Weekend with Kougelhopf

I write this with trepidation since I know that this post will not be my usual awesomely interesting post.   Hmmm…  (want to introduce this gently)… ummm…  I am not going to talk about “ME” and what “I” did this weekend. (I know you are extremely disappointed)  I am going to talk about “ISABELLE” and what “SHE” did… and usually does/makes … Continue reading Weekend with Kougelhopf

Weekend with Romano

This weekend I will be sharing the recipe and process for making romano cheese.  This is one of my wife’s “non french” favorite cheeses and is based upon an Italian cheese “Pecorino Romano”.   This cheese dates back over 2000 years and was a staple for legionaries of ancient Rome. (I like to think I could be compared to these ancient roman solders…  well kind of… I eat romano cheese)

romano 1
Here is my cheese journal opened to the Romano recipe and the cheese label from my first Romano attempt.  I rated it with 4 stars… which means good… (my star rating system might be a bit arbitrary)

“Pecorino Romano” is made from sheep’s milk but I will be making this with fresh cow’s milk and my recipe and cultures come from cheesemaking.com. (if you want to be like me… and who wouldn’t…  cheesemaking.com would be a great place to get started. )

This is only the second time I share a recipe for cheese, but I make cheese almost two or three times a month.   If you are curious about the first recipe I shared, it can be found here Raclette Cheese .  I am often asked if I really make cheese… then why do I make it… and than finally do I sell it.  I imagine I get asked this because cheese making has become “unusual” and “uncommon” and often people see cheese as something that is manufactured… not made at home.   I find that to be incredibly sad.  We are becoming so disconnected from our food and its preparation.  When I make cheese I know the farmer that owns the cows.  I know the fields that the cows grazed in.   I know exactly what was added into the milk and the conditions (cleanliness and quality) of the process.  I continually marvel at the transformation and find a real joy in reconnecting to ancient recipes, ancient knowledge, as well as the world we live in.   This is the real underlying reason that I make cheese. (plus… my wife loves cheese and tolerates this hobby)

Here is a quick cheese making overview for anyone curious about the general steps for cheese making (this is kind of the cliff notes for those who don’t want to read all of the steps).

  1. Cultivating or Ripening cultures in the milk( introducing and encouraging good bacteria growth… each cheese may require different bacteria.  This process also changes/lowers the PH of the milk)
  2.  Coagulating the milk (enzyme break down of the kappa casein… first of the milk proteins to be broken down… we are “cleaving” its chain of amino acids… cool huh… making it hydrophobic and attracted to itself)
  3.  Consolidation and drying of the curds  (each cheese does this in a unique way… often by cutting, stirring, cooking, washing, draining, stacking, pressing etc….)
  4. Salting or brining
  5. Aging (this is where the “magic” of cheese happens and it is the enzymes left behind from the bacteria or it is the  mold… think camembert… that breaks down the protein in the milk … unique enzymes/molds cleave specific target sites in the amino acid chains and that creates different peptides each with a unique flavor…)

(I am not a microbiologist… and only understand the microbiology of cheese making at a surface level… but it is incredibly fascinating… or maybe it is not… and I am just weird)

If you want the details click “continue reading”

 

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Weekend with Wheat Bread

One of the things my wife and I miss most about France (other than family… well most of the family) is the bread.  This weekend I want to share my artisan bread recipe with you… something that I have been working on for almost 10 years…   This might bore some of you…  and this is definitely not that same as last weeks “diamond mining“… hopefully someone will find this useful… maybe even follow the recipe  (if not I will probably say stupid things and have pictures… and you can just enjoy that part)

Before I write the recipe and process… (yes there is going to be a long complicated process… but not as bad as the raclette cheese making  “how to”…I shared earlier) I want to offer some back story…

bread-wheatBerries.jpgFirst of all…  the title “wheat bread”…  not sure it means the same to everyone reading this…   (Several years back… I got laughed at in England when I was asked what kind of bread I preferred for my toast and I said “wheat”…   Of course they thought I was joking… and I had no idea that it was called “brown” bread there.)  This bread is made with freshly ground whole wheat flour… not the overly processed flour you buy in the store.  Here is how this all got started… Once upon a time…a co-worker told me about a fantastic “wheat” sale. Logic dictated that I act… I hurried off from work and bought around 20 – 5 gallon buckets of wheat… (All justified to my wife with the preparing for the end of the world excuse…  ) By the way… 20 buckets… is a lot of wheat

