The Inevitable

28 Aug

You knew this day was coming.

No, no. Sorry to disappoint some of you. I didn’t buy a sausage maker.

Lily Building, 18th Street

It’s the Boy’s birthday this week. And so, thanks to my friend Virginia, who after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle bought a mozzarella-making kit for her boys, the Boy and I have taken our first, tentative steps towards making our own cheeses!

Fresh Lemon Panir

I figured if a couple of adorable boys could make mozzarella at home and still have their mother declare that, “it was easy, and fun!” a couple of fully capable adults who both happen to be pretty handy could do it too. Alas. I overlooked one small detail, we don’t have a microwave.

So until we remember to buy a pair of heavy duty plastic gloves, and until I can find someone to sell me goat’s milk in bulk, we’re sticking to the easy cheese (no, not this stuff).

Star Building, Second Avenue, Brooklyn

Our first cheese was a lemon panir. This cheese needs no special equipment. None. Just a thermometer and some cheesecloth.

I was already making a shell bean and corn salad for dinner and this was the only cheese in the recipe booklet that would be ready in time. It is the same thing as paneer and uses lemon to separate curds from whey because, well, rennet comes from, you know, cows.

There’s just one problem with this cheese. Saying it is the same thing as paneer is so wrong. The only kind of paneer I’ve had before is the stuff that could be tofu. Bland, flavorless, chewy and unyielding, all the paneers I’ve had have been good, but unmemorable.

Lacquer, Second Avenue, Brooklyn

Homemade panir curdled with lemon on the other hand? Delightful!

Fresh Lemon Panir

It’s light and creamy and lemony and seriously, the best word for it is delightful. It tastes like something you’d pay $25 a pound for at Dean & Deluca. It was the perfect addition to our light dinner of summer’s best salad.

Summer's Best Salad

For our second cheese (for some reason I feel like a huckster vaudvillian saying that) we made ricotta. Two pounds of it. And much to the chagrin of certain co-workers, I didn’t bring any of it into the office to share. Evil littler stinker ain’t I?

And they should be chagrinned. Homemade ricotta is just like homemade panir. It kicks ass.

Fresh, Homemade Ricotta

The best part about making your own ricotta is that you get to control the whey content inside the curds. I like my ricotta a little drier, so we let it hang for a half hour longer, but if you like yours wetter, just cut it into curds while the whey is still dripping from the cheesecloth. So easy, so delicious.

Lidia was on TV while we were settling on our dinner plans. My original thought was to make the ricotta and then use it in a pasta with some carrots and herbs, but no, stupid Lidia just had to do an entire show about polenta. Polenta for breakfast, polenta for lunch, polenta for dinner, polenta for Ann and the Boy. Nothing in the world was as important as having polenta for dinner. Ahh… The power of suggestion.

Homemade Ricotta, Glazed Carrots, Polenta

And lest I let all these curds go to my head, there was one other star to our weekend dinners. Garlic.

A few weeks ago while I was making dinner ‘All Things Considered’ did a piece on the differences between the garlic imported into the U.S. from China and the stuff grown out in California. I’ve always been a bit suspicious about the Chinese garlic labeled ‘Organic’ that seems to be everywhere.

Given China’s recent problems with food exports I have to ask, is it really organic? Is it even safe? It seems to sprout really soon, the flavor never really comes through in recipes. The NPR show gave fuel to my suspicions, so while we were in California I made it my job to find some great Cali garlic.

New York Dock Co. Imlay St. Red Hook

And boy did I! At the St. Helena farmer’s market. The cloves are plump and stinky, just how I like them, and taste delicious raw in salads. There’s a little heat but none of the acrid, intense bitterness I’ve come to associate from bodega garlic. I can’t wait to do a garlic-off between my favorite upstate New York hard neck and these California soft necks.

I’d also like to take some of that garlic, slice it thinly and make a pizza with the leftover ricotta and a few heirloom tomatoes we have lying around. That would be a really good dinner.

Fairway, Red Hook

So, if anyone knows anyone else with some extraneous goat’s milk, will you have them contact me?

