Losing the Battle with Ice and Lemon Thyme Cheese

It’s become a bad joke that something goes wrong right when tax season begins.  Usually my back goes out, once I was really ill, and this year I was up against the ice.  And I lost.

Temps were hovering round freezing this weekend and it rained.  Not a good combination.  I tried to get my son to his snowboarding lessons only a couple of miles away.  There were detours and accidents and we never got there.  We had to turn round and make our way back.  We were lucky.  We weren’t in the numerous pile ups and we weren’t stuck for hours.  Just a miserable day.

The next morning it was sunny and the ice was glaring.  We have stone steps off our porch.  The top step was clear.  As I took the next step I started to say to my husband that it was good when suddenly I found myself flipped up in the air like Charlie Brown when Lucy takes away the football.   Two things happen.  First time speeds up and there is nothing you can do.  Second, time slows down.  Enough to think of every curse word ending with the thought “this is really going to hurt” before landing.

I landed on my back hip and arm.  On the plus side, nothing broke and I didn’t crack my head.  Thank goodness my husband was there.  He was able to get the dogs, though Guinness took the opportunity to lick me, a lot.  Dog slobber cures all.  I was on the right side and I realised how cold it was so I carefully rolled over onto the left to let the ground ice the hip.

It is absolutely fascinating how colourful bruises can be.  Ah well, it will heal. Maybe next tax season I’ll have better luck!

The other weekend we were on a cheese making kick.  My husband made more camembert and I wanted to make a quick cheese.  I chose to make a lemon cheese with thyme.  This is super easy to make and a great beginner cheese to try.  Again we use raw milk.  Flavour is better and the proteins are still in the milk.  Ultra pasteurized kills the protein.  And we have a local source that is safe.

The recipe I use comes from Home Cheese Making from Ricki Carroll.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 1 2015

In a large heavy bottom saucepan heat the milk to 185-200F/85-93C.  Keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

Turn down the heat and add about a 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice.  You should see the separation of the whey and curds starting.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 3 2015

Cover and leave be for 15 minutes.  Then check to see how separated it is.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 4 2015

You want the whey as clear as possible but I’ve found that sometimes the whey will stay milky.  Add a bit more lemon juice and set a few minute more if it is too milky.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 5 2015

Once you get as much curds as possible spoon the curds into butter muslin and drain.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 6 2015 Lemon Thyme Cheese 7 2015

Wrap up and drain over the sink or large pot until the whey stops.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 8 2015 Lemon Thyme Cheese 9 2015

Break up the cheese and add cheese salt and fresh thyme to the cheese to taste.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 10 2015

Serve over salads or fresh bread like ciabatta.

Lemon Thyme Cheese 11 2015

This will keep in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.  And better than store bought.  🙂


Wine, Cheese and the PTA

I sometimes, ok a lot of times, put my foot in it.  I’m good at saying the wrong thing.  I think I offended the cheese guy at our local grocery store yesterday.  I was looking at the cheeses, most of them generic and mass produced, and he asked me if I was finding what I was looking for.  I said yes though I lamented the fact it is so hard to find a large variety of cheeses.  I mean go to Europe and they all have personality and variety.  Of course he said we have lots of cheeses.  I paused and said yes for America I suppose we do.  He got huffy and said well we’re in America.  Yes, yes we are.  I quickly moved on.

I was able to find a few good cheeses for our PTA meeting of the officers to go with the wine we had.  Had a lovely bottle of Cotes de Rhone.  There were a few tomatoes in the garden ready to be picked so I grabbed a few with some basil to balance it all out.  Pleased to say the meeting went well and the cheeses were left with huge dents!  🙂

Wine and cheese 1 2013 Wine and Cheese 2 2013

Ricotta Cheese made from Whey

In my previous post about making swiss cheese I mentioned saving the whey for another recipe.  When making various cheeses you may find yourself with a good amount of whey left over.  Not wanting to waste this we make ricotta cheese.  It is a very simple cheese to make.  For this we used the book “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking” by Gianaclis Caldwell.  It is an excellent book if you are moving beyond beginner cheeses.

Again it is important to make sure everything is sterile.

While continually stirring bring the whey up to 195-200F or 91-93C.  It is important this does not boil!

Ricotta 1 2013

Once the temp is reached let it cool back down to 190F/88C while stirring.  Now it is time to introduce the acid.  You can use lemon juice or vinegar, usually white or cider.  To do this 1 tablespoon is added at a time until the curds separate enough.

