• a food-filled weekend in Brooklyn

    A few weeks ago, my Brooklynite girlfriend forwarded me an email about a food tour. Wanna join us? she asked. Come up for a few days? One thing led to another and last Saturday, my daughter-in-law, younger daughter, and I piled into my parents’ car (they loan it out for long trips since it gets fantastic gas mileage) and set off for the city. 

    I’ve been to NYC quite a few times (mostly for Fresh Air meetings) but I’ve always traveled in via bus, train, or plane, so driving in felt nerve-rackingly physical, like I was bushwhacking my way in versus tessering. But shocker: it was ridiculously simple! My daughter-in-law is a whizz navigator and we pulled into my friends’ driveway just six hours after we left home, easy as pie. I couldn’t get over how close NYC was, and so accessible, too. I had no idea.  

    This was the first time I’d ever been inside a NYC home.

    Our friends’ apartment is the first flour of the house; the owners live upstairs, and both families share the basement. The three of us slept in the spacious guestroom in the basement, and that same weekend two extra families were sleeping in the upstairs apartment. The house is huge! 

    Day One
    After we arrived, we spent the afternoon walking around the neighborhood. They took us to see all their haunts: the elementary school, the library, their previous apartment, their favorite little stores, Prospect Park, the art installation that a friend did (and my friend helped with). That night we joined the upstairs’ folks for a potluck Friendsgiving — just loaded up our arms with plates and food and padded up the stairs in our stocking feet to their apartment. How cool is that?

    While the adults visited around the table, the kids had free range of the house, all three floors. 

    Day Two
    In the morning, the three of us walked to a local Farmers Market to check prices on eggs and vegetables and raw milk cheeses. There were pastries, too, and, ever the dutiful baker, I had to do research. 

    So far, I’ve yet to find pastry that’s better than Magpie’s (which both surprises and delights me).

    We only ate a few bites of our pastries, though, since we had to save room for the main event: the food tour.

    This was my first time on a food tour and I had no idea what to expect. Turns out, food tours are amazing, pretty much the best way to eat out EVER. Pay money ahead of time (for this one, $80/person) and then spend 5-plus hours walking around town with a group of food-loving strangers listening to a “professional eater” (his term) wax eloquent about the political, economic, and gustatory history of the place, and eating a whole heck of a lot of good food in the process.

    I mean, seriously, what’s not to love? 

    This particualr “eating history” tour centered in Sunset Park, which is not a park, as I first thought, but rather a neighborhood in southwestern Brooklyn. To start, we all gathered on a street corner, and our guide, the dynamic, entertaining, and knowledgeable Arun Gupta (French-trained chef! Political activist! Food writer!) passed around a box of Finnish cookies before disappearing into a Fujianese restaurant to order our peanut noodles and dumplings. 

    Arun, in the blue jacket

    We ate indoors at a couple places, but for most of the time we spent the afternoon in the frigid cold, waiting while he ordered the food, and then standing around on the street eating and getting to know the other participants (school teachers, social workers, community organizers, movie producers). I’d been worried that I’d get uncomfortably full but since the eating was interspersed with lots of walking, I never felt stuffed, or even full, really.

    Finnish pistachio cookies

    Fujianese dumplings: her favorite

    steamed bao: the most unusual food (to me) on the tour

    Portuguese egg tarts

    ceviche tostados

    tacos: I had cabeza (head) meat

    papusas: a whole variety

    The whole experience was delicious and rich, invigorating and relaxing. It was such a treat to have a food expert pick out all the best things and then feed them to me. (When he was taking orders for the taco place, I told him I’d eat whatever he wanted to feed me. “Tripe?” he teased, and I was like, “Except tripe.”) Note: Arun gave us a whole list of all the restaurants and why they’re good, so if anyone wants to create their own Sunset Park eating adventure, let me know!

    Towards the end of the tour, a bunch of us slipped into a panadería to warm up and ended up buying pastries, and, back home, we sat around the table and drank tea and ate pastries.

    As though we needed more food!

    Oh, and on our way back to the house (and other times throughout the weekend) we swung by the local Turkish-owned grocery store for goodies, like Turkish candy and fresh fruit.

    Day Three
    Our friends had work and school, so the three of us headed into the city for the day.

    subway selfie

    My daughter-in-law wanted to go to a Japanese bookstore and my daughter wanted to see the Christmas tree and I wanted to get coffee, find pastries, and hit up Murray’s cheese shop

    at the Rockefeller

    As soon as I walked up to the counter at Murray’s, an employee — I later learned her name was Elizabeth — approached me and asked if she could help. “Well, yes,” I said. “Here’s the situation,” and then I explained that I make cheeses at home and I wanted to buy as many different kinds as possible, especially the ones I was less familiar with like blues and b.linens, so I could better know what I was aiming for. Also, I had about 100 dollars to spend so could we please try to wring the most out of my money? 

