"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Easy-Cheesy (No Room at the Inn)

Last week, I started separating the baby goats at night. Now I am getting a crazy-large volume of milk, a volume that must be dealt with daily. If I don't do something with milk at least every other day, there will soon be no room at all in my fridge. The eggs are space-hogs. I have seven dozen eggs in there now, and the hens are outside popping out more even as we speak. I need to step up the trade network; but that's a topic for another day.

Yesterday I made a quart of cajeta (Cajeta is Love). Cajeta is easy to make, but you HAVE to watch it, because milk boils over whenever you take your eyes off of it for fifteen seconds. Ask me how I know. Because it has happened to me EVERY SINGLE TIME I make cajeta. Yesterday I pulled a chair right up to the stove so I could sit and read while I watched the pot. After an hour or so I was pretty sure that I had the right gentle simmer going, and the milk was nowhere near the top of the pot. So I went to the bathroom. Now I have a hamper full of sticky caramel covered washcloths and the floor is still pretty tacky on the bare feet. Will I never learn? But at least we also have a jar of cajeta in the fridge, and my husband was so happy to see it he gave me a big kiss and washed all the dishes.

I have made a half-gallon of yogurt, which is really too much. The guy I thought would want some is out of town so I can't offer him any. We'll just have to eat it. Luckily, there are still some blueberries in the chest freezer. We picked a LOT of blueberries last summer. Blueberry smoothies make a very good breakfast. Maybe I should put a raw egg in the blender too. Get rid of a few. No one will ever know.

When I started to make cheese the other day, I discovered that I'm out of rennet. I already had the milk heated to 100 degrees on the stove, so I thought fast and came up with the idea of making paneer. Paneer, for anyone who doesn't know, is soft fresh Indian cheese. It is made by souring milk with vinegar or lemon juice instead of coagulating with rennet. I like paneer just fine, but I've never made it before. I sort of can't think of it as "real cheese." But I'm glad I was forced to make it: it is so incredibly easy. The finished product tastes pretty much exactly like queso fresco, but it takes only an hour to make instead of a whole day.

Here's how you do it:

Heat a half gallon of milk to just below boiling - when the milk suddenly starts to expand in volume you're there. Remove from heat. Add about two tablespoons white vinegar, little by little, stirring as you go. In a minute, the milk will separate into tiny little curds and clear whey. If you want soft cheese, immediately scoop (with a fine mesh sieve) into a colander lined with a triple layer of cheesecloth. If you want your cheese firmer, put it back on the heat for a few minutes and stir, then scoop. Wrap the cheese up and either hang the cheesecloth bag from the faucet to drip, or leave it in the colander and put a heavy pot on top of it to press out the whey. In about an hour, you will have cheese. If it's firm, slice it into cubes and toss with a little salt (otherwise it's incredibly bland).

These are little cubes of pure protein, without much flavor. Indians put them into all kinds of curry. My husband crumbles them over eggs or beans. They can be used to make quesadillas. I have a feeling I will be making a lot of paneer. It's a perfectly adequate every-day kind of cheese, and it sure saves a lot of time. Of course I will still make regular cheese too: chevre and feta and cheddar. But maybe I don't have to make serious cheese every time.

Sometimes I can make easy-cheese.


polly's path said...

we love paneer and make it all the time with cows' milk because of the easy factor. Now that we have goat's milk I can't wait to try it with it too.

AnyEdge said...

Sag paneer is one of my favorites. I also like that with curried garbazoes.

penelope said...

there's dr beanzo again with his garbonzo beanzos :-)

Olive said...

Save some for ME ! I love chevre....I'm on my way over.

The Idiot Gardener said...

I love motor paneer. Can't get enough of it.

subu.ps said...

Here in my state we are facing acute shortage of milk and here I am reading a post on its abundance. What if people(including me) in this part also had the inkling to promote a farm like this?

Anonymous said...

My favorite use for extra yogurt: corn cakes! Mix equal parts yogurt and cornmeal, with a pinch of baking powder and salt. Cook like pancakes on a greased griddle or pan. Da bomb!