Until then, I’ll be making my own crème fraiche. And queso fresco. And fromage blanc. And kefir. And buttermilk, and mascarpone and farmer’s cheese. And yes, the next time most of you see me I will have gained 20 pounds.

Never blame the cheese. (Just kidding Mom!)

Head below the jump for the recipes for Lemon Panir, Summer’s Best Salad, Fresh Ricotta and Carrot Bombs.

Lemon Panir

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 20-30 minutes ~ hang time: 1 hour

  • 1 qt whole or lowfat milk (the more fat, the more cheese!)
  • Juice of 1 Lemons or 6 tbsps Lemon Juice
  • Salt
  • Cheesecloth

Pour the milk and lemon juice to a non-reactive pan and heat over medium-low heat to 165°-185°F stirring frequently. The higher temperature should give you more curds. When the milk is to the right temperature, turn off the heat, put on the lid and allow to sit for 15 minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth. After 15 minutes pour the curds into the colander. (Save the whey if you want, it’s apparently quite tasty, good for making bread and good for feeding plants).

Tie the four corners of the cheesecloth together and allow the cheese to drain for an hour or until it stops dripping. Turn the cheese out into a bowl and add salt to taste.

To serve: Eat it straight from the bowl, on bread, on salads or in curries. Enjoy!

Summer’s Best Salad

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 30 minutes

  • 1 lb of Cranberry or other Shell Bean, shelled and cooked for 20-30 minutes and then cooled
  • 1 lb of Romano Beans, snapped into small pieces and cooked until just tender, about 7 minutes, and then cooled
  • 4-6 cloves of the best Garlic you can find, minced
  • 5 ears of Sweet Corn, kernels cut off
  • 2 Heirloom Tomatoes cut into bite sized chunks
  • Small handful of Bush or Greek Basil leaves
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Tarragon Vinegar
  • Sherry Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Mustard
  • Lemon Panir

Combine the beans, garlic, corn, tomatoes and basil in a bowl. Season with salt & pepper. Combine the vinegars, lemon juice and olive oil with a wee bit of prepared or dried mustard and whisk into a dressing with your favorite level of acidity. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix to combine and set aside to allow the flavors to develop for at least 30 minutes.

To serve: Give each person a few big spoonfuls in a bowl, top with lemon panir. Dig in and enjoy!

Fresh Ricotta

prep time: 5 minutes ~ cooking time: 30-40 minutes ~ hang time: 30-60 minutes

  • 1 gallon Whole Milk
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Cheesecloth

Pour the milk into a large non-reactive pan. Add the citric acid and salt and heat over a medium flame. Stir every now and then to prevent scalding while you bring the milk up to 195°F. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Line a large colander with cheesecloth. When 10 minutes are up gently ladle the curds into the colander. (Save the whey if you want, it’s apparently quite tasty, good for making bread and good for feeding plants).

Tie the four corners together and allow the curds to drain for 30 minutes or longer depending on how you like your ricotta. Turn the cheese into a bowl and break up the curds and season with salt to taste.

To serve: Eat it straight from the bowl or use as is in pasta, polenta or on pizza or sweeten it and eat it for dessert, perhaps over top of some berries?

Carrot Bombs

prep time: 30 minutes ~ cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 4-6 cloves of the best Garlic, sliced
  • 1 lb of Thumbelina Carrots scrubbed and cut into halves or quarters depending on size
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/2 c Dry Vermouth
  • 1 tbsp good Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Thyme

Heat a healthy glug of olive oil over a medium flame in a large shallow skillet. Add the onions and allow to cook a few minutes until just beginning to wilt. Add the garlic and allow to cook a few minutes more. Add the carrots and toss coat with the onion mixture. Turn the heat up to high. Add the vermouth, vinegar and lemon juice. Cover and allow to cook 5-10 minutes or until the carrots are just becoming tender. Remove the lid and toss the carrots to coat with the glaze. Allow the glaze to cook down a few minutes. Turn the heat off and add fresh or dried thyme to taste.

To serve: Eat with fresh ricotta, polenta and a kick ass bottle of Finger Lake’s wine. Enjoy!