    We started with the blues. I showed her a photo of my Full Moon Blue and we were off, trying to find similar yet different blues for me to sample. From there, we went to the b.linens — I picked out a spruce-wrapped one and when I asked if that was the kind that’s supposed to be eaten with potato chips, she all but whooped, thrilled with my cheesy nerdiness.

    Elizabeth, it turned out, is an executive something-or-other with twenty years of experience at Murray’s (HOW LUCKY AM I?!) and she knew everything about the cheese: the names of the cheese makers and where they lived, which cheeses were made which months of the year, how the cheeses were aged, which cultures were used, etc. She asked me pointed questions and gave me little insider tips, such as “I’ve never seen this particular lactic-acid set cheese made with cow’s milk so I bet there’d be a market for this if you want to develop a similar recipe.” 

    Twenty (or was it forty?) minutes later, I’d exhausted my budget and had to call it quits.

    The grand total? $99.57 — about 3¼ pounds of cheese. We did good!

    After the cheese shop, we popped into a Thai restaurant for lunch and then hit some more subways with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in the middle of it all.

    That night, after a delicious family supper of lentil soup, bread, and cheese…

    my girlfriend, daughter-in-law, and I went to a bar for live music and hot toddies and cider.

    Along with Canción Franklin (above), we heard Leah Tash and Wolf van Elfmand.

    Day Four
    We drove home. The end.

    This same time, years previous: ippy, the quotidian (11.30.20), Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2015, pot of red beans, butternut squash pesto cheesecake, all a-flutter.

  • the quotidian (11.28.22)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    Tanking up for a twelve-hour shift in the ER.

    Count the rings to determine the number of sip-n-stops it takes
    to drink a coffee while working the bake shift.

    Goal: find a sweater that’s as silky-soft as a new brie’s p.candidum fuzz.

    My latest kick: homemade ramen (these noodles) with bone broth.

    Bum cheeses for the pigs.

    Dog on a bed on a box.

    He got sick of me telling him to bring in wood so he brough it ALL in.

    My dang cold benched me.

    Thanksgiving, Day One: the midday feast.

    Evening pies, games, and conversation.

    Thanksgiving, Day Two: French Fry Feast

    Top knots and piggie toes.

    Thanksgiving, Day Three: woodcutting and a pancake breakfast…

    And the people to enjoy it with.

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.29.21), Thanksgiving in the sun, 2019 garden stats and notes, Chattanooga Thanksgiving of 2017, the day before, kale pomegranate salad, monster cookies, raveled, Thanksgiving 2010, steel-cut oatmeal.

  • 2022 garden stats and notes

    It felt like another slow year in the garden (neither of us like to garden so we avoid it), but we still managed to tuck away a fair bit of food, thanks to local orchards, farmers, and friends.

    My younger son worked part-time at the produce farm and kept us well stocked in lettuce, kale, cabbages, onions, heirloom tomatoes, beets, and new potatoes, and from our own garden, we had plenty of green peppers, jalapeños, basil, rosemary, strawberries, red raspberries, and asparagus for fresh eating. 

    We are still feasting on beef from the three steers we slaughtered a couple years ago. The bakery/diner keeps us stocked in stale bread and leftover pork products. Our cow supplies all our milk and cheese and yogurt, as well as a good amount of butter and ice cream. We’ve swapped/bartered with friends for free-range chicken and pig bones for broth. All our eggs come from my daughter’s flock of chickens.

    The Stats

    • Rhubarb, frozen: 2 gallon bags
    • Apple Mint, dried: one-half dehydrator made 3 quarts of tea leaves
    • Strawberries, frozen: 12 quarts
    • Sour Cherries: 1 cup frozen; 2 quarts and 3 pints of canned juice (with sugar); 4½ quarts bounce
    • Wineberries, frozen: 3½ quarts
    • Blueberries, PYO: I forgot to record these, but maybe 4 gallons or so?
    • Applesauce, Lodi (4 bushes): 62 quarts, canned
    • Green Beans: 6 quarts free from a friend, frozen; 14 quarts Roma, frozen; 14 quarts Roma, canned; 15 quarts Tenderette, frozen
    • Oven Dills: 14 pints 
    • Sweet Pickles: 14 quarts, 2 pints
    • Pesto: 6 half-pints, frozen
    • Peaches, Glohaven (2 bushels): 3 gallons, chopped and frozen; 19 quarts, canned
    • Tomatoes, Salsa: 14 quarts and 8 pints
    • Tomatoes, chopped and canned: 8 quarts
    • Nectarines (2 bushels): 7 quarts canned; 12 quarts, dried and frozen; 1 quart, sugared and frozen
    • Red Raspberries: 19 quarts, frozen; 5 pints and 6 half-pints jam
    • Corn (processed with family): 42 pints for us (157 pints total)
    • Grapes: approx 5 quarts juice, 7 3-cup containers pie purée
    • Broth: 14 quarts chicken; 14 (and counting) quarts pork
    • Cheeses: at least another 75 hard cheeses, plus ricottas, mozz, bries, etc.

