• the middle years

    Now that my kids are mostly grown and halfway flown, I’ve been wondering: what’s the point of anything? 

    barn window time capsule

    For the last twenty-plus years, everything I did — all the cooking and baking, gardening, writing, homeschooling, projects, trips, books — revolved around either: 1) taking care of my family, or 2) escaping my family. I thrived on being needed, the pressure and excitement, the chaos and relationships, the freedom to do what I wanted within specific parameters. And I still do! This is who I am. But now that my family is disintegrating (not to be dramatic or anything but: FACT), the activities I love are no longer necessary.

    Example One: I enjoy big-batch cooking and making my own staples and freezing garden produce, but absent a pressing need, what’s the point? It’s certainly a whole lot easier to just pick up a jug of milk at the store.

    Example Two: I used to crave uninterrupted solitude but now there are long stretches of time when I’m home all day by myself, free to write and read and do whatever I want. Without the need to escape, the thrill of solitude is diminished. So again, what’s the point?

    newly licensed

    These five acres where we live were the stage upon which we built our children’s childhoods. This land, and the animals and house, gave us something to work on and bond over, together

    But now that the kids are peeling away, my husband and I have to decide how much of this lifestyle we want to maintain. Neither of us are farmers or gardeners — we do these things because we value them, not because they’re our passion.

    Maybe this matters, and maybe it doesn’t. Either way, it’s something we have to figure out.

    off to PA for a week with friends

    The house feels so big now. It’s not huge huge — only 1800 square feet — but it’s plenty. More than plenty, really. What to do with all the space? How to use it in a way that feels meaningful? 

    “Can’t it just be our home?” my husband asks. “Can’t that be enough?” 

    Which is reasonable enough. But I can’t seem to stop wanting it to be more. Wanting more.

    leaving for a week of camp orientation and training (kitchen staff)

    Is my urge to burn everything down — leave everything I know and move to another country — a side effect of approaching fifty? Of climate change? Of perimenopause? Of empty-nesting?

    Absent my normal rammy exuberance, I move gingerly. No sudden movements, I tell myself. One foot, then another. Eventually things will sort themselves.

    heading north for a couple weeks

    Recently, I’ve started thinking about adulthood as three, twenty-year chunks. In the first 20 years we made a home and raised a family — my husband and I had our kids right in the beginning and all in a rush precisely because we wanted to parent while we were young and then be done with it — and in the third set of twenty years, I hope to be available to support our children, however they might need us. (I have a hunch that grandkids, if and when they come, will bring a renewed sense of purpose to our home. My parents’ place is a second home to the grandkids — they go there for meals, lessons, stories, ice cream, sleepovers, fort-building, advice — and I want our home, and us, to be similarly available when the time comes.)

    But this second set of twenty is all ours. We are still relatively young. We have energy and good health. And we are free! We can sell our house, go back to school, volunteer, hike the Appalachian trail, travel. 

    What are our goals? I keep asking. What’s our focus? What’s our purpose? What do we want to accomplish in these next five years, ten years, twenty? What do we want to experience? Is there an unidentified dream lurking just beneath the surface? Some task, or some people, that needs us?

    I don’t want to wake up one day when I’m sixty and realized I just frittered this time away. I only have one life, after all.

    (There is a chance I may be overthinking this.)

    Recently, when I unloaded all this on a girlfriend, she asked if I was depressed. (And then another friend asked me the same thing. I have good friends.)

    I don’t think so, I said. I wake up excited, in a mellow sort of way, for the day ahead. I smile and laugh. Mostly, I’m pretty much okay. Just, there’s an emptiness, a not-knowing.

    It’s unsettling.

    I never wanted to be the sort of mother who lost herself in her children so all along I was intentional about both investing in my children and doing the things I wanted to do, like writing and acting and baking. I was fiercely, selfishly protective of my time and energy, and proud of it. 

    So it’s caught me off-guard, this unmoored feeling. I mean, I expected empty-nesting wasn’t going to be easy, but I thought my drive for newness and adventure, coupled with my independent streak, would be enough to power me through, unscathed. 

    The other day I had an epiphany: it’s like I’ve been fired.

