Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

August 26, 2011

Small minds just don't get it...

I refused to believe that I lived in that sort of neighborhood. That's really what it was... I just plain refused to believe it. All the signs were there - every home was, more or less, a copy of the one on either side of it. With their concrete curbing painting toothpaste like lines around very generic landscaping, a couple of decorative rocks on the grade up to the doorstep and the obligatory flowering pear trees in the mow strip. Lawns of the best turf grass that modern agricultural science can buy paint green in between the neat lines of the sidewalk, the white (don't go crazy with any of those WILD colors like beige...) vinyl fences and the obligatory side yard concrete garden for planting unused "must-haves" such as RV's and four wheelers. And yet I somehow still didn't believe that this was the type of neighborhood that could house people that would plain out just despise us for not fitting into their mould. Well, I was wrong.

Yesterday afternoon we found a neat and tidy little note left taped to our next-door neighbors bedroom window facing our house especially for us to read.
It probably should have made our mouths drop open, but it didn't. Not because we understood their position by any means, more to the fact that it didn't surprise us that these people would do something so frickin chicken shit as leave a sign up rather than to come over and talk with us.

Now, first things first, I don't necessarily mind the term hillbilly because, with a wife from the hills of West (by God) Virginia I have come to know many hillbillies rather intimately and they are among the finest people I've had the pleasure of knowing. My dear wife however does point out that she prefers the term Appalachian American particularly when Hillbilly is being used in the pejorative.

The light to which our neighbor refers is really a non-issue as well, let me explain. We have a back door to our garage that is far from any room of our house that an intruder or burglar could easily use to get access to the rest of our home. After having our car broken into right in our driveway, we made sure to have a light on above our back door as well. It's a safety issue that we are not willing to stop. We've explained to our neighbors that we are sorry, but we're not willing to risk having a secluded entry to our house unlit through the night.

The greater part of this was referencing our "white trash yard". Despite desires to expand our little "homescale farm" into our front yard we have opted to play along. By that I mean that we have maintained the "little boxes made of ticky tacky" appearance for the most part in our front yard as well.

So I could only assume it is to our backyard that they were referring. That and/or our side yard garden where we grow different crops from one year to the next. I was right.

My wife went over to talk with Neighbor "A" about this sign and was told that they just can't stand having to look at our yard. My wife was curious as to why of course and that's when we got the picture loud and clear: because we are different. Of course they didn't come out and say it in as many words, but it was damn near from what I understand. They were simply incredulous that would have the gall to grow corn in our front side yard
I really like it there honestly... and this is the worst it looked all year. We had been gone for a week and then I had surgery and was forbidden from working in the garden for another week and a half so there were some weeds, but really it is well kept up, it's just the fact that we grow food. Can you even believe that? They literally said, "Why can't you just be like everybody else? You shouldn't have moved to this neighborhood if you wanted to live this way!" By "this way" I take them to mean keeping chickens and raising 800+ pounds of food from my gardens. To them it makes me and my family white trash to use our private property to grow and support ourselves with organic fresh foods from a backyard garden. If that's the case I can live with it.

The disappointing part really, is not so much that these people don't like us, they're arrogant asses, I don't really care. What surprises and disappoints me is that apparently they've been going around and commiserating with a number of our other neighbors and it's almost unanimous that we are trashing up their neighborhood with our gardens and our crazy out of the box thinking!! I just refused to believe the stories about neighborhoods that were so close minded that a person was ridiculed for taking care of his family or daring to rely more on their own efforts.

So far the list of complaints as we understand them are our corn, our sunflowers (yes, they can't stand seeing the sunflowers in our yard and hate that they attract bees - isn't that kind of the point??), our gardens and our clothes line. All of which besides the corn are behind a 6 foot solid fence?!

It sucks to be surrounded by people that just don't get what we're all about, but then again they've never tried to get to know us either. It won't deter us though, we'll still keep on with our way of living and probably even expand it.
Say? How do you think they're going to feel about the two beehives we're planning on adding next year??

Take care all, keep growing your own and marching to your own beat!

