Sheared Bliss

Come, Butter, Come!
March 31, 2010, 11:48 pm
Filed under: Food, History, Museum | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The cheese recipe we used actually calls for aging the farmhouse cheddar for a minimum of a month, but it was pretty good after just two weeks.  On Dairy Day we served samples of the farmhouse cheddar as well as a variety of quick cheeses.

Clockwise from top - Sage Farmhouse Cheddar, Farmhouse Cheddar, Buttermilk Cheese, Lemon Cheese, and Yoghurt Cheese (center).

In addition to the cheese samples we also made and served samples of butter and ice cream.

I didn’t get any pictures of the butter being churned.  I blame the fact that I’ve churned so much butter that I can do it in my sleep and it is therefore no longer exciting to me.

To make butter you need cream.  Historically cows were milked twice a day.  The amount of milk you got at each milking and the fat content of the milk varied by the type of cow, the season, and the cow’s diet.  After milking, the milk would be set aside to separate.  The cream would float up to the top and be skimmed off.  The skimmed milk could be used as a beverage, in baking, or to make cheese.  The cream would be saved up until there was enough to churn.  It was typical to churn once a week.  If you don’t have your own dairy cow, you can buy cream at the grocery store.  You’ll want heavy whipping cream – a quart will yield just under a pound of butter.

Put the cream in your butter churn.  What?  You don’t have a butter churn?  Ok, fine, you can also use a food processor with an s-blade, a stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment, a mixing bowl and hand mixer, a jar with a few clean marbles in it, or just about any other contraption that can contain the cream while it’s being beat silly.  Churn (food process, mix, shake, whatever) the cream like crazy.

While you churn, it’s helpful to recite the butter chant:

“Come, butter, come!

Come, butter, come!

Johnny’s at the garden gate,

waiting for a butter cake.

Come, butter, come!”

It should take about twenty minutes to go from cream to butter, but it will depend on the temperature of the cream which should ideally be somewhere around 60º.  As you agitate the cream, the fat molecules will begin to stick together.  The cream will turn from liquid into increasingly stiff whipped cream.  Eventually the fat molecules will stick together so tightly that they will begin to squeeze out the water portion of the cream.  The end result will be lumps of butter floating in buttermilk.

Pour off the butter milk.  You can save it to drink or bake with if you like, but it’s not the same as historic buttermilk or modern, store bought buttermilk.  Since cream was usually saved without the benefit of refrigeration for up to a week before being churned, it was often quite sour by the time it became butter.  Therefore, the buttermilk that resulted from the churning was also sour and contained lactic acid.  This sour buttermilk, when used in baking, would react with the baking soda a recipe to leaven the resulting baked goods.  Modern, store bought buttermilk has been cultured to reproduce this acidic quality.  Your buttermilk made from fresh, store bought cream will not be sour and will need to have an acid (vinegar or lemon juice will do) added to it if you want to use it in a recipe calling for buttermilk.

Ok, while I step off my food-science-geek soapbox, you’ll need to wash your butter.  Yup, wash it.  In cold water please.  Put the butter in a large bowl and pour cold water over it.  Turn and knead the butter with a spoon.  When the water becomes cloudy, pour it off and add more cold water.  The purpose of washing the butter is to remove all of the buttermilk.  Buttermilk goes bad faster than butter so any buttermilk left in your butter would cause it to spoil more quickly.  When the water stays clear, the butter is clean.

After the wash water is poured off, you can salt your butter if you like.  Historically salt was used as a preservative in butter.  We may not need its preservative qualities, but it still tastes good.  Just sprinkle on some salt and mix it in well.  This would also be the time to add in other flavors such as herbs, spices, honey, etc. if you want a compound butter, but that’s another blog post.

Your butter is now ready to store or serve.  For storage, put your butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  To serve, you could of course just plop it in a bowl, but something more decorative would be nice.  Butter molds were used historically to both decorate butter and measure it.  Most butter molds held a pound of butter which was useful both for farm wives making butter for their own use and for people producing butter for sale.  The decorative designs not only looked nice on the table, but also served as a brand to identify the producer of the butter.  If you don’t have a butter mold handy, you can always shape it into a log by rolling it up in waxed paper or make butter balls using a melon baller (or your hands if they’re freakishly cold like mine).

Mmmm . . . buttery goodness.

Stay tuned for ice cream!


Say Cheese!
March 28, 2010, 9:49 pm
Filed under: Food, History, Museum | Tags: , , , ,

This weekend was Dairy Day at the museum, but we started getting ready for it a couple of weeks ago when PioneerA and I made two wheels of farmhouse cheddar – one plain and one with sage.

If you think you’d actually like to make cheese yourself, check out the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company – they have awesome stuff and good information.  If you just want to see pictures of me making cheese, read on!

