Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When it's too wet to dig September 12, 2012

This winter has been such a wet one! The water table is really high so that each time it rains, the water just sits on the top of the ground even in paddocks on a slope. Of course this means that the vege garden is too wet to be able to dig over for planting new spring seeds. Usually in September I am planting carrots, parsnips, beetroot and a few other things that will survive the bit of cold weather that is still to come. But this year there is no way of having a fine tilth to sow into. So what do I do?
Well one thing is to sow as many varieties of seeds as I can into punnets so that at least they are doing a bit of growing while I wait. I bought this little plastic greenhouse for only $20 from the local $2 type shop - a bargain. It has a zip up door which I undo during the day and close each night to keep out a bit of the winter chills (or in the case of last weekend - gale force winds and hail). I can't sow everything in punnets - carrots and parsnips really need to go straight into the ground- but I have lots of other things underway. Broccoli, spinach, beetroot, pak choy, lettuce, tomato, zucchini, cucumber, pumpkin, fennel, squash and I will buy a few punnets of more difficult things to grow like eggplant to re-pot into little tubes. Some of these don't go into the ground until early November so they should be well under way by then. With tomatoes, it is always a good idea to get them a bit pot bound before you plant them out as this stimulates early flowering which leads to early fruiting.
Meanwhile I just keep doing some inside painting jobs and hope for the rains to stop soon!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Cantal cheese and Raspberry Ricotta cheesecake September 4th 2012

This weekend in the Preserving Patch kitchen, it was cheese making time again. I am trying to make several wheels of cheese that need to mature for several months at the moment. To make cheese I have to set aside pretty much a whole day to do the numerous steps involved. In winter when the weather is cold and often wet, I don't mind spending the day inside. But when the sun comes out and spring and summer are in the air, I can't bear to be inside. I would much rather be out in the garden digging or planting or pruning or doing all those other outside jobs.
So it was that this weekend, it was time to try a new cheese. This one is called Cantal which, according to Tim Smith's Making Artisan Cheese book, is named after the Cantal mountains in the Auvergne region of France. It is also sometimes called the French Cheddar as it shares similar qualities to Cheddar. Let's see in a few months time.
The cheese making process was similar at the beginning to lots of hard cheeses. Add starter culture at 32C, sit 45 minutes, add rennet, sit 45 minutes, cut the curd. The curd was then stirred for 20 minutes and then drained in a colander for 20 minutes. After breaking up and then mixing the curds with a bit of salt, the curds then went into a mould and were pressed for 10kg for 30 minutes. Then came the step which I haven't come across in any other recipe. The pressed cheese then had to sit for 8 hours at room temperature for the lactic acid to build up.

The cheese sits out for 8 hours to build up lactic acid
The cheese then went back into the press for 2 hours at 20 kg and then 24 hours at 30kg. Since then it has been sitting out on my bench top to slowly dry. It is almost there so it will go into the cheese fridge cave tonight for the next 3 to 6 months. I haven't decided yet whether to wax it to save myself the trouble of having to wash it daily with a salt solution for the next 6 months......but I am very tempted.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen, the leftover whey was used for the inevitable ricotta.
Scooping the ricotta out of the pan, ready to drain

 I found a really nice ricotta/ light cream-cheese cheesecake recipe by googling "ricotta" which also makes use of some the frozen raspberries I have left over from last summer. I like to tell myself that the very low fat ricotta plus extra light cream cheese means that this cheesecake is really healthy and non fattening! It looks and tastes great anyway.
and yes......I decided to wax them. Saves on having to wash the mould off all the time.