Thursday, August 28, 2014

Just call me Miss Muffett

Any guesses what I am doing here?

OK...obviously I am heating up a gallon of milk.

So why am I squeezing lemons?
(And don't you love my old fashioned lemon squeezer? 
That was the kind I grew up with and have used my entire life. So easy!)

Well...after the milk was simmering (not boiling) I added a quarter cup of lemon juice and gently stirred the mix.
The milk changed; it became whey and curds that separated right away.
(You have guessed what I am doing by now haven't you?)

The mix almost looked like oatmeal.

Next I dumped the mix into a cheesecloth lined colander.
It was seated over another huge bowl which served to catch the whey that dripped out from the curd.

After the whey had dripped out, I ran cold water over the curds to remove any lemon flavor.
(Vinegar can also be used instead of lemon juice.)
Then I gathered the curds and squeezed them gently, then placed the cheesecloth covered mass into a bowl.

Cling wrap went on top and a can goods item was rested on top for a weight.
Off it went to the refrigerator for 20 minutes to cool.
Later I peeled off the cheesecloth and put the cheese into an air tight container.
The cheese, now done and ready to eat, was placed back into the refrigerator.

This HUGE bowl was filled with whey.
(This is the cookie making bowl given to me by my husband's sister as wedding present. She baked cookies for seven kids...she needed a big bowl for cookie making! The thing weighs a ton but hey, 38 years later I am still using the thing and it is still in great shape!)

I freezer bagged the whey, then double bagged it and froze it for use in soup making on another day.
The cheese is actually called paneer  in Indian cooking  or queso blanco in Latin American/Mexican cooking. It is also similar to mild feta.
The cheese is very mild, and can be sliced or crumbled.
It doesn't really melt when heated but rather retains its shape, may be browned slightly by frying and is slightly rubbery like fresh mozzarella cheese.
It squeaks when you chew it!
There are lots of Indian recipes that use paneer lightly fried in butter then simmered in a prepared spicy sauce.
Mexican cooking uses the cheese as a topping over spicy dishes like enchiladas, soups and salads.
Cheese is used with spicy foods as dairy helps negate spice heat.
(Good to know if you have a tender mouth like I do...have some paneer, sour cream or yogurt at the ready when digging into spicy foods!) 
If one wants to, one can mix in spices or nuts or sweetening like honey before chilling and the cheese can be spread warm on crackers.
It is a bland enough cheese that it will work with just about any flavor.
Bernie and I used to see sauces with white cubes in Indian buffet line foods and we avoided eating them because we thought the white stuff was tofu. 
We are not tofu fans.
We are, however, now fans of paneer.
Just about any chicken stew recipe can be used with  paneer replacing the meat.  
This was my first attempt at cheese making.
It was SO easy!
My one tip:
Cheesecloth is actually not so great for cheesemaking.
(Why do they call it cheese cloth anyway?)
The curds kind of stuck to the strands in clumps that were hard to remove.
A plain clean cloth like butter cloth or a fine cotton fabric would be a better thing to use.
My other tip:
I did not add salt; I have never seen a recipe where salt was called for but I have read that non-iodized salt may be added to cheese curds, and it is best if the salt is "cheese making" salt which apparently is finer than  table salt.  
I don't know where one can find cheese making salt so I have no insight into exactly how fine the salt needs to be.
Anyone out there ever made home made cheese before?
Do tell me your story!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Whatever Wednesday!

 I am doing a "Whatever Wednesday" post here today. By that I mean I am going to just post some random photos of things or events that caught my eye or heart.
For example: tomatoes picked from our and our son's garden. He grew heritage tomatoes from seed this year. He ordered the seeds from a catalog then planted the seeds in late winter under a grow light in his basement. He let us pick seed varieties and when the plants were well along and all danger of frost had passed he handed us our choices to plant in our garden. We are able to share varieties and wow are the heritage tomatoe varieties ever tasty!
Calvin got his official first dunk in the Pacific Ocean last week, at age eight weeks old. Luke was dunked at six weeks. I wasn't there to see Cal get his toes dunked but I did get sent a photo to document the milestone.
Calvin at two months.  He's a good sized baby and smiles readily at his parents. For me...not so much. I discovered he would smile every time I said the word "beach" though. kid!
I am still messing around with Indian cooking. I have learned that Indian "Laddoo" sweets take forever to make.  One Indian blogger wrote about how her mother-in-law used to hire a man to come to their house to cook sweets for holidays. They would erect a shed for him to work in and he labored for five full days making the sweets.  She now wishes she had paid more attention to his work as she remembers the treats quite fondly yet does not know exactly how he made them.
One Indian cooking blogger volunteered a "so fast and easy" coconut Laddoo recipe that she has her kids make them while she is busy making more complicated recipes.
I gave it a try and it has gotten major thumbs up from my coconut loving family.  And she is right: A perfect recipe for kids to make.

Ready to give it a try?
No cooking, no baking, just two ingredients:

1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 cups Dried Unsweetened flaked/shredded Coconut


Set aside about three tablespoons of coconut.

Mix the can of sweetened condensed canned milk into the coconut,adding the milk slowly, mixing as you go, until the coconut milk mix bunches together.
You may or may not need the entire can.

Grab about a tablespoonful of the mix and roll it into a ball between your palms.
Then roll the ball in the coconut that was set aside. (I forgot to set some coconut aside so I rolled the balls in the photo in powdered sugar...meh.)

That all there is to it!  

You could use a few drops if food coloring to dye the rolling coconut in order make the Laddoo look more festive or you could push a nut or bit of dried fruit or ??? into the top of the ball to fancy them up.

Whatever is left over after immediately pigging out on the treat should be refrigerated.

Nice, fast, easy peasy gluten free treat to bring to a gathering where one is not sure of what dietary issues may need to be addressed. Lactose intolerant folk need to be warned I guess...can't win now days on serving anything except  purified water I think!