July 21, 2011

Imprelis lawn herbicide WARNING

Hi all,
Sorry I've been so "off the grid" as of late. I've been working hard both in the garden and out of it. I received a Warning Notification today from my friends at Mother Earth news and wanted to make sure to pass it on as soon as possible.
Following is an excerpt from the letter that I received from them:


We at Mother Earth News want to let you and A Posse Ad Esse readers know about yet another dangerous discovery for gardens and lawns: Imprelis herbicide in treated grass clippings. This new herbicide from DuPont is designed for use on cool-season grass, but its effects have been seen in the garden and on trees throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. (We hope it doesn’t make its way out to Utah, but just in case…)

Here’s what we know:
• DuPont warns that grass clippings from lawns treated with Imprelis should not be used for mulch or composting.
• Conifer trees near lawns treated with Imprelis, especially Norway spruce and white pines, have shown signs of damage after Imprelis was used. Signs include brown and curled growth.
• Damage has been reported in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Delaware.
• Applicators are supposed to inform residents and property owners of the dangers this herbicide poses and warn them not to use clippings for mulch or compost.
• DuPont recently sent a letter asking applicators to spray well away from the root zone of trees and shrubs and to make sure no drift or runoff could impact those ornamentals.

If you suspect that your trees or garden plants have damage from Imprelis, please get them tested through your local Extension service. They may also have tips to minimize damage.


I hope none of you have had any problems with this product... I suspect many of you are organic or at least are proactive in knowing what you are putting on your lawns. Either way, it's good to get the information out there.

Thanks for stopping by... Stay tuned early next month for some new NEWS and a fun new project I have to share with you.

Till then. Happy Gardening!!

June 2, 2011

Asparagus - pickles and soup

We made another trip to the U-Pick-It farm to pick another 10 pounds of asparagus. This time we decided we wanted to make a few quarts of pickled asparagus spears to enjoy later this year. Our kids LOVE them!

The first thing we did was to measure and cut the asparagus spears. We did this by figuring out how long we needed them to be to fit the jar, with the proper head spacing, and made a mark with permanent marker on our processing cutting board. This makes it a little easier to cut through a bunch of them quickly.

While we boiled our brine which we used this recipe for, we blanched and placed out asparagus spears into the jars with spices, an onion slice and a wedge of jalapeno.

After water bath canning for the proper amount of time (see your local Extension Service Office for your local canning times it can vary by elevation.) we were left with a beautiful little treat for later this year. Can you believe the color? The tips turned a reddish tint from the spices I assume.

But what did we do with all those ends that we cut off??? Some of them were a few inches long. That would be one heck of a waste wouldn't it?

Never fear, they were run through our food processor for a few seconds to prep them for another spring treat. Asparagus soup. This was a first try for us, but I have to say, the result was ... soooooo good!

After some onion and a little garlic were sweated in the pot in some butter; sorry I don't have the recipe, A~ was cooking I was making cheese... Anyway, the asparagus was added along with some stock and boiled for a little while. It was surprisingly quick.

After adding some cream and slow simmering for a bit, the soup was nearly finished. All we had left to do was to run it through a seive to remove the woody parts that were remaining. Remember, this soup is being made of the leftover stalks from our pickles.

And voila... after seiving, and adding a few drops of good Extra Virgin Olive oil and pepper, this soup was done, served and devoured!

Waste not want not. Our frugal ways yielded us a really tasty treat in this soup. I encourage you to search online, find a simple recipe that will allow you to just enjoy the flavor of the asparagus and go for it!
The rest of the meal was great too... this was just our "first course".
Till next time.

May 31, 2011

Freezing Fresh Asparagus

We recently decided to make a trip around the corner (Not literally, but darn near...) to our local U-pick-it farm, Day Farms in West Layton, UT to pick ourselves a few pounds of fresh asparagus to put up for this year.

Of course we always eat some of it fresh in the spring as well, but asparagus is one of those very short season crops that we really enjoy having at other times of the year. We can either pay the price, both in dollars and in "food miles", to get it all year long, or we can take a little bit of time when that crop is in season here to not only enjoy it fresh but put some up for later. So that's what that afternoon was about.

After the trip to the farm, where we picked six pounds of asparagus - which cost us a mere $9.00 by the way - we brought it home and immediately soaked it in cool water to let any dirt fall from it and to make sure the spears stayed fully hydrated and crisp while we prepped for freezing them.

The first thing we did was to prep a few pound at a time by trimming off the ends of the shoots. After that we needed to blanch the asparagus in a boiling water bath.

NOTE: If your processing quite a few pounds of asparagus, or any other food for that matter, it can be tempting to try to use a big pot and do a lot at one time. Don't. You'll cool the water off too much and won't get a good blanch. Also, it's easier to work with smaller batches, a pound or two max, at a time.

Blanch your spears of asparagus for between two and four minutes depending on the thickness; ours were all a medium size so we went for two minutes.

After the blanch, you'll need to immediately place them into a cold ice bath to shock them and stop the cooking immediately. Leave them in here for a few minutes until they are completely cool. Usually the time between batches is perfect.

This next step isn't necessarily "in the book" but it's one we took anyway. We laid the spears out on a wire rack to let then drop dry a little. Isn't the color Amazing?! The reason we took this step was because we will be freezing them and excess water will only add ice and too much ice can cause damage to the end product.

After they've dried a bit, we laid them out on a parchment lined cookie sheet in one layer and placed them in the freezer. We've found that it's better to freeze our vegetables this way rather than to bag them first and then freeze because it sort of coats the product in an individual ice shield and allows you to remove what you need later one at a time rather than having one big lump of whatever it is.

After the spears are just frozen through, we separated them out into individual spears and vac-packed them in our new kitchen tool for this year. (We allow ourselves one handy time saver or food prep item per year generally.) We packed them in to groups of 30/pk to allow for five so per family member per meal and a possibility of a couple of left overs for lunch for me the next day.

We packed up 8 or 9 bags of these and will probably try for some more this weekend. Of course, there's other things to do with asparagus too... like pickles and soup...
Stay tuned!


May 24, 2011

Rainy day musing

The weather this spring in Utah has been the wettest on record, cooler than usual and seems to just keep going on and on... It's easy, as a gardener, to get disgruntled and wish for the warm summer weather, and for the sake of our farmers I guess I do. I thought it wouldn't hurt though to just kind of accept it for today. It will move on when it's time to move on whether we like it or not. Such is life.
For my gardener freinds:

Rain falls gently on hail beaten earth.
Gardens rise slow in the long, cool spring.
Relish the moment,
blistering summer will shock us awake soon.

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May 18, 2011

UT Natural Meat

Last Friday afternoon A~ and I needed to head into Salt Lake for some errands and scheduled a part of the trip to stop by what turns out to be one of our areas only small farms that sells locally raised pastured meat in smaller quantities.

As we spent some time earlier this year tring to find as good source for better quality, more sustainable meat, I thought we were in luck with our local butchers. Wrong! Dons meats, the one in Syracuse at least, was a total flake. He told me that they would be able to order meat in for me from a local producer and that he also brought it in from time to time to just be able to sell it. I've checked with him a number of times, and told him what we'd like to buy but never managed to have him have any on stock but for the first time I was in there. I wonder if I wasn't duped that time and just told it was local.

Of course there's really only one way to make ABSOLUTELY sure that the meat you get is actually a locally grown and pastured product. Go to the farm! So we did.

UT Natural Meat is located on the WEST side off the valley on a pretty modest piece of land, no sprawling pastoral hills our anything like that, but they're average people that care about their animals and about the food that they will one day bring to their and their customers tables.

We had a great time at the farm talking with Kristen and briefly with her husband Shayne in between his caring for a sow pig that had just birthed the night before. It was readily apparent to both of us that they are very interested in making their small farm a local source for grass-fed, hormone free meats. She even had a table full of all the "required reading" for any aspiring localvore like _Omnivores Dillema_, _Everything I want to Do is Illegal_ and videos like Food inc for example.

No doubt though, one of the best parts of the day was getting to see the piglets prancing around their spacious new digs. This is the part of visiting and making an effort to get to know the people that produce your food that cannot be beaten.

At the end of the day, we brought home a couple of Corriante (a heritage breed of cattle) beef roasts, some ground beef for the periodic recipies that we use it in, and a few packages of pork chops. It wasn't a huge order, but that was part of our attraction to this farm. We wanted to get a good sample of what the product that they offer is like without having to invest hundreds of dollars in it. The other reason was that we really don't eat a ton of beef or pork at our house. A~ is largely vegetarian and our kids are picky about meat. Mostly because they don't like the heavily fatted nature of traditional meat. Hopefully this will help with that too.

If your in the General Salt Lake City area, I definitely recommend you check out UT Natural meat. Very Nice people running a small operation and trying to make a good go of it. As for the product, I have great hopes but have not yet had opportunity to cook any. As soon as I do trust me you'll be first to know!
Local First..

May 8, 2011

Growing healthy soil with a pitchfork.

When we go about building the soil in our gardens, it's easy to think that we can just add amendments, till really well and fertilize as needed; that's been much of the standard thinking for many many years. It will grow plants, and it does work. The problem is that in our changing world, and by changing world I mean increasing fuel and food costs not to mention the increasing price of those very fertilizers and amendments we've depended on as demand for them increases, that same way of gardening will, and is, beginning to yield diminishing returns on the bottom line.

The way I like to combat this is to spend a good deal of my early season time in my garden working on "Growing my Soil" before I work on growing my plants and my main weapon is to add lots and lots of organic material throughout the year, and primarily in the fall. The complimentary component to adding to the beds in the fall, is turning those beds over in the spring.

This gives a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. In the foreground you can see the remains of the broken down grass,leaves and compost that was added last fall and some earlier this spring (About a month and a half ago.) and the rich soil laying underneath it after it's been turned with my trusty pitchfork. You might think immediately, "How does laying a bunch of layers of organic material over the top of your bed help the soil underneath it?" but I have another secret weapon that helps me to drag all that organic goodness down into the soil...

Worms... and lots of them! Where there is lots of organic material, there will be lots of worms, it's just a matter of fact. And keep in mind, I added this garden bed as a "lasagna garden" only two seasons ago, prior to that there was nothing here but some unhealthy grass. As earthworms feed many species move to the surface to have access to the rich matter found there. A they burrow back down into the soil they bring some of that material with them. They also excrete their castings (manure) into the soil, something often called black gold for it's nutrient rich qualities. A study by the New Mexico Extension Service found that earthworm castings" often contain 5-11 times more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium as the surrounding soils"

In addition to helping to incorporate nutrients into the soil, worms also serve a valuable purpose in helping to aerate the soil as well. If you look at the picture above, you can see one of the larger worm tunnels bored right through the soil. This helps to connect the sub-surface parts of the garden bed to the air above and bring needed air to the roots of the developing plants. It also makes for great little waterways for moisture to make its way deeper into the soil. Nurturing this web-of-life in your garden beds is a fundamental idea behind organic gardening and is one of the most effective ways of moving beyond chemical additives and fertilizers. Besides, it's cheap!

OK, so you get that I love my gardens earthworms right, but surely there must be more to turning the garden over that just turning in organic material and finding lots of worms? Definitely.

By taking the time to physically turn my soil over, I have a one on one opportunity, so to speak, to take a look at the garden in general. One of the things I am able to take care of at that time is to find weed stock below the surface and remove them before they become a problem. The photo above looks like just a single stray root under the soil.

After breaking up the soil though, I found it to be a network of rhizomous roots from our most noxious local weed, Field Bind Weed. These roots, as you can tell if you look closely at their tips, will throw off tens of side shoots and more rootstock that I'll have to deal with later. Now's the best time to take care of it.

The finished garden bed after being turned over with a fork. Much like discing a field, the soil has been turned and incorporated with itself and is ready for any tillage that it might need.

And finally, the tilled garden bed, ready for planting. It might look like I didn't till it well enough but I left it a bit chunky on purpose. When you till a garden, or a field for that matter, you don't want to till it to the point that it looks like soft fluffy potting soil with no real character to it. Doing that will, over time, break down what is called the "tilth" of the soil, which is to say its actual structure. If you picture a glass of sand, you can imagine how there is very little air space between the grains, that's because the grains are so small. The extreme example of that idea is clay, which has particles so small that they bond almost at a molecular level which is what makes it so hard to work with. Now imagine a glass of various sized pieces of soil; there's a lot more room for air, water and roots to move through it. That's the idea here. Besides, most of the rock looking objects in this photo are actually just dried soil clods that will, after watering and mulching, soften and break back down into the bed. Also, I wouldn't want to go overboard and drive off or kill off all those lovely little helpers I have in the garden beds would I?

Best of luck working your gardens this season and remember, "Grow the soil and the plants will come!"


April 25, 2011

Last minute hail protection

We knew we had a storm rolling in tonight, but as it came in it had all the signs of one that might bring a bit of hail. And it did. For some last minute protection from possible damage to our still tender plants in our garden I called into use some of my stock - my wife would say overstock - of pots.

There's also some glass figurine covers that I picked up at a thrift stores for a few cents a couple of years ago.
I placed these over the plants literally as the storm blew in and was immediately glad I did.

A few minutes later the hail arrived. It wasn't a tremendous downpour but the weather forecast for the next 36 hrs is very unsettled and may include more hail and snow so I'll leave these on just to be safe.
Just some of the things that need to be taken care of in the backyard farm.

Any of you have any other creative ways you like to keep your "babies" safe in inclement weather? Share them in the comments section to help us all out and give us ideas.
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April 13, 2011

Preparing to plant potatoes

Recently, I dropped by our local nursery to pick up a few additional items that we needed to have. One of those items was another five pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes.

While we were sorting through the 'taters, an older couple was there looking to get some as well and asked us if we'd ever grown them. I was actually pretty shocked, after we said "yes, many times", when they asked us, "what are tubers?" (The sign on the display referenced tubers) I guess I shouldn't be... shocked that is... but I was. I guess our disconnect from our food has been going on longer than I had imagined. We talked to then for a little while, giving them a basic primer in potato growing 101, and went our separate ways. It got me to thinking that this may be a really good time to go over some of the basics of growing potatoes. I Usually have my potatoes in the ground around St Patrick's Day, but this year it's been so rainy and wet - Locally our watershed levels are averaging around 160%-170% of our normal level - that I haven't been able to get them into the ground. I probably could have squeezed them in at some point, but I think I would have suffered from a lot of rot if I had.

First of all, the potatoes themselves are the tubers; and tubers are "...various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season..." (wikipedia). Just needed to get that straight from the start.

Potato's are plants in the solanaceae family. That makes them cousins with plants like Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplants. If you think about the way that those plants bear fruit, you'll have a pretty good idea of the way that potatoes bear their tubers as well. Many folks think that potatoes grow from the roots of the plant, an understandable thing considering the photo above, it does look like they've grown from the roots, But take a look at this photo:

You can see the seed potato that was placed in the ground and can clearly see that the small potatoes are growing from the stem ABOVE the planted potato. Think again about tomatoes... if you pay attention to them they actually grow from a small stem that grows from the main stem. Potatoes are the same, except that they only grow on the stem that is underground. Because of that, they are planted a little differently.

This might look a lot like how you would lay out any other plant before putting it in the ground. The difference here is that I'm not going to plant them into the hills, but rather will bury them a couple of inches under the soil at the bottom of the furrows. I lay the potatoes out so I know how many I can fit in a row, then dig them in and leave them alone. Potatoes don't need to be watered in because the tuber itself is mostly water itself and is designed by mother nature to support this plant as it gets itself established. I let my potatoes grow until they are nearly a foot tall before I ever irrigate them. The spring rains take care of that for me. After the Potato plants have grown up enough to be five or six inches above the ground, I will then rake or hoe the soil from the hills over and onto the plant itself. After this, I let the plant grow further. When it's another five or six inches above ground level again, I will hoe the soil up onto the plant again leaving furrows between the plants that I will flood irrigate once or twice a week.

As the weather turns hotter and the plants are getting taller, I want to keep mounding over the plants as much as possible, and mulching to keep the moisture level steady and weeds down. Grass clippings work great for this. The reason, in case you were wondering, why I keep mounding soil and mulch over the plants is because, as I said, the actual potatoes grow from the stems above the seed potato, but only where it's covered. I want to make sure that there's as much stem underground as possible when the potatoes are growing. So, the long and the short of it is that with a little understanding about the way that potatoes grow and some of the ways that you can coax them along and get great returns for yourself.

Best of luck with your tater growing!


April 3, 2011

I feel the need the need for MEAD!

OK OK, I stole that line from a t-shirt idea that was batted around today at my mead making class, but really.. I do feel the need to make some MEAD! From what I learned today, mead, being one of the worlds oldest fermented beverages, is also one of the easiest wines to make.

It stands to reason that it would be when you think about it considering that it was made, almost simultaneously by the Norse, the Egyptians and the Celts throughout history. They didn't have modern tools and sanitation ability like we do and were able make mead quite easily. Also honey, whick in case you aren't in the know about mead, is the base fermentable sugar in the mead, was one of the few available sugars throughout history.

After spending nearly an hour talking "Mead Theory" with the instructor, we got down to it. The mead that we were to make was of course honey based, but also had added in bartlett pears that would increase the fermentable sugars available, while also adding a slight flavor to the mead, and a certain bouquet in the final product.

The Honey and water wort (The base of the recipe)

After mixing the FIFTEEN pounds of honey into water to begin disolving it, the pears and more water were boiled to break down the cell walls and release the flavors and also to kill off any potentially competing yeasts or bacterias. We want to control the yeasts that will go into the mix so this is an important step. While we milled and added the pears to the wort (The base of the mead.) we began to heat another pot of water with other additives that will affect the mead formation in different ways. Peppermint tea, gypsum (yes the stone) and black tea amongst them. This was brought to a boil and was then added to the wort as well.

The "additives" like irish moss, gypsum and spearmint tea...

After everything was added to the wort and it had been stirred vigorously to fully dissolve the honey and incorporate all the additives evenly through the mixture as well as to aid in lowering the temperature to verynear to room temperature, we learned how to "pitch the yeast". Pitching the yeast is much like proofing yeast before adding it to a bread recipe. A cup or so of the luke warm wort was placed in a separate bowl and the yeast was added to this. It was gently stirred into the wort and left to sit and bloom. And bloom it did. After 15 minutes the pitched yeast looked like a bowl of porridge.

Adding the pears for sugar and bouquet. (If you're going to learn to make mead, you should of course learn from a man with celtic knots on his arms yes?)

We had to stop there unfortunately because of legal reasons surrounding the manufacturing laws for alchoholic beverage or some odd thing, but the last steps were simply to stir in the yeast to the full bucket of wort, add a fermentation lock and wait...

All in all I would say that it lived up to its reputation for being a very easy brew to make. If you've not had mead, it is typically a golden-hued wine with a honey sweetness and slight dryness, depending on the recipe. It can be very mild on the finish or can have a strong back-end almost like a distilled spirit. Any way you can get it though, it is very tasty. I look forward to making some this year, and with any luck, getting some bees next year to provide me my own honey to make it with!

Best till next time all.

March 31, 2011

Union Station Fermentation

After our aforementioned cheese class, A~ and I went down town, Ogden that is, to check out a new store that we had just learned about, the Union Station Fermentation store. While there, we had an opportunity to speak with one of the owners, Nigel; a very cool guy. You may remember back some time when I had my little Mr. Beer home brewing experiment. I was very happy with those results and have decided that this year I will be stepping up my home brewing game to include using fresh hops (Which we'll also be trying to grow in the garden this year as well.), partial mash and really trying to get some good brew going... but I digress. I, along with everyone else in the "north counties", needed to either drive to Richmond (1hr north) or Salt Lake City (1/2 hr south) in order to get their beer making supplies; but no more. Here's the other great thing, they don't just supply products for home beer and wine making, they also have kits and equipment for the home cheese maker. In fact, that's how we learned about them in the first place, through our cheese making class instructor. They carry cheese molds, cultures, wax and other such cheese making stuff. This will come in handy at some point this year when we try to make some actual hard cheese. This weekend however, I'll get to participate in another of their offerings... classes. I'm scheduled to attend a class there on Saturday to learn about making mead. Yep, you heard that right, the ancient honey based liqueur of the Celts and my own personal ancestors... the Vikings! This will be information that I'll add to my knowledge base to keep for future use when we finally put our plans into action to keep bees. They also offer classes periodically on cheese making and both beginning and advanced beer making. I intend to do as many of them as I can. The long and short of it is that the Fermentation Station seems to be the kind of place that we'll be spending a lot of time at in the foreseeable future. If you're in the Northern Utah area and are at all interested in any of the things I've talked about here give them a check out. Here's their contact information:
Union Station Fermentation 274 25th St Ogden, UT 84401 (801) 392-9772

March 30, 2011

Cheese making at home

A~ and I took an opportunity to attend a cheese making class the weekend before last and had a great time. If you're following me on Facebook you may remember me posting something about it. (If you're not, don't delay, I'm making an effort to get more regular posts up there in a timely manner.) Well we had a great time.
Demonstrating the process of making mozzarella

The class was being taught by a man that started one of our very favorite local cheese companies, Beehive Cheese, and was covering the obvious first timer cheese of choice, mozzarella. This was perfectly fine with us since, with summer knocking on the door, we wanted to get a few tricks as to how to make this family favorite so we could add it to our repertoire to enjoy with fresh garden tomatoes this year. The class covered the basics of course, but we did manage to learn a couple of good tricks too. For instance, did you know that even just a couple of drops of milk in normal tap water is enough to negate the effects of the chlorine in it? That's nice to know. Another good tip was to mix your citric acid into a 1/4 cup of water (with a drop of milk in it...) to dissolve it before adding it to the milk. You should also do the same thing for your rennet. The reason for this is to allow the ingredient to be introduced to the milk more gently so to speak. Rather than the shock of a direct hit of citric acid, you can ease it into the milk this way.
Prepping all ingredients. Milk & diluted citric acid and rennet.

Since we were newly educated and wanted to put our new info to use to really reinforce it into out minds we went ahead and made ourselves a batch of fresh mozzarella and ricotta this weekend. We learned a couple of things during this process. 1. If we're going to be making cheese, even just the basic mozzarella and ricotta, we need to get some specific equipment. Namely a large fine meshed strainer and some good quality cheese cloth. (The kind for actually making cheese with, not the flimsy crap from the mega-mart.) 2. The final step in making the mozzarella is to heat the curd and "knead" it until it turns to the silken texture and stiff dough-like consistency of good mozzarella.During this part of the process, there is a time to stop when the cheese has formed... I passed that point slightly and the dough was a little on the rubbery side but still very tasty. I'll chalk this error up to simple inexperience. Overall, I really enjoyed the class and the cheese that we made as a testament to having learned something at it. now I'm looking forward to the lasagna that we'll be having with our fresh cheese! Here's a few pictures of our home cheese making process in the works. Buon appetito!!
First, heat milk slowly to 55 deg... then add citric acid and stir...

Continue heating to 88 deg (F) then add rennet..stirring in.. then let sit while curd forms and increase temp to 98

strain off the whey leaving only curds...

heat curd, continue pouring off whey and knead till silken and dough like...

Separate into serving sizes if you'd like and store in fridge. (or eat right away)

We also made ricotta from another half gallon of milk. The steps are even easier:
Heat milk in a microwave safe bowl until it reaches between 190 - 200 Deg (F), then stir in 1/4 cup vinegar per qt of Milk. This will separate the curds off almost immediately.

After lettin the curd separate for 20-30 minutes, strain off whey and store the ricotta.. BAM! that easy.

The leftover whey from both processes is still a very high nutrient supplement. If you have chickens or livestock they will love it! Waste not want not.

Till Next Time.