Friday, February 26, 2010

Cornmeal Lime Cookies

The name sounds strange.  A little weird even.  But, they are so super yummy you'll just have to get over it.  Little Man made these last year for the county fair so they are now "his".  We made them this afternoon and it made my wonder why I hadn't made them in almost a year.  They remind me of spring.  The freshness and lightness that comes right with it.  I also must confess that after having snow just a few days ago, I am SO ready for the warmth of the sun.  Maybe if I eat a dozen of these cookies every day for the next 2 weeks spring will go ahead and come.  OK, maybe not, but it might be fun trying!

Oh, dear!  What's that in the background?  Surely not?  My Christmas Tree?  You might be've got to be kidding?  No siree, I absolutely am not.  I was going to just leave it up until next year.  So, many of my friends thought I couldn't do it (I love a challenge).  It wasn't until a couple of weeks ago, that my dear husband mouthed off that the ornaments sure were going to get dusty.  It's coming down tomorrow.  I can't stand to dust!

Cornmeal Lime Cookies

2 sticks of butter
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
4 tsp. lime zest
2 tsp. orange zest (I never use this, I just use 6 tsp of lime zest)
2 tsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 tsp. almond extract (you can use vanilla if it strikes your fancy)
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 c. yellow cornmeal

Cream the butter.  Then, add the sugar and mix well.  Add the egg.  Beat until well mixed.  Add the zest, juice and extract.  Mix but don't overbeat. 
Add the flour and cornmeal.  Mix.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.  NOTE TO CHEATERS:  Don't attempt to bake these without chilling.  Don't you even think about it!
Use 1/2 oz. scoop (the Pampered Chef medium scoop is perfect....I'm just sayin'!) and scoop and form balls.   Place onto ungreased cookie sheet (or Pampered Chef bar pan....hint, hint).
Use a flat bottom glass - dip in cornmeal and press the cookies flat.
Bake at 350 degrees for 14-16 minutes or until the edges are browned.  Remove from oven and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare the glaze!
          Sift 3 1/4 c. powdered sugar into a bowl.  Stir in 8 Tbs. freshly squeezed lime juice.  Add 2 1/2 tsp. fresh lime zest.  Stir or whisk these together.  Spoon ~ 1 Tbs. of glaze over each cookie.  Let dry completely.  Then desperately search for hiding spots to tuck these away so that you can actually enjoy one or two (or a dozen if you're trying to invite spring to your house).


Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Legend of Louise Rosenow

The title makes you think you should know her.  Most of you don't, but will.  Louise Rosenow was an early example of a true pioneer woman and I am blessed to say she is my great-grandmother.  Recently, I found a newspaper article the my mother had transcribed that was an account of my great-grandmother's life.  Within it's words, I found such a connection with her.  She passed away when I was around 4, the same age as my youngest child.  So, my memories of her are few.  Finding this article really made me appreciate the type of woman she was and that I strive to be.  And,  it's odd how many similar interests we share.  Mine often by choice and hers by necessity.  The following story was written by Mrs. Coleta Cox of Uvalde for the Zavala County Sentinel.  She was a journalist that had an interest in preserving pioneer stories.


        Spanning the Years with Louise Rosenow

The sprawling, rock ranch house was fronted by tiers of multi-colored flowers all with faces drooping in deference to the scorching rays of the afternoon sun - this was before the rains came. Inside, it was cool and comfortable and Louise Rosenow though well into her eighties, flitted about, busy as a bee and just about as active.

The twentieth century has been a time of progress and great change and Mrs. Rosenow is the kind of person who not only saw those changes take place but also shouldered her share of the work that is always involved with progress and growth. Here is her story:

“I was born August 9, 1887, six miles north of Hondo at the small community of Vandenburg. My mother, Katherine Grossenbacher, was born in D’Hanis, however her parents came to Texas from Switzerland. My father, Louis Mumme, was born at Castorville but his parents came over here from Berlin, Germany.”

The “fairy tales” and “Mother Goose” stories that Mrs. Rosenow grew up with were the true accounts of Indian raids on those frontier settlements as recalled by her mother and an uncle. Her favorite was of the time her grandfather had sent her mother to a nearby pasture to bring in his prized race horse. Just as she caught the horse, Indians rode into the field. Trembling with fear, she jumped astride the horse and turned him loose. Fortunately for her, the horse outran the “pursing Reskins”.

