In a Sow’s Ear 9-20-10
September: You’ve finished – mostly – with harvesting garden produce; pulled the tomatoes off the plants and set the green ones in window sills to ripen. Or maybe you’ve pulled the entire plant, left the toms on the vine and laid ’em in a dark place so the fruit will “ripen on the vine.” Maybe you’ve acquired enough green tomatoes to make “green tomato marmalade or jelly” – a task that deserves bragging rights.
Perhaps you’ve canned a couple tons of tomatoes and green beans. You’ve sacked spuds and put enough in the cellar to last at least half the winter. You’ve stood over a canning kettle (feeling like a witch grumbling into a cauldron) and created miles of sparkling jars of jellies, jams, syrups, peaches, pears, pickles and plums. You’ve made applesauce and apple butter. You’ve – is there no end to these chores?
Not if you live on a working ranch or farm. Let’s not get into how many young roosters must be made ready for the freezer – a job that gives you bragging rights for a long time, although when you’ve completed beheading, scalding, plucking, and gutting – or perhaps beheading, skinning and gutting three dozen fowl, you’re sorta soured on making chicken dishes for awhile.
So, what’s left? If you own a milk cow, there’s another task that puts food in the home larder. Bessie the Guernsey gives milk and cream from which you can make butter, butter milk, ice-cream and – cottage cheese.
Think of the rich lode of bragging rights you’ll acquire when you mention you make your own cottage cheese. It’s not difficult, but does require attention. First, acquire a batch of skim milk. Pour into a kettle (large) and set it aside for two or three days. (Put a lid on it, especially if you have cats). As it sets, it will clabber which is to say, it grows thick as pudding and definitely stinky.
Place the kettle of clabber on the stove on the warm setting. Do Not Stir! The stuff should get hot, but should not simmer. If the kettle becomes so hot, you can’t hold your hand against it, then the temperature is too high. Let the clabbered milk cook at this low warmth for two or three hours – depending on how much you started with. The contents will begin to curdle into rubbery lumps or curds. Take a curd between thumb and forefinger and roll it about. It should feel softly grainy, sort of like feeling tapioca bits in pudding (although it’s a rare individual who deliberately feels up a tapioca bit). Too much cooking and the curds begin to feel rubbery. So, as mentioned earlier, pay attention!
When you have decided the stuff has arrived at the right consistency, remove the kettle from the stove. Dump the contents into a fine mesh sieve and let drain. If you have more than a sieveful, go find a bigger sieve or use a jelly bag or cheese cloth. The drained liquid is called whey. Use it in bread baking, give it to the cats, or save for Miss Muffet. Run cold water through the curds, then put them into a large bowl. Add cream, milk, or buttermilk – enough to thicken but don’t make it soupy. Add salt and pepper to taste. You have now created homemade cottage cheese. Aren’t you proud?
For fancy cheese, add your choice of chopped green onions, chives, peppers, pineapple, peaches or dream up your own embellishments.
Cottage cheese will freeze beautifully, but freeze those curds before adding the cream or other goodies.
Cheese Cheese Cheese
Cottage cheese, cottage cheese
Does not come from trees or bees
First you find a willing cow
(Do not hitch her to the plow)
Stroke her gently till her milk
Comes down easy just like silk.
On the stove then place a kettle
Fill with milk and let it settle
When the milk turns sour and smelly
With a texture just like jelly
It has reached a stage of clabber
Thickened much like pudding batter.
Heat it slowly, let it curdle
Don’t be speedy, be a turtle.
When the curds are firm to touch
Cooking’s gone on long enough
Take it off the stove and strain
Liquid left you must retain.
For should Miss Muffet pass your way
She’ll be wanting curds and whey.