Sunday, January 17, 2016

Homemade 5-Pepper Texas Jack Cheese

I know it has been a long time since I have posted a new cheese recipe, but as an adjusting "city dweller" I have found that cheese making has taken more of a hobby status in my life and the recipes I perfected on the farm have served me well to make over and over again as my family in turn consumes them directly out of our refrigerator.

But, one cheese that I have been working on this past year is a more spicy alternative to my Hot Pepper Havarti.  I have found that using fresh peppers (and specific ones in particular) make the cheese turn out fresh with  perfect amount of heat.

So, here we go. 

To make this 2 pound batch, you will need 2 gallons of raw whole milk and a mix of the following peppers:  1/3 of a sweet red pepper (or a single red jalapeno if you want it a bit hotter), 1/3 of a sweet yellow pepper, 3 orange habanero peppers, 1/4 of a sweet orange pepper, and 1 green jalapeno pepper.

Heat he milk to 89 degrees Fahrenheit.

I was making an 8 gallon batch of Colby the same day.  The two gallon pot is on the right.

Next, measure 1/4 teaspoon of mesophilic culture and sprinkle it on top of the heated milk.  Let hydrate for a few minutes and then stir it in, with an up and down motion for at least 20 strokes to make sure the entire vat of milk is cultured.

I order all my cultures and rennet from

It is hard to see, but the culture is a bit yellowish and floats on the top of the milk when it is sprinkled on top.

When stirring with an up and down motion the milk will rise from the bottom and the top milk will be sucked down making sure the culture is evenly distributed.
Now, hold the temperature (put the lid and and keep the pot somewhere warm) and leave for 45 minutes.

During that wait time, cut up your peppers into very small uniform pieces, cover them with an inch of water and add in a pinch of salt.  Bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 10 minutes.  When the mixture has finished its boil time, remove it from the burner and cover the pot to keep the peppers warm.

When the wait time on the cultured milk is over.  Stir the milk a bit to incorporate the cream back into the milk (some separation always happens) and then mix in a mixture of 1/4 cup water mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of rennet.  Again use the up and down mixing motion and make sure to count at least 20 strokes.

Cover the milk again and hold the temperature for 40 minutes.

 When the hold time is done, cut the curds into even cubes.  This is done best with a long knife and at an angle to the top surface, turning the pot a 1/3 turn as you go.  Once the curds are cut, let them firm up by leaving them sit undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Now, with the heat on low, heat the curds up, while stirring, to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.  This should take about 40 minutes.

One you have reached the desired temperature, turn off the heat and allow the curds to settle to the bottom of the pot. (As you can see, I switched thermometers.  Actually my digital one stopped working and I thought I would point it out since it is always a good thing to have a back up thermomemter around.  I have had batteries die, glass ones break, and ones just stop registering on me when cheese making and since cheese making requires such specific temperatures you never want to be without one when it is most necessary!)

Next, skim off as much whey as you can without taking out any curds (save it for fermenting or bread baking) and then ladle the curds into a strainer that is lined with a cheese cloth.

Now, before the cheese drops too much in temperature, put the curds back into the cheese pot and then add the pepper mixture and mix it all for about 10 minutes while breaking down the curds into small pieces so the peppers get evenly distributed.

Then put your curds into a prepared mould and press for 1 hour.

After the hour is up, flip the cheese over and then press for another 12 hours or overnight.

I am not all that thrilled with this smaller press, although is does the job, but as you can see the larger press I have is gravity driven with the jug to put pressure on the cheese and it turns out a much more uniformly pressed cheese because of the constant pressure, something that is very difficult to get with the screw press when pressing overnight.

In the morning, remove the cheese from the press and soak in a 18% salt brine for 12 hours (flipping half way to make sure the cheese gets evenly salted, and then place the cheese on a drying mat and allow to dry in the refrigerator until it has lost its excess moisture. 

Once the cheese is dry, you can wrap it in cheese paper, wax it, shrink wrap it, or eat it...that is usually what happens around here.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Levain Cool-Raised Sourdough Bread

Well this week for my sourdough baking I decided to pull out a recipe I haven't used for a while - one that has a slow, cool raise just from the levain in the sourdough starter.  I must note though, if you are going to try this recipe you are going to need a very active sourdough starter.  I found the best one that works for me is the San Francisco Sourdough starter from Cultures for Health.  I made it a whole wheat starter by adding freshly ground hard whole wheat to it when I started it instead of following the directions to just add white flour and it has been my sourdough workhorse ever since.

Here is what you will need to make this recipe:
2.5 cups freshly fed THICK levain (see instructions below)
3 cups cool water
7.5 cups hard whole wheat flour, freshly ground
1 Tablespoon salt

To prep the Thick levain, the night before you make this bread take your starter out and dump 3/4 cup of starter into a bowl with 2 cups of hard whole wheat flour plus 1 cup cool water (this is additional flour and water to that which will be added on later in the recipe) .  Cover this mixture and let the levain grow overnight.

Evening mix - solid mass
Morning transformation - light and fluffy

In the morning, mix together the rest of the ingredients, as much as you can by hand and then knead in the rest of the flour.  You will find this process much easier if you use a mixer with bread kneading attachment/paddle since the dough is very sticky and you will have a tendency to put too much flour into the recipe if kneading by hand.  Knead by machine for 10 minutes - 20 minutes by hand.

Cover the dough with flour, cover it in a bowl, and allow it to raise for 3 hours in a cool place.

Gently cut the dough into 4 pieces, barely handling it, and put rounds onto 4 parchment sheets.

Let these rounds raise again for about 2.5 hours.

Slash loaves while preheating oven to 450F. Bake at 450F for 15 minutes and then bake another 30 minutes at 400F.

Remove and enjoy!

Lemon-Lime Bars

I made this recipe for my birthday last week since I rarely will ever make a dessert for myself and decided that my birthday was the perfect occasions to give myself a little treat.

Here is what you will need to make this recipe:
An 8x8 metal baking pan
1 cup soft whole wheat flour, freshly milled
1/4 cup cane juice crystals (or other low refined, organic sugar)
8 Tablespoons butter, cubed
1/16 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup cane juice crystals
2 Tablespoons soft whole wheat flour, freshly milled
Juice of 1 lemon
Grating of 1 lime rind
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Organic powdered sugar for dusting

Start out by mixing 1 cup flour with the 1/4 cup sugar and butter.  Mix until crumbly.

Next press the mixture into the metal pan and sprinkle the salt onto the pressed dough.

Bake at 350F for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, remove from oven and put in the refrigerator while you prep the filling.

Whisk the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl...

...and then pour over top of the cooled crust.

Bake again at 350F for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature, then dust with powdered sugar and put in the refrigerator.  (Hint:  These taste best if you can completely cool them for a good 4 hours...that is if you can leave them alone that long.)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Southwestern Veggie Frittata

All alone, or an accompaniment to a main dish, this frittata is an easy and healthy go-to food.  This evening we used it as a side dish to some sweet and spicy grilled pork chops and homemade pita bread.  My husband actually stuffed the pita with the frittata and I have to say they tasted really good together.

Here is what you will need to make this recipe: (all organic ingredients)
Cold-pressed olive oil
Large red pepper, chopped
Half yellow onion, chopped
Jalapeno, chopped
1/4 cup leek, chopped
4 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup feta, crumbled (I will be posting my feta recipe soon)
1 teaspoon Real salt
1 teaspoon chili powder

Add some olive oil to a skillet, over medium heat, and then add the pepper, leek, and onions and saute until all the vegetables are tender.

Add the seasoning (salt, chili power, and cilantro).

Then pour the whisked eggs over the top of the cooked mixture.

Cover for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the eggs are fully cooked.

Add the feta on top and cover again until it starts to melt.

Serve warm.