don't ask how much, I have no idea) until it was a nice dough, a bit sticky, but it did hold together. I kneaded it with the dough hook for ten minutes.

It was a bit sluggish rising, but eventually it grew enough, then I patted it out, cut off a hunk to make a wee bun for myself (I needed to taste it before offering it!), rolled it up to shape it, and put it in my newly lidded tin to rise. When it rose again to within an inch or so of the top, I baked it at 180˚C (350˚F) with the lid on for ~ 1/2 hour, then with the lid off for another 1/2-3/4 hour. And here it is:

Looks pretty good I think. And here is the wee bun with a slice of it cut off for me to try:

The wee bun came out of the oven when I took the lid off the big loaf. It is really nice; quite sweet even though there is no added sugar. I think that comes from soaking the grains overnight, a trick I took from The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. Which is an excellent book, well edited too.

Playing with meat

They had these wee 1.25kg lamb legs at the supermarket on Friday for $15 (that's ~US$10 or £6). It must have been a cancelled export order or something because that is quite cheap, even for here.

I rarely cook lamb, partly because it is expensive, and partly because I actually prefer hogget (that's 1 year old sheep) which has more flavour and is cheaper. Cold roast lamb is nice though so I decided to do the rosemary and garlic thing, but using some of the garlic I smoked a couple of weeks ago instead of fresh:

I picked the rosemary from the garden (and discovered that someone, has to be the lawn mowing man, has broken off a good half of the bush) and sliced the garlic. See how deliciously brown and smoky it looks when it's peeled:

I stuffed a bit of garlic and a bit of rosemary into several knife-stab-wounds I made:

Then roasted it at ~170˚C for 1 hour and 15 mins. I turned it half way, and this is how it came out:

I munched away on a few slices and I've frozen some slices with pan juices poured over, but I'll eat most of it cold.

They also had free range pork belly on special, so a got a couple of bits. One of them is sitting in the fridge covered in salt and brown sugar and turning into bacon, but this one I threw in the smoker with the ricotta salata:

then I salted and peppered and paprika-ed it and put it into the oven when the lamb came out. It's very delicious; falling to bits. But it's now sliced and in the freezer.

Sage Leicester and an update on the others

This week's cheese is sage Leicester. Don't know if there is officially any such cheese, but there is sage Derby and the only difference I can see between Derby and Leicester is the yellow colouring in the Leicester. I wanted to experiment with my annatto powder, so I made sage Leicester!

I picked some sage leaves from the garden and chopped them up small before boiling for 10 minutes or so. Most of the water evaporated in that time and I ended up with this:

Which I added to my curds at milling time. Here is the finished sage Leicester just out of the mould, sitting in front of last week's cumin seed Gouda. It doesn't look all that yellow to me, but it will get yellower as it ages.

The Gouda is still drying and being washed daily in brine.

I'm about to have a small rant here, so skip to the next photo if you want.

I am absolutely appalled at the quality of the editing done on the two cheese recipe books I have bought from Amazon. They're Making Artisan Cheese: Fifty Fine Cheeses That You Can Make in Your Own Kitchen and Home Cheese Making: Recipes for 75 Delicious Cheeses, published by different people and written by different people. They would both be really good books (they're the best you can get) except that you can't trust them - and it's the editing at fault. I'll abbreviate them "Fifty" and "75".

Fifty has the titles missing on two of the cheese recipe pages - you have to look at the picture legends or short descriptions to see what the recipe is for. It has a description of a red rinded cheese on a picture of cottage cheese. The recipe for white Stilton says it is a young fresh cheese - and then tells you to age it for 4 months which is the same as for blue Stilton - which is certainly not young and fresh tasting. The recipe for Edam says it is similar to Gouda but you don't wash it - then has instructions in the recipe for washing it. It also has a recipe for an aged cheese that has no salt at all - now is that an error or does the cheese really have no salt in it? I can't imagine a saltless cheese - I don't think it'd keep very well and I hate to think what it'd taste like - I mean you even have a little salt in cheese you use in desserts!

The other one, 75, had me cooking provolone to 144˚F - after which its pH would not get any lower. Subsequent research tells me that is too hot for the culture, and I've killed it. The same recipe has you putting the cheese in water, then removing it from brine - again, research tells me it needs to be cooled in water, then soaked in brine. But I have no idea for how long. In the recipe for gorgonzola, where you make two batches of curd then mix them, it confuses "half as much" with "twice as much". I had to read it several times before I could work that out.

All of these things are editing faults. You don't need to know anything at all about cheesemaking to be able to see the mistakes. It's not even as though they're some obscure grammatical errors - they're blatantly obvious. Who edits these things? Do they rely on a computer spell-checker or something?

Rant over.

The ricotta salata from two weeks ago went into the hot smoker yesterday and came out looking like this:

It's quite tasty, I plan on eating it crumbled over my lunchtime salads this week. Here it is cut in half:

I've removed the ageing cheeses from the beer fridge (too cold, at no more than 44˚C at the moment), and am keeping them in the guest bathroom (Americans - this is a room with a bath in it, not a toilet) where the temperature is a nice cool 50˚C or so. These ones, (clockwise from top left, parmesan, bandaged cheddar, caraway Gouda, "not provolone") are sitting inside a non-functioning mini fridge:

And these ones (very out of focus roquefort type and Stilton type) are still in the vege crisper from the beer fridge, but with an oven tray lid on it to keep the humidity up:

The Stilton type is really too crumbly, I think I put too much cream in it. However, we'll see how it turns out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Damned computer

I think I've finally solved all my computer problems. I have spent about 3 days tracking down a preference file that caused my computer's control key not to work when running software under X11. Then I had to restore a whole heap of things that I changed in the process of finding it, but hopefully it's OK now.

This week I've mostly been wearing pretty boring shoes; I was going to wear these beautifully soft suede ones on Monday …

… but my feet are a bit sore and couldn't cope so I changed into these instead:

They're quite old, but another pair I'd bought and never worn. They have very square toes and are a little tight across the foot - but that is never going to improve unless I stretch them by wearing them.

The weather has packed in and I'm back to jeans and boots today. Mustn't complain about the weather though - we've had an amazingly good spring so far, the lambs are past the stage of being likely to freeze to death, and the pastures need water, so the farmers will all be happy with the rain.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cumin seed gouda and new toys

After I got my Christmas cakes into the oven today I started on some cumin seed gouda. I'm making more ricotta salata with the whey too. Here they both are under their final weights:

I also cleaned up and calibrated my new cheesemaking toy:

It's an old waterbath from the teaching labs at work - they didn't want it any more, partly because it won't go any cooler than ~30˚C. That's fine for making cheese, so I nabbed before it got dumped. That little black knob at the front is the temperature dial, and it was pointing at totally the wrong temperatures. I filled the thing with water, then turned the temperature up and took note of what it really was at each mark, then removed the knob and replaced it so that the pointer was pointing correctly. Luckily the 10˚C increment markers still mark 10˚C increments, so I didn't need to write new numbers on it. It's going to be very handy - it's a pain not being able to use the sink for anything else when I'm making cheese.

Below are my new bento toys:

Very industrial looking, don't you think?

Christmas cake time

I made my Christmas cake today - at least I finished it today, I started last night by soaking all the fruit in brandy:

I used my monster salad bowl because I doubled the recipe at the bottom of this post. I made a 1 1/2 sized cake for me, and a half sized one for Murray at work who fixes things for us and loves fruitcake and whose wife has left him.

Here're the butter, sugar and eggs creaming in the Kenwood mixer:

The small cake tin lined with butter paper:

The big cake tin lined with baking paper:

See the corrugated cardboard outer cases? I made them ages ago and just leave them on the tins from one year to the next. They're great insulators for cakes that spend hours in the oven.

Dry ingredients in:

And mixed:

Then the mixture goes into the fruit:

It's actually supposed to be the other way around, but the Kenwood's bowl is nowhere near big enough for this size of cake mix. Can't see that it matters anyway.

Mixture into the cake tins:

And then covered with a bit of baking paper:

After 2 hours the baby one was done:

Followed by the biggie 2 1/2 hours later:

Last year I cut my big cake into quarters. I iced two of them (one to keep here and one to take to my brother's house) and left the other two plain. I like plain Christmas cake with blue cheese - not spread on, you understand, but eaten with. Not sure what I'll do with it this year; my brother and his family are coming here this time, and I'm off to the grandkids in Australia on the 27th December. I can't take cake to Australia because of biosecurity

Christmas Cake Recipe
(Very slightly adapted from here)


400g/14oz currants
400g/14oz sultanas
100g/4 oz raisins
50g/2oz glacé cherries
50g/2oz mixed peel, finely chopped
200ml/7fl oz brandy
225g/8oz plain flour
½ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
225g/8oz butter
225g/8oz soft brown sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp black treacle


The night before you make the cake, place all the dried fruit and peel in a bowl and mix in the brandy. Cover the bowl and leave to soak in a cool place for at least 12 hours, stirring occasionally.

Preheat the oven to 140C/275F/gas mark 1. A separate oven thermometer is helpful here, especially if you are unsure of the accuracy of your oven.

Grease the tin and line the base and sides with a double thickness of greaseproof paper, allowing the paper on the sides to stand about 2cm/3/4in above the top of the tin. This gives it extra protection from the heat as it rises. It may be helpful to secure the paper around the sides with a paper clip. Remove once you have spooned in the cake batter. If you have a fan oven, which tends to heat up more than a conventional one, wrap a sheet of newspaper around the outside of the tin. (I keep my tins with a corrugated cardboard cover on the outside. It's great; I don't need to use all the layers of paper)

Sift the flour and spices into a mixing bowl. In a separate large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together with an electric whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture, 1 tbsp at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.

Gently fold in the sieved flour and spices in two batches. Stir in the fruit and peel, and the treacle. The original recipe has a couple of teaspoons of grated lemon and orange rind, if you want to add them you do it here too. grated rinds.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon.

Cut out two round pieces of greaseproof paper that will fit on the top. Rub one of them with butter or oil and make a hole in the middle of both about the size of a small coin. Lay the circles on top of the cake, putting the buttered one greased-side down first. Place the tin on a baking sheet and bake on the lower shelf for 4 ½ hours. Check that the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the centre. It should come out clean. Leave to cool in the tin.

When the cake is cold, remove from the tin and wrap in greaseproof paper and foil. Store in an airtight container. I've kept this cake for 6 months or so and it's as good as new - or better.

Thursday's shoes

I've been having a few computer issues at work this week, so I didn't post Thursday's shoes. They aren't terribly exciting anyway, just these black sandals:

I bought them a good few years ago when I needed shoes to go to some function or other. It was a period of time when I didn't actually like the shoes that were "in fashion", so it was a case of find something that would do.

They're a funny shape, and the straps go around my feet in the wrong places. The heels are odd too - narrow from front to back, but wide sideways. I might see what I can do with beads or sequins or something.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Inappropriate, but I'm wearing them

I first saw these shoes here. And here they are with Princess Poochie, as she calls herself, wearing them (from her Flickr page):

You can get a decent look at them here too. Then I saw them in person in a fancy shop in Auckland; they were well over $1000 (I can't remember, they may even have been over $2000). There is no way I'd ever spend that much on shoes, but I did love them.

The solution? Buy a $30 pair of shoes from No 1 Shoes and some fake roses from Spotlight, and do a bit of sewing. This is the result:

The roses aren't anywhere near as delicate as the Alexander McQueen ones, and the shoes a) are slightly lower heeled and b) have no sides, but apart from that, and at a distance, they are pretty good.

I wore them to the opera last year and got complimented on them by a total stranger. They are far more appropriate for the opera than for work, but what the hell. Gives the colleagues something to giggle at.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The shoes I didn't wear today

They are some shoes I bought on TradeMe, they're leather, and very well made. I put them on after my shower this morning and went to make my breakfast.

Then I took them off. There was no way I'd be able to walk from the car into work wearing these, my ankles just felt too unsteady in them. I'll have to save them for some occasion (rare) where I'm being escorted by a strong hunk of maleness, and lean on him!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The transience of beauty

A couple of buildings over from my department at the University of Otago is a building that was once, in about the 1940s, a block of flats. The expansion of the university has overtaken many homes in the area; they generally spend a while as student accommodation, then get used as offices, and eventually get bulldozed and replaced with a purpose-built building for some department or other. This one is at the stage of being used as offices; it houses the Science Divisional Office, and part of the Department of Human Nutrition.

It is built around a courtyard, and in the centre of the courtyard are two flowering cherry trees. This is what they looked like on Friday, firstly as you walk through the entrance arch:

And then from one corner of the courtyard:

I was spitting that I hadn't brought my camera with the wide-angle lens to work, because I couldn't capture enough of the blossom to really convey the fairy-like atmosphere of this tiny courtyard totally roofed in blossom. It was just beginning to fall, and it was like walking through very light pink snow.

Today (Monday) I did remember to bring the wide-angle:

Most of the blossom is on the ground (they put up with a lot of blocked drains so they can enjoy a few days of wonderland every year) and the trees are sprouting green.

Oh well.

Today I'm wearing, for the first time, this pair of black and white espadrilles:

I bought them in a sale a couple of years ago, and they will be comfortable once I've softened up the little bits of lumpy seams on the heels.

They'd better be anyway - I just bought another pair in red and white!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not provolone, and other cheeses updated

I tried to make provolone yesterday. The pH of the curds just would not get low enough for them to stretch in hot water. I think that perhaps 144˚F was too hot for my culture and it killed it, because the pH was going down quite satisfactorily before the cooking step, when it just stopped.

All is hopefully not lost, however. The initial steps of provolone making are very similar to those of parmesan, so I have turned my cheese into a species of parmesan. An odd species, because I washed a little diluted liquid smoke through the curds before I moulded them, and I intend to rub the cheese with smoked paprika after it's been brined and before I dry it. I used a piece of drainpipe (a scrap from a plumber friend, unused and thoroughly washed) for the mould, and a tin of tomatillos for the follower. It fits perfectly, and I'm going to have to remember to save the can when I open the tomatillos.

Here it is in the brine:

We shall see what it turns out like in a few months.

The ricotta salata I made last week turned out OKish. Nice crumbled in salad, but I thought I'd try baking what was left after rubbing it in black pepper as the man from curdnerds suggested. Here it is; baked ricotta salata:

It makes it a good deal firmer and easier to handle, as well as giving a bit of extra flavour. I made some more ricotta salata with the whey from this week's cheese (having found that my cheese book does indeed have a recipe for it, pretty much what I did last week!), but this time I'm going to hot smoke it. If it can cope with being baked at 150˚C it can cope with the hot smoker.

This time I moulded it in this small plastic straight-sided bucket that I drilled drainage holes in:

That tin of salmon fits it nicely, and the jar of jam is just the right weight for it.

Here is the cheese unmoulded:

Just look at the mould on the first blue cheese!

It's been four weeks since I made it so it was time to give it its first scraping.

There were a few bits that were drying out a bit, so I've adjusted the conditions in its aging place (the vege crisper in the beer fridge) by removing the container of water from the corner and pouring water straight into the bottom of the bin. This cheese sits in the wee cradle I made, and the stilton sits on a sushi mat on a perforated plastic mat, so they are both held well above the water and will not get wet.