 

bread-hardway

Of course if you have wheat you must have a wheat grinder… so I bought a hand one…  Thought I could workout as I made bread… (and during the end of the world… no power… so this is a no brainer)…   It is really hard work… and after making my first loaf of bread (ever)… it was frankly not worth it.  THIRTY MINUTES of grinding… (sweat dripping… heavy breathing grinding… wow that sounds inappropriate)  and after all of this work… the bread was hard, dense and heavy… kind of like a wheat rock.. and well not very good tasting.  Something had to change…  or the wheat would just have to sit in the basement taking up space…(Probably not a good option if I want to keep my wife happy)

First fix…  the lazy side of me told me to sneak back to the store (my wife is so patient) and buy an electric wheat mill…(leave the hand one new and ready for the apocalypse).   They are expensive but a must have… I got a Nutrimill by L’Equip and love it.  You can see the ground flour… ground at the miracle (when compared to previous hand milling) 5 cups per minute…  (very noisy minutes)

Second fix…  You know your first loaf of bread is bad when a neighbor comes over and says… wow that is really heavy… can you eat it?   I had to find a recipe… preferably an old artisanal recipe…  one with limited ingredients (in France often bread is just flour, water yeast and salt)… I started off on a quest… beginning with  if it is a world meltdown… zombie or what ever… where would I get the yeast???

If this interests you… click continue reading… other wise leave me a comment and only say nice things… (if you are really lazy.. just hit like… still helps my ego)

 

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Weekend with Chou de Choucroute

This weekend will be shortened since I am traveling to New York next week and will have to spend some time getting ready…  (at least there will be fewer words)

I am going to introduce this weekends activity again by giving the back story.   As mentioned in previous posts… I am married to a beautiful french woman… (must say that…she reads this… ).   What I didn’t realize when we first met is that she is not an ordinary “frenchy”…   She is Alsatian (not to be confused with the dog breed).  I had no idea about this peculiar group of people who have a very interesting history, language, and culture.   If you have never been to Alsace (pronounced Al’s ass…. which makes me want to tell everyone my wife comes from Alsace… and even after over 15 years I still chuckle)… You must visit this region of France.

strasbourg

My wife is from Strasbourg and it is a beautiful place.  While in Alsace (pronounce it correctly and see if you don’t chuckle) you must try Alsatian local dishes… I have never been fond of sauerkraut until I had an “choucroute alsacienne“.   The cabbage wasn’t the horrible pickly flavor I had always experienced.   I instantly fell in love with this dish…  I talked my sweet wife into leaving her family, food, and yes “Alsace”… (chuckle chuckle) and we tried for several years to recreate this beautiful dish using the sauerkraut I find in the US…   it sucked…  so vinegary… pickly (I know that isn’t a word )…  even if we washed it I could not get the fantastic flavor I had learned to love.

SOOO like other things I thought… I wonder if I can make chou de choucroute…(sauerkraut)… And the answer is YES… and it is easy.   The best part is that like cheese you let it rot in your basement for about three months and people will eat it.  In my experience they will not only eat it but say… (I hate sauerkraut… but I love this…) .  The picture for this post is from Christmas time and is the last batch I made…

This weekend I am going to make chou de choucroute and will share with anyone that wants to read further the step by step instructions.  Please follow along and then try this… in your own home… basement…or cellar.

 

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Weekend with Raclette

 

I GOT MILK… (picture me with a milk moustache… would have been a great header for this post but… just couldn’t do it… don’t like milk in its natural state… picture gag reflex).  Above is what I will be making (or starting) this weekend.  RACLETTE… (This is one I made 6 months ago) This cheese dates back to medieval times and is often served HOT AND MELTED… poured onto potatoes and charcuterie. (See picture below… same cheese melted at one of our dinner parties… we like to add “lardons”) I am very proud of this batch.  You should take note of the rind (the orangie pinky outer layer).   This comes from bi-weekly washing with a light brine and B. linens (Brevibacterium linens… often found on skin..  causes foot order… imagine how this was introduced into the cheese by a medieval stinky footed cow herder… I bet by accident… maybe by straining curds through his/her socks???  and now I carry on his/her tradition with intent and pride…   you also see why these recipes use to be secret.)

raclette3.jpg

Please read on… I will be posting the recipe and steps… (three day process) and it will be nail biting excitement… (or don’t read… buy some in the store… especially if you have never  tried raclette… then melt and eat… )

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