Thursday, July 24, 2014

Fresh Milk Feta!

   Despite this summer's crazy un-routine routine, I have managed to find time for milking and cheese making. Surprised? I know, me too. When you have several gallons of milk staring you in the face every time you open the fridge you manage to find time to put it to good use. Cheese seemed to be the best use I could come up with at the time. This particular cheese does take a few days, but the amount of time and attention needed per day is minimal, so it does work well with a hectic homestead schedule.
   Along my path to a home dairy many a cheese recipe has come. Some pass through with a slight nod and others remain household staples. I received a recipe for feta in a cheese making kit purchased early on. It was okay but nothing to call the neighbors about. After research, reading, trial and error the farm boy and I have put together a marinated feta we just can't live without.
    In the past, we tested our recipes with purchased pasteurized cow's milk as well as purchased raw cow's milk both of which had excellent results. Having a small dairy herd on our homestead, all of my cheeses are now made with fresh, raw, unpasteurized cheese from our very own dairy goats. A heavy bottom stainless steal stock pot with a lid serve us well along side a digital thermometer. Instead of purchasing expensive cheese cloth for our cheeses, I use cloth diapers- the unfolded kind purchased just for this purpose. They hold up well to multiple washing and are sturdy for hanging heavy cheeses.
    Without further ado, I share the recipe we make every week with fresh, raw milk from our herd queen, Zaida.

Zaida's Feta

1 gallon fresh milk
1/4 cup cultured buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon liquid rennet
1/4 cup water
kosher salt
Slowly heat milk to 86 degrees. Remove from heat and stir in the buttermilk. Allow the culture to work for 1 hour. Stir rennet into 1/4 cup water and let rest at least 20 seconds. After the buttermilk has cultured in the milk 1 hour, stir in rennet. Cover and allow to set 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes, test for a 'clean break'. This means you will see curd breaking away from the whey. If there is no clean break, allow another 30 minutes before testing again.

Once a clean break is seen, cut the curd vertically, horizontally, and at a 45 degree angle. The goal is about 1"curds. Let the curds rest in the whey 10 minutes. Line a large colander with butter muslin, cheese cloth, or a cloth diaper. 

Ladle the curds into the lined colander and let drain there 15 minutes. My colander is in a larger pan to catch the whey which I feed to our chickens. If you have no use for the whey, let it drain in the sink.

Gather the curds in the cloth and knead it, working out as much liquid as possible. 

Place the cloth/curds into a mold or any container that will drain well. My mold came with a cheese kit preciously purchased, but before that I used a plastic container we had punched holes in. 
Flip the cheese every 15 minutes for 1 hour to allow even draining as well as good shape formation.
After that, allow to drain wrapped in the cloth in the mold at room temperature 12 hours.
Flip the cheese and drain another 12 hours.

Remove the cloth. Salt the outer surface of the cheese before setting it to ripen at room temp 24 hours. As you can see, I flip my mold upside down in a bowl resting the cheese on top. This allows for any further drainage that might occur. 

The block of cheese is now cut into cubes and set to cure another 24 hours. If desired, the cheese may be 'crumbed' even further. 
From here, it can be stored in a brine solution; 5 tablespoons salt/20 oz. water. I prefer to marinade my feta in olive oil and herbs, such as herb de provonce. Oil marinated is allowed to set at room temp three days before refrigerating or freezing. 

    There you have it! Farm fresh, wholesome and totally healthy! 
*and- not overly time consuming :)

Friday, July 18, 2014

And then there was a friend

Meet Ben's friend,
an energetic little bundle of mischief,
our new 'grand-puppy'
He visits on weekends
when our daughter visits from college.
Full of energy,
eager to roll with big Ben
and totally
But in no way as precious
as Ben.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Check it Out...

      The program I work with, Texas Grow! Eat! Go!, partners with our local county 4H department bringing many awesome agricultural experiences to young people in our area. This summer, 4H shared some equipment in order for the awesome summer campers to take part in this.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What on Earth am I doing?