Cheesemaking is part chemistry, part biology, and part art.  The exact process varies by cheese, but here are the steps in a nutshell.

1. Heat the milk.

2. Add a starter (a mixture of bacteria that “ripen” the milk by converting milk sugars to lactic acid).

3. Keep the milk warm while the starter works.

4. Add rennet (an enzyme, traditionally derived from the lining of a calf’s stomach).

5. Keep the milk warm while the rennet works.

6. Once the rennet has done its job and the milk has set into curd, cut the curd.

7. As the curd is cut, it will separate out into curds (solid) and whey (liquid).

8. Once cut, heat the curds to pull more whey out of them.

9. After heating, pour the curds and whey through cheesecloth.

10. Tie the curds up in the cheesecloth and hang to drain.

11. When they’re thoroughly drained, put the curds in a bowl, break them up, and mix in salt to taste.

12. Line the cheese mold with cheesecloth, fill it with the salted curds, put it in the cheese press, and weight it to press the cheese.

13. After the cheese is pressed, remove it from the mold.

14. Air dry the cheese until a rind forms.

15. Coat the cheese with wax.

16. Age the cheese.

17. Eat the cheese.

Whew!  No wonder it took us nearly a whole day just to get it in the cheese molded and in the press.  Next up, more dairy!

What are you doing Saturday night?
March 25, 2010, 8:00 am
Filed under: Randomness | Tags: , , ,

Earth Hour – check it out, sign up, turn ’em off.

Hang it all!
March 24, 2010, 5:22 pm
Filed under: Fiber Arts, Home, Knitting, WiP Wednesday | Tags: , , , ,

That’s what MommaCodeMonkey and I did this weekend.  We hung a bulletin board.

We hung a mirror and a dust-buster.

We made a bookcase.

And by “made” I mean “put together out of a box from Target.”

We even hung stuff for my garden.

Which, um, made a lot more sense this weekend when it was sunny and 65º than it does today when there’s a foot of snow on the ground.  Hooray for spring in Colorado!

And now, since it’s Wednesday and since I’m too tired from snow-blowing to have anything else to say, have a WiP.

Socks go amazingly fast when you knit them on size 2.5 needles rather than size 0.

Eating of the Green
March 17, 2010, 8:00 am
Filed under: Baking, Family & Friends, Food | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s St. Patrick’s Day which means that it’s time for the traditional eating of the green.  What?  Your clothes shouldn’t get to have all of the fun.  Just to make sure no one feels left out, you really should both wear green and eat green (and drink green, if you’re so inclined).  Thanks to Sarah we’ve had some lovely green treats to enjoy at Chez Bliss lately.  She posted a little while ago about her love for royal icing and she wasn’t kidding.  Check out these babies:

Ok, so Sarah’s cookie packing skills could use a little work, but she has some mad baking and icing skills.  My favorites are the tiny pint of green Guinness, the Storm Warning cookie, and the intricate Gaelic Storm logo (which I appear to have eaten before taking a picture of, oops).  So, everybody hoist your green beer (or cookie) and try to squeeze in as many Irish clichés as humanly possible today.  Sláinte!

FO Friday
March 12, 2010, 10:04 pm
Filed under: Fiber Arts, FO Friday, Knitting | Tags: , , , , , , ,

From ginormous footwear to eensy weensy, teeny tiny footwear.

Have I mentioned how much I love knitting baby things?  These are for FormerCoworkerC’s brand new baby girl.

Pattern: Saartje’s Bootees

Yarn: Leftover bits of Zitron Trekking (XXL) in . . . um . . . some purple-y colorway and my own hand dyed sock yarn in a bright cochineal pink.  This is a great use for the last scraps of a ball of sock yarn.  I had already made a pair of socks and a pair of mitts out of the Trekking before making these.  I have just a few yards of it left now.  The pink was what was left from making my grandmas’ Christmas mitts.  There’s just a few yards of that left now too.

Size: Large – the recipient is just a few weeks old now, but I like to knit baby things big for maximum wear time.

Modifications: I sewed the straps down instead of fastening them with buttons.

This was a very quick, easy knit and a cute finished product.

Speaking of baby gifts – if you’re in the market for one, check out my friend Elizabeth’s work over at I Dream In Green.  She offers a variety of beautiful, eco-friendly cloth diaper cakes.  Adorable, no?

I Dream In Green Cloth Diaper Cake - Blue Air Force

I Dream In Green Cloth Diaper Cake - Purple

Things I never thought I’d say . . .
March 3, 2010, 11:46 pm
Filed under: Randomness | Tags: , ,

CodeMonkey: Do you want to watch another episode of Lost?

Me: Why not?  I’m just going to be sitting here shaving my slippers.

For the record, the slippers are very warm and comfy and now look much less like dead Muppets.