    For the last 20 years, mothering was my job — heck, I made it into a freakin’ career what with homeschooling and gardening and fostering and volunteering in other countries (and I am so glad I did) — so the fact that I’m at loose ends doesn’t mean that I somehow lost myself to my children. Rather, I lost my job, that’s all. Of course I’m adrift. This is normal.

    When I told my husband about my epiphany, he was quick to correct me. “You didn’t get fired, Jen. You just got your hours reduced.” (I think he was worried I might do something drastic.) 

    And he’s right, but the job-loss analogy has still been helpful. And because this particular sort of job loss is gradual, there’s no abrupt endpoint from which to pivot, it’s all the more complicated.

    And that’s okay.

    To be clear, I’m not pining over the early years when my house rocked with little ones. Not at all. I very much want my kids to grow up and move out. I love being with my husband, just the two of us. (That we have been having more fun than ever has been a huge surprise. I had no idea our enjoyment of each other could ramp up so much!) I’m just . . . I don’t know . . . idling.

    It’s like I’ve been kicked out of gear and now I’m stuck in neutral and can’t figure out how to work the clutch.

    In every crisis, there’s an opportunity. This isn’t a crisis — not by a long shot — but it’s definitely an opportunity. 

    The trick is just figuring out what, exactly, the opportunity is….

    somewhere in upstate New York

    Wish me luck! xo

    This same time, years previous: family road trip: Framingham, cherry picking, Korean beef, the quotidian (6.22.15), three things, weigh in, please, beets, half-mast, a number of things.

  • the quotidian (6.20.22)

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

    Sorting through, using up.

    To be topped with maple sugar and sliced bananas.

    The temp dropped so I took advantage and ran the oven all day.

    In development: maple pecan.

    Butter and (of course) buttermilk pancakes to put it on.

    To be pickled. (I used my pressure canner for the first time!)

    She cooks and plates.

    Babycake.

    Still needs work, but closer.

    The crumb is too tight. Suggestions?
    (That the recipe used to work and now doesn’t is one of life’s great mysteries.)

    Experiment: cracked black pepper Parmesan. (I’m excited.)

    All for the sake of a Swiss.

    An Ultimate fail (my foot busted out the side) and its neon fix.

    For when you can’t commit to where you want to build a bonfire.

    She loves bakery fails.

    Prepping for church: a mock-up of her senior table.

    Bad dogs.

    Chatting with Gavin. (If you want to see, my interview is at the one-hour mark.)

    Wine and cheese are always better with friends.

    A tornado warning and a (brief) middle-of-the-night basement hang.

    This same time, years previous: family road trip, nova scotia oatcakes, one morning, all before lunch, the quotidian (6.19.17), the quotidian (6.20.16), sinking in, in recovery, walking through water, refried beans.

  • pepper jack cheese

    When I couldn’t find a recipe for a pepper jack in any of the main cheesemaking books and websites I frequent (at least not on my first quick twirl around the block), I decided to develop my own. I wanted the method to be unfussy and trustworthy, and the cheese itself crowd-pleasing, meltable, and spicy. Just an all-around good pepper jack, please and thank you. 

    If I remember correctly, I based my recipe on a mash-up of Home Cheese Making’s Monterey Jack and Kitchen Creamery’s Baby Jack. I just sat down, wrote up an ingredient list and a method that made sense to me, and then made it. 

    The first time, I did a four-gallon batch. While I liked the cheese, we all agreed it definitely needed more salt and red pepper. I dialed things up and the second cheese — this time an 8-gallon batch — I loved: perfect kick and sufficient salt. The paste was tender and soft, and it melted well (cheesy tortilla chips anyone?). I tasted it early, as per my usual impatient tendencies, and because I needed to know if I had the salt/pepper levels right. It tasted young (because it was) — young cheeses have a brightness to them — but that will (or should) mellow over time. 

    I made the cheese again this week so I could photograph and film it (the link’s at the bottom of this post) and restock my cheezer. (All cheese-eating photos are of Cheese Number Two, and the cheese-making photos are of Cheese Number Three.) 

