Friday, June 10, 2011

A Dairy Good Day

Yesterday I went to our Amish friends' farm and got three gallons of milk. To say the milk was fresh would nearly be an understatement. They milked the goats and filled the containers while we waited. They also gave us a gallon of cream from the new very old separater they bought at an auction we went to together. I knew I was going to be making butter as well as cheese.

Making butter with modern conveniences is almost too easy. To culture your cream you leave it to sit out for 8-12 hours. I skipped that step since I only had today to work on things.

Pour the cream into a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Important note, do not fill the bowl any higher than the center stem or your cream will leak back out. Not that I have personal experience with this type of catastrophe.

You turn on the processor and let it run continuously until the solids separate from the liquids. This will take several minutes but not near the time it would take in a churn. The best way to watch for this is not to watch but to listen. You will hear a distinct change in the sounds from the processor when the separation occurs. What you will see is "crumbs" of fat floating in milk.

Pour this through a strainer. I just use a stainless fine mesh strainer. It's sufficient for the task and cleans up quickly and thoroughly. It should look something like this:

Allow it to drain and then you will turn it out into a bowl. I like to use a wide, shallow bowl for the final step. This bowl is about 14 inches across and 3 or so inches deep. I also roll up a few towels to place under one edge so that the liquids drain away from my work.

Then I get to it with a silicone spatula. At this point you can press it into a lump but it will be filled with holes that are filled with liquid. You need to press these out to create the butter texture and to make it keep well. The butter itself is very stable for a fairly lengthy time under refrigeration, the liquids, though, will cause your butter to spoil if not removed.

So I begin patting and slapping the butter and letting it drain to the other side of the bowl. Occasionally I'll pour out the accumulated liquids and keep going. As you work you'll find that the lump wants to slide in the bowl due to the liquids that come out between your "lump" and the bowl. As you finally get it worked out the butter will begin to stick to the side of the bowl. I work it kind of like kneading dough. Folding and working it, folding again and working it.

When you think you've got the liquids out, pat it some more. It always takes longer than you think. Eventually you'll have butter. At the end, I like to work in a tiny sprinkling of salt. This is some of the best butter I've ever had.

And then there's the cheese. I might point out that my super clever and fearless niece turned me on to the rennet I can get locally. While I can mail order cheese making supplies - for everyday, economical cheeses, there is a product called Junket. It is a rennet used for custards and such. Now I don't know what kind of mental gyrations I might have put myself through trying to figure out how to use this in place of the rennet called for in the goat milk recipe book. Val figured it out. I use the amount of Junket according to the amount of milk in a recipe from the Junket booklet for the recipes in the goat milk book. So far it's working great. In the case of the chevre, Val pointed out that the consistency would be similar to that of the Neufchatel. She's so smart!

This box of junket is enough for 6 batches of chevre at ~2 pounds each. So that's about 30 cents per batch.

Now you warm the milk to 80 degrees for chevre, 90 for cottage cheese. Then stir in buttermilk and rennet. Then let it sit for 4-12 hours depending on the recipe. I'll pick back up when my cultures have sat long enough.

Here on the homestead, we had a couple of excitements today. The first of our seeds is coming up. So far the garden growth has all been from the seedlings and bulbs. As of today, the chard is officially sprouting up. The onions continue to go nuts and I counted at least 9 little peppers on the hot pepper plants.

And as I was sitting here typing, Kent could see lights outside the window. Investigation showed these to be fireflies! They are busy all over the yard tonight. A welcome and enjoyable sight.

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