Three Impossible Things Between Lunch and Breakfast

(With apologies to Lewis Carroll and Barbara Kingsolver.)

Yesterday I was at the University District Farmers’ Market bright and early. I stocked up on meat and eggs and, since I don’t have to be back at work until next Wednesday, I picked up a gallon of milk to try making some mozzarella cheese (first impossible thing, after lunch). I stopped at The Cellar Homebrew to pick up a soft cheesemaking kit. I had to pasteurize the milk first, so it took longer than I expected, but the results were really good. I ended up with about 3/4 pound of really nice, stringy mozzarella. Next time I’ll need to spend a bit more time with the kneading and pouring off the whey, but for a first try, it isn’t bad.

But then, I had just short of a gallon of whey left over. I couldn’t stand the idea of just throwing out that much nutritious liquid, but it was too much to store. What to do? Make ricotta! It turns out that “Ricotta” actually means “twice cooked” and although it can be made from whole milk, it can also be made from the whey that’s left over from making cheeses such as mozzarella. So I reheated the whey, added a little vinegar, and put the whole thing through the butter muslin that came with the cheese kit, hung it from my kitchen faucet, and let it drain into a bowl. (Second impossible thing, after dinner.)

But there was still a whole bunch of whey left when the ricotta finished dripping, way too much for a single person to use right away or to store, given that I have no deep freezer. So I did some poking around through Google and found out that I could cook that whey down still further, way down until it caramelized, and have something called gjetost (or I guess more properly, mysost). So this morning, before I even started my breakfast, (third impossible thing, if you’re still counting) I put the pot of whey back on the burner and brought it to a boil, and let it simmer for a couple of hours. With the quantity I had, it took about 2-1/2 hours to boil down.

I’ll have to get some commercially made gjetost, just to see what it’s like, before I try that again. What I ended up with was a lot like a really sticky caramel in consistency, only salty, with a hint of vinegar from the acid I’d used for the ricotta, and really too hard to slice. It was actually a little too close to caramel for comfort. I’m not sure it’s the best use of my whey or my time. But it sure was fun experimenting! And the mozzarella and ricotta are very good and will both end up in the lasagne I’m planning to make tonight.

Giving Thanks

The stock from the chicken I bought a couple of weeks ago has been sitting in my freezer, waiting to make its contribution(s) to Thanksgiving dinner. I’m cooking the dinner today because I was a guest elsewhere on the Actual Day, and my cousins didn’t have a proper turkey dinner on Thursday – they also were guests, and they had a Tofurkey. NOT the same, they said, so I am cooking the dinner for all of us today.

No, unfortunately the turkey isn’t local – it’s a bit too late for me to have gotten a good handle on that this holiday. Next year! However, the potatoes, eggs (in the stuffing), pumpkin, tomatoes (in the pumpkin-tomato bisque), onions, and of course the stock, are all locally produced. I’m really pleased about that. Oh, and the milk I used in the cornbread (for dressing) and that I’ll use in the mashed potatoes is also locally produced.

I’m thankful that I live in a place where there is so much wonderful locally-produced bounty, especially the meats, eggs, and dairy. I put an old AAA road map of Washington and Oregon up on the wall next to my computer desk, with a circle drawn around Seattle of about a 200 mile radius (coincidentally, one of my dinner plates was just the right size!) It’s a nice visual reminder of my local foodshed. I know that others circumscribe 100 miles, and I may consider that later. I just hate to leave out the Yakima and Willamette Valleys, though. I figure anything that doesn’t require a passport to get to my table is a big improvement over what I’d been doing before.

Feet!

I’ve been catching one or another of the many local farmer’s market here in Seattle most weekends since early September and, unlike in the produce section of my local supermarket, I’m noticing big changes in what’s available since then. The bounty of abundant, colorful fruits (in the botanical sense) is diminishing (except for the squashes and pumpkins), and I’m seeing a higher proportion of greens, turnips, radishes. It reminds me of early spring. Yesterday at the U. District Farmer’s Market, however, I did find a guy who had some late-season Roma tomatoes, so I grabbed about five pounds. More roasted tomatoes!

I stopped at one of the booths to check out their chickens. After talking to the woman there, I decided I’d get one of their stewing hens. When she reached in the cooler and pulled out my bird, I saw that the bird had… “FEET!!!” I have to admit I kind of squealed, it was such a cool surprise. I’ve never cooked a bird with feet before. The woman had a bit of a hard time trying to wrap it, because the feet were in the way. But she finally bent the legs enough to get the whole thing into a neat package, and I brought it home.

So, this afternoon, I put the curled-up bird neatly into my stockpot with all of the usual suspect (onions, carrots, spices) and put the water on to boil. When I heard the boiling sounds, I went into the kitchen to turn down the heat, and… my hen was trying to climb out of the pot! The legs had straightened out again, and there was no way I could get everything back into the boiling water. So I did what any sensible farm wife would probably have done before she put the bird on to boil… I got out my kitchen shears, cut through the joints, and threw the feet and the bird back into the pot. Live and learn.

The chicken meat is destined for my dinner. The bones will make stock. And everything in the pot except the spices is local.

From Applesauce to Zucchini Bread and Many Points In Between

It’s my intent for this blog to be a place where one urban apartment¬†dweller (that would be me)¬†can share my explorations with you as I attempt to eat more locally-produced food. Winter seems a strange time to start such explorations, but I figure that by the time the peak of next summer rolls around, I’ll be ready. Walk along with me!