    I followed the recipe exactly but — curveball — the final cheese weighed two whole pounds less than cheese number two! I have no idea why. Because Daisy’s later in her lactation? Because I skimmed a bunch of cream from the milk? Because Emma’s early in her lactation? Because they’re eating lots of fresh grass and less hay? 

    It’s these sorts of variables that make me throw up my hands — I only have so much control — and keep me eternally humble and insecure. They also cause me more than a smidge of imposter syndrome. I know so little. 

    But I do think this third cheese will probably taste just fine. Aside from the size difference, it looked and felt perfect.

    Fingers crossed!

    Pepper Jack Cheese

    7 ½ gallons raw milk
    1 teaspoon flora danica culture
    9 teaspoons red pepper flakes, divided
    1 ½ teaspoons rennet
    7 tablespoons non-iodized salt

    Heat the milk to 90 degrees. Sprinkle the flora danica over the surface and allow it to rest for 2 minutes to rehydrate before stirring it in. Cover the pot with a lid and let rest, undisturbed, for 30 minutes to culture.

    While the milk is culturing, measure 2 teaspoons of red pepper flakes into a bowl and cover with about a cup of boiling water. Let steep for 20 minutes or so before straining, reserving both the liquid and the soaked flakes.

    After the milk has cultured, add the pepper water and stir briefly. Dilute the rennet with about a cup of cool water and stir it into the milk — stir no longer than about 45 seconds. Cover with a lid and let set for 40-90 minutes (usually takes me closer to 90 minutes) until the milk has set up into curd and there is a clean break.

    Cut the curd into ½-inch cubes. Allow the curds to heal (let them rest) for about 5 minutes.

    Stir gently for 10 minutes, breaking up any large, un-cut curds.

    Over the course of 25-40 minutes, heat the curds until they reach 100 degrees, stirring steadily. Once you’ve reached 100 degrees, turn the heat off and stir for another 30 minutes. Pour off the whey.

    Add the soaked pepper flakes, the 7 remaining teaspoons of dry pepper flakes, and the salt to the curds and mill — stir with your fingers, breaking up the curd and working in the pepper and salt. Scoop the curds into a cheesecloth-lined press and press at medium pressure for about 18 hours, flipping every half hour or hour in the beginning and then with less frequency as time passes.

    Remove the cheese from the press and air dry for several days at room temperature, flipping every 12 hours or so. Vac-pack the cheese and age at 55 degrees for 3 months (or longer), flipping weekly.

    This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week 66, the quotidian (6.10.19), pulling the pin, a photo book, the quotidian (6.10.13), fresh tomatillo salsa.

  • cheese news

    It’s been awhile since I’ve written about cheese, mostly because the sheer quantity of cheeses is so overwhelming (my 95th wheel is in the press as I type) that it makes it hard for me to keep my thoughts straight, even with my notes. (Poor me.) So rather than a cheese tasting write-up, how about a list of cheese-related learnings and news?

    A couple weeks ago, my cheesemaking group met for the fourth time. We sat at a round kitchen table by a huge window and drank wine and ate cheese and talked about cheese for two-plus hours straight. I learned useful little things, like the longer the rennet sits in the milk, the higher the moisture content will be in the final cheese, and how to make oil-brined, dried tomatoes to eat with grilled cheese or on cheese and crackers.

    If I remember correctly, the cheeses tasted included Yesterdaze Hamburger Cheese, Leerdammer, Asiago with Rosemary, Failed Stilton #2, a gym-locker flavored type thing, a Colby that tasted like a Gruyere, funky white Colby, Gruyere, São Jorge, Cotswold, fried paneer, and probably some others that I’m forgetting. It was lovely, and I came away energized and inspired. And full. 

    I finally cut into two of my longer-aged cheeses!

    Gruyere #28

    São Jorge #54

    The Gruyere was ready at eight months, but I cut into it at seven, and the São Jorge was ready at six-nine months and I cut into it at five (and then repacked them both to continue aging). They were thrilling, a completely different animal from the younger ones. Harder, smoother, drier, nuttier, the flavor was superb. In mean, nothing knock-your-socks-off — it’s just cheese — but I couldn’t get over what a difference a longer aging time makes. It felt lightbulb important. 

