Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Homesteading Stuff

A cute,
nubby eared La Mancha kid
one of our Nubian kids
Our milk production has been low for the past two years. Last year was almost a disaster due to the stresses on our goats from the heat and drought. The quality of the plants in the pasture is very poor. It's been a tough row to hoe for us and our animals. We are even considering selling our Nubian breeds to replace with La Manchas, who are supposed to fare better in extreme conditions. With another drought year on tap for 2012 we may have no other choice.

Despite all that, yesterday I made cheese. I was so happy to be able to make a wine and garlic ricotta and a mozzarella. For dinner we had a cheesy pasta made with 2010's garden canned spaghetti sauce. Everything but the rice noodles was produced right here.
This was the state of the pastures at the start of the summer.
Sparse was the word then. Bare was the word at the end of it.

Tonight, I have some stale breads to eat up. I will slice and toast some pieces, then fry them with more homemade spaghetti sauce and my mozzarella melted on top. It is divine.

Those of us who homestead know that there is no satisfaction quite as total as watching your family dig heartily into food brought into the world through your own labor, especially during a drought year.

For those of you who can only dream of homesteading, here is a recipe you can also try using store bought milk:

Wine and Garlic Ricotta
2 quarts of whole milk, 
3 tablespoons of vinegar, 

3 tablespoons blush or white wine
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 cloves garlic crushed

The equipment: stainless steel or ceramic pot to heat the milk, stainless steel spoon, candy thermometer, colander, cheese cloth

How to:
Prior to the process place cheese cloth in a colander and place colander in the sink.

1) Place milk over medium heat until, stir constantly until almost boiling (approximately 195 degrees F).

2) Slowly add the cider vinegar while stirring.

You will see a change in the milk when enough vinegar is added. The liquid whey will separate from the solid curds. The curds will look like very small globules (a little like cottage cheese) floating in a yellowy liquid. If this does not happen after 3 tablespoons of vinegar is added, raise the temperature for a few moments before adding more. Over acidified milk will ruin the curd. Once the curd begins to form, turn off the burner and let rest for 10 minutes.

3) Pour the contents of the pot into a colander lined with cheese cloth and let drain 5 to 10 minutes

4) Add the wine, salt, and garlic (or other spices of your choice) and gently stir into the ricotta

5) For this step, you have a choice: you can put the cheese into a recipe at this point (or in the fridge) or you can knot the ends of the cheesecloth and hang the "bag" over the sink for an hour or two to continue draining. The longer it drains, the drier and more sweet it becomes.

Some ways to use it:
  • Make spaghetti as usual and simply add the ricotta to the sauce.
  • Prepare fusilli or egg noodles and drain. Coat pasta with 1 Tbs of olive oil and salt. Add ricotta and some minced olives.
  • Add it to make a hearty salad.
  • Make lasagna, of course! 

A ricotta will take on the flavor of foods surrounding it. It is made to be eaten fresh. Enjoy!