    The Notes
    *It was a struggle to find Lodi apples this year. Our regular orchard is no longer growing them, and many of the places I called only had a small amount…maybe. After searching fairly far afield, I finally found some at another (local!) orchard and happily snapped them up: $18/bushel. (I filmed the whole process but then I transitioned the YouTube channel to focus on cheese and never posted it.)

    *Five pints of my oven dills didn’t seal, so I just popped them in the barn fridge and used them up first. Good news: certain family members are learning to like dills! We’re eating through them faster than I expected. 

    *After years of failed spring plantings of green beans, we finally waited to plant till mid summer — and it worked — a one-time-only planting with good germination. From now on, summer plantings are the way to go.

    *We were totally out of sweet pickles so I made a quadruple recipe. I thought it’d be plenty, but the way we’re tearing through them, I’m not so sure. (I planted 18 cucumber plants so I could harvest a whole bunch of cucumbers at one time — I don’t like puny pickings — and next year I might have to do 24.)

    *Since we still had some pesto from the previous year, I only made a quadruple batch of pumpkin seed pesto.

    *We enjoyed the previous year’s family corn processing day so much that we did it again. We ordered 40 dozen ears from a local farmer for 200 dollars. After about 6 hours of work, we were totally done. Efficiency is a glorious thing! (And the corn is delicious.)

    *Both nectarines and peaches were $40/bushel. We love dried nectarines — I have to bury the bag in the freezer so they don’t get gobbled — so I dehydrated more than normal. I discovered that slicing them in thickish rounds, not wedges, is easier and more toothsome.

    *I finally learned how to pressure can! My maiden voyage was green beans, and it was soooo easy. Now I’m getting into bone broth. I’ve always bought cases of boxed broth from Costco, but the homemade stuff is much richer and more flavorful, and the accessibility of canned broth can’t be beat. I love adding it willy-nilly to everything: rice, beans, soups, etc.

    *If I had to choose one fruit plant/tree, it’d be red raspberry. From July through September, the bushes give and give and give. I pick 1-2 quarts every other day and after a month of pickings, I’m pretty well stocked. (That’s when I call my sister-in-law and tell her it’s her turn to take over.)

    *I’m two-thirds of the way through my dried mint and it’s still November. Next year, make more. (This lovely stainless steel French press is the reason I’m crushing so much tea.)

    *We bought several bushels of baking and eating apples from our local orchard (the Pink Lady variety is outrageously delicious for fresh eating), as well as about 12 gallons of cider to freeze.

    For the satisfaction of hard work completed, and for all the good food, I’m grateful.

    This same time, years previous: what I don’t do, fight poem, a fun kitchen hack, the quotidian (11.19.18), the quotidian (11.20.17), curried Jamaican butternut soup, apple raisin bran muffins, how to use up Thanksgiving leftovers in 10 easy steps.

  • three girlfriend recommendations

    Do you oil your hair? 

    To me, it always seemed counterintuitive since the whole reason for washing hair was to get rid of the grease, but a long time ago at a girlfriend’s behest I bought some oil, and then, for whatever reason, I kinda forgot about it.

    dry and poofy

    However, the other week, probably about three days after I’d last washed it, my hair was feeling super dry and wiry, so I squirted some Moroccan oil on my hands and ran my fingers through my hair, paying special attention to the ends and using my palms to press down the more frizzy out layer of hair.

    The transformation — felt, more than seen — was astonishing.

    oiled

    My hair went from brittle and crispy-frizzy to shiny, soft, and curly. I could practically hear the hair sucking up the moisture and sighing with contentment.

    I don’t need to do this all the time — maybe once every couple weeks — but it’s a real treat when I do. 

    Makes me feel fancy.

    ***

    This summer I finally figured out how to use the pressure canner that I’ve had for about 15 years. I canned green beans and nothing exploded (though it turns out my kids prefer frozen green beans to canned; the canned ones do have a different flavor), so now I’m getting into bone broth. I’d always bought cases of boxed broth from Costco, but the homemade stuff is much richer and more flavorful.

    And then on a walk the other day when I mentioned my blossoming love affair with pressure canned bone broth to a girlfriend, she said, “You know the trick with onions, right?” I didn’t, so she enlightened me: add some onion skins along with the other veggies and it’ll turn the broth a gorgeous rich bronzy-brown.

    And what do you know, she was right. 

    without onion skin, with onion skin

    with onion skin, and without

    It doesn’t take much — just a single layer of onion paper from a couple onions is enough to make the magic happen.

    And then some friends butchered a hog and gave us a five-gallon bucket heaped with bones. 

