Here it is Octo­ber 24. The win­dows are open. I have to sleep with a fan because of the heat and humid­ity. I still have robust bunches of basil. I can’t EAT all the darned green pep­pers that are grow­ing. And the toma­toes keep going and going and going.

Do you sup­pose this can pos­si­bly last through to Novem­ber 1?

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It has been a strange, strange fall–and not just the weather. Many changes in many strange ways. I am thank­ful that I have had the time, finally, to slow down, take stock, reeval­u­ate and just attend to the home fires–and my men­tal health–for a while.

Speak­ing of home fires…

If you’re in a bak­ing frame of mind, try this Dou­ble Choco­late Bundt Cake with Ganache Glaze.

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I first read about this cake a cou­ple of days ago on Cream Puffs in Venice. Since we had just fin­ished our Ital­ian Creme Cake, this was like a sign from God that I should make this fab­u­lous choco­late cake this morning.

I also made home­made bread using the whey from my hard cheese mak­ing efforts. The Cheese Queen was right. Sub­sti­tut­ing the whey for the water makes a fab­u­lously fla­vor­ful dif­fer­ence in the bread.

Of course, based on the com­ments to my cheese mak­ing exper­i­ments, none of you will actu­ally HAVE any whey to be bak­ing with since no one else seems inter­ested in mak­ing cheese–just in eat­ing it. I sup­pose I must have some sort of reces­sive peas­ant gene that makes me want to do things like make cheese, raise chick­ens and weave.

Oh, and did I tell you my handy­man, Wal­ter, is installing a new out­door clothes line for me? I can hardly WAIT to do laun­dry tomor­row! I’ll post photos!

(Per­haps these are signs of an impend­ing breakdown?)

Robin
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I have to admit that home cheese mak­ing feels a bit like con­duct­ing a chem­istry exper­i­ment in my kitchen.

I mean, with bread bak­ing, I can FEEL the dough. There is some effort behind the whole affair of mix­ing flour, water, yeast and other ingre­di­ents, watch­ing it rise, knead­ing and watch­ing it rise again before shap­ing it with your hands into a final, glo­ri­ous loaf.

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With home cheese mak­ing, you do quite a lot of wait­ing about. You mix in spe­cial ingre­di­ents that you must spe­cial order. Every­thing must be kept immac­u­lately clean and san­i­tary. The guru of cheese mak­ing, Ricki Car­roll, even rec­om­mends keep­ing metic­u­lous notes in a cheese mak­ing journal.

Nev­er­the­less, the results of home cheese mak­ing can’t be denied.

Take a look at this 30 Minute Moz­zarella that I made last night with some of the last toma­toes and basil of the year. (In our Zone 7 gar­den we picked about 10 lovely toma­toes just yesterday!)

This salad LOOKS like art, doesn’t it?

The recipe is from, of course, Home Cheese Mak­ing, by Ricki Car­roll. I have been slowly work­ing my way through the book, start­ing with the soft, spread­able cheeses. Now that my fancy cheese press has arrived, I am ven­tur­ing into the hard cheeses.

You can’t really count this 30 Minute Moz­zarella as a hard cheese. And frankly, it’s a lot less work than even the soft cheeses. In fact, it’s ridicu­lously easy.

If you are even a lit­tle bit inter­ested in cheese mak­ing, then place an order with the New Eng­land Cheese­mak­ing Sup­ply Com­pany and give this recipe a whirl. I highly rec­om­mend that you buy the book because the intro­duc­tory infor­ma­tion is quite impor­tant, par­tic­u­larly infor­ma­tion about san­i­ta­tion, ingre­di­ents and heat­ing of the milk.

Look how easy the whole process was. I used the recipe from Ricki Carroll’s Home Cheese Mak­ing.

Ingre­di­ents I Used:

1 ½ level tea­spoon cit­ric acid dis­solved in ¼ cup cool water

1 gal­lon pas­teur­ized whole milk

¼ tea­spoon liq­uid ren­net diluted in ¼ cup cool, unchlo­ri­nated water

1 tea­spoon cheese salt

How I Did It:

I added the cit­ric acid/water solu­tion to the milk when it was at 55 degrees and mixed it thor­oughly but gen­tly. I slowly heated the milk on the stove to 88 degrees. (It helps that I have a gas stove, I think, because it gives me a great deal of imme­di­ate con­trol over heat.) I gen­tly added the diluted ren­net and mixed again and then heated the milk to 100 degrees.

I scooped the curds from the pot into a microwave­able bowl and pressed to remove the extra whey. (If you are very clever, appar­ently you can reserve the whey for other cheese mak­ing purposes.)

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I microwaved the curds on high for 1 minute and again drained off all the excess whey. To dis­trib­ute the heat evenly, I gen­tly folded the cheese over and over like I was knead­ing bread. I microwaved the cheese twice again for 35 sec­onds each, knead­ing after each turn. Then I added the salt, knead­ing it to incor­po­rate it into the cheese.

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The recipe says cheese won’t stretch prop­erly until it’s almost too hot to han­dle. I found it very hot, but if I moved quickly, it didn’t feel like it was burn­ing at all. I kneaded until the cheese was smooth and elas­tic. It became nice and stretchy.

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(Unfor­tu­nately, I can’t knead and take pho­tos at the same time and the two men in my house were busy read­ing. It was dif­fi­cult to entice one of them into the kitchen to play photographer.)

I rolled the cheese into small balls and placed them into the frig to cool.

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The direc­tions say to put them into a bowl of cold/ice water to bring down the heat if you don’t plan to eat them warm, but I for­got that part. Nev­er­the­less, they were just dandy about 30 min­utes later when I made the salad.

What do you think? Does this look like art? Craft? Chem­istry exper­i­ment? Would you give it a try?

Robin
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Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.

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