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Today’s Challenge

June 28, 2010

Those are the major ingredients in the cooking I have planned for today: paneer, sweet pickled onions, and sesame noodles with fresh tofu and scallion pancakes with daifuku for dessert.

The paneer, by far, is the hardest for me, though perhaps not the most time and labor intensive.  I’ve never made cheese before.  But I made a special trip with the same friend who lent me Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll to a farm in Gill, Massachusetts for raw milk.  I also bought an aged cheddar and some whole grain red winter wheat flour from Upinngil.  And now that I’ve got the milk, I’m committed to making cheese.

Paneer, I’ve read, is a good beginner’s cheese.  First, it’s a soft cheese, which are easier than hard cheese.  Second, it requires no bacteria cultures or starters to make.  And third, I don’t even need a thermometer (which is good, because I’ve packed it already–I’m moving it 2 weeks to a new apartment).  It’s also difficult to find fresh paneer for sale around here, though I’ve heard some Indian restaurants will sell it.  All of these make it a good candidate for home cheese.

The pickles will also require a bit of effort, and perhaps more heat than I should be creating on a day when the temperatures will be above 90F with the humidity at 70% +.  All that boiling of water and vinegar and more water may seem a bit extreme.  But, dammit!, I want pickled onions.  Last year, I added some onion slices to my bread & butter pickles and loved the flavor.  Well, I don’t have any cucumbers right now (my plants are being nursed by someone else due to the move and it’s too early in the year), but I was feeling ambitious this weekend and wanted some sweet, tangy, oniony goodness.

These pickles may be more effort than those I’ve made in the past.  If the fear of botulism creeps into my brain, I will most likely use a boiling water bath to can them.  The past two years, I’ve used a hot pack method (hot produce  & liquid into hot jars, top with lids warmed and softened in hot water and listen for the seal to pop) with no boiling water afterwards.  Part of me thinks that the vinegar, sugar, and salt make this kind of pickling safer than other canning–jam for instance.  And part of me thinks, oh, god, oh god, I’m going to poison myself and anyone else I share these with.  Sure, safe two years running, but botulism is tricky like that.  If you use sterilized jars and lids and properly heat & seal everything, you’ve got very slim chances of getting it.  But who wants to take that chance?  And anyway, these jars only need to boil for 10 minutes.  I can spare ten minutes for food safety.  Boiling water bath it is!

The easiest of the day will most likely be the sesame soba noodle and scallion pancakes.  I’ve made them both before, I know they’re good, and I’m pairing the sesame noodles with my favorite local tofu: Bridge Tofu.  Seriously, try them.  If you think plain, raw tofu is bland, plain, and just plain gross, you’ve never tried good, fresh tofu.  This stuff if good, fresh, and local.  The flavor is fantastic.  Dessert will be simple, too–pop open a packet of daifuku from Trans World Food Market (the sesame, soba, and rice vinegar for the recipe are from there, too.  Can’t beat those prices).

Wish me luck!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Miss Kim permalink
    June 28, 2010 8:33 pm

    Kathy! How was the milk? I still haven’t gotten any raw milk and I do so want to! I also worry about the botulism (sp) which is why you have to teach me how to hot water bath everything. I just sterilize the jars and listen for the POP!

    I did make another quart of strawberry jam this weekend. I just winged it, and this one quart came out better then the other 4! My mom and dad are eating me out of jam-house-and-home! I think I wll need to make another complete batch.

    Hope the cheese making went well. I can’t wait to hear about it.

    • June 29, 2010 8:23 am

      The milk was amazing! I hope the cheese is too. My friend contests that it’s because the cows are grass fed. Now I have to compare to milk from grain fed raw milk.

      Funnily enough, I can tell that the cows were pasture raised–the cheese is yellowy, which means there’s a high beta-carotene content, which comes from cows eating grass. (He’ll be pleased to hear this, I’m sure)

      I will definitely show you hot water bath canning–it’s surprisingly easy. Well, the methodology is easy; it can be somewhat labor intensive and is certainly time intensive. Though the pickled onions were done in under two hours . . . .

      Glad to hear your jam came out better this time! I’m not surprised everyone’s eating it up.

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