I recently looked up “mozzarella” in Larousse, and found the following descriptions:
- “a fresh cheese, springy and white”
- “kept in salted water or whey, shaped into balls or loaves of varying size”
This sounded utterly unlike any mozzarella I’ve had before. Turns out there are two types of mozzarella in this world: the traditional fresh mozzarella, described above, and the American low-moisture mozzarella, which includes the familiar white bricks at the grocery store. Traditional mozzarella belongs to a class of cheeses called pasta filata, which means “spun paste” or “spun curds”. The curds are heated, then stretched repeatedly to develop an elastic texture in the finished cheese. Other cheeses made by this method are provolone, scamorza, and caciocavallo.
I … Continue reading.
My ideal yogurt is Greek yogurt, which is thick, rich, flavourful, and made of sheep’s milk. Unable to find whole sheep’s milk, I’m experimenting with goat’s milk from Fairwinds Farm of Fort Macleod, Alberta, as it is fattier (and just more Greek) than cow’s milk.
There are two ways to make yogurt at home. The first is to add a small amount of commercial yogurt containing active cultures to milk. The second is to use pure bacterial cultures. Regardless of which method you use, the process is basically the same.
Danlac Starter Kit
I eventually want to make cheese with pure bacterial cultures. I contacted Danlac in Airdrie, and ordered a starter kit containing several doses of rennet and cultures … Continue reading.
Today was devoted to playing with the simple formula (dairy) + (heat) + (acid) = (fresh cheese), that is, changing the dairy, acid, and amount of heat to manipulate the taste and texture of the finished cheese.
Mascarpone, the most mispronounced of all Italian cheeses, is made from whole cream, and is usually curdled with lemon juice or straight citric acid. My recipe from the Culinary Institute of America’s Garde Manger, Third Edition,called for tartaric acid (available at brewing supply stores), the taste of which took a distant backseat to the rich, buttery flavour of the cream.
- 1.92L heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp tartaric acid
Here are some brusque instructions. Heat cream to 80°C. Stir to prevent burning. Remove … Continue reading.
I’m starting my foray into cheese-making with a few simple, fresh cheeses. First I’d like to cover the basics.
Cheese: A Blunt Introduction
Cheese is curdled dairy. “Curdling” is the coagulation of proteins. In cheese-making, heat, acid, and certain enzymes are used to coagulate the major protein in dairy, casein. Subjecting dairy to heat and acid or enzymes (or both) will separate the mixture into solid curds and liquid whey. The curds contain most of the protein, fat, and nutrients of the original dairy product. From an anthropological perspective, the principle benefit of cheese-making is that most of the energy and nutrients of the milk are solidified into a longer-lasting, easily-transported mass (that happens to taste amazing).
The whey, while … Continue reading.
Crème fraîche is similar to sour cream. In fact, they are made by the same process: inoculating dairy with a bacterial culture that converts lactose to lactic acid, which in turn coagulates the proteins in the dairy and thickens the mixture.
The main difference between the two products is that crème fraîche is cultured whole cream (about 30% milk fat) while sour cream is made from leaner dairy products (usually about 15% fat). The added fat in crème fraîche gives it two advantages over sour cream. First, it has a more luxurious texture. Second, the fat tempers the acidity, making for a subtler and more rounded flavour.
Making Crème Fraîche at Home
Fresh dairy naturally contains the bacteria that would, … Continue reading.
I think as children most of us were taken to historical sites like Fort Edmonton to learn how the settlers made wool and horseshoes and butter. Even so, I’ll start at the beginning.
You make butter by agitating cream.
It works like this. The fat in cream is in tiny globs, each covered with a membrane that prevents the fat globs from joining together. When you agitate cream, you break these coverings, releasing the fat globs, which all rush out to join their fatty brethren and form a solid mass of butter.
To commence butter-production, fill your container half way with heavy cream. Add a pinch of salt, secure the lid, and start shaking. You don’t have to strain yourself, … Continue reading.
Fat is perhaps the main source of flavor [sic] in meat.
-Professional Cooking for Canadian Chefs, Sixth Edition
Nothing in particular inspired this post, but it could have very easily been a piece of low-fat cheese, or the pastry icing at a health bakery, or maybe just a dry pork chop. I want to write a bit about the judicious use of fat to make eating more pleasurable.
Fat content in specific cuts of meat
The most common cut of pork in the supermarket is the boneless loin centre chop. This steak is the leanest part of a very lean muscle. It also happens to be the driest, and least flavourful cut of pork. This is not a coincidence. … Continue reading.
If you think that it’s weird to eat dandelion, or you find the bitter flavour unpalatable, you should try eating another common weed: lamb’s quarters. It is the perfect gateway weed, very approachable, with a texture and flavour quite similar to spinach. Lamb’s quarters are popping up everywhere, and now is the best time to pick them, when the plants have only a few leaves, for the following reasons:
- The young leaves are the most tender.
- The young leaves taste the best. Older leaves are a little more bland, with a wood flavour.
- Picking the leaves prevents the plant from going to seed. Once the plant goes to seed, it stops producing leaves, and it doesn’t taste as good.
… Continue reading.
Part I: Horseradish as Weed
Horseradish is a common weed in Edmonton, as invasive as it is delicious. The plant is pretty easy to identify by its distinctive curly leaves. If allowed to flourish, they eventually grow into wild, drooping masses that look like Sideshow Bob’s hair. There happens to be a particularly robust example in a friend’s back alley. I visited it this morning to see if my clumsy attempt at harvesting it last summer had killed it. As you can see, it’s doing fine. You can also see all the dead stalks from last year’s growth around the base. It’s a very prodigious plant.
Last summer I was invited to help myself to the spicy root of … Continue reading.
I really want to like mead.
When I was a kid, before I knew exactly what mead was, I associated it with vikings and long wooden tables and serving-wenches. Even then, I wanted to like it.
My associations were correct in that mead has been a popular drink in northern Europe since antiquity. The epic poem Beowulf, for instance, is about a dragon (Grendel) that terrorizes the mead-hall of a Danish king (Hrothgar) and that dragon’s subsequent ass-kicking at the hands of a young warrior (Beowulf). So yes, vikings and mead go hand in hand, but the drink is part of cultures far beyond Scandinavia, in Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America.
These days I’m trying to like mead … Continue reading.