Category Archives: More Kitchen Crafts

New Burrata & Mascarpone DIY Cheese Kit and My Over Posting

I just realized and am mortified to find that I may have been emailing you with every silly change I make to the site! Yikes! I am SO sorry! I now know what box to check to prevent that- silly website default. My apologies. I hope I didn’t drive you to unsubscribe immediately. Specially because you would miss out on this exciting new kit…

I developed a unique recipe for Burrata for my upcoming cheesemaking book (May 2014!)- if you don’t know this cheese, imagine a pouch of fresh mozzarella filled with cream and soft curds! You get to try this version early with your own Burrata & Mascarpone DIY Cheese Kit. Mascarpone is amazing for desserts (Tiramisu!) but also perfect for creamy sauces. Both cheeses are very traditionally Italian and favorites for foodies! Hope you enjoy! As usual, contact us via the contact page if you have any questions at all- it’s just as good as a direct email. Colleen and I are standing by. Claudia

Burrata and Mascarpone Kit

An Urban Cheesemaker’s Garden (AKA, the housing market and all of my hobbies)

So it seems like forever that Jeff and I have been wanting to buy a home but it never seems to be the right time.

First, the market was insane and even though the banks would’ve approved us for a gigantic loan, we could not have afforded payments and would probably be in the trouble lots of people are now…

3 years later, the home prices came down a bit but we didn’t see homes we could afford where we wanted to live in Portland and I still had lots of student loan debt. We decided to wait just a little longer, pay off my loans and see what the market continued to do.

1.5 years after that we’d paid off my loans just in time for the $8,000 tax credit so we jumped into a search. It was madness, everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing and I don’t like the feeling of scrambling and competing for something, I find it undignified (traffic, lines at the grocery store etc.). The houses were overpriced and they were flying off the market before we could even give them a thought. Jeff and I saw over 40 houses in two months. We’d find one, someone else was quicker to buy. Ick. The tax credit ended, we waited to see the prices adjust as well as new inventory.

Fast forward almost another 6 months, prices have adjusted and the majority of homes in our price range are short sales and foreclosures. We’re so ready, we want a little dog, a couple of chickens and the point of this unnecessarily long story…A GARDEN!! So, we’re back in the hunt, prices are good and so are interest rates, we’re seeing homes in neighborhoods we want,  we’re debt free, there’s no scramble and crazy competition but now it’s about the right home for the right price.

basil and thyme

first tomato!

first tomato!

Who knows how much longer it will be. Now I know though, that I can live the way I want, wherever I am. I don’t need to live in the country or have a ton of land to do the things I enjoy and I’m really glad I learned that.

With the help of my surprising patience I have created quite a little farm life in our apartment and stoop (NO yard whatsoever). As you know I make cheese and run a cheese supplies business. I also bake pies, ferment pickles and sauerkraut, make jam, kombucha and apple cider (some of these things more often than others) and I even compost with the help of a small worm bin.

We’re members of a local farm so we get great produce for 26 weeks out of the year. I also get to visit goats and have fresh milk just 8 minutes from my apt. This all adds to my quality of life but I still wanted to see plants grow! So, for the last two years I have planted a tiny garden in a retired curbside recycling bin. It contains two tomato plants, one cherry and one small tomato, as well as chives, dill and in separate pots, thyme and basil- as you can probably tell, these crops main purpose is to accompany the cheese I make. It’s been a good solution and has added more country flair to my apartment reality.

I encourage you to live the way you want to live now, even if it’s in a small way. Hang tomatoes from a hook, grow herbs in your window sill, use containers in a balcony- you will enjoy the fruits of your limited labor (quite literally speaking) and will hopefully enjoy living in the now instead of thinking your real life begins when you have land.  We only have THIS moment right?

Check out the pictures of my farm food projects below. I would love to hear about how you creatively live a country life in an urban setting!

[slideshow]

Apartment Sauerkraut

APARTMENT SAUERKRAUT (I know, it’s not cheese but it’s preservation by fermentation- very related 🙂

I came up with this because all sauerkraut recipes I found as I researched called for at least 5 heads of cabbage and a 5 gallon bucket…with all the projects and a business that I run at once, I don’t have space! Nor do I want that much sauerkraut for two people.

As usual, the stuff I enjoy making is easy and foolproof. So, keep in mind that sauerkraut is one of the easiest of farm skills. The Pennsylvania dutch left it for the children to make, you CAN make it!

apt. kraut set up

apt. kraut set up

Here’s my apt. kraut recipe:

1 small head of cabbage (green, red or mixed for fun color!)

2 tablespoons of salt (I used kosher flakes)

1 teaspoon celery seed, freshly ground black pepper and I LOVED red pepper flakes (you can try any dry herbs)

1 cylindrical gallon container (can be glass, ceramic or food grade plastic), I used the plastic cream cheese container you see in the picture, similar to a yogurt container but bigger

A small plate or what I used, a quart sized yogurt lid (this should fit snugly inside so that the cabbage on the edge doesn’t rot)

A weight or what I used, another cream cheese container filled with water (it has to fit inside the other- lid on)

Cheesecloth or hanky to keep out dust and bugs

Rubber band

Okay, shred your cabbage or cut finely. Mix it with the herbs and salt by tossing it all in a large bowl. Now scoop in by the handful and push down between scoops.  At the end you want to really tamp it down with your fist or a tool like a potato smasher. Now place the plate/lid inside on top of your cabbage. Follow with the weight/heavy container.

The idea is that the pressure and salt will draw out the cabbage’s liquid. The salty brine will preserve your cabbage and keep it from rotting until lacto-fermentation starts- you’re preserving! Congratulations! Along the way you are making live food (micro-organisms, much like live yogurt cultures) that is good for you! Check out Wild Fermentations by Sandor Katz if you want to learn more about this.

Wait, you’re not done yet! Cover your contraption with the cloth, then rubber band it. Push down on the weight every two hours that day, you should get a brine within a couple of hours. The cabbage must be covered in it to prevent rotting. If you have some dry old cabbage on your hands, just make a salty solution and cover the cabbage to help it along.

Keep pushing down morning, noon and night (I do it when I wake up, after I get home and before I go to bed) for two more days. Once you know that you have a nice and juicy concoction, leave it for at least 2 weeks.  You can start testing for taste (look for a tang) and skimming any pink “scum” or even mold off the top. It should be just fine below that layer (all the recipes warn about this but I have never had it happen). Trust your senses, does it smell bad, off, rotten? A slightly gassy cabbage smell and/or pickle smell is ok.

this is the early stage that I liked best, like tangy coleslaw! see those pepper flakes? yum!

this is the early stage that I liked best, like tangy coleslaw! see those pepper flakes? yum!

As far as how long you wait, I like the early crunchy stages, others think true krauts are translucent and very soft. It’s all about your taste. Sauerkraut was created so that cabbage could last almost an entire year so you have some wiggle room! I jarred (just a jar with a lid, no canning skills needed) and refrigerated at several stages just to try. You can do this too, and it’s nice to keep some of the previous batch to mix in as a starter with the next batch- it gets a head start!

jar of delicious kraut

jar of delicious kraut

This recipe made three 16-20 ounce sized jars, plenty for us! Oh, your place can smell a little “gassy” while you make this. It’s cabbage, what do you expect?! I either get used to it or it lessens as the ferment ages. ps. I’ve tasted friends’ delicious krauts that included garlic, daikon radish, ginger, and even juniper berries, have fun experimenting!