Creating seasonal recipes that are inspired by my passion for local, organic foods

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homemade Ricotta

Homemade ricottaMaking your own cheese seems so horribly insurmountable that most people don't even think to try doing it themselves. It always seems like you need a ton of equipment, weird ingredients or a lot of patience to wait for your cheese to cure.

There are a number of cheeses you can make easily at home, mostly the soft style ones, with little skill and effort. I'm doing a series of cheese making posts to get you all started and to get me inspired to make them myself.

I'll be starting with some of the easier ones and working my way up to the more complicated ones. But, rest assured, I won't be telling you about cheeses that you can't easily make yourself, since I have little interest in spending all my time making cheese.

This first recipe is for making ricotta. There is a huge difference between freshly made ricotta and that dry lumpy stuff packaged in plastic that you get from the store. There's just no comparison since you are using so little in the way of ingredients and you don't having to worry about long shelf life dates.

So, here goes!

Whole Milk Ricotta

1 gallon whole milk
1/4 cup white vinegar (or lemon juice)
2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

If you like your ricotta extra creamy, add the heavy cream to the whole milk and heat on medium-low to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring often to make sure it doesn't boil or scald. This is a slow process that should take about 25 minutes, you don't want to rush this step.

Once the milk has reached temperature, gently stir in the vinegar (or lemon juice), being careful not to over stir. Take the milk mixture off the heat and let sit for about 10 minutes. You should see the ricotta curd separating from the whey.

Using a slotted spoon, ladle the curds into a lined colander (thin weave cloth like a cotton kitchen towel or double cheesecloth works well) being careful not to break up the curds. Let your ricotta drain in the colander for about 45 minutes or until desired consistency is reached (some people prefer a drier ricotta in which case let it drain longer or even overnight in the refrigerator).

Store refrigerated for up to a week.

1.5 - 2 pounds

There are so many great recipes for using ricotta cheese, ranging from sweet to savory, that you'll probably never get bored of making this cheese.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

White Chocolate Raspberry Jam

Even though it's October, I'm canning away the last of the summer berries. We've still got raspberries coming in from a local farm and I wanted to do something a little different than the standard raspberry jam recipe. When I spice up a jam it usually includes some interesting addition or flavoring and some sort of liqueur or liquor. Most of the alcohol gets burned off and you are left with a very complex flavor profile.

This recipe makes ordinary raspberry jam seem, well, ordinary. Since I've started tinkering around with jam recipes, I really have a hard time going back to the basics. This recipe can also be used as a dessert topping as well if you lower the amount of pectin and keep it a little more liquid.


5 cups raspberries, crushed (use a potato masher or other implement to crush the berries)
6 cups sugar
1 pack pectin
1 cup white chocolate chips (spring for the Guittard or other gourmet chocolate if it's available in your area)
1/4 cup coffee liqueur (Starbucks or Kahlua)


Heat raspberries while slowly adding in the pectin. Once the raspberries are at a full boil that you cannot stir down, add in the sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, stirring for one minute. Take the raspberry mixture off the heat and add in the white chocolate. It will take awhile to melt, so be patient (unless you want chunks of white chocolate in your jam).

After the white chocolate has melted, add the coffee liqueur and stir until well blended. Because the raspberry jam is quite hot, the alcohol will burn off, so if you want to have more of the alcohol flavor, add it in at the very end. Pour jam into sterilized canning jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. That is, assuming you haven't eaten half of it already.

Yields 10 pints.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Crunchy's Favorite Whole Wheat Bread

Whole wheat breadThis recipe is based on one I found in Baking Illustrated, published by the editors of Cook's Illustrated, one of my favorite food magazines. This bread also freezes fantastically and, after thawing, tastes just a good as when it's just made.

1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
2 1/3 cups warm water (110 degrees)
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/4 cup dark rye flour
1/2 cup wheat germ

3 cups whole wheat flour
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Mix the yeast, water, honey, butter and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer with a spoon. Mix in the rye flour, wheat germ, 1 cup of the whole wheat flour and 1 cup of the all-purpose flours.

Add the remaining whole wheat flour and all-purpose flour. Attach the dough hook and knead at low speed for 8 - 10 minutes or until the dough is shiny and elastic. If you don't have a dough hook, knead by hand for 5 to 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area for about an hour (or until it has doubled in volume).

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Gently press down the dough and divide in two. Form each piece into a roll 9 inches long and place into a buttered and floured bread loaf pan (9 x 5) with the seam down. Cover again and let rise for 30 minutes.

Bake for 40 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 205 degrees. Transfer loaves immediately to a wire rack, letting cool to room temperature.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Grilled Pumpkin with Rosemary and Sea Salt

My backyard grown sugar pie pumpkins are finally ripening up in spite of the steady rains we've been experiencing here in the Pacific Northwest. A few of the pumpkins ended up being somewhat small and weren't worth the effort to process into pumpkin puree. So, what to do with these little guys? I wanted to do something new and, not having grilled pumpkins before, I was quite excited to give it a try.

During grilling, the sugars in the pumpkin caramelize. The combination of sweet and salty, coupled with crisp rosemary, will give you a different way of thinking about pumpkin. After trying this, you just might find yourself dreaming of expanding your pumpkin patch next year.

Make sure you use sugar pie pumpkins or the equivalent for this recipe — you really don't want to eat a jack-o-lantern type pumpkin as they are stringy. If you aren't growing your own sugar pie pumpkins you should be seeing them available in stores and farmers markets this month or, better yet, make a fun trip out of it and head out to a U-pick pumpkin farm. Don't forget to pick up a few extra for making your own pumpkin puree for pies and breads later in the year.

Sugar pie pumpkins (preferably on the small side)
Olive oil
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Sea salt

1. Heat grill to medium-high.

2. Wash and cut the pumpkins vertically into 3/4 inch slices. Remove the seeds and stringy parts. Brush both sides of each slice liberally with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary.

3. Place the slices on the grill for about 5 minutes a side or until dark grill marks appear. Turn and grill the other side until you can easily pierce the pumpkin slice with a fork. You want to make sure that the pumpkin is tender.

4. Since some of the salt tends to fall off during the grilling process, serve with a small dish of additional sea salt.