33 Responses to “The Inevitable”

  1. Mary August 28, 2007 at 12:30 pm #

    YAY! You’ve jumped on the bandwagon. Cheese rules.

  2. dickrebel August 28, 2007 at 3:04 pm #


    I make homemade ricotta all the time, well, anytime I am going to use it.

    I use the 1 gal whole milk + 1 quart buttermilk method usually, it’s sweeter and creamier than the citric acid method, however that may be too rich for your taste. I don’t let the temp get over 180 tho, that makes awfully hard curds in my experience.

    BTW, making cheese from kefir is rather easy too! I made some congetella last week actually and it was lovley. I have a container of kefir leban in my fridge that I use for various things. Apparently you can make aged cheese too, but I haven’t gotten around to trying to make my own cheddar or blue yet. :) You can also use kefir to make ricotta, although I haven’t gotten around to trying it.


  3. Julie August 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm #

    I’m jazzed. Who knew making ricotta cheese was so easy? Why am I bothering to buy ricotta?

    And this is a great collection of building pictures. All Brooklyn?

    (This comment. Heavy on the questions marks, no?)

  4. Lydia August 28, 2007 at 5:43 pm #

    Yum yum yum! You’ll be graduating to mozzarella before you know it — and once you get over the plunging of the hands into hot water to soften the curd, you’ll love it.

  5. Christina August 28, 2007 at 8:32 pm #

    Yum! I’ve experimented (quite successfully) with ricotta (with the buttermilk method, rather than the citric acid, and I mix up goat’s milk and cow milk), but have yet to go beyond. I can’t wait to give it a whirl. Happy cheese making!

  6. Kevin August 28, 2007 at 9:49 pm #

    Homemade cheese is on my list of things to do. Good on ya.

  7. Terry B August 28, 2007 at 11:50 pm #

    Fascinating post, Ann! Although I should curse you for making it sound so easy to make cheeses—there goes another excuse. Where are you finding recipes? Or cheese making instructions, for that matter? Spill.

  8. ann August 29, 2007 at 6:56 am #

    Mary — Indeed it does :-)

    DR — Hi! I’ve never heard of that buttermilk recipe, very cool. One of the things the kit came with was lots of cool cultures and an incubator for making things like kefir, buttermilk and yogurt, and then with recipes to take those things and make them into cheeses. That’s our next step. Very excited!

    Julie — It is so easy. And yes, all those, except for the first one are in Brooklyn. If you look at the site in IE little blurb windows will pop up on each photo. I have no idea why this doesn’t work in firefox and safari… I should ask someone. Thanks for reminding me!

    Lydia — I am rather excited to try it! Thanks for the vote of confidence!

    Christina — Mmmm… goat’s milk ricotta… It’s so good. I really must start making friends with some goat people.

    Kevin — Hi! Thanks! Give it a whirl, it’s easier than you think.

    TerryB — Good question! The kits came with recipes but we’ve been finding other resources on ye olde interweb as well.
    This one is great: Cheese Making For Beginners
    And here’s some more from the Cheese Queen

  9. Luisa August 29, 2007 at 10:18 am #

    Gorgeous! I will have to try the paneer, and your ricotta looks beautiful. Isn’t there a goat cheese vendor at Union Square some days? I wonder, if you asked nicely, if they wouldn’t sell you some of their milk…. :) Now I’m more excited about your mozzarella than I was about the sausages!

  10. Yvo August 29, 2007 at 11:43 am #

    Wow, your own cheese? I am incredibly impressed. But ah, if you want to get rid of any of your cheese…. I am in NYC, have MetroCard, will travel!!! :D
    Delicious sounding… yummm… what a lucky Boy!

  11. Brooklynguy August 29, 2007 at 12:59 pm #

    Hi Ann – where do I buy citric acid?

  12. Mary August 29, 2007 at 2:39 pm #

    Now I see why everyone has links to your site.

    Think of the standard you have set: when your little boy grows up his girlfriends and future wife will have to compete with a mother-in-law that made her own cheese.

  13. Mary August 29, 2007 at 3:43 pm #

    Oops! After further reading I have discovered that the boy is your significant other. Well still, having a significant other that makes cheese is also impressive.

