Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Goat Cheese: a story and a tutorial

Anne is my dear friend down the road.
A woman I'll call Mary is my dear friend of another nationality who runs a school for the poorest women in a third world country.

This is the story of how their lives intertwine.

Recently, Anne offered to teach me how to make goat cheese.
Who knew French-style chevre cheese is so easy and so much yummier than store-bought?

You can do it with store-bought milk of any kind, but we put on sturdy boots and walked out to her barn bright & early...

and milked the goats.

Then we went to my kitchen, where the supplies were laid out on the countertop, waiting.

You need nothing fancy; you likely have everything you need already.
Scrounge up a nice, heavy pot, a large bowl, a colander, measuring spoons, a thermometer, and some cheesecloth.

You will also need a few supplies from a cheese making supply house. We shopped online at The Cheesemaker, an online company located in Wisconsin. You'll want to order mesophilic starter and some rennet tablets to get you started.

That's all!

For safety's sake, pasteurize the milk by heating to 165 degrees for about 15-30 seconds.

Put the pan in a sink of ice water and stir until it reaches 86 degrees fahrenheit.

Meanwhile crush 1/4 of a tablet of rennet and dissolve it in a little warm water. When the milk is 86 degrees, quickly stir in the rennet and 1/8 teaspoon of mesophilic starter. Stir for one minute to dissolve and mix thoroughly.

Cover and leave the mixture on your countertop.

Now go enjoy the day while your cheese mixture sits and begins to coagulate. 
This takes about 12 hours.

Now tuck your cheese cloth into the colander, which will sit over a large bowl. Pour in the milk, which will begin draining.

The watery liquid which drains off is called the whey. You can use it in baking or cooking. The thick, cheesy part is called the curds.
Are you beginning to feel like Little Miss Muffet?

The cheese will separate from the whey, and you'll want to hang it to get rid of more moisture. 

Again you don't need anything fancy. You can do what I did and tie a knot at the top of the cloth, stick a wooden spoon under a stack of heavy dishes, and use that for a hook!

After hanging for somewhere between 4 and 12 hours, depending on how firm you like your cheese, it will be ready to eat. If you're feeling very Martha, snip some fresh herbs and stir in. 

Try this! You will not believe how easy and delicious home made cheese is.

On this particular day, I was feeling giddy with all the gourmet projects going, so I had a French baguette perfuming the kitchen, and we dined outdoors on bread, cheese and fruit.

Then a powerful idea hit me right between the eyes!
Goats eat almost anything.
They thrive almost everywhere.

Mary's school! Micro business! A partial answer to the hunger problem. 

And that's how it happened that I was gifted with the opportunity to send goats and starter to the other side of the globe. 

Mary could not be more thrilled! She's so like Mother Teresa, but known to very few. I am humbled to have such a woman for a friend: she has a deep and sustaining faith, she is completely selfless and a woman of great courage. 

May you ladies far away be blessed with laughter at the antics of your goats and well fed by the cheese. May your fledging cheese business be successful beyond your wildest dreams.

Real life is truly the best fairy tale.
Don't you love happy endings?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring has finally arrived and oh, how delicious is the warmer air and the blue sky...

Soon the fields will be planted... our own new raised beds in the garden are being lavished with compost and seeds. A new strawberry bed is just ready to take the plants we've been saving for it.

There is no season more hope-filled than spring, and I am so very ready for it!

Packets of seeds lay on the counter-top... 
dill and bachelor buttons, sweet peas and mesclun mixes await.

What a season of miracles, with fresh beauty opening right before our eyes.

I am reminding myself to stop and enjoy every bit of joy now, because I am learning a heart lesson: it's all so fleeting. We must soak it in and be thankful today, this very moment, because time rushes by and spring, like everything else, vanishes quickly.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


I've been away. Did you notice?

First it was the mad scramble,
then running for another stint working aboard a cruise ship.

This time I taught on Crown Princess.
And found many new friends and lots of inspiration.
As always.

My sketchbook is full of ideas for beach-themed art.
I can hardly wait to get home and working again!

What a blessing to have a working rest,
and ideas perking as bright as a technicolor tropical holiday.