    My pressure canner is getting quite the workout.

    ***

    There’s a new little bookstore coming to town! It’s called Parentheses and it’s gonna live right across the road from the bakery where I work, in an old abandoned warehouse that Magpie’s owner leased.

    See the “for lease” sign on the warehouse on the left? That’s the place.
    (photo from 2020)

    A few days ago I saw on Facebook that the bookstore owner (her name is Amanda) has a kickstarter campaign to raise the money to buy the stock. I pledged 10 bucks — a bookstore next door to where I work? cool! — and went on with my life. 

    But then this week, Sofia, a local writer I-kinda-but-don’t-really-know but I’ll call her my girlfriend for the sake of this post’s title, popped into the bakery and we started talking about the bookstore. The deadline is next week, she said, and if they don’t meet their goal, then they don’t get any of the money. Get your friends to pledge!

    As of today they’ve got 6 days left and they’re only halfway to their goal of fifty thousand dollars, YIKES.

    Door to Parentheses is on the left; big door in the middle will be the entrance to the shops.
    photo credit: Kirsten Moore

    So listen up, people. If you’re local and like to read (we all like to read, right?), consider chipping in five bucks — or fifty!

    And if you’re not local but wish you were, or simply want to support female-owned, independent bookstores, then do. Who knows, maybe some day you’ll find yourself in the Shenandoah Valley, and you’ll decide to drop by the bakery for a croissant and then mosey across the road to the browse the stacks in a sunny bookstore next to the train tracks, and it will be as lovely as it sounds.

    This same time, years previous: cheese tasting, round two, change, spiced applesauce cake with caramel glaze, the quotidian (11.17.14), sock curls, lemony lentil goodness.

  • fat cow

    I got it into my head that I wanted a super-creamy slicing cheese, so… I developed one!

    Fat Cow is a variation of Butterkäse, that crowd-pleasing, semi-soft, washed-curd German cheese. My changes included culturing the milk with homemade yogurt and boosting it with an entire half gallon of cream because: if you want a creamier cheese, add more cream! Also, I tried to handle the curds less than normal: cutting them larger, cooking them more slowly, and stirring them less. 

    The result?

    It was exactly what I was going for: a sliceable — yet spreadable! — snacking cheese that’s mild with a bit of tang (think: cream cheese), ready in only 4 weeks, and enormously high-yielding.

    sliceable AND spreadable

    My six-and-a-half gallons of milk and cream yielded a 10-pound monster. ROAR.

    Tasting video coming soon…

    I do realize this isn’t a recipe most people will attempt, and I try to reserve the intricacies of cheesemaking for my YouTube channel, but since this blog is where I compile all my recipes — including the cheesy ones, haha — here we are.

    Fat Cow Cheese
    Recipe inspiration from Gavin Webber, Venison for Dinner, and Cheese 52.

    If starting the cheese in the early morning, it should be ready to go into the brine at bedtime. If started late afternoon, it will be ready for the long press right at bedtime, and then can be popped into the brine first thing the next morning. 

    To watch the recipe in development, go here.

    6½ gallons whole milk
    2 quarts heavy whipping cream
    1½ teaspoons calcium chloride
    1½ teaspoons rennet
    1 generous cup yogurt
    saturated salt brine

    Milk-To-Curds
    Heat the milk and cream to 102 degrees. 

    Thin the yogurt with some of the warm milk and add it to the milk. Stir gently for about a minute. Lid the kettle and let the milk ripen for 40 minutes.

    Dilute the calcium chloride with a little water and stir into the milk. Dilute the rennet with a little water and add to the milk. Stir gently (in an up-and-down motion) for no more than one minute. Lid the kettle and let rest for 40 minutes. 

    Check for a clean break. (If not yet ready, let rest for another 10 minutes.) Cut the curds into ½-inch cubes. Let them rest (heal) for 5 minutes. 

    Gently stir the curds for 20 minutes. Cut/break any curds that are still too large. Allow the curds to rest for 5 minutes to settle to the bottom.

    Washing the Curd
    Remove half of the whey. (I couldn’t get half of the whey because the curds kept popping up. I could’ve held the curds at bay with a strainer and scooped the whey out of that, but instead I choose to start washing the curds and then, once I had more liquid, I removed more. Either way! Just make sure you don’t stir too much or too hard — be gentle!)

    Over the course of 5-10 minutes, add warm water (about 140 degrees) until the temperature reaches 108 degrees, stirring gently all the while. (If you didn’t get half of the whey removed the first time around, do it during this part.) 

    Once the curds reach 108 degrees, turn off the heat and continue to stir gently for 10 minutes. The goal is to poach the curds — they should be cooked through, with no whey trapped inside. (Trapped whey damages the cheese during the aging process, resulting in a more acidic, crumbly cheese.) If you find curds that are too juicy-wet, simply tear/cut them in half, or remove them.

