Monday, August 19, 2013

Treasures, and Pesto with three year old Manchego, and a little tutorial on how to make Manchego cheese

In the summer, evening comes around fast. Often, when my tummy starts to growl, it's already 5pm, and I haven't even thought about what I will make for dinner for my hungry lions children. Fortunately, our garden is only a few steps away.

This was yesterday's dinner salad.
Today, as I walked by the garden to bring the goats into the barn from their afternoon in the pasture, the basil caught my eye. It looked very sexy in its green glory, and it seemed to yell at me, “Hey, lady! Look at me! See how beautiful and big I am? Why haven't you harvested me yet?” Sure, I've plucked leaves for seasoning pasta sauce or for making Greek salad, but I hadn't made pesto yet. Pesto! What a great dinner idea!
As I searched my fridge, I realized that I didn't have any parmesan, an essential ingredient in pesto.  But I'm not a cheese maker for nothin', so I crawled into my cheese cave (which is a crawl space under our bathroom) and found the perfect treasure: a three year old aged wheel of Manchego cheese. For some reason, I had never gathered enough courage to cut into it, fearing it wouldn't be any good (or kill my family after eating it). But when I opened the vacuum sealed cheese, a complex aroma met my nose. The cheese had the color of caramel and honey, and when I took a tiny bite, I was encouraged. I am no cheese expert, I really am not, and I don't know the right words to describe it, but this cheese tasted nutty and spicy, but sweet at the same time.
So I picked the enticing basil from the garden, mixed it with our home grown garlic, olive oil, some salt and cashew nuts (because pine nuts are way to expensive, and I ran out of walnuts), and at the end added my fancy cheese.  I shredded all three pounds of the cheese in my food processor, and I will try and freeze it for future use.

I wish I could transport the smell of this basil to you.

The pesto dinner was a huge hit with my family.  Eva kept asking for more, and even after everyone was done eating, she kept asking, "Can I have more pesto?  I just love it so much."

Look at these pretty colors.  The broccoli is fresh from the garden, and the cauliflower is fermented with turmeric, hence the pretty yellow color.
I just made a ten gallon batch of Manchego the other day, and now I am encouraged to let these wheels age longer than usual.  I thought I would tell you how I make my Manchego, in case you are a cheese maker.  This recipe is a mix between Ricki Carroll's "Home Cheese Making" and "200 Easy Homemade Cheese Recipes" by Debra Amrein Boyes.  
I start with ten gallons of my raw goat milk and heat in a double boiler (put it in a canning pot filled with water) to 86 degrees.  I then add 1/2 teaspoon MM100 DVI culture (mesophilic) and 1/2 teaspoon thermophilic culture and let it all sit for 45 minutes.  Sometimes I add Lipase, an enzyme that makes the cheese taste sharper.
I use a huge stainless steel whisk and big curd knife that my husband had made for me.  He calls it the Kurdish Crusader (or Curd-ish Crusader).  I do look dangerous when I make cheese with this knife.

This is my fancy double boiler.

After the milk ripened, I add 1 1/4 teaspoon rennet, diluted in 1/4 cup of cool water.  I wait about 30 minutes for it coagulate.  I check for a clean break, but usually it always takes that amount of time.  After I get the clean break, I cut the curd in small pieces and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Then I cut them into very small pieces with the whisk.  I just keep stirring gently, and the curds get cut small enough, and I do that for about 30 minutes.
Then I start heating the curds to 104 degrees very slowly.  It takes me about an hour to get up that high.

When it is done, I drain the whey into buckets for the pigs.  They LLLLLLOVE this whey and have grown nice and fat.  I can taste bacon as I write this.  Honey ham?  Pork chops!!!
But I digress.  I press the cheese at 15 pounds of pressure for half an hour, and then I flip it over and do it again.  I let it sit overnight, and then put it in a saturated brine in the evening.  Next morning, it comes out and I let it air dry.  The cheese below might grace our pesto in three years. Who knows?

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