    I’m conflicted about these long aging times. On the one hand, it’s nice to put a cheese away and not worry about having to use it up. Having it squirreled away in the cheezer, a luxurious treat for my future self, is such a nice feeling.

    But on the other hand, I want to know what it’s like NOW. Maybe the cheese is terrible, or maybe it’s the best cheese ever, WHO KNOWS. Maybe, when I open it, I’ll wish I had made another exactly like it, but a year ago, or maybe it’ll be fine but I’ll know it could be better with more salt or a different culture? When it comes to aging cheeses, I feel like I’m stuck in a catch-22 loop.

    However, now that I know long-aged cheeses are worth it, I’m focusing on them more: Gruyere, Asiago, Romano, Parmesan. The process is pretty straightforward, and they’re cheaper to make, too: since they are high-heat, thermophilic cheeses, I can use my homemade yogurt as culture.

    I’m also trying to push myself to do more flavored cheeses. I copycatted one of the people in my cheese group and rubbed the outside of an Asiago with rosemary-infused olive oil — the rosemary Asiago he served us was divine. (And I oiled and vac-packed some other cheeses, too, becuase I want to see how that impacts the flavor/texture over the long-term.)

    I did another Cotswold this week. I want to make another spiced Gouda Divino soon (even though I haven’t tasted the first one yet, stinkin’ Catch-22). I’m hoping to create a Cracked-Pepper Parmesan this weekend. And, while it’s not a thermophilic cheese, I think I’ve finally developed a pepper jack that I like!

    I did a video of it — posting Friday — and I’ll post the recipe here soon, too. 

    Since my cheeses don’t taste like what you buy in the store — they’re specific to our cows, the season of the year, my small-batch process — it feels disingenuous to call them the store names and so I’d like to come up with names and recipes that are specific to me. Maybe something that hints at our location — Shenandoah Valley, Rockingham, etc — or to the process/ingredients … I don’t know. I’m terrible at naming things. Maybe I’ll have to host another cheese-and-wine party with the condition that people must offer a name for each cheese they taste? (This cheese company has some cool names, like Jig, Morgan, Prix de Diane, Opus 42.)

    It’s wild how much one cheese can vary from another even though it was made with the exact same recipe. I turn out cakes and pies with only minor variations, but some of these cheeses are wildly different and half the time I have no idea why. Maybe Daisy and Emma are in a different stage of lactation? Maybe I stirred the curd for 5 minutes too long? Maybe it was extra hot (or cold) in the kitchen? 

    For example, the two cheese I made this week are both smaller than normal and I have no idea why. And I was getting really good at Jarlsberg, but then one simply failed to get any eye development. It was delicious in its own right but a Jarlsberg it was definitely not. I have another one aging right now but I don’t think it’s getting the proper eye development (again), and when I set it out at room temp to age, oil began collecting in the corners of the bag.

    I didn’t think the ambient temp was too hot, or the milk was extra creamy, but who knows! Cheesemaking can be so frustratingly random. Or delightfully whimsical, depending on your perspective. (I tend to lean towards the former.)

    In other exciting news, this weekend Gavin WebberTHE Curd Nerd himself (squeeeee!) — is interviewing me for his 12-Hours of Cheese livestream! He has a whole bunch of fun stuff planned including cheese tastings, cheese makings, and interviews with cheesemakers from all over the world: Canada, Bangladesh, Cambodia, California. I’m scheduled to go live this Saturday, June 11 at 6 pm (in Australia where Gavin lives, it’s June 12 at 8 am, I think). And yes, I’m a smidge nervous. This is my first livestream and cheese turns me into a babbling fool. Wish me luck!

    This same time, years previous: hammy tales, ba-BAM, the quotidian (6.9.14), last Sunday morning, the quotidian (7.9.12), how we beat the heat, white chocolate and dried cherry scones.

  • happy pork

    Friday morning my husband admitted that getting pigs might be a logical next step, considering all the cheesemaking I’m doing, and a split nanosecond later, I’d texted our pig-owning friend to let him know we were in — FINALLY. That very afternoon my husband swung by the farm to pick up two 10-week-old piggies. 