    To test if the curds are done, squeeze them in your fist. The curds should knit together in a solid mass that can roll around in your hand, or dangle from your fingertips without falling apart, and will then separate back into curds when you rub them. 

    Let the curds rest in the whey for 10 minutes. 

    Pressing and Brining
    Pour off the whey. Transfer the curds to a cheesecloth-lined mold and top with a follower. Press lightly for the first hour, flipping every 30 minutes. Increase the pressure to 20-30 pounds (this is still fairly light) and press for 9 hours. Flip as needed.

    Weigh the cheese and then brine it in a saturated salt brine, about 4 hours for every pound. (For example, my cheese weighed 10 pounds so I brined it for 40 hours.) Flip halfway through. Dry-salt the exposed surface.

    Air Drying and Aging
    Air dry the cheese for 2-3 days, flipping twice a day. Vac-pack and age at 55 degrees for 4 weeks, flipping twice a week. 

    This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.15.21), sourdough English muffins, guayaba bars, success!, Thai chicken curry, the quotidian (11.16.15), lessons from a shopping trip, official, the quotidian (11.16.11).

  • the quotidian (11.14.22)

    Quotidian: daily, usual or customary;
    everyday; ordinary; commonplace

    For cheese. (No, really!)

    He said it was a bit much.

    Pretty, yes. Precise, no.

    The variety, the abundance, the flavors — it never gets old.

    Test bake: blueberry and lemon.

    Meal delivery x 2.

    The morning after a MEHPoeting reading.

    Discrepancy.

    Ee-i-ee-i-o.

    Car shopping.

    Deer in headlights.

    The Crucible.

    A new release.

    This same time, years previous: perimenopause: Laura, age 48, my new kitchen: the refrigerator, Shakespeare behind bars, enough, for now, gravity, refrigerator bran muffins, the wiggles, chicken salad.

  • jammy crumble cookies

    My, what a gloomy day. The off-and-on pouring rain is something else. (Whenever it increases to a heavy roar, and then stays at that level, I’m reminded of Hurricane Mitch — how the rain thundered on the tile roof of our little adobe house in northern Nicaragua for four days straight, so steady and oppressive, so loud.) But hey, it’s Friday and I’ve got cookies, so cheer up, folks!

    These are immediate must-make cookies. I came across the recipe one day and made them the next — a double batch. (I had a feeling.) That same afternoon, I sent some over to my parents with my daughter, and then my mother called me with her mouth still full. What are these? They’re amazing! Send me the recipe.

    This morning I had one with my coffee. My husband had one, too. And then he had another.

    Now, mid-morning, the cake plate has been emptied [brushes crumbs from lips] and restocked with the cookies I’d foolishly thought I would squirrel away in the freezer. 

    I fully expect the plate to be empty by bedtime. 

    Jammy Crumble Cookies
    Adapted from Dinner With Julie.

    I made mine with red raspberry jam but I think fruit preserves (thick jam sauce made without the addition of pectin and often with slightly less sugar, like in this red raspberry sauce) might be even better. How about fig? Black raspberry? Spiced apple pie filling? A berry blend? You get the idea.

    I strongly recommend doubling the recipe.

    for the cookie:
    ½ cup butter
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
    1 egg yolk
    ½ teaspoon vanilla
    1 cup flour
    ¼ teaspoon salt

    Cream the butter and sugars. Beat in the egg yolk and vanilla. Mix in the flour and salt.

    for the crumble:
    ¼ cup oats, any kind
    ¼ cup flour
    ¼ cup pecans
    ¼ cup coconut
    ¼ cup brown sugar
    pinch of salt
    3 tablespoons butter

    Put all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse until crumbly. 

    to assemble:
    the butter dough
    the crumb topping
    ½ cup jam

    Divide the butter dough into 12 balls. Place each ball in a well-greased muffin tin and press it down in the center with your fingers; the “dip” needs to be large enough to hold at least 1 teaspoon of jam.

    Fill the “dips” with jam and generously spoon the crumbs on the outside edges of the cookies, leaving a space in the center for the jam to peak through. Really pile it on.

    Bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let them cool for 10-20 minutes before running a knife around the edge and carefully coaxing each cookie from its cup.

    These store well at room temperature, and they can be frozen as well (but don’t bother).

    This same time, years previous: six fun things, introducing how we homeschool: a series, what we ate, of mice and men and other matters, unleashing the curls!, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, the quotidian (11.11.13), pumpkin cranberry cream cheese muffins.

  • dulce de leche

    Have you ever made dulce de leche?

    No, no, I don’t mean the hack version that involves sticking a can of sweetened condensed milk in a crock pot for a few hours. I’m talking about real dulce de leche from real milk that you got from the real cow that lives in your backyard. 

