New post up at the new blog.

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Along with moving to Chicago, I am moving to a new blog. Check it out.

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Homemade: Mozzarella Cheese

The past month or so I have been trying my hand at homemade cheese. I first heard about making cheese from Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle – which is a fantastic, five-star read. Before that I never would have thought of making cheese. I always thought about cheese as a base product, like milk or salt, you can’t make it. You just have to buy it. But, oh buddy, I was wrong.

I bought Ricki Carroll’s book, Home Cheese Making, and flagged some of the first cheeses I wanted to make. Things I learned first: (1) Softer cheeses, like ricotta, cream cheese, sour cream, and mozzarella, are the easiest to make. (2) You must use milk that has not been ultra-pasteurized. Other than that, any kind of milk is okay. (3) Make sure you have all the necessary ingredients first. You can get the oddball ingredients like calcium chloride, citric acid, and rennet from Leener’s ( I – HEART – LEENER’S).

The only recipe I’ve mastered (or tried, for that matter) so far is 30-minute mozzarella. And really, I did make mozzarella in thirty minutes today. Yay! Once I got it down (took about three tries because I didn’t add salt to the first two batches) it’s very simple. Start with a large pot and one gallon of milk. You will need a thermometer as well:

Heat the milk slowly to 55 degrees Farenheit. Then add the citric acid (dissolved in cool water). Heat to 90 degrees Farenheit and add the rennet (dissolved in cool water). Then stir every once in awhile and keep heating to 105 -110 degrees. At that point, turn the heat off but keep stirring every once in awhile until the mixture looks like this:

Curds separated from the whey. The whey should be yellowy and translucent. Scoop out the curds into a bowl.

Then press down the curds and pour off the whey. Microwave the curds for 20 seconds and then knead them like dough (in the bowl). Also, at this time add about 1 tsp. or salt (sea salt or kosher salt, not iodized salt).

Once the cheese/curds cool off a bit while you are kneading them, microwave again for 20 seconds. The cheese gets pretty hot so be careful. Knead again and microwave again until the cheese can stretch out like taffy and not break. Then roll into balls and place in ice water for 30 minutes or so.

You can store this in the refrigerator for several weeks. It is a bit softer and more difficult to slice and great than store-bought mozzarella, but dare I say, more tasty than the store-bought. Plus, you can tell friends you made it and they will revere you as a great domestic queen (or king). Oh yeah. ๐Ÿ™‚ Something like that.

DIY Grout Cleaner

Never, let me tell you, never buy a house with 2 cm. wide white grout! Unless, of course, you are going to rip that tile and grout out the day after you buy the house. Grout is man’s worst invention (after war and bombs and all that).

Since I did not know the above rule (not to buy a house with fat grout) I have had to experiment with many a grout cleaner, and the simplest, cheapest, most non-toxic way to clean grout is with two very basic ingredients that I know you have in your house right now: baking soda and vinegar. Here’s how to do it…

First, select a section of your floor to clean for the day. Trust me, you do not want to try to do your entire kitchen floor in one day. This job requires a good bit of scrubbing on your hands and knees. You could probably do an entire bathroom floor if you have a small bathroom. Anyway, select a few short rows of tile. Then turn on some loud happy music and think good thoughts. Take your baking soda and spread some over the grout. Don’t dump a huge heap on all the grout. Just pour a few small piles and use your fingers to spread the baking soda over the grout. You don’t need very much, just as long as there is a little bit of baking soda touching all the grout.

Next you will need a spray bottle. Now you could just fill the spray bottle with white vinegar and use that. I make my own all-purpose cleaner (a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, dish soap, and water) so I used that. The vinegar and lemon juice are both acidic and act with the baking soda to create the foamy, cleansing paste you need.

Spray the vinegar on all your baking-soda-ed grout.

Now you need a good brush. You could use a toothbrush, but I have this brush, which is like an over-sized toothbrush, with very hard bristles. It is great for cleaning grout. You need to scrub every inch of grout with your brush. It takes a bit of muscle, but it is worth it. After you finish scrubbing, use a rag and a bucket of water to wipe away the baking soda and vinegar paste.

Then, you’re done! And your grout looks like new (until you drop that jar of spaghetti sauce)

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