    They’re adorable and grunty and friendly. I named the small one Petunia (isn’t she a doll?) and the bigger one Fern. Morning and evening, I go down to their pen bearing gifts of deliciousness. I like to sit on a log right inside the gate and feed them chopped garden scraps and dairy.

    Petunia is particularly fond of chopped kohlrabi. Fern adores strawberry tops.

    They both went nuts for the buttermilk — Fern especially.

    Fern is such a pig.

    Neither of them liked the whey too much at first, but they’re guzzling it now, so maybe they were just overfull the first time I tried it?

    Petunia and Fern are American Guinea hogs, which means they’re foragers — less rooty and more grass-eating. They grow slower and are smaller, so if everything goes according to plan, they should be ready to be turned into sausage sometime in the fall of next year. 

    It feels so good to finally have little piggies gobbling up all our scraps once again.

    This same time, years previous: milk central, margarita mix, energy boost, the family reunion of 2017, the quotidian (6.8.15), delivery, thorns, Jeni’s chocolate ice cream.

  • the quotidian (6.6.22)

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

    Not as good as it looks: my husband bought cream cheese-style cheese, which is gross.

    That yogurt cream cap is basically clotted cream. Now if I only had a scone….

    This smoothie is called “Let’s Clean Out the Fridge.”

    And this one’s nectarine banana coconut (I think).

    No hands: my butter problem is solved!

    Rubbery (too much rennet?) Colby makes for a most excellent melting cheese.

    The pigmentation machine glitched.

    I spy a problem.

    Thank goodness for my cheezer.

    Treat yo self.

    Wearing it.

    Finally sprung for a whole house fan.

    Etching lines for easy milk measuring.

    Yet another step of the (very involved) mushroom-growing project.

    Looks like we have a driveway mechanic.

    He let her borrow his car in exchange for a wash.

    Lil Peach: Outside.

    And in! Note the recessed lighting (under the shelving) of which he’s particularly proud.

    This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week thirteen, berries for supper, how do you want to be when you grow up?, the quotidian (6.4.18), the quotidian (6.6.16), a better grilled cheese sandwich, on pins and needles, meat market, of a sun-filled evening.

  • so much milk

    A week after Fiona was born, we started separating her from Emma in the evening. Then in the morning, my husband milks Daisy first and then Emma. We’re a week into this new system and Emma is giving approximately 2.5 gallons each milking; Daisy gives a little more. 

    About Emma’s milk: it’s soooo different from Daisy’s! After less than 12 hours of chilling (actually, more like only five hours!), the cream is so thick that it crinkles when you skim it. And the milk itself tastes different — richer, not as strong-flavored, and sweet. I am beside myself. 

    Here’s a run down of all the ways we’re enjoying the fresh milk.

    Ice cream! Mid afternoon, I blend up an egg, a splash of vanilla, and a half cup each of sugar and milk. I mix it real good, so it’s light and frothy and smooth. Then I pulse in 2 cups of cream and pour the whole thing straight into the ice cream maker. 

    About 15-20 minutes later, soft serve vanilla! I transfer it to a different container and pop it in the freezer. By the time dessert rolls around, it’s scoopability perfection. Served with a fruit crisp or cobbler, or fresh sugared strawberries and granola, we can eat almost the whole thing. The little bit that’s leftover is a lovely addition to smoothies.

    Smoothies! Just this week I bought a new blender.

    I’ve been eyeballing an upgrade for months now and when I saw that Costco had one on special for a hundred dollars, I sprung for it. (Amazon, $150)

    one of the three blender pitchers: this one’s the extractor

    The thing is amazing, and now that it’s hot weather, I have a feeling we’ll be reaching for the yogurt and milk about twice as often as before. Here’s a banana strawberry licuado (before the Ninja).

    The first night we had it, we made piña coladas (no milk) before bed.

    Baking! Currently, I’ve been making buttermilk ricotta pancakes (because when you have a lot of milk, you double the dairy). 