  14. ann August 29, 2007 at 8:51 pm #

    Luisa — Yep there is, and it turns out we both rode horses in the same 4-H club so I’m hoping she’ll have pity on me!

    Yvo — when we get more advanced maybe I’ll let you put your metrocard to work ;-)

    Brooklynguy — Hi! I hope you had a nice time in Cali! — Citric acid. Ours came in the kit, so I guess you could probably buy it from them… I bet you could find it at somewhere in the city. I’ll keep my eye out and send you an email if I see some!

    Mary — You’re funny! It would be funnier if it was my son, but no, it’s my boyfriend. He sure does love cheese! I will however teach my nephew to make cheese and ruin him for all ladies for the rest of eternity ;-)

  15. izzy's mama August 29, 2007 at 10:44 pm #

    As always, you provide inspiration for Izzy and me. . I am sure it would thrill him and it sounds positively scrumptious.

  16. ann August 30, 2007 at 8:14 am #

    Hi Izzy’s Mama! — Izzy would loooooooove this.

    Oh, and Julie, just for you, I’ve created a google map of this walk :-)

    View Larger Map

  17. Julie August 30, 2007 at 3:40 pm #

    I just looked at your google map and I love this walk. I want to go on this walk, except I couldn’t figure out how many miles it was and it’s probably one of your regular 10 mile hikes which would make 3 or even maybe 4 hikes for me. And oh, so cool the way you can mark features on the map.

  18. izzy's mama August 30, 2007 at 9:26 pm #

    The spellchecker in me noticed a typo in your title..Inevitable..right?

  19. ann August 30, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    The editor in me just rolled over and played dead.
    If I had caught one of my copy editors making such a mistake I would have chastised them thoroughly, now I have to go and give myself 12 lashes
    I am so. embarrassed.

  20. lobstersquad August 31, 2007 at 2:40 am #

    I love your food, but the pictures of lettering and signs you take just blow me away. I take just those sort of pictures . In Madrid they´re dissappearing very fast.

  21. ann August 31, 2007 at 6:36 am #

    Julie — I’m glad you liked it. Thanks so much for being my “muse.” It was so much fun to make and now I want to quit my job and make maps full-time! And the walk wasn’t that bad, just 6 miles ;-)
    But seriously, just keep in mind that there’s almost no elevation and plenty of stuff to look at, you can easily cover that without really even realising you’re doing so.

    Lobstersquad — Thanks, that’s so kind! I’d love to see some of your photos someday, but until then, you’re amazing drawings keep me quite happy!

  22. Virginia August 31, 2007 at 9:33 pm #

    I knew you’d be hooked as soon as you tried your hand at cheesemaking! If your local Whole Foods has SkyTop milk, get it for mozzarella making. The cheese was so rich that even my brother-in-law, who makes dozens of pounds of mozzarella for his shop every day, had to admit that it was good. My only problem is that I have way too much whey left over and not enough ways to use it.

  23. ann September 1, 2007 at 9:02 am #

    Hi Virgina! — Well, since I bought the big kit, it comes with TONS of recipes to make bread and other things with whey. I’ll email you some. Also, she says that the whey make excellent plant food. Maybe it scares away bunnies too? I’ll have to look for SkyTop. Isaac and I thank you for the recommendation! It’s great stuff!

  24. Amanda September 4, 2007 at 8:34 am #

    I have been talking about this all weekend long. I can’t wait to try this myself. Fresh ricotta? Sinful.

    Luckily, I’m not religious. :)

  25. ann September 5, 2007 at 7:54 am #

    Hi Amanda — I hope you get to make your own ricotta someday, but if not, DiPalo’s is, like, second best, yeah. I’m sure mine’s better. Uhuh. Are you convinced yet? I’m not ;-)

  26. Kitty September 9, 2007 at 11:53 am #

    I’ve made cow’s milk and vinegar ricotta, and it’s good stuff…but these recipes sound oh so much better! Goat’s milk is always so much creamier and tastier, and now I have to go out and buy lots of it.

    And it’s all your fault. I hope you’re happy.


