There’s something that sounds soooo good to me about nutty pie crusts. Almonds, walnuts, pecans – they all go wonderfully with thicker or custardy pies. Pumpkin pie with a pecan crust? Molasses pie with walnut crust? Yes, please!
Cheese is mysterious. You buy it at the store. Maybe you’ve even seen some sort of demonstration where cheese was made. But you can’t do that at home, right? Who makes their own cheese?
Well there’s no real reason not to make your own cheese. Especially when it comes to Farmer’s Cheese, which is amazingly easy. There’s no curing, no rennet, nothing but milk and something acidic. You don’t even need special milk – though milk with more fat seems to yield more cheese.
Fill a medium saucepan with the milk, and place on the stove at medium-low heat. You want to heat the milk until its frothy and just at the edge of boiling.
Add the lemon juice or vinegar. It should take you about 2 tablespoons, or the juice of two lemons (fresh squeezed lemon juice makes the final cheese taste wonderfully lemony), but the exact amount is not as important as getting the correct effect. Keep adding your acidic liquid until the curds separate from the whey.
Separate the curds from the whey. You can use cheese cloth or paper towels over a collander (and a bowl underneath to catch the whey), or a very fine sieve.
Allow the curds to drain. If you're using cheese cloth, gather all the curds into the cloth, and hang it over the sink. It will drip drain. If you're using the sieve method, shake it until the curds hang together in one solid mass. Add a small amount of salt while draining the cheese, and make sure to mix it in well.
Eat your cheese immediately, or store it in the fridge for later (or another recipe!).
You'll want to save the whey. Whey is not only good for you, but a great substitute for milk or water in baking.
Also, the milk to cheese yield ratio is a bit low. I usually use 2% milk (because that's what I have in the house), and am lucky to get a cup out of 5 cups of milk. That's a lot of milk for very little cheese! Put the whey to good use.
I didn’t get a chance to grow too many things this last summer, but I was able to get in a really nice crop of tomatoes. Above you see one of several sets of ripened tomatoes.
I planted a rather amusingly named “Mortgage Lifter” variety of tomato. The tags on the plants told the tale of a fellow during the Depression who sold his variety of tomato plants at $1.00 each in order to pay off his mortgage and save his property, thus giving the plant its name.
I do not think these tomatoes will help me pay off any debts, but they grew into vines that were 5-7 feet long (they laughed at my small attempts to tie them upright; they really needed a heavy duty cage). The size of the plant and the number of tomatoes they put on were both impressive. Unfortunately, the bugs thought so too, so I had to pick most of them a bit early to avoid them being eaten or rotting.
The first set I harvested cooked down into a rather nice pizza sauce that I hope to replicate soon. However, it took a lot of tomatoes to make relatively little sauce, so I think I’ll be looking for a paste tomato variety next year. But cooking them down couldn’t have been easier! I just chopped them up, and left them simmering on the stove until they were the consistency I wanted. Then I put them through the blender for good measure.
Over the past few years, I’ve developed an appreciation for pumpkin. Real, freshly cooked, pumpkin – in custard, pies, and scones. . so good!
Now, its definitely more work and more expensive to cook down whole pumpkins. But now that I’ve started, I just can’t go back to cans. I find fresh pumpkin to be sweeter and more flavorful. Of course, it really does matter what kind of pumpkin you use. I have had great luck with pie pumpkins. Jack o’ Lantern varieties (the really big ones) are oh so tempting because they’re big and cheap, but the flavor is no where near as good.
This last year, I planted a few pumpkin vines, and they did wonderfully for how much work I put into them (not much). I got seven decently sized pie pumpkins. That’s about 6-7 pies and/or custard batches right there!
Cooking them down is pretty easy. . .
Step One: Start as you would carving a jack o’ lantern. Cut around the stem of the pumpkin, and then remove the step and the flesh around it.
Step Two: Slice the (partially opened) pumpkin in half. Scoop out the seeds and stringy stuff from the middle. Save the seeds! You’ll want to roast them later. 🙂
Step Four: Place the two halves of the pumpkin and the top (wouldn’t want to waste any!) in the oven, fleshy side up. You’ll want to put them on top of a large baking sheet, or even just a large piece of aluminum foil to keep down the mess. They probably won’t fall apart, but they will probably collect some liquid.
Step Five: Bake for 1-1.5 hours at 350 degrees farenheit. Test them with a fork. Your pumpkins should be quite soft. Take them out of the oven.
Step Six: Scoop the soft flesh out of the pumpkin. It should separate easily from the skin. Mash it up a bit, and its ready to be used for baking, or frozen for later.
I’ve also tried cooking pumpkin down over the stove. This works, and I suppose it doesn’t heat the house up as much. BUT, its incredibly hard to get the pumpkin skin off of little chunks of pumpkin. If you cook whole pumpkin halves in the oven, the skin should come off pretty easily and in whole chunks.