Another of these Indian stories she recalled was of the capture of her mother’s sister by the Redmen. Only a few hours following her capture however, the raiding party was intercepted by a party of white men who were unaware of the raid, but seeing the white girl could guess as to what had happened. By chance, the white men had some sheepskins with them, which they were able to trade for the girl.

“While my mother was growing up, quite often when Indians were raiding the coutnryside, the families of a community would all gather at one farm and the men would take turns standing guard. They called this “bushwhacking”.

In those early days, vegetables in the winter was unheard of, so at the first signs of spring many frontier housewives would search the woods for wild greens. I recall my parents telling of one such family who lived near them and of their fondness for wild lettuce. One spring while gathering wild lettuce, however, a poison plant was picked by mistake and with the exception of the two eldest boys who were away from home at the time, the entire family was wiped out - poisoned! I was too young to remember the incident but did know the two boys who survived, in later years.

I got all my schooling at the one-room school at Vandenburg,” she continued. “The schools weren’t graded then but I probably completed what would be the equivalent of the seventh or eighth grade today. I attended school until I was 15 and had only two teachers in all those years: Mr. Willie Saathoff and Mr. Henry Heyen. Both of them were very good teachers, too. I liked school very much and enjoyed every subject I studied. I walked a mile to school every day, then there were plenty of chores to do when I got home in the afternoon: cows to bring in from the pasture amile from the house. There was corn to shuck and hogs to feed as Father always kept a large bunch of them; we put up our own meat and made lots of good sausage.

I had eleven brothers and three sisters; I was in the middle. I learned to sew while quite young and was soon the seamstress for the family, training that surely came in handy later on in life. I made all of my brothers shirts and their underwear in addition to all of my own clothes, but I never learned to knit, though I crocheted very well. I never had to go to the field to work however, as many girls and women did.

There wasn’t a doctor in Hondo during those early years, but I’m sure there must have been one in Castroville, though we never used him; didn’t need him. We were never sick and Mother always doctored us children through our childhood diseases with home-made remedies.

There wasn’t an undertaker in Hondo at that time either. The neighbors always came in to “lay out” the body when death came and sometimes the men even made caskets.

I attended church at New Fountain, a rural church a few miles out of Hondo. I went to the Lutheran church for a time then to the Methodist congregation and was baptized, though Mother had all of us baptized in infancy.

There wasn’t much social life when I was growing up, but oh, how I did love to dance! There was always a big dance at Castroville on Christmas and the Fourth of July and sometimes in between times. My brothers and one of the neighbor boys would take us in a hack. It was fifteen miles one way and would take about 2 hours to drive it. A delicious supper would be served at midnight then we would dance until two o’clock in the morning so it would be almost daylight before we got home. Music was furnished by a band from San Antonio and how I looked forward to those dances!

In 1909, I married W. C. Martin of Hondo. We were married in the Methodist church at New Fountain with the Rev. Mehner officiating. A strange thing happened on our wedding day; I told my husband it was a bad sign. We were going home from the church following the ceremony, when one of the horses pulling our hack balked. We had to get out and walk before that horse would budge up thehill!

Mr. Martin worked for the city of Hondo and we lived in town. In 1920, he passed away leaving me with 5 small children and a small ranch on the outskirts of Hondo.

There wasn’t any social security in those days and the income from the ranch was inadequate for a growing family, so I decided to take in sewing. I had had plenty of experience and could make anything, then too this allowed me to stay at home with my children. I sewed mostly for women who had plenty of money; they would go to San Antonio and buy good quality heavily beaded and embroidered dresses so popular during the twenties. For making a coat or elaborately decorated dress I was paid five dollars while for a plain cotton housedress I received a dollar fifty. I even made ladies underthings. For eight years I burned lots of midnight oil sewing but with the small income derived from the ranch I was able to provide well for my children.

I kept a cow in town, during those years of widowhood so we had an ample supply of milk, butter and cheese. I used to make a cooked cheese from skimmed milk which my children loved, a German cheese. I mixed cream and butter with it and they used it for a spread on their bread. The children were too small to be of much help, though Wesley did help me in the kitchen some.