    I made dulce de leche for the first time a few days ago, and then I made it twice more — the first time because I wanted to try it with white sugar instead of raw cane sugar, and the second time so I could photograph it for you. And this weekend I’m going to make it again so I can film it for YouTube because this stuff rocks and everyone needs to know about it, especially with Christmas coming up and all.

    I mean, seriously. Think about it. A whole bunch of little jars of sweetness for all the teachers/neighbors/random service professionals in your life? BOOM. (That’s the sound of you nailing it.)

    Also, consider this. Dulce de leche makes for a great cookie add-in and it’s a pretty darn knockout addition to hot boozy drinks. 

    Sold? Good. Let’s get to it.

    Put milk, sugar, and baking soda in a kettle and cook until thick.

    thickening

    thicker

    THICK

    Add vanilla and salt.

    Pour it into a jar.

    The end.

    Okay, okay, so that’s not the end end — I’ve always got more to say — but it is that easy, no joke.

    made with raw sugar, with white sugar, and rum-spiked

    If you cook dulce de leche a little too long and it happens to get so stiff that you can’t even wrestle it out of the jar, congratulations! You just made milk caramels! Simply pop the jar into the microwave for 20 seconds to soften enough so you can dig out a scoop and then roll-press the glob into balls or squares, sprinkle with crunchy salt, and wrap in parchment paper. (If you have better self-control than me and don’t just pop it directly into your mouth, that is.)

    To booze it up: heat the dulce until it’s stir-able, add the spirit of your choice, and mix to combine. Spiked dulce is yummy drizzled over ice cream or added to lattes or hot cocoa. (Eaten plain, I’ve noticed that chilled, spiked dulce is a little grainy — not sure why.)

    the white sugar version, and so stiff (when chilled) I could barely chop it out with a knife

    Need more ideas for dulce de leche? Well! 

    When making an apple crisp, dollop globs of it all over the cut, spiced-n-sugared apples before topping with the oat crumbs and baking. The dulce creates wonderful little pockets of chewy caramelness. 

    apple crisp with craters of dulce

    You can add dulce to fruit pie filling, or drizzle warmed dulce over slices of apple pie, or sandwich the dulce between butter cookies, like the South American alfajores. Eat it with hard pretzels and apple slices. Sprinkle it with crunchy salt and eat it straight from the jar. 

    browned butter shortbread with dulce de leche, coconut, chocolate, bacon, and pecans

    And then there’s the whole world of dulce de leche inspired ganaches, ice creams, pies (banana cream has jumped to the top of my to-make line), cheesecakes, and caramel-cobbled brownies that I haven’t even begun to explore. 

    with raw cane sugar, and spoonable soft

    It’s a good thing I’ve got that cow out back.

    Dulce de Leche
    Adapted from Kate’s recipe at Venison for Dinner

    Raw sugar makes a dark-golden dulce, and it has a more robust (better) flavor, I think. White sugar works just fine, though. Haven’t tried brown. Wondering if swapping in a little honey might be a fun variation?Try it and tell me. 

    The milk can be raw or store-bought, whole or skim.

    The degree to which the dulce is cooked is entirely the cook’s preference. The dulces in the photos above are pretty thick. If you want a more syrupy dulce, remove it from the heat sooner.

    Recipes for actual milk caramels often call for the addition of corn syrup.

    1 liter (4¼ cups) milk
    1¼ cups raw cane sugar
    ¼ teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    crunchy salt like Maldon for serving, optional

    Combine the milk, sugar, and baking soda in a kettle. The milk will rise considerably, so pick a kettle with high sides. Heat the milk until boiling, reduce the heat, keeping the milk at a manageable rolling boil (“manageable” = without the constant threat of overflow) and stirring occasionally. (Note: dulce de leche doesn’t burn nearly as quickly as one might imagine, but I like to stay close anyway. This morning I read a book while stirring my burbling pot of delicious sweetness. There are worse ways to spend one’s time.)

    Once the milk reduces and thickens, stir steadily. Markers to look for to tell if it’s getting done: the bubbles are less frothy and move more slowly. A spoon leaves a  trail behind it in which you can see the bottom of the kettle. The mixture starts to get some dry spots in it, like scabs (sorry) or bubbly patches. If you want, drop some of the dulce on a cold plate to test the true consistency. 

    Towards the end, I’ve noticed that little lumps form in the dulce and it’s not all the way creamy-smooth. I’ve stirred it extra hard, but that hasn’t seemed to help much. It might not matter, though, since the lumps have always disappeared after chilling. Don’t worry about it too much. 

    Call it quits whenever the dulce reaches the consistency you want. Thin and syrupy for pouring into coffee or eating on waffles? More like a thick glaze for drizzling over cake or ice cream? Lightly spoonable for a dip-able treat? Stiff for individual milk caramels? Remember that the dulce will thicken considerably in the fridge. (I think I’ve been cooking mine a few steps beyond the ideal dulce de leche stage but I keep doing it anyway because I like it.)

