Urban Farming: The Update Edition

week 4 starter 2

Day 24

Despite getting up at six this morning with every intention of writing and finishing the blog post before eight, it just didn’t happen. So this is even more of an “update post” than I was planning on because I crossed off another item on my List!

First, the freezer jam I made has turned out tasty but not very jam-like. More like a spreadable fruit compote than a jam. In fact, even with the tiny jalapenos, it’s thin and sweet enough that it’d probably be great on ice cream. I’m guessing I didn’t wait long enough before I put the jars in the freezer. I’ll try the recipe again but maybe boil the ingredients with sugar before adding the freezer pectin to make sure I get a thicker consistency.

Second, after years of thinking about it, I’ve finally begun the process of making a sourdough starter. I won’t lie, every time I’ve passed by a bakery (five days out of seven) I’ve considered asking if they’d mind sharing their starter with an amateur baker…but I imagine it’s probably equivalent to a secret family recipe for fried chicken.

Lucky for me, like making bread the starter doesn’t take rocket science, just a lot of waiting. So far, so good; the little bowls of wild yeast are showing a few bubbles and are snug inside their dark tea towels in the pre-warmed microwave to keep them at a semi-constant temperature. Josh has taken to calling it my “Bread Pet” because I actually do have to feed and water it to make sure they grow into healthy, wild little yeast-ies. In fact, there’s so much involved while still being a fairly simple process that I’m surprised no one did it as a science project in school.

Tonight, I was supposed to discard half the starter but to double-down on having one that’s successful, I “discarded half” into a new container and fed it, too. If I end up with two working starters, I’m going to give one away as a present (I know an amateur baker who would loooove one.) After separating them, I fed both with more rye and tepid water, then bundled them back up against our cold kitchen. After tomorrow, things should start moving quicker though as it stands, they both smell gross (Josh thinks they smell like feet) which is probably good!

week 4 starter

This little kick of crossing items off my List has me reading a ton about Urban Homesteading. I didn’t go to the library with the intention of researching that but somehow checked out those books instead of the ones I went all the way downtown to get. But even with crossing off items like jam and sourdough starter, we won’t be getting chickens or a goat any time soon – though they are selling fuzzy baby chicks at our local hardware store down the block! However, I did make cheese today. Yup, that’s right, cheese. Today.

I found the recipe last night in one of the books and it looked so simple and inexpensive, I thought it’d be worth at least trying. So, I bought some goat’s milk at Trader Joe’s and made this “quick” cheese recipe that’s great for beginners. It requires minimal, somewhat special, tools (a thermometer and cheesecloth) and relatively tiny time commitment when compared to making your own block of cheddar.

week 4 cheese

It was a bit of an adventure but well worth the effort. After the milk reached the right temperature, I dumped the lemon juice in and watched it curdle. Gross but fascinating. For some reason, I was surprised that it didn’t immediately start smelling sour. Instead, it just smelled like warm milk and lemon juice which aren’t bad smells at all; particularly compared to yeast growing in a bowl.

After I let it curdle for ten minutes, I strained the curds through the cheesecloth/strainer combo, then gathered the cheesecloth with a rubber band and hung it to drip-dry from the cupboard handle above our kitchen sink. An hour and a half later, I unwrapped it and put it in a ziplock bag with some salt and lemon pepper. I mixed it around then threw it in the fridge.

week 4 cheese 2

The cheese was delicious but a different consistency from what I would expect from a store. It was a lot less creamy, but I imagine if I took more time, with a different recipe, I would have better results. It’s hard to cut corners – see impossible – with food that tastes best aged.

Anyway, while that was cooling, I made some bread and arugula pecan pesto and we had bread, cheese and pasta for dinner. Josh insisted that we throw some of the raspberry jam over the cheese and it was even more delicious.

Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 11.00.38 PM

I’ve talked about this before, but for a long time, I thought of cooking as a chore. Now, it’s a voyage and I love learning new recipes. I’m not sure when that changed, but I’m glad it did; cooking tops my happiness list whether or not each recipe pans out. There’s something so satisfying about making food that I just can’t get enough of. Food isn’t taking it out of a package in the same way that you can’t really buy happiness. Or maybe I’m just on a power-trip from making my own cheese. Who knows!


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