The garden is a hideous mess-
poor plants are struggling to produce amid the weeds.
Our house is undergoing some, well, purge-
less kids at home, less things we need, way less time to clean it.
Goats are growing-
does are producing-
babies are weaning.. the barn is a mess.
I sit on the floor, rather defeated and wonder-
what am I doing?
I am:
adjusting to changes
facing challenges
struggling to simplify
drowning in the process.
Anyone relate?
     I don't know about everyone else, but it seems I can't remember how it is that I use to get everything done? We have had all of these chores, closets, cabinets, and pantries for years- why can't I seem to get it together? Who knows. Maybe it's the lack of 'hands on deck' to assist with all the 'to-do's', or the fact I now live with two men (men use to having me home to do it). Maybe it is because I am working outside the home, but I always had other things to do. Maybe it's hormonal, empty nest syndrome, or getting 'older'- wait, nope.. I threatened to hit the next person who mentioned those things (note, punch self).
     You see, I sat in the middle of a disorganized mess this weekend and just lost it. I love my garden, herd, flock.. my herbals.. home made/hand made life. Yet, I love the kids that cross my path.. the parents that bump into me at the store.. sharing their stories and experiences.. challenging my creative chaos. I just don't yet know they fit together.
      Either way, this home is under renovation.. as is this blog.. this shop.. this terribly flawed life. I am under construction.. as is my routine, my schedule... my sanity (and my hormones). Yes, I will still homestead- still sew- still teach- still drive my family and coworkers insane. I'm just not sure how it is all going to fall together. Please bear with me as I dig up, clear out, hunker down and find my place.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hello, Ben

teething, of course
Meet Benjamin.. Ben. Our precocious new puppy. He came to us a six week old great Pyrenees barely big enough to cover your lap. Here three weeks later he is almost as long as my leg and still growing leaps and bounds. Ben loves squeak toys, rawhide, tennis balls- well, anything he can chew without getting in trouble.. and... he is mama's boy.
Under my feet (or on them), this little polar bear is never a paw's length away from me; not even during chores. Needless to say, our herd mama- Zaida- is less than impressed with my new shadow; this makes milking quite a circus.
When we introduced Ben to the herd, the girls where quite accommodating- allowing sniffs and licks as they got to know each other. . all except Zaida. Zaida offered him a swift head but to the ground with a hearty roll on the back. He yelped.. She snorted. It was all over but the whimpering. You can imagine, Ben kept his distance from her, until he discovered milking.
You see, during milking Ziada is confined in a stanchion.. unable to ram, kick, but, or bite. Once Ben realized this, he has since taken full advantage. Once she is latched in, Ben places both front paws on the stand making faint yipping sounds as he sniffs and licks anything he can reach.. like her hooves and legs. He more she snorts and stomps, the more he pesters her. When he tires of that, it's time to sit with both front paws on mamma's lap watching the milking and, of course, making yippy noises and occasionally licking her back leg. You have to experience it to grasp how funny yet challenging it really is.
Little Ben loves his spot in the house, right in front of the fan, where he naps throughout the hot parts of the day. He has claimed a little pool for himself and decided mama chickens are a force to be reckoned with. Ben loves eggs with his morning meal and will find mama if the guys forget to put one in his dish.
I love it when he places a big paw on me and give me a 'sugar'.. or tries to pull my hair.. untie my apron strings... and lay his head on my feet when I am working. We play ball, tug of war... splash in the hose when I fill water bowls. He brings a smile to my face and a giggle to my heart.
Welcome to the homestead, Ben!   

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Walking in the Woods

hiking trail- just him and me
     The past several weeks have been crazy.. just crazy. Our homestead, our family, our day to day are all changing. While change is good, it is also taxing and during the process many things suffer. This poor little blog has definitely suffered! Since I have little control over the path my week days take, weekends have become a balancing act between catch up and calm down.. thus.. walking in the weeds.
      It's hard to believe it, but last weekend was the first time my husband and I ever walked in the woods- just the two of us. Hiking has always been a string of children rumbling through the forest tagging, identifying, and curiously investigating every single living thing that held still long enough. Those children are grown (or almost grown) and on their own path, leaving he and I to hike the woods alone.
       I found it quite strange to hitch it up the hills and down the vine tangled paths with such silence and serenity- it freaked me out a little bit. My life is filled with noise and activity- all this calm was a bit unsettling! Quiet unnerves me because that is when my mind wanders down those paths of memory I struggle and resist going.
       Paths where all of my children giggled and played. Where they stood in awestruck wonder at the venation of a leaf and the web toes of a gecko. Where they saw God in every living thing and sought to know Him. That place where we were a family together- loving, laughing, and .. well.. together. Not disconnected and distant- not bitter.. not separate. Those paths I distance myself from because it is painful and hard to face the parts of my life I cannot control.. that are gone .. that cannot be reclaimed... the relationship I cannot restore.
      There in the woods, facing the path I didn't want to face.. remembering the joy that once was.. I found a new path. My husband and I raced up the sandy hills.. stared in wonder at baby rabbits just old enough to have been more in late spring. We identified trees by their bark and leaves.. stood awestruck at wild blossoms and the intricacy of a spider's web. Together we talked about the days behind and the days to come- the changes we are trying to find our place in.
       There in the woods we realized we will survive the emptying nest.. the difficult days and challenges in each day. In the woods we found each other- as if we had never before.