    The night before, I mix the drys and blend the wets and then smack ‘em together first thing in the morning. 

    Yogurt! I’m not a yogurt person, but I’ve actually been eating whole bowls of it for my breakfasts and/or snacks.

    roasted strawberries: maple syrup, wine, balsalmic, olive oil, salt

    Lattes! So my younger son has been volunteering at the local thrift store one day a week. Days my younger son volunteers at the local thrift store, I’ll get random texts from him: Want this fan? (Yes.) A set of plates? (No.) How about this clock? (No.) Then yesterday, while my husband and I were standing in Costco debating the merits of various blenders, he texted, “Want an espresso machine?” 

    “How much?” I wrote back. “Does it work?”
    “Ten dollars. I’m testing it now.”

    So now I have an espresso machine and I’m YouTubing my way through how to steam milk, pull shots, and make lattes and cappuccinos.

    It’s loads of fun and we’re all drinking a lot of coffee, but it remains to be seen if this is just a fun toy or an actual piece of equipment that’s worth the kitchen realestate it take up. 

    And speaking of kitchen space, I may need to add on to my coffee stand since my son also got me this spiffy coffee grinder a few weeks back.

    Butter! We did it again, but this time with the cream at a cooler temp. While it came together in five minutes, the yield was disappointingly low. We’d used a mix of Daisy and Emma creams, so maybe the low yield was because Daisy’s in the later stages of lactation? Or maybe it’s something else we’re not doing right? But I’m not giving up yet. My snazzy new blender comes with a dough blade, which I think should be perfect for butter making. And it has a lid that locks so I don’t need to hover, whoop! 

    I can’t wait to transition from store butter to homemade and start stashing it away in the freezer for all my winter baking.

    This same time, years previous: in the bedroom, black lives matter, the quotidian (6.3.19), mama said, when the studies end, sour cream ice cream, buttered bread with radishes.

  • a walk in the woods

    This weekend, one of my friends posted on Facebook about a nine-plus mile hike she’d just gone on. Right away I told my husband that we needed to do it, too. I was itching to get out. Plus, I’d recently bought a small hiking backpack and water bottle (since my husband is forever fussing, rightfully so, about my lack of hiking preparedness) and was eager to use my new gear. So Monday morning after the milking, we drove east for about an hour. After some last-minute direction confusion, we got our bearings and struck off into the woods.

    Actually, we struck off into the woods before we got our bearings AS IS THE MURCH WAY. But we worked out the kinks within the first half hour and only backtracked once so that was basically the same thing as doing it right the first time. (For us, anyway.)

    Ooh, look. He dropped his heart.

    The first three (five?) miles felt a little like highway driving — just walking on a trail in the woods, no babbling brook or stunning views to distract us from the heat and gnats.

    There almost weren’t even rocks to sit on to eat our lunch. Just, lots of trees and a path.

    Oh, and snakes! I stepped on a baby green snake without knowing (my husband gasped when he saw it coming up from under my shoe), and then I nearly stepped on this monster.

    I shouted, turned tail, and booked it back to my husband. Once I caught my breath, we gently urged mister snake to let us pass, and he kindly did. 

    One thing we noticed was the lack of birdsong. At our house, all day long and even sometimes at night (we have a drunk mockingbird that like to sing his heart out at 2 am right outside our bedroom window) the tweeting is deafening, but in the woods it was quiet quiet.

    After a few miles, we started climbing. A couple miles of that and then, right around the seven mile mark, there was a short, steep climb to the old fire tower with views in all directions which we savored only briefly…

    …(because the sun was killer) before relocating to the little stone room under the tower where we leaned against the cool walls, ate chips and chocolate, and rested.

    The first mile back down the mountain was gorgeous: a single path through moss-covered rocks, mountain laurel, and sunshine.

    And then the last mile or two, the trail widened so we could walk side-by-side. It was mostly downhill, with lovely shade and so many butterflies flitting in front of us that I felt like I was in a Disney movie. I half expected deer and bunnies and chipmunks — all with enormous soft brown eyes — to skip across our path. 

    This was the first time my husband and I had gone hiking just the two of us. “What’s even the point of this?” he said as we tromped down Bambi Lane.  