    Store the dulce in a jar in the fridge. It should last for weeks and weeks, if not months and months. One batch yields 1½ to 2-plus cups, depending on how much it was reduced.

    This same time, years previous: chai tea concentrate, a hallowed eve, egg bagels, sour cream coffee cake, old-fashioned apple roll-ups, cinnamon pretzels, 2015 garden stats and notes, stuffed peppers, chatty time, cheesy broccoli potato soup.

  • seven fun things

    Daylight’s savings ends next weekend (I wish they’d do away with it once and for all) so it’s time to break out the soup pots and twinkle lights. 

    This morning I strung new lights (I’d ordered several strands in advance of the Christmas rush) above the living room hutch and atop our wardrobe, and just minutes ago I ordered these globe lights to dangle by the coffee maker in the kitchen. (UPDATE: Do NOT buy the globe lights. Turns out they are a weird greenish-yellow and they’re battery-powered. Clearly, I stink at reading product descriptions.)

    On a less-fun note: I’ve had terrible luck with candles recently.

    candles that burned and didn’t stink, and munchins of yore

    I bought a whole bunch of duds at the thrift store (at least the money goes to a good cause) and then three of the four candles that I got in a Costco pack had a chemically smell to them that pricked the inside of my nose even though they smelled good in the store. (I’m donating them to the aforementioned thrift store, so candle buyers, beware.) 

    ***

    I love, love, love seeing what other people eat, so this video of a girl documenting what she eats at her Nonna’s house for a whole week makes me inordinately happy. 

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZmBKInxtXE

    And then she posted a video of what she ate at her other grandmother’s house in Maldova, the best part of which was the wedding. Seriously, you have got to check it out. The endless feasting makes our little three-hour weddings look positively impoverished. (Warning: don’t watch the video on a full stomach.)

    ***

    After I posted about our painful mattress situation, my cousin(-in-law) gave us a used mattress topper they had in storage. It made our bed softer, but the body imprints accentuated the divide between us and my husband still woke up sore.

    My husband’s face: “Stupid fancy mattress is as hard as these boards.”

    He fussed until a couple weeks ago when he finally realized I wasn’t going to do anything about it (I was more or less okay with it) and fell down the research rabbit hole. And then he ordered a new topper for 200 bucks

    Folks, it’s AMAZING.

    This is how we feel about the topper.
    photo from my cousin’s wedding last month

    I feel firmly supported all over when I sleep and the best part is that there is no longer a mountain range between us (which means I’m constantly encroaching on my husband’s space, ha!). My husband says he wishes it were a wee bit softer, but I think it’s perfect.

    ***

    Have you seen The White Lotus (HBOMax)?

    It’s a perfect blend of mystery, comedy, and trashy-fun, and the acting is superb with a plotline that has us guessing, constantly analyzing the characters and discussing the different directions the story might go. (My husband can hardly handle the cringe-factor — he hates shows that center around entitled rich people like Downton Abbey and Inventing Anna — but he’s hanging in there with me. If it weren’t for him, I’d probably binge it.) 

    ***

    My mother said I might enjoy this Fresh Air interview with NYT Cooking food writer Melissa Clark, and she was right — I loved Melissa’s fast-talking energy, as well as her solid cooking sense, flexibility, and lack of airs. Afterward, I looked up her videos on YouTube. Thanks to the one on apple pie, I’ve now started adding lemon zest, fresh nutmeg, and ginger to my pies (and they’re better for it).

    And then I found this video where she gave a tour of her kitchen:

    Those spice drawers! The salt collection! I may have watched it three times.

    ***

    My mom developed an aversion to plastic coffee filters (she doesn’t like putting hot drinks/food in plastic) so last year for her birthday I got her a stainless steal coffee press, zero plastic.

    But turned out she preferred her own hand-sewn coffee filters, so she gave it back to me, which was kinda what I’d been hoping she’d do all along. Children, take note: if you want something, buy it for your parents and you may eventually inherit it.

    Now I use the press, but for loose-leaf tea, not coffee, since I already have three coffee makers (an aeropress, a regular coffee pot, and an espresso machine). Obviously, I don’t mind plastic.

    On chilly mornings after I finish sipping my plastic-infused coffee, I tumble some mint tea leaves into the stainless steel canister, add a bit of honey or some sugar, and then top it off with some boiling water.

    After it steeps for a few minutes, I push the plunger down. The tea stays warm for as long as it takes me to drink it all up. 

    Thanks, Mom!

    ***

    My daughter is dogsitting a rat terrier-esque dog this weekend, which inspired our last night dinner guests to show us this video on ratting terrier dogs doing their ratty work.

    It’s weirdly satisfying to watch. 

    ***

    Have a great weekend, friends!