In 1928, I married John Rosenow of Carta Valley, in Edward County. He was several years older than I was and when he asked me to marry him I said ‘Yes’ on one condition: the he gave my children a home, too. He said, ‘Of course, they’ll have a home! There will be plenty of work for the boys!’ And he employed all four of them, too.

Mr. Rosenow had a sizeable ranch that was well-stocked with sheep and goats and there was a large two-story house at Carta Valley. I sold my small ranch at Hondo and we moved my cattle up there. He always employed several hands so finding a job for my boys was no problem and they all the freedom of ranch life.

I had never lived that far away from town before, it was forty miles into Del Rio, but I was accustomed to hard work so the ranch work didn’t seem overly hard to me. I always cooked for all the hands that worked on the main home ranch. I baked four large loaves of bread every day and my, how those Mexican sheepherders went for that fresh home-baked bread.

There was lots of fame at Carta Valley and the boys enjoyed hunting. They were always amused when they rounded up the herds to find deer mixed in with the sheep and goats. To market the animals, they had to be driven into Del Rio where they were then loaded into stock cars and shipped by rail. The drive would take three days but the boys enjoyed them and the nights camping out on the road.

There were lots of fur-bearing animals in the hills, so my youngest son, Hilmer, trapped during the winter months and made all of the pocket money that way.

There was interdenominational church in Carta Valley when I first went there which we attended. Due to lack of interest the doors were closed however, and we were forced to go into Del Rio for church services. Of course, I couldn’t go regularly but I did belong to the Missionary Society of the First Methodist Church and went whenever possible. It was quite lonesome out there, so far from everything.

Not too long after I married Mr. Rosenow this country went into the depression of the terrible thirties! There was no money, no jobs and every city had a coup line to feed its hungry! On the ranch we had plenty to eat but we didn’t have any money. Couldn’t even pay our taxes. No one could. There wasn’t even money to pay the school teacher’s salaries. Oh, it was terrible!

It was at this critical time that Franklin Roosevelt became our president. Under the pretext of ‘helping us’, he sent men in and killed off our livestock. They paid two dollars a head for fat young kids and fourteen dollars per head for the calves. The only cattle we had were the ones I had moved from my ranch at Hondo, but Oh, the young kids they slaughtered and left laying on the ground! Think about it! People here at home crying from hunger and all that meat spoiling; going to waste! A mexican here on the ranch cut the fat from a lot of the kids and we made a kettle after kettle of lye soap.

There was an old dry well on the ranch that the boys filled up with carcasses, then some were piled in caves. The government forbid them being used for food.

During those bleak years we sold wool for eight cents a pound and couldn’t sell mohair at any price; finally burned it to get it out of the way.

Following the worst of the depression, we bought fifteen sections of land here in the western part of Uvalde county. Then, seven days before Pearl Harbor, Mr. Rosenow passed away and once more I was alone.

Mr. Rosenow had nine children by an earlier marriage and since the Edwards county ranch was rightfully theirs, I moved tthe Uvalde county ranch, which he had bought for me. There was a good ranch house on the place but it was located in the back pasture, off the highway and the road into it was so hard to keep in shape that I felt I needed to make a change.

First, I built a house in Uvalde, but I never lived in it. I just couldn’t move into town; I like country living. I sold the new house in town and began to gather rocks from the ranch to build a new ranch house, which I completed in 1949 and here I’ve been ever since.

Several summers I went on organized tours by bus and train to visit scenic and historical spots of interest all over the United States and Canada. One summer I took two grand-daughters to California for a couple of weeks. We went all over Hollywood and toured television studios and saw several T.V. shows; we really had a time.

I’ve killed lots of rattlesnakes on this place and I keep a 410 shotgun handy for snakes and varmits. Not too long ago however, I killed the largest rattler I’ve ever seen. It was only five-foot long but was unusually thick though; must have been twice as big around as an average rattlesnake. I was out in the flower garden and I walked right by without seeing it, but my dog came along and began to bark so I got my gun and killed it.

I used to kill lots of armadillos; they would just ruin my flowers. I haven’t seen any lately so guess I thinned them out.

