Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Say Cheese!

We've been talking about making cheese for months now. This summer we bought Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll (the queen of cheese-making). Then, with the harvest season well and truly over, Jeremy bought a couple supplies from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. We decided to start simple, with 30-minute mozzarella.

This called for milk, citric acid, and rennet. It also called for lipase powder, but we didn't use that this first time around. Lipase just makes the cheese taste a bit stronger. You can also add salt, but we didn't do that either. We went with the bare minimum to make cheese.

(No, we did not put wine in the cheese!)

Jeremy put the milk in a big pot and stirred in the citric acid:

When the milk got to 90 degrees, he added the rennet and then things started happening!

Jeremy spooned out the cheese curds into a bowl:

After pouring off excess whey, the next step was to microwave the cheese a couple times for short bits, then lightly knead it like bread to distribute the heat:

The instructions said when the cheese "stretches like taffy", it's done:

Looks like taffy to me!

Our two balls of mozzarella, done in just about 30 minutes:

Jeremy did all the work because it involved a lot of handling hot cheese, and I'm a wimp when it comes to hot things.

What's a girl and guy to do with all this cheese? We gave some to the family right away - they thought it was very cool. We made BLTs for dinner (with fresh tomatoes that have been ripening on the vine in our basement and homemade bread) and we added hunks of fresh, warm mozzarella. So I guess they were BLTCs.
A day later we made pizza and sprinkled mozzarella over the top. I think we used the rest in an omelet the next morning.

30-minute mozzarella doesn't keep quite as long as its brother that takes longer to make. We'll be making cheese again soon. Jeremy is excited to make chevre and anything moldy, and I'm excited about cheddar. Boy it would be nice if we had a cow or goat...

Friday, November 21, 2008

More clues...

If you're still trying to guess, here is another clue and the necessary soundtrack (and an updated one for you youngsters)

Thursday, November 20, 2008


This rather scary looking item has been sitting in our dining room for a couple days. Any guesses as to what it might be?

Two hints: it is not my birthday cake and it is not a giant burnt marshmallow.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 7

Jeremy said, “The cellar is mostly done. Let us now bring in crates and boxes of root vegetables. And let us bring in more shelving and also store all of our canned items. And we shall also provide a shelf for the family’s food.” And Aimee said, “It’s about time!” And it was so.

(onion crate under construction)

And Jeremy and Aimee said unto the fruits and vegetables, “Be happy fruits and veggies! Don’t even think about withering or rotting or spoiling or multiplying (potatoes!) - or it’s out to the compost bin for you!”

(southeast corner with family's apples, potatoes, and other goodies)

(northeast corner with our canned goods and apples)

(lots of canned food!)

(bins and boxes with carrots, turnips, potatoes, onions, flour, etc)

(some of our cool old wooden crates)

One or two evenings and mornings passed, and it was the seventh step done. Aimee and Jeremy looked around the cellar with pride and satisfaction and saw that it was good.

The lights were turned off and the door was closed, leaving the cellar pitch black - except the bit of light that filtered down through the damper.

And then, instead of resting, Jeremy said, “Now, let us build a chicken coop!”

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 6

Jeremy said, “Before we finish putting up all the plywood, let us construct shelves that hang from the ceiling where we will store vegetables.” And Aimee said, “I like shelves.” And so it was.

And then Jeremy said, “Now let us remove the window from the cellar and replace it with some ducting and a damper so that we can control how much cold air gets in the cellar.” And Aimee said, “That sounds cool.” And so it was.

Many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the sixth step done.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 5

Jeremy said, “Let us go to Scherer Lumber and get 11 sheets of Forestry Council Certified plywood.” And Aimee said, “How on earth are we going to fit that in our compact car?”
Jeremy said, “I will borrow our neighbor’s car, the Dirty Black Dog art car.” And Aimee said, “Whatever you say.”

That interesting trip done and the plywood safely home, Aimee said, “How will you cut these pieces of plywood?” And Jeremy said, “I will borrow a saw.” And so he did borrow a radial saw from a different neighbor.

The plywood was measured and cut and attached to the walls and ceiling. Cut-outs were made around pipes, lights, outlets, and other random things.

Many, many, many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the fifth step done. Aimee and Jeremy looked and saw that they were finally making progress and it was awesome!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 4

Jeremy said, “Let us run over to Natural Built Home and purchase some UltraTouch Natural Cotton Insulation for the walls.” And Aimee said, “Awesome!”

