feta cheese

Some friends came round for a day of cheesemaking. Feta! We followed the recipe from Mary Karlin’s excellent Artisan Cheesemaking at Home, reprinted below with kind permission. Little by little I’m becoming accustomed to the basic steps in cheesemaking, and if you’re so inclined, I so encourage you to try it.

Cleaning and laying out tools. Raising the milk to temperature, adding the starter, whisking it up and down. Covering for a certain time to ripen until whey and curds separate and show a clean break. Cutting the curds to a certain size, depending on how much whey to release.

Stirring them, letting them rest. Lining a colander with damp butter muslin, filling it with curds, tying it up and hanging it to drain. These natural waiting times are just right for sitting down with the children to knit, preparing a meal, or going outside to play.

We were excited to go a step further than other cheeses we’ve tried at home, and move the sack to a mold, and flip it after an hour. Though a press isn’t required, the cheese acquires a very pleasing shape. A square mould would’ve been traditional, but do use what you have. There’s something wonderful that happens when you see it – a cheese! This familiar object! The children were as amazed as I.

They helped with it all. I love for them to know how this is done, that this is possible, even easy. This comfort with old skills is often absent from our lives, and I feel good when it is restored.

How gratifying it is to submerge the cheese in a light cold brine. Three weeks wait makes tasting the cheese all the more exciting. Ah. This feta is very pleasing, and we can’t help peeking into the fridge with pleasure, to gaze on our homemade cheese. We’ll make it again come summer with milk from the goats on the farm, to pair with our homegrown tomatoes, basil, peppers.

Here’s the recipe:

Recipes attributed to Mary Karlin (c), reprinted by permission from Artisan Cheese Making at Home, Ten Speed Press; artisancheesemakingathome.com and Mastering Fermentation, Ten Speed Press; masteringfermentation.com

Feta

Makes: 1 pound
Milk: Pasteurised or raw goat’s milk, or alternatively cow’s or sheep’s milk
Start to Finish: 4 to 26 days: 2 ½ hours to make the cheese; 4 hours to drain; 5 days to cure dry salted; 21 days to cure in brine (optional)

1 gallon goat’s milk
¼ teaspoon mild lipase powder diluted in ¼ cup cool non-cholorinated water 20 minutes before using (optional)
¼ teaspoon Aroma B powdered mesophilic starter culture
¼ teaspoon liquid calcium carbonate diluted in ¼ cup cool non-chlorinated water (omit of using raw milk)
½ teaspoon liquid rennet diluted in ¼ cup cool non-chlorinated water
2 to 4 tablespoons flake sea salt or kosher salt
Kosher salt or cheese salt for brining (optional)

1.Read through the recipe and review any terms and techniques you aren’t familiar with. Assemble your equipment, supplies and ingredients, including a dairy or kitchen thermometer; clean and sterilize your equipment as needed and lay it out on clean kitchen towels.

2.In a nonreactive, heavy 6-quart stockpot, combine the milk and the diluted lipase, if using, gently whisking the lipase into the milk using an up-and-down motion for 20 strokes. Place over low heat and slowly heat the milk to 86F. This should take 18 to 20 minutes. Turn off the heat.

3.When the milk is at temperature, sprinkle the starter over the milk and let rehydrate for 2 minutes. Whisk the starter into the milk to incorporate, using an up-and-sown motion for 20 strokes. Cover and, maintaining the temperature at 86F, let the milk ripen for 2 hour. (Refer to page 17 for tips on maintaining curds or milk at a steady temperature for a period of time.)

4.Add the diluted calcium chloride to the ripened milk and gently stir with a whisk using and up-and-down motion for 1 minute. Add the diluted rennet and incorporated in the same way Cover and maintain at 86F for 1 hour, or until the curds form a solid mass with light yellow whey floating on top and show a clean break (see page 18). If there is no clean break after 1 hour, test again in 15 minutes.

5.Cut the curds into ½-inch pieces (see page 19) Still maintaining a temperature of 86F, allow them to sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the curds for 20 minutes to release more whey and keep the curds from matting. The curds will look more pillow-like at the end of this process. If you want a firmer curd, raise the temperature to 90F for this step. let the curds rest for 5 minutes, undisturbed, still at temperature. The curds will settle to the bottom of the pot.

6.Line a colander with clean damp cheesecloth or butter muslin and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the curds to the colander. Tie the corners of the cloth together to create a draining sack (see page 20) then let drain for 2 hours, or until the whey has stopped dripping. The curds should form a solid ass and feel firm; if not, let them dry for another hour. If you desire a more uniform shape, after ½ hour of draining in the colander, transfer the sack to a square cheese mold or plastic mesh tomato basket set over a draining rack. Line the mold with the sack curds, press the cheese out into the corners of the mold and finish draining. Remove the cheese from the cloth and flip it over every hour in this draining process to help even out the texture and firm up the cheese.

7.When it is drained, transfer the cheese to a bowl. Cut it into 1-inch-thick slices and then into 1-inch cubes. Sprinkle the chunks with flake sea salt, making sure all the surface are covered. Loosely cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to age in the salt for 5 days in the refrigerator. Check daily and pour off and expelled whey. The feta can be used at this point or stored in a brine. Or for a saltier flavor, dry salt and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours then transfer to alight brine (see page 24) to finish for another 21 days. If the finished cheese is too salty for your taste, soak the cheese in nonchlorinated water for 1 hour, then let drain before using. Feta can be stored for a few months in a brine.

Thanks ever so much, Mary. We adore your books.

plant labels

We’re sowing seeds to catch the early springtime in a coldframe set upon the sunny deck. I wanted a robust and beautiful method for marking our seedlings as they grow and move out into the garden. We’re trying out a couple of natural materials.

stone-labels

First, bound for planters and pots, smooth stones with a bit of white ink. I’m fond of calligraphy, but simple printing would look lovely as well.

chamomile-label

Some offcuts of cedar are just the thing for marking a veg patch, for they’ll last many years in wet weather and will develop a silvery patina along the way. Nothing toxic near the edibles, I say. Or anywhere else, ideally.

tomato-labels

I like how the shape of this wood lends itself to displaying information. On one plane, ‘tomato’ and the next, ‘jaune flamme’ or ‘indigo rose.’ Latin plant names might be quite lovely too.

labeled-frame

All our little seeds tucked up in bed.

linen dishcloth

When the countertops and cutting boards, the faucets and the sink are all wiped down with a good clean cloth, I’m quite content. Keeping a stack of sturdy, beautiful cloths around for that purpose makes me feel a little more calm. I once hand-stitched a linen cloth and four years later it is still in excellent condition. Linen is stronger when wet, so it is ideal for the task. I imagine it doesn’t get musty or stