The color of August

It always happens. One morning in August I wake up and the color outside has changed. That’s it, summer’s over. Not literally, as I noticed the color change before this recent run of hot temperatures (yesterday being the highest at 38C). But I just know we have begun our journey into fall.

I marvel at how the space I carefully calculated to leave between the rows has just disappeared. I thought there would be enough room to walk thru the rows but no. Nature abhors a vacuum and there is no space. I’ve been picking gallons of peas which have made a stunning recovery from the ravaging guineas this spring. The vines have towered over the pea fence and are flopping over on each side. Soon they will be done, and the beans too. I’ve made a few jars of mustard beans and pickled beets. I want to blanch and freeze a few bags of beans, bagging them in the vacuum sealer my kids bought me for my birthday. It’s been so hot I’ve just picked and washed the beans waiting for a cooler day. I just can’t stand in front of a hot stove blanching beans. The raspberries are winding down now too. There’s just enough for a handful here and there. But look at the size of the berries. Those yellow berries came to me courtesy of an old friend from the airport. He told me his grandparents brought these vines from Germany to the new world in the bottom of their steamer trunk a hundred years ago or more. He brought me some plants from their old homestead. They are sweeter than the red but still have the raspberry zing on the tongue.

My neighbor had her 88th birthday last week and asked me to make her a cake. She had told her kids she didn’t want any fuss but thought if anyone visited she should have a cake, just in case. This morning mommy guinea finally showed up after more than two months away. I think she may have started sitting but had too many eggs so left them when they didn’t hatch and started over on a new clutch. I couldn’t count them but it looked like three million babies. My daughter helped me to catch them as guinea parents are really terrible. We caught 18 then caught mommy and put them in the barn. I cleaned it out from the last batch, a hen with baby guineas whom we dubbed “dirty mommy” cause of the terrible mess she made. Doubtless some will still die because that’s what they do, but far less than if I just left them to wander outside.

Today is much cooler with smoke in the air from the fires in BC. Perhaps I’d better get on those beans…

Who cut the cheese…curd?

So one of projects this summer was to make some hard cheese. I had purchased culture last year thinking I would make cheese but never got there.

Now that I’m milking fairly regularly, I had accumulated two gallons of milk for cheese. I’m only milking once a day about five days a week – the babies are penned separately in the morning and I milk in the evening before releasing the beasts. I’m not quite dedicated enough to milk twice a day so the babies pick up the slack. The difference between the does is quite remarkable. They all have sweet milk but the little doe milks hard. Lots of work for only a quart of milk. But Sissy goat is like turning on a tap. A really full stream, little effort and two full quarts a milking!! I can only imagine how much I could get if it was a full twelve hours worth of milk instead of eight. I milk into quart size glass pickle jars. That way I can easily move if goaty jumps for what ever reason. I can’t count the number of spilled containers, or the amount of milk baths I’ve had, or the last minute foot in the full pail of milk. Never ceases to amaze me how they get that foot in right up to the ankle without really seeing where the container is.

The process for making cheese is different than yogurt. The milk does not have to be heated so much before the culture is sprinkled on top to rehydrate. After a few minutes the culture is stirred in and the rennet is added. Another rest, then the initial cutting of the curd. That rennet was just amazing. See how the stir marks have been “cast” in curd in the first picture? A cross hatched cut then another rest as the curds continued to lose whey. I changed to my large whisk to cut the curds even smaller so more surface would be exposed to lose more whey. Another rest then about one third of the whey is drained to be replaced with hot water which “cooks” the curd. A final draining and pressing by hand to squeeze out the most whey possible before being packed into the mold.

Now I absolutely refused to spend money on a “real” cheese mold. Instead I bought a cheap salad spinner from the dollar store and used the mesh insert. Slightly untraditional shape but close enough to what I wanted. The first half hour pressing was ten pounds for half an hour then increasing the weight and time till it was twenty pounds for two hours. I had to improvise my weights and watch continuously for toppling but at the end it worked. The final product looks remarkably like the sheep cheese I bought in the Rhodes market. I brined it in a heavy salt solution overnight and now it needs to age for three months or more. I’m quite tickled the way it turned out. It needs a daily inspection and a wipe down with vinegar every few days to create a nice rind and to discourage mold. I will make a few more before milking season is over and hopefully it will turn into something I can have with my Christmas fruit cake (and whiskey)!!