I had a frigthening experience a few years ago. About dark one evening, my dog treed a coon just outside the yard so I grabbed my gun and a flashlight and went out there. The coon jumped from the tree and ran to another and I followed. He continued this with me following until I suddenly stopped, looked around, and realized I couldn’t see a light anywhere. I began to scan the skyline for my windmill and when I couldn’t find it, I knew I was lost. I couldn’t even see any car lights on the highway so I began walking in the direction that I thought home lay. It wasn’t long until I discovered I was going in circles though, so I sat down to try to reason things out. It was then I recalled the highline, which crossed the pasture I was in and also went close to the house. I once more took the flashlight and began a careful search of the sky for the power lines. Finally, the dim beam of the light struck the wires and I followed them home. I had wandered around aimlessly about for more than an hour but it sure taught me a lesson; not to go out alone at night. This was the year that so many rattlesnakes were killed between Uvalde and Crystal City but I didn’t see a one that night.

I have never been sick and three years ago when my house cat came in with its throat chewed up I never thought too much about it and cared for it the best I could. A few days later though when he suddenly attacked me and sank his teeth into one of my ankles, I became frightened and called the doctor. As it turned out, the cat was rabid; I had to take rabies shots and was hospitalized over a week with an infected ankle.

I have always loved flowers and joined the Iris Garden Club soon after moving to Uvalde. One of the proudest moments of my life came when I was awarded the silver bowl at the annual flower show a few years ago; this is given to the member winning the most first place ribbons and you keep it for a year.

One of the first things I did on moving to Uvalde was to join the First Methodist Church. I especially enjoyed the Wednesday morning Bible class. Ten years ago I was made a life member of the Women’s Society of Christian Services by the local society, something I was quite happy about.

I’m also a member of El Progresso and of the Homemaker’s Home Demonstrations Clubs. Since my retirement from active ranching in 1959, these organizations and my church work fill my time.”

The afternoon I visited with Mrs. Rosenow, she had just returned from town where she had had her driver’s license renewed. “I’ve been driving for fifty years,” she recalled, “and never so much as dented a fender in all of those years. I learned how to drive a Model T Ford. I always try to drive carefully and watch out for the other person.”

Mrs. Rosenow has four children living; Elmer, the oldest boy passed away a few years ago. Willie lives in Uvalde and ranches out west of town; Wesley farms in Yuma, Arizona and Hilmer, the youngest boy and “my right-hand”, as his mother described him, lives near her and ranches. Lorene, the only daughter is married to George Love and lives in Sinton, Texas.

She was an amazing woman and I will humbly say that I am not half the woman she was....


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How A Wife Helps Her Husband With His Brakes

I thought I would share this story, of very little importance with you.  Actually, in hindsight, it might be of great importance for those that can learn from their mistakes.  However, for me, replacing brakes doesn't happen everyday, so I am sure the information I am about to share with you will be slow to come to mind if I am put in this situation again.  To tell you the truth, after what happened, I am almost certain my husband will NEVER ask for my help again. 

A few days ago, my dear husband, who still amazed me at what all he is capable of, was changing his brakes.  I steered clear of the barn unintentionally, but maybe I secretly knew my limitations.  I conveniently appeared in the barn, realizing that his work was almost done when I made my grand entrance.  The truck was elevated with not a wheel one touching the ground.  He only replaced the front brakes and rotors but being the man that he is, he went ahead and checked the back brakes to assess.  He was so sweet to explain to the ignorant about rotors and other brake "terms" and how these were the originals and probably couldn't be turned.  He gave me enough information to feel like an expert  in certain circles.  Whatever...who am I kidding. 