    This same time, years previous: brisket in sweet-and-sour sauce, the quotidian (10.28.19), cilantro lime rice, listening, watching, reading, the business of schools, the quotidian (10.28.13), the quotidian (10.29.12), under the grape arbor.

  • the dairy and cheese report: October 2022

    Just last week, my husband switched to twice-a-day milkings. On average, we were getting just under 2 gallons of milk each day which wasn’t enough for all my cheesemaking projects (and as for extra cream for butter and ice cream, forget about it). 

    Morning: my husband is milking Emma in the shed, Fiona’s to the left, Butterscotch to the right.

    Here’s the new system: Fiona and Emma are separated all the time. He milks in the evening, and then, after the morning milking, he keeps Emma in the front paddock and brings Fiona in to nurse.

    This once-a-day feeding helps to keep Emma’s production up, helps to prevent mastitis by stripping Emma out all the way, and keeps Fiona from bellowing all day long. 

    Right before he leaves for work, he separates them again.

    So far, we’re getting about 2 gallons in the morning and a gallon-plus in the evening, and there’s more cream to boot!

    ***

    The other evening, at my husband’s urging, I milked for the very first time. He was so delighted he took pictures. 

    Emma’s a sweet cow. Once she’s done eating, she just stands there patiently waiting for us to finish milking. Even so, working with such a large animal unnerves me a little. 

    ***

    Nearly two years into this milking thing, I’m catching on to something: in order to get all the cream I need for butter, sour cream, whipping cream, cream cheese, etc, I need an excess of milk from which to skim that cream — and then to toss the skimmed milk. Even though I know that “tossed” doesn’t mean wasted — the skimmed milk goes to the animals, off-setting feed costs — it’s still physically painful for me to feed all that fresh skimmed milk to the pigs. But I’m learning, gradually adapting to a more pragmatic view of life with a family milk cow. 

    ***

    Speaking of cream, I’m addicted to my homemade butter. 

    In the beginning, I wasn’t so sure (the flavor was stronger than I was used to and it just kinda weirded me out a little), but now I can’t get enough. I still keep store-bought butter on hand for baking projects where I don’t want to waste the homemade stuff, or in recipes where I’m worried that a variation in moisture content may adversely alter the final outcome, but for everything else, it’s homemade butter all the way, baby — and lots of it. 

    ***

    A couple months ago, we borrowed a bull.

    Butterscotch was in heat when he arrived (she all but flashed her ankles and screamed pick me, pick me), and my husband gave Emma an injection to bring her into heat, but even though there was a fair bit of action, both cows’ blood tests came back negative.

    Well, Butterscotch was negative and Emma was inconclusive. (I hadn’t realized we were suppose to wait 30 days before drawing blood and testing, so it was too early to tell.)

    Last weekend we tested Emma again. 

    a photo from the earlier blood draw

    Testing involves a blood draw from the tail, and both times we’ve done it, my older son came over to help. I can get the needle in just fine, but then I have to wiggle it around to find the vein which makes my husband freak and then I freak. This last time, my son literally drew the blood blind while standing on either sides of the stall, straddling Emma and facing backwards. He held the tail and then reached around to maneuver the still-dangling needle and syringe, and then, mission accomplished, he dropped to the floor and declared himself the Spider Doctor.

    I doubt Emma’s pregnant, so I have a feeling Mr. Big Balls will be making another visit soon.

    ***

    I’m beginning to experiment a little more with cheesemaking. I’ve done my first blue (the saga is thoroughly documented on my YouTube channel), later today I’ll be ordering some new-to-me molds and cultures, and I just made my first Bries. I also ordered pH strips, a cheese trier (for checking the center of the cheese without cutting into the wheel), and ash for some bloomy, white mold cheese.

    I needed a bigger mold for Brie and then I found this thrift store colander. It worked!

    Many blues, washed-rind, and bloomy white cheeses need to have a natural rind — no vacuum sealing — in order to properly develop. Since I don’t have an actual cheese cave, and the molds easily spread from cheese to cheese…

    case in point: even in separate containers, this Jarlsberg still took on some blue.

    …the cheeses need to be aged in ripening boxes which, I’m discovering, are ridiculously hard to come by. They’re just regular plastic containers, but properly sizing them is tricky, and who wants to spend tons of money on plastic containers? Not me! (I did just buy a couple at Dollar General that I thought would be perfect, but when I tried to clip on the lids this morning, I discovered that the lid dips down in the middle and presses on the Bries, grrr.)

    eager to see how the flavor develops after six months in an 8% salt brine solution

    ***

    P.S. As I was finalizing this post, Emma’s lab results came in. She’s not prego, grumble, grumble.

    This same time, years previous: currently, vanilla fondant, nourishment, the young adult child, growing it out, reading-and-ice cream evenings, the quotidian (10.27.14), in the garden, sweet potato pie.