  27. ann September 10, 2007 at 8:16 am #

    Hi Kitty — I am! In fact, I’m incredibly pleased! I hope your cheeses come out as satisfyingly perfect as ours did.

  28. Mary September 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm #

    Just FYI to Brooklyn Guy: Citric acid is also known by the name of sour salt and is often found in the kosher aisle at supermarkets. Something tells me that sour salt is probably sold for a lot less money than citric acid, despite being the exact same thing.

  29. resi reiskeks November 3, 2007 at 10:54 am #

    yes, it’s so amazing and easy… but let me tell you, I know both recipes too well, and as a former cheese lover, I can just say – never forget that 50-75% of all people around the world (=3000000000 to 5000000000) are lactose intolerant (me too)

    if I would have known about lactose intolerance before, it would have spared me long years of sickness and bad skin and envious looking at “all those healthy guys”… I always ate healthy, organic, and nevertheless I was not healthy? …thank you dairy lobby and thank you “comfort recipes”…

    I’m now 100% dairy free since just several months, and what a change, a skin like a model, and what happened to my oh-so-round belly?

    Panir and Ricotta are two kinds of cheese with almost the highest amount of lactose (as they are not matured).

    …yes, I was laughing exactly like you do right now “lactose intolerance? how can anybody be so silly… I will for sure never develop something like that, I can eat dairy at any time!”… yeah, right… *good luck*

    ps. this is not meant as a hateful comment or spam in any way, I am just too saddened sometimes about the lack of any information on a subject involving almost the entire world population… visit my blog, to see that I am just a normal human being, and not desperated or hate filled on the “hunt” against anybody :-)

  30. ann November 3, 2007 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi Reis, thanks for your comment. I’m lactose intolerant too, but have found that the lactose enzyme pills help me control it so that I can enjoy one of my favorite foods in the world, cheese! But yes, you are right, it is a big problem and an effect of the way humans evolved. Those that didn’t evolve with dairy animals, mainly cows, tend to lack the enzyme necessary for digesting dairy products. Just one more thing, like wisdom teeth, that show us how changeable and strange the human animal is.

  31. resi reiskeks December 27, 2007 at 8:58 am #

    Hi, sorry for my all too sharp comment, I was having some difficult personal issues I was dealing with at the time, among others about lack of money to buy not really cheap non-dairy cheese… I would love to have a cheap and easy method to make non-dairy cheese, I tried Paneer with soy milk, it was easy and delicious, but alas, the color – it was brownish like a cappuccino…

    If it works for you with a lactase supplement so you are lucky, I tried them all and no one helped, quite the contrary… But since I turned vegan short afterwards, it was not more important.

    Which kind of supplement do you use? The last one I had was Dairy Care, terribly expensive stuff, but I tried all the cheaper kinds too, and they did not help, my tummy just do not contain any lactase at all, I suppose I can blame it on the genes. It was not the cows, I was born among people eating dairy as a main ingredient in all cooking, there was not one single dish without dairy, so much for “developing” and “adopting”, some people just will not digest this stuff as grown ups :p

    I think it is the best to use the most natural ones, to not to make it too difficult for the body and always to choose organic dairy… I have read somewhere that organic raw milk contains small amounts of lactase, helping at least those who can digest small amounts of milk as adults.

    But I am really sorry for all those people in Asia, who are now adopting more and more a “western” lifestyle, without realizing that their bodies did not developed any dairy digestion as adults during hundreds of years of non-dairy food traditions. I read so many Asian blogs raving about dairy products, some young Asians almost entirely live on dairy, but according to the worldwide scientific statistics almost 99% of Asians are lactose intolerant (except the people in India, where milk is considered sacred, and therefore has always been contained in the food)… When you look at the photos in the blogs you can see the results – bad skin and those typical lactose-intolerance-round bellies. It is such a contrast to the normally perfect skin and the slender body shape of those in Asia, who eat the traditional milk-free food *sigh*

  32. resi reiskeks December 27, 2007 at 9:03 am #

    …and, Merry Christmas and a Peaceful New Year :)

  33. ann December 28, 2007 at 10:13 am #

    Happy New Year to you too, thanks again for your comments.

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