In the next moment, he asks me a question.  This is where the whole story starts to go south.  He says, "Hey can you get up in the truck and start it?"  I am wondering now if he knew what he was doing and if he saw the fear well up in me.  Having faith that he isn't going to let anything happen to the truck me, I carefully slide into the truck and start it.   Apparently, he has adjusted the back brakes but hasn't completely done something...I don't really know why I was doing what I was doing. That was of little importance to me really, I just was trying to be helpful.  Again, I am pretty sure he will never choose this path again.  He proceeded to ask me to put it in gear and take my foot off the clutch.  Ok, things are going well.  He tells me to take it out of gear.  Done.  Then, he asks me to put it in reverse and release the clutch.  This is the exact moment when the stars came out of alignment.  He proceeds to anxiously say "Stop. Stop!".  Then, I hear some not so nice things come out of his mouth...something about how it locked up and the drum was crooked and almost came off.  For about 47 seconds (I was counting, not really), I hear him saying that he shouldn't have done that and that it was jammed on there.  It was about that moment that I look down at where my feet were.  Slowly, I remove my foot from the brake and simply say this, "Honey, does that help?".  I am sweet like that.  He said, "What did you do?  Seriously, did you have your foot on the brake?  I am WORKING on the brakes!".  In my defense, whenever I have been in the driver's seat and he tells me to stop, all four tires are usually on the ground and a quick application of the brakes cause me to actually STOP the truck. 

So, this story is only to make you smile and perhaps a lesson to any of you who might find themselves in a similar situation.  Again, I say to you, I am pretty sure he will NEVER ask me for help again.  He now, too, knows my limitations...


Meet the Jack Cheese's....Monterey and Pepper

I am sorry to all of you for not posting more regularly the past month or so.  We have entered the season of stock shows and 4-H competitions.  This has been taxing on my soul.  You see, I am the person who can stay at my farm for a minimum of 14 days without a single regret.  In fact, I CRAVE it.  So, I have been struggling to find balance.  In the midst of all the going's on here, I embarked on the art of hard cheese-making.  I must confess to you, it was long over due.  You see, my husband, the most awesomest gift giver out there (I told him he should provide a service to other gift-giving-challenged men....I might have seen a slight grin), he blessed me with a hard cheese press 2 1/2 years ago for our anniversary.  I was so excited.  It sat on the counter for a week.  I turned it from time to time.  Then, I moved it to the kitchen table....still in awe.  Then, later it went on the dairy shelf where I could still lay my eyes on it's beauty (okay that may be a little's PVC, plastic and stainless steel).  Eventually it ended up inside my cheese-making pot.  I think at this point, it was out of sheer guilt for not ever having used it.  Out of sight, out of mind.  I have had 2 1/2 years to reflect upon, trying to figure out why I never used it.  The best I could come up with is fear.  Fear of change and fear of failure.  One might say to themself, it's just cheese, but to me I talked myself out of hard cheeses one thousand and thirteen times.....I counted.  Not really, I can't count that high.  I mean it's not that I can't count that high, but it would have to be all at once.  When I sleep at night, my brain resets itelf in preparation for the next day....kinda like a battery or something.  That's why lists have become so necesary in my life.  I will only begin to worry when I actually have to write mine or my children's names down at night before I go to bed.  Ok, back to the regularly scheduled program.  The fear thing....I mean you have to make the starter culter (a process similar to yogurt making), then you make the curds (keeping them at a certain temperature for periods of an hour or so), then you press and certain pounds of pressure (that sounds like a man thing).  Then, when you survive that, you pull out a hunk of cheese and have to wax it.  After you get your confidence up at that point, you get to stash it away in a refrigerator which, oh yeah, has to be at 50 degrees and 85% humidity (you need another technical gadget a hygrometer).  It must stay in the refrigerator anywhere from a month to a year before you actually know if you have been sucessful.  Can you see now why I was so intimidated?  All that aside, I have been told that I embrace challenges and will rise to the occassion.  I wasn't convinced but last week I finally but my big girl pants on and dove in, starting with Montery Jack.  Since the first batch I have now made:  Monterey Jack, White Cheddar, Derby and Pepper Jack.  Before sharing the recipe with you, I want to give you a little something to smile about.  Do you remember I told you the press had sat there for over 2 years?  Well, it came with one page of instructions for using the said press.  I vaguely remember something about the number of times you have to turn the crank to achieve different pressures.  When I went to pull the press out of the cheese pot to make it's debut.....yep, you guessed it, no instructions.  Oh, well, easy enough.  You can find ANYTHING on the internet these days.  Anything but the instructions for my CheeseyPress, that is.  Rising to the challenge again, I thought no the company.  Turns out the owner was on an international sabbatical until March.  The nice man at the wine and cheese shop that was manning his phones was so kind ot inform me that Mr. Shapson had redesigned his cheese press several times in the past 2 years. @&*$%!  What does that mean?  I briefly hesistated.  You know that fear factor rose up in me.  He proceeds to attempt in guiding me as to how many turns to make to achieve the pressures(isn't there an old saying about the blind leading the blind).  In the end I come up with this method, mostly my own.  Turn it a couple of times and you're somewhere around 10-15 pounds.  Turn it till you think you are going to break the press, you must be around 50 pounds.  If there are any seasoned cheesemakers out there reading this, and I doubt there are, please forgive me for I know not what I do.   Whatever I did, I managed to turn out something that looked like a block of cheese.  When I pulled my first round out of my press, I immediately placed it on a large wooden cutting board and toted it to my husband, who naively thought I was bringing him breakfast in bed.  I said, 'Look, honey!  I did this!'.  His slightly dillusional response was, 'Can I eat it?'.  I humphed, turned away and whispered, 'In 2 months!'.  Later after he was actually up, I asked him again, to look at what I made and the whole conversation was repeated.  We're funny like that.  So, I am going to share with you the recipe I used for Monterey Jack.  The disclaimer here is that while I have "made" the cheese, know that I am not sure it is edible yet (you gotta love that kind of disclaimer).