Ricotta 2 2013 Ricotta 3 2013 Ricotta 4 2013

Have a colander lined with cheese cloth or butter muslin over a large bowl to drain the cheese.

Ricotta 5 2013 Ricotta 6 2013

Once most of it has been drained hang in a spot that is not drafty to let the rest of the whey drain.  This takes about an hour.

Ricotta 7 2013

Salt to taste if you like and then store in an airtight container in the fridge.  It keeps about a week.   I didn’t salt this as I wanted it for a recipe.

Ricotta 8 2013

What to do with the leftover whey after this recipe?  Compost pile or the garden.  🙂


Making Swiss Cheese part 1

We were in a cheese making mood this past weekend and made a few kinds of cheeses.  The first we made is a Swiss cheese.  This was our second batch as the first batch had a bit of a learning curve.  Though I have to say the first batch my husband made had a great flavour.  The rind came out a bit thick but we think that was because of old rennet.  Other than it was great.  So we were ready for another go.  With new rennet.  🙂  We also use Ricki Carroll’s book “Home Cheese Making” for this.  She also sells the starters and supplies needed for most cheese making.  I know there are more and more sources now as more people are into making their own cheese.  We’ve just stuck with her store.

This is what the cheese looked like from the first batch.

Swiss 2 2013

Before starting sterilise everything!

As we’ve made our previous cheeses we only use raw milk.  Pasteurization breaks down the proteins needed to make great cheese.  Especially the ultra-pasteurization.  That is pretty much useless.  When buying raw milk just make sure the farm does regular testing so it is safe.

Swiss 1 2013

Pour two gallons into a large pot.  Heat the milk to 90F.  Stir as the milk heats so it is consistent and doesn’t catch on the bottom.  We usually have the heat at medium for this.  You don’t want it to heat rapidly.  Once the milk is at 90F then the thermophilic starter is added.  We buy the pre-portioned packets but if you prepare it then 4 oz is needed.  Stir well.

Swiss 4 2013 Swiss 5 2013

The take 1/4 milk of the milk with the starter mixed in and add 1 tsp of Propionic shermannii to the 1/4 milk and mix well.  Add back into the milk on the stove and mix well.  This needs to ripen for 10 minutes.

Swiss 6 2013 Swiss 7 2013

The next step calls for the rennet.  We purchase organic vegetable based rennet.   The directions on the back are a bit strange.  It says it is double strength so use 1/3 the amount called for in the recipe.  To me if it is double strength then it should call for using 1/2 the amount in the recipe.  Right?  So about a minute before the milk is done ripening prepare the rennet.  Use 1/4 cup of spring water because you don’t want any chlorine in it.  The recipe calls for 1/2 tsp rennet to be dissolved so we used 1/4 tsp plus a couple of drops.  Pour into the milk and stir up and down.  If you are using raw milk like we do then it needs to be top stirred for a few minutes to keep the butter fat down.  To do this, use the bottom of your spoon and stir 1/2 inch to and inch down from the surface.

Swiss 8 2013 Swiss 9 2013

At this point the milk needs to rest at 90F for 30 minutes.  The thermophilic starter generates heat so if it goes a few degrees above 90 don’t panic.  If it drops just turn the heat on a bit to bring it back up.  After it sets and the curds pull away from the sides it is time to cut the curds.  Her recipe states 1/4 inch cubes.  In a large pot that is impossible.  Use a curd knife for the blocks by cutting straight one way then cutting lines 90 degrees from the original lines.  Then you need to cut at an angle to cut the interior of the curd.  Then gently use a whisk to cut them into the small curd.

Swiss 10 2013 Swiss 11 2013 Swiss 12 2013 Swiss 13 2013 Swiss 14 2013

Now get ready for a ton of stirring.  The first bit is for 40 minutes.  You stir gently while keep the temperature at 90F.  According to Ricki’s book this is called foreworking.  It helps expel the whey from the curds.

Swiss 15 2013

Then to add a bit of a challenge the next bit calls for raising the temperature a degree at a time until it reaches 120F.  You need to keep this as close to 30 minutes as possible as this extracts the whey from the curds.  You’ll notice the curds getting smaller through this process.

