Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cheese making

A friend from my knitting group and I got together last night to make mozzarella cheese. At the last spinning meeting, another lady brought her current issue of Hobby Farm Home magazine. One of the articles in there was for making 30 minute mozzarella using the microwave. Both of us had talked about making cheese before and that magazine article sealed it.

Making the cheese was amazingly simple! The most difficult thing about it was finding the rennet (I found it at our local natural food store) and the citric acid. Once Jane researched it, however, she realized that she had some citric acid already in her pantry. Did you know that citric acid also goes by the name Sour Salt? I did not!

1 gallon of milk on the stovetop

If my science classes in high school did things like making cheese or other cooking things, I think I would have been a lot more interested in science. Seeing the chemical change to the milk after we added the citric acid and then the rennet was simply astounding. It actually made cheese! (I'm still amazed by that as you can tell.) It only took a minute or two to start turning into curds and whey.

Curds separated from the whey

Apparently, we could also make ricotta from the whey. I think that is a project for the future. Neither of us were ready to make it right now. After you separated the curds and the whey (how Little Miss Muffet of us!), you microwave the curds for a couple of seconds. Then you knead the cheese like you would bread. This helps to smooth everything out and distribute the heat evenly.

Kneading the cheese

On the final microwave, you add your salt to taste and then form the cheese into whichever shape you want. This had to be done pretty quickly because the cheese gets harder to stretch when it cools. We both ended up making them into balls.

Cheese ball

Let me tell you, they didn't stay that way long. We immediately started cutting pieces off while it was still warm. I just can't believe it actually tasted like mozzarella. I know that shouldn't surprise me but it was so simple and had so few ingredients! I know what I'm going to be making a lot of in the future.

If you want some recipes that are similar to the one we did, try these links.

* 30 Minute Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Recipe
* Mozzarella Cheese Recipe from
* the recipe in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
* the recipe in Hobby Farm Home magazine (I really liked looking through this magazine)

**eta: corrections on book title

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Getting ready for the Olympics

Sorry for the long hiatus.  I really have no good explanation other than my camera died and I've been uninspired in the blogging department.  Thanks to the camera death, I bring you pictures from my cell phone.   So sorry in advance for the quality! 

I can't believe it is time for the Winter Olympics again!  I mean, it feels like it was just last year that the Summer Olympics happened.  For knitters, the Winter Olympics means the Knitting Olympics.  The point of the Knitting Olympics is to start a project when the torch is lit and finish it by the time the closing ceremonies roll around.  Like the athletes, you use the opportunity to challenge yourself and your skills.  My challenge is knitting a sweater from my handspun yarn. 

It is wool from a local woman who raises CVM sheep.  We grouped together and sent a bunch to be processed into top at a wool mill up in MI.  The resulting top is FABULOUS.  It spins like a dream.  The color is a dark brown with hints of dark gray in it. 

Now, I've been spinning this yarn up for the last month and a half.  It has been a long month and a half.  If I lived in ye olden times, my family would never have been clothed properly.  They would be wearing sweaters with only one sleeve finished because I hadn't finished spinning the yarn.  True, I wouldn't have been spinning so finely nor would I have been making a 4-ply and I probably wouldn't be spinning it worsted.  Also the kids would probably be farmed out to prepping the wool and doing some of the knitting and spinning.  Can I just say that I'm happy not to be living in ye olden times?  Anyway, spinning all of this yarn has definitely been a test of stamina because all of this wool is the same color.  I've even been drop spindling this wool, too.  I'm really getting bored working with the same color but I can't let myself not finish the yarn for the sweater! 

As prep for this project, I did a lot of sampling.  I had a specific sweater in mind and knew what type of yarn I would need.  Well, that plan actually changed as I went along.  Originally, I wanted to make a relatively simple sweater with a cowl neck from Vogue Knitting a couple of years ago.  I found the old issue of the magazine in a fellow raveler's destash.  After I started sampling, however, I decided that I would rather do something with cables and the Tangled Yoke Cardigan really fit the bill.  I've been wanting to do that sweater for eons and making it out of my handspun would be very satisfiying.  Anyway, back to sampling and swatching.  At first, I thought I would be doing a 3-ply yarn.  But my default spinning seems to be fine, fine, fine.  I didn't like my swatch with the 3 ply so I decided to try 4-ply instead.  That swatch was much, much better. 

Three of those plies have been spun up on the wheel and one has been done on my drop spindle.  On the wheel, I've been spinning 1 ounce amounts up and then winding that off onto straws in order to ply easily. For the drop spindle, I would spin as much as possible until my cop (the spun yarn) either took up all of the room on the spindle or I couldn't spin easily anymore.  Then I would wind it off onto a weaving bobbin so I would know it was from the drop spindle rather than the wheel.

For plying, I have a shoe box with holes punched in the side.  I put the straws on some straight knitting needles and am plying away.  I've been using a plying guide (aka a wooden rectangle with 4 holes drilled in it) to help me keep everything straight while plying.  I know Judith MM says you don't need one but I did to keep my sanity!  I can do 3 plies with my hand without too much trouble but that extra ply just messes me up when I try to do it with 4. 

I'm finishing up the last little bit on my spindle and hope to finish plying the last of the yarn in the next day or two.  As of right now, I have 1,600 yards of a sport weight yarn!  I'm estimating, when I'm finished plying, I'll have another 300 yards to add to the total.  I can't wait to start knitting the sweater! 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haiti earthquake

It's been a much longer time than I expected to have without blogging.  So in a quick sentence I hope everyone had a nice Christmas (or whatever holiday), New Years and middle of January!  I've been busy with spinning and getting ready to make a handspun sweater for the Knitting Olympics.  I swear that I really will post soon. 

OK, now down to the real point of this post.  As I'm sure you all know, Haiti suffered a horrendous earthquake.  The Yarn Harlot wrote a very informative post about donating to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (Canada here, USA here, Other countries can find their site here) .  If you are able, please consider donating. 

I found an unusual way to donate today thanks to my credit card company, capital one.  You can donate your rewards points to the charity of your choice.  For capital one, 1000 rewards points = $5.  I did a search for DWB/MSF and donated all of my (never redeemed) points.  Just as an fyi for you guys.