  Meet "The" cheese press....                             
NOTE:  I tinkered with the photo to camoflouage the blurriness. You'll thank me for that. I don't know what was going on with the camera.  Maybe there was a fight between the camera and the press that I didn't know about.  The camera probably called the press 'old', 'fat' or 'ugly' or something else that cannot be spoken on this blog.

First, I chopped the bless-ed peppers.  No, I didn't use red AND green...I didn't have 'em and I refuse to pay extra for color.  It's all about the flavor people.

Next, I began the process for Monterey Jack (see recipe below).  It was fairly uneventful, so I didn't include many pictures.  I probably should have included one to demonstrate "clean break"...please forgive me.  I will do better next time around.

These are the curds that you are looking for as you are heating and stirring to expel the whey.  **PK's NOTE: It is important to raise it's something to do with the pH. The first batch of cheese, I attempted to do this on the largest burner on LOW. It still raised it too fast. So, the next round I put it on my simmer burner on LOW and it worked perfectly. Keep this in mind when you are attempting this slow rise in temperature. Also, for you ladies who have an electric stove....please leave a message in the comments section. I will put you on my prayer list. I have said more than once that if I had to cook on an electric stove my family would starve. It's just the facts, baby.

After maintaining the curds at 100 degrees for an hour, you drain them into a cheesecloth-lined colander.  NOTE HERE:  To sterilize your cheeselcoth, boil it for a minimum of 10 minutes.  Take out and use.

When you get the curds into the colander, add the salt and peppers and mix in with your hands.  NOTE AGAIN:  The salt will make you cry for your mommy if you have the slightest blemish on your hands.  However, I am quite sure it is a very healing moment. 

Pack the curds into your cheesecloth-lined mold.


Tuck the cheese cloth on top of the curds and place the circle thingy on top (this is formally known as your not the stalker type...).

Then, you put the press together.  This is where men often step in.  They may even call it an intervention.  Anytime you use terms like fly wing nuts, bolts, and heavy duty springs, you are dangerously close to speaking "man language".  That is a dangerous "gray area".  Because, if you are actually being dictated to while assisting in an actual project of significance, it is important to know the differences between a regular washer and a lock washer and all common tools.  I should have probably included that in the list on The Grooming of A Ranch Wife.

This is also the point where you have to determine the turns you need to achieve different pounds of pressure.  Remember from above, I made it up.  I'm kinda handy that way.  I cranked a little for 10 pounds of pressure and cranked alot ('til it squeaked in pain) for 50 pounds.  After the cranking and flipping and repacking, the moment of the "Great Reveal" came....

And, after all this....lookey what I did!