Swiss 16 2013

At the end of the 30 minutes the curds should be smaller and squeaky if you eat them.  This stage is called the “proper break”.  A way to test them is to take a small handful and press into a ball.  This ball should easily break apart into the little curds again.  Turn off the heat and let it rest for five minutes.  While it is doing that prepare some cheese cloth or butter muslin in a strainer.  You’ll want a couple of large containers to catch the whey.  Don’t throw out the whey!  You can use it to make fresh ricotta cheese.  Stay tuned for that post.  Pour into the strainer.

Swiss 17 2013 Swiss 18 2013

At this point you want the mold set up.  My husband made a great contraption so we can press the cheese.  This recipe calls for a two pound mould.  Place the curds into the mould still wrapped in the cheese cloth or butter muslin.

Swiss 19 2013

Fold in the cloth and place the pressing part into the mould.  Place the top of the press over this.  It is important to do all this before the curds cool.  For the first pressing you need 8-10lbs on top and let it stay there for 15 minutes.

Swiss 20 2013 Swiss 21 2013

You should see whey being pressed out.  At the end of 15 minutes remove the curd and gently unwrap the curd.  Turn the curd over and put it back into the press.

Swiss 22 2013

Up the weight to 14lbs and press for 30 minutes.  Turn the cheese and press for 2 hours.  Turn again, increase the weight to 15lbs and then press for 12 hours.  We usually leave this overnight.  Once the pressing is done the cheese needs to be soaked in brine for 12 hours.  To make the brine you want to dissolve 2 lbs of cheese or kosher salt in a gallon of spring water.  Let the cheese soak in the fridge during this step.  The exposed side needs to have some salt sprinkled on it.

Swiss 24 2013

At the end of 12 hours pat the cheese dry, place on a clean board and place in the “cheese cave”.  Now some have a real cheese cave.  We haven’t gotten that far so we use a wine cooler.  The temp needs to be 50-55F and the humidity should be around 85%.  For the first week the cheese needs to be turned every day and wiped with salt water.  Do not soak the cheese.  You do not want wet cheese!

Part 2 will be posted when the cheese is done and will have the final steps to it.  This cheese needs to age at least 3 months.  It is very hard to wait!  🙂

Lovely Cheesy Pinwheels

Stephane seems to be a bit of an inspiration this week with fellow bloggers as I also am blogging about something he posted.  On Monday I came across his mini appetizers as I was planning my dinner.  I wanted something to go with the mushroom soup I was making.  As I had different ingredients in my pantry than what was in Stephane’s recipe I came up with these cheesy pinwheels.  It was perfect for using up the last bit of puff pastry I had in the freezer.

cheese pinwheels 1 2013

I grated some Jarlsberg, Cheddar, and Parmesan Cheese.  You want enough to cover the puff pastry once it is rolled out.

cheese pinwheel 2 2013

Roll the pastry firmly all the way lengthwise.  If you have time chill in the fridge to make it easier to slice.  If you don’t have time then just use a sharp knife and nice even cuts.

cheese pinwheels 3 2013

Have the pinwheels about 1/2 inch to an inch thick.  Place evenly on a cookie sheet and pop into the oven at 400F for about 15 minutes.

cheese pinwheels 4 2013

Once they are golden brown they are ready to serve.  You can make these ahead of time but they are so quick to make that they are great right out of the oven.

Baked Brie with Apple Compote

So this morning we woke up to -11 F (-24 C) temps.  To say the dogs walked quickly was an understatement, I had trouble keeping up!  Plus, to keep my face warm, I wear a scarf around the lower part of my face but that causes my glasses to fog up.  So I end up stumbling around a bit while trying to stay warm.  It was a short walk.  🙂

For New Year’s Eve our friends had a finger food potluck so I decided to make baked brie for the first time.  My inspiration came from a local restaurant called Luca’s.  I took the flavours of a starter they have and converted it into something different.  I didn’t quite get the flavours the same but I came up with a delicious version nonetheless.

I roasted two cipollini onions in a small dish with olive oil.  I covered the baking dish with tin foil and roasted at 400 F.  They roasted for nearly an hour.  They need to be soft when done.

Baked Brie 1 2013 baked brie 2 2013

In the meantime I chopped two apples and sauteed them in melted butter.

baked brie 3 2013 baked brie 4 2013

Once the onions finished I chopped them and added them to the apples.  Then I used about 1/2 cup of tawny port and simmered it until it was reduced.

baked brie 5 2013

I preheated the oven to 400F and I used convection bake for this as you want the puff pastry to cook evenly.  I rolled out the pastry and placed the brie wheel in the centre and topped with the apple compote.

baked brie 6 2013 baked brie 7 2013

The tricky bit is not to have the pastry overly thick when folding it around the cheese.  Bake for about 15 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.

baked brie 8 2013

Let cool for a few minutes before cutting into it otherwise it will ooze out.  I served this with crackers but it would be wonderful with fresh bread.

baked brie 9 2013

I apologize for the photo quality but the lighting wasn’t good with my phone.   But it was a hit and I made it again the next day for our kids.  They loved it as well.

My Husband’s Amazing Mac and Cheeese

A great memory I have is from way back in the mists of time when I could barely see over the dining room table.  We would go to my Grammy’s for Thanksgiving and the table would be groaning with wonderful food including her mac and cheese.  And it was all at my eye level!  It is a traditional dish for us at the holidays.

I have to say my husband makes the best mac and cheese.  Full of flavour and a wonderful comfort food quality to it.  His inspiration comes from the Betty Crocker New Cookbook but he changed it a bit and added some ingredients.  And it was even more special this Thanksgiving as our daughter helped him make it.  🙂

Before the sauce is made get the pasta cooking and set aside when done. It needs about 2 cups for this recipe.

In a large saucepan melt a 1/4 cup of butter.

mac n cheese 2 2012

Chop up some onions and garlic.  About half an onion and a few cloves of garlic.

mac n cheese 1 2012

mac n cheese 3 2012

Saute until onions begin to soften in the butter.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Next add a tablespoon of stone ground mustard and a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce to the mixture.  Stir well.

mac n cheese 5 2012

Add a 1/4 cup of flour to make the roux.

mac n cheese 7 2012

Once the flour is mixed in with the butter add 2 cups of milk to the roux and stir well.  Keep stirring while it comes up to a boil.

mac n cheese 8 2012

For the cheese, shred about 2 cups of cheddar.  We also add some jarlsberg and parmesan to give it a few layers of flavour.

mac n cheese 9 2012

Once the milk has come to a boil, reduce the heat and add the cheese.

mac n cheese 10 2012

mac n cheese 11 2012

Once the cheese is melted and is mixed in thoroughly pour it over the cooked pasta in the baking dish.

mac n cheese 12 2012

Top with more shredded cheese.

mac n cheese 13 2012

This was made the day before so it was covered and left to cool down.  Once the turkey was out of the oven then we popped it in and heated it through and let the cheese on top brown.

mac n cheese 14 2012

As I said this is my favourite and I could just eat bowls of this!

Sourdough Bread Stuffing

I came up with this recipe years ago.  I wanted to make something simple, delicious, and a step up from the stove top stuffings.  As much as I like those, this is Thanksgiving!  The bar has to be raised.  🙂

It is important to start the day before with the bread.  I bought a Sourdough Boule ( I know I didn’t bake it, but this is a huge time saver with all the cooking we have to do!) and it gets torn up the day before to turn it a bit stale.  This allows the absorbing of the broth without making it super soggy.

On the day of I slice up some cranberries and celery leaves.  I usually use celery but right now all I have left in the garden is a few small stalks and a ton of leaves.  I’m amazed I have that!  Turns out the leaves are a better choice for colour and flavour.

I toss the cranberry and the celery into the bread and set aside.  Next I chop up some garlic and onions and saute in olive oil.

Once the onions have softened a bit then I add about 4 cups of veg broth.  Several of my family members are vegetarian so it is important that all the sides are vegetarian so they can eat.  🙂  Bring the broth mixture to a boil then simmer for a bit.

Now it is time to put it all together.  Add a bit of the bread mixture to the baking pan and then add a bit of broth.  It’s important not to add the broth all at once otherwise you will have  really soggy spots.  At this point I also add in shredded Italian cheeses.  I usually get the 4-6 cheese variety.

Make sure you have plenty of bread as it will shrink down as you add the broth.  Once it is filled up I top with cheese.

We had an oven already heated at 350 F so I covered the stuffing and baked for about 15 minutes, then I uncovered it until it browned on the top a bit.

It works really well with the turkey and I like putting a bit of the gravy over the stuffing.  🙂



I’m not a fan of cooked kale by itself. I normally have to hide it in something like I do with my chili. A few weeks ago my mum made colcannon and we all loved it so I asked for the recipe as we have an abundance of kale to eat.  This is my version of her version of colcannon.  As I have said before we aren’t very good at following recipes exactly!  🙂

I start the potatoes for the mash at the beginning.

In an oven safe skillet I pour olive oil to cover the bottom.

I then chop up celery, onion, and garlic to saute in the olive oil.  The celery in our garden seems to be more leaf than stem this year but the flavour is still really good.

Saute for a few minutes.  In the meantime, boil some water to make 2 cups of broth.  I use the veg broth that we have.  Pour into the skillet and simmer. Add a bit of mustard, we used stone ground mustard to taste. Add the kale.

Simmer until the kale cooks down.

For the mash I add salt and pepper, butter, and milk.  Spread it over the kale mixture and top with cheddar cheese.  We used Kerry Gold that says it is from Ireland.  Wonder if it is actually sold in Ireland.  Either way it is tasty.

Pop the skillet under the broiler until it is a melty lovely golden colour.

We cooked up some Irish bangers to go on the side.  I have to say both went really well with the HP brown sauce.  🙂

This took about 30-40 minutes total to put together.  It’s a great meal for autumn and the kids love it.  Though when I mentioned we were having kale for dinner to my daughter’s friends they decided to eat at home.  Their loss!

Fresh Mozzarella

Cheese, glorious cheese!  If I ever get to a point in my life that a doctor tells me cheese is off the menu, I don’t know what I’d do.  It’s a major food group in this household.  That and fresh bread.  Oh and wine.  Can’t forget the wine!  There are a few cheeses we enjoy making at home and one of them is mozzarella.

A few years back we bought a book by Ricki Carroll called “Home Cheese Making”.  And the inspiration for this recipe comes from here.  Her recipes are for pasteurized milk but because we only use raw milk for this we have to adjust here and there.

Raw milk is by far the best choice for most cheeses as pasteurizing destroys some of the wonderful flavour and breaks down the proteins that are good for you and are ideal for proper cheese making.  We haven’t tried parmesan yet but we’ll be limited to pasteurized as it calls for skim milk.  When you look for a raw milk source, talk to the farm, find out how often they test the milk for safety.  The farm we use checks every other day.

For this recipe we use a gallon of raw milk.

You want to gently heat it to 55 F.  Once it is this temp you want to add 1 1/2 level tsp citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup of water to the mixture.  I use spring water not tap water.

As the milk heats you want to stir regularly so it doesn’t catch on the bottom and the temp is regulated throughout the batch.

As the milk heats up you will see bits of curd starting to float at the surface.

The next step is to add the rennet at 90 F.  A couple of things about rennet.  It comes in liquid form or tablet form.  If you have it in tablet form you want to do a 1/4 tablet in a 1/4 cup of spring water.  If you have it in liquid form then a 1/4 tsp.  Liquid rennet has a shelf life but I have found you can still use it after the shelf life but you may need to add more to the recipe.  This is tricky as if you use too much the curd forms a big ball!

Heat slowly to 100-105F then turn off the heat.  You will see the whey separating from the curds.  After a few minutes it is ready to scoop into a colander lined with cheese cloth or butter muslin.  You want this over a bowl as the curds need to drain.

While I am doing all this I heat a pan of water with kosher salt to about 175 F as we need this to cook the curds and stretch them into mozzarella.

Use a slotted spoon to scoop up some curds and place in the water.

The water can get up to 185 F which is ok but keep an eye on the temp to adjust as needed.  I usually keep the curds in the water for 20-25 seconds before I check it.  This is hot work and be careful not to burn yourself!

You want it to look melty.  Take it off the spoon and lightly stretch it and fold it over itself.  You want the center to be smooth as well.  It is important not to overwork the cheese. You may have to then put it in the water for a few seconds at a time to complete the process. It does take a bit of practice so don’t get frustrated if it takes a couple of times to get it right.  Some people get it right off and others need to be patient.

Form little balls and place in cold water to cool down.  Once they have cooled a bit slice and serve.  This is not a cheese that stores well because it is so fresh.  You can store it in the fridge in a covered container but it is so good it’s hard to have any leftovers!

I sliced it and served it with tomatoes from the garden and basil with balsamic vinegar.  I let people salt to their personal preference.  I like mine salty but not everyone does.  Doing it this way you can have fresh cheese in 30-45 minutes.