The insulation was purchased and much fun was had in applying it to the walls. (Much less fun was had applying it to the ceiling…)

Many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the fourth step done. Aimee and Jeremy looked, and saw that it was good.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 3

Jeremy said, “Let us put up a moisture barrier in the cellar so that our space will not be humid like the rest of the basement.” And Aimee said, “Aye, aye captain!”

Rolls of plastic were acquired and applied to the walls and ceiling of the space. Plastic was also wrapped around the pipes running through the cellar (though that was mostly for protection just in case there was asbestos in the old pipe-wrapping).

And then Jeremy said, “Lo, there is an outlet over there. Let us move it so it shall be inside the cellar, instead of outside.” And so it was. And an electrician friend was called forth to double check the work so that the cellar (and house) was not burned down.

Many, many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the third step done.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Root Cellar Creation: Part 2

Jeremy said, “Let us frame in this space.” And Aimee said, “If you say so.” And so Jeremy and Aimee went to Scherer Lumber to purchase 24 Forestry Council Certified 2x4s and two un-certified treated 2x4's for the nailers.
Aimee said, “How will you cut these down to size?” And Jeremy said, “I will borrow a saw.” And so he did borrow a massive 24" compound mitre saw from a neighbor.

Jeremy put nailers in the floor and studs were attached to this. In this way, two walls were built.

And then Jeremy said, “Let us run over to The ReUse Center and find a door for the cellar.” And Aimee said, “Sounds good to me.” The perfect door was purchased and installed, just so.

Many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the second step done. Aimee and Jeremy looked at their work and saw that the door was really cute.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Root Cellar Creation Story: Part 1

In the beginning, the basement was humid and full of boxes and junk. Darkness and mouse scat were in every corner. Aimee and Jeremy looked upon the far south-east corner and said, “Let there be a root cellar here.” And the family upstairs said, “Okay.”

The family helped clear away unwanted things and Aimee swept down cobwebs, dust, and crumbling bits of mortar from the walls. Copious quantities of Quickrete were applied to holes in the walls and floor. Then Aimee mixed up a large amount of whitewash (water, hydrated lime, salt, and a little elmer’s glue) in a galvanized steel bucket and proceeded to paint the whole space.

Many evenings and mornings passed, and it was the first step done.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Oh Happy Day

I spent all day yesterday as an election judge. What a job! I was at our voting place at 6am to help set everything up: hang signs, organize information for new registrations, and do whatever needed to be done.

There were people waiting in line when I got there and there was an enormous line by 7 am when the polls opened. It was out the door, around the parking lot, up to the street! We had a solid, unending line for 2 1/2 hours straight before it calmed down. It was a good thing.

Minnesota is one of just a few states that allows same day registration on voting day. We also allow vouching - so if you don't have the proper ID, someone who knows you and where you live can vouch for you. We had people registering to vote all day long! Over 200 just for our precinct. Some had to re-register because they had moved, but there were also many newly-turned 18 year olds and some older folks who had never voted before.

It was an incredible thing to see the neighborhood and community turn out like that, all so eager to vote. Of course, I have heard that our neighborhood is quite active and politically involved, within a state that has one of the highest voter turnouts. So that's a good feeling.

The polls closed at 8:00 with just a few voters left filling in the bubbles. We started the clean-up process, reconciling everything, counting absentee ballots, and running the final tally for our precinct. At 9:30 I was finally released from my long day and I wearily trudged home.

We had heard a rumor or two about what states Obama might have won (after 8:00 of course) but I didn't know anything. I suppose in a way I didn't want to know, fearful of bad news. So I went straight to bed when I got home. Sometime after 10:00 we started hearing cheering, hollering, whistling, cars honking, some firecrackers, and a general sense of celebration! Jeremy and I jumped out of bed to check the internet. And there it was: Obama wins!!

We were so excited. It was hard to go back to bed.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Hot time in the old town...

Well it was unseasonably warm yesterday. I'm not talking about "it was 30 degrees when it's usually 10 or 10 below." It was 74!! It was a lovely, sultry summery day - in November!

We have the heat off in the house, but still, it got so hot and uncomfortable last night that we had to open the windows in the middle of the night. I sat by the window in my stupor of sleepiness desperately trying to lift the outside window. Jeremy finally got up and opened it. I leaned toward the window, excited for that first gust of chill night air. And it wasn't chilly at all! It was downright warm! When is it going to get cold and miserable around here!?

I know, I know. In six months I'll be crying, "when is it going to get hot around here!?"