Next, it has to sit on my Pampered Chef cooling racks on the kitchen table for 2-4 days.  Turning it twice a day.  Then, I will wax it and off it goes to the cheese cave (doesn't that sounds fancy).  It actually is one of my milk refrigerators that lives in the barn.  I so carefully cleaned it out, anxiously waiting to put cheeses in there.  I will share a little advice to you.  If your cheese cave refrigerator lives outside in the elements and the weather reaches arctic temperatures.  It it VERY difficult to get the temperature inside to 50 degrees.  I mean how do you get the inside of a refrigerator to 50 when the outside is 30?  Let me tell you one can be done.  If you take a 3 gallon pot, fill it with water and boil it.  Then trample through the snow and stick it in the refrigerator.  The Lord was rooting for me yesterday because two hours later, I checked the temp and it was exactly 50 degrees! 

Here is the recipe without pictures.  I did that just for you, Friend.  So, you can highlight, hit print, change to 'Selection' under Page Range and print for your own attempts at hard cheese-making.  I included that little tidbit about printing the selection after years of printing pages from the internet filled with ads.  I later graduated to copying and pasting into a word processor program.  I'm a dork that way.  My life would have been much more efficient if I had figured that out years ago.  Oh, well....moving on.  If only I can help one person then it was all worth it...  Seriously, ladies (assuming that only girlies are reading this), if you have any questions, shoot me an email or post a comment.  I'll help you out any way I can!

Monterey and Pepper Jack

4 gallons whole milk
8 cubes or 1 c. mesophilic starter culture
1 t. liquid rennet or 1/2 tablet rennet, dissolved in 1/2 c. COOL water
1/4 c. salt

1.  Warm the milk to 88 degrees.  Turn heat off.  Stir in cheese starter culture.  Cover with a lid and let sit 30 minutes. 
2.  Check that the temperature is still 88 degrees.  If it has cooled down, bring temperature back up before adding rennet.  Add dissolved rennet to milk and stir gently for 1 minute.  Cover and let sit 1 hour or until you get a clean break.
3.  Cut the curd into 1/2" cubes and let sit for 40 minutes with lid on.
4.  Heat the curds over low heat to 100 degrees, increasing the temperature by 2 degrees every 5 minutes.  Stir often to help expel whey from the curds.
5.  Hold the curds at 100 degrees for 1 hour, stirring often.
6.  Drain curds through a cheesecloth-lined colander.  Sprinkle the salt over curds and mix well with hands.  Scoop the curds into cheescloth-lined mold and place follower on top, then fold over the excess cheesecloth.  Press at 10 lbs. pressure for 15 minutes.
7.  Remove cheese from the press and unwrap it.  Flip cheese over and repack by rewrapping in the same cheesecloth.  Repacking and flipping cheese prevents it from sticking to the cheesecloth and allows even pressing.  Apply 50 lbs. pressure for 1 hour.  Repack a second time and press with 50 lbs. pressure for 11 hours.
8.  Let cheese air dry on a cheese mat for 1-2 days until a rind forms.  Always cover cheese with butter muslin to keep flies from laying eggs on it. If you cover it with a towel your cheese won't dry sufficiently and will grow mold. If weather is humid, mold may grow anyway.  To prevent this, place a fan blowing on the cheese.  Wipe mold off with a cloth dampened in vinegar.  Turn the cheese twice a day so that all sides are exposed to the air.
9.  When cheese is dry to the touch, chill for a couple of hours, then wax it.
10.  Age the cheese at 50-55 degrees for 2-4 months, turning it twice a week.  Turning it keeps moisture from settling to the bottom of the cheese, causing mold growth.

Pepper Jack:
     Follow the previous recipe for Monterey Jack, adding the following steps:  Boil 1/2 cup chopped red and green jalapenos in 1 c. water for 5 minutes.  Strain the water into the cold milk before adding the starter culture.  Mix the peppers into the drained curds before putting them in the cheese press.  You can substitute cut up pickled jalapenos, but don't add the brine to the milk as the vinegar will cause it to curdle.

**This recipe was taken from the book "Cheese Making At Home" published by the Center for Essential Education.  You can and should purchase it here.  (There is a soft cheese book on that page, too.  The soft cheeses are included in Cheese Making at Home.  Soft cheeses are a GREAT place to start if you are interested in cheese making).

Prairie Kerri

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Homemade Cereal....

OK, ok, OKAY.  I will first apologize for leaving (temporarily) without so much as a warning.  I am sure all 8 readers of this blog have been devestated to the point of being disfunctional.  I hope this post gets your life sorted back out.  I am hoping it works well for me, too.  To update y'all on the "goings on" here.  Little Man turned 7 on Saturday.  Maybe I should refer to him as Middle Man since he is the middle child.  Everyone always told me that the middle child gets lost between the oldest and the baby.  I don't think he will ever experience that.  He makes my heart swell nearly every day.  He is both sensitive and gritty, like a good cowboy should be and he boasts a sense of humor, too.  At his birthday dinner, High Country Heather asked him, "So, what's the best part of being 7?"  His response, "The money...".  Seriously?  The boy got 2 dollars from his sisters!  I nearly peed my pants laughing so hard, which I am ashamed to admit that in a public restaurant, ended in a snort...this is relevant later in this post. 

April, the cow I was anxiously awaiting to calve, finally calved last Thursday with a bull calf, Peanut Brittle.  This is the cow that so kindly helped with my exercise regime....morning and evening off road hikes through the pasture, each time, sure she had the calf (this nonsense went on for nearly 2 weeks and for the last week, we were beginning to think she was carrying twins!). 

The stock show season has begun which sparks many of our 4-H competitions.  Mini-me and I will be leaving this afternoon to head towards San Antone, for a dairy judging contest, with a much needed stop at Hye Country Heathers.  It's not often I escape leave our home, so I am super excited to get to spend an evening watching our kids, who think they are actually "blood related" cousins, explore their spread while my dear friend and I share laughter that so often ends with snorting.  *NOTE* If you read that last statement or the earlier one, and were shocked, well...go on, shoo, get out of here.  Go get you a friend that you can laugh with 'til you will make you live longer if you laugh like that!

So, I thought I would share this morning a recipe that is truly all my own.  I took several recipes and blended them, then tweaked it by adding stuff or taking away.  What I came up with was something my husband and children LOVE.  It's a snack.  It's a cereal.  It's just plain yummy.  I will tell you that it is a great way to get cranberries in your kids and they are so healthy for you.  So, here we go!


6 c. rolled oats (for those that don't know, and I used to be one of them, these are NOT quick oats)
1 c. butter
1/3 c. honey or sorghum syrup
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. chopped nuts
1 c. dried cranberries (and yes, I tortured my kids with these babies initially, now they all love them as a snack....perservere my friends, perservere)
1 c. coconut
1 1/2 t. vanilla

Spread the oats in an even layer on a cookie sheet and place in an oven on 250 degrees.  Cook for approximately 20 minutes.  To be honest, I am not "exact" on the cooking time. What usually happens is I put them in the oven and wash my dishes and wipe down the counters.  Whenever I get to a stopping point, I take them out.  I used to make this solely on the stove top but after my jaw complaining every time I ate it from all the work it was exerting (it even threatened to flair into's mean like that), I tweaked my recipe to bake the oats. 

Melt butter in a pan over medium heat.  Stir in honey, brown sugar and vanilla; cook, stirring constantly, until bubbly.  Add oats to the pan.  Cook and stir for another 5 minutes or so. 

Turn off heat and add in nuts, coconut and cranberries.  Pour back out onto a cookie sheet with a lip.  Spread to cool.  This makes a wonderful snack and is wonderful with milk!

OK, the ONLY reason I included this blurry, horrible picture at the end of this post is to make a point.  Do you see that hand in the lower left corner of the picture?  You can see it, right?   Attached to a spoon that's eating my granola BEFORE it's completely ready.  This happens almost daily at my house and I am not sure what good is going to come of it.  Isn't there a saying about insanity....doing the same thing repeatedly expecting different results?  Well, my husband and I have been playing this game for nearly 14 years.  He eats whatever I am cooking most often before it evers graces the table and I continue to spit fire as it's happening.  Neither of us budge on this matter.  I keep thinking he'll quit eating before it's ready and he keeps thinking I will quite getting bent out of shape about it.  So which one is insane? 

I hope you enjoy this.  Honestly, I made this last week and was going to post it.  It only lasted 2 days in my house so I am off to make another batch before heading west (I've always wanted to say that).  Actually, it's more like "south-west-ish" for those of us not directionally challenged and yes, that is an official directional language term that I am teaching all three of my children in school. 

Prairie Kerri