    I took the bait. “It’s kinda like meditation, right? All there is to focus on is what we’re doing, right now, and there’s nothing to distract us from our current misery. It’s centering.” It’s weirdly addicting, I’m learning.

    We finished the last of our water right before we got back to the car (note to self: buy a second water bottle) where I discovered the iced coffee I’d packed and left in the cooler, but forgotten about on the hike.

    It was like finding a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but better.

    This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week 65, simple lasagna, this is us, brown sugar rhubarb muffins, the quotidian (6.1.15), the quotidian (6.2.14), a bunch of stuff, showtime!, what makes this dish.

  • the quotidian (5.30.22)

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

    Eat the rainbow.

    Grilled flatbread, split and stuffed with egg and cheese.

    I had mine with olive oil and herbs.

    Sunday breakfast.

    Taste testing: it passed with flying colors.

    Thanks for the ice cream, Emma!

    Einkorn dump.

    Eye candy.

    My first tingley rubbers!

    Waiting her turn at the teet.

    The perch.

    Improvements.

    Look up.

    This same time, years previous: gluten-free bread, period, facts, the quotidian (5.29.17), the quotidian (5.30.16), an evening together, in her element, the race we saw, the saturation point, the ways we play.

  • the butter conundrum

    Daisy’s milk has changed recently. There’s more cream, and it’s stronger-flavored due to all the fresh grass (or so they say). The last time I made cheese, I lightly skimmed the 8 gallons of milk and got about three-fourths of a gallon of cream. My husband said he’d make it into butter. Which was perfect, because I have no good way of making butter. What I want is a half-gallon electric butter maker (like this) so I can plug it in and walk away, but I can’t find one ANYWHERE. Apparently they don’t make them anymore?

    So anyway. I was happy my husband said he’d make the butter because then he’d understand what’s involved, and better know how to look for (or make) what I need. 

    I let the cream sit out all day to bring it to room temp (which makes it easier to churn), and late afternoon, my husband poured the cream into the hand-crank butter churn we’ve had for years, removed the handle, and fired up his drill.

    He drilled and drilled and drilled that cream. It whipped up nice and thick but absolutely refused to split. Had we over-filled the jar? Maybe.

    Two over-heated drills and forty-five minutes later, he gave up.

    Hours later, before we headed up to bed, I went back to it — the cream was still a solid mass of fluff. Was it too warm? I set the churn in a bowl of ice water and churned it by hand. Nothing. My husband said we should just toss it, but it tasted delicious — creamy and thick — and looked like a block of whipped cream and cream cheese. I couldn’t bear to let it go to waste.

    As a last-ditch effort, I got out my blender. I dumped in a bit of the cream fluff, turned on the blender, and, seconds later: butter! 

    We still don’t know what we did wrong but one thing we do know: we absolutely HATE that hand-held butter churn. Also, now my husband knows exactly what I want and why I want it. All that’s left to do is find an electric, no-slosh, hands-free, half-gallon butter churn. As of today, we’re starting to drink Emma’s milk, so he’d better problem-solve quick! THE CREAM IS COMING.

    We welcome (covet!) suggestions. But first:

    Methods I’ve tried:
    *Blender: it works, but it’s loud and messy and I have to be totally hands-on the whole time.
    *Kitchen Aid: it also works, but butter is sloshy (even more so than whipped cream) and, again, hands-on.
    *Food processor: doesn’t hold enough and my processor leaks.

    Methods we’ve thought about but haven’t tried:
    *A dry wall mixer in a 5-gallon bucket: it would work but I’d need a couple gallons of cream (and I’ll probably be dealing with half-gallon quantities).
    *An electric ice cream maker with a non-frozen canister: I haven’t tried this, and while it might work, it’d definitely be too small.
    *A large electric ice cream churn: might work (my husband says no because it wouldn’t turn fast enough); don’t have one.

    This same time, years previous: the coronavirus diaries: week twelve, the quotidian (5.28.18), butter chicken, an evening together, loosing my footing, the quotidian (5.27.13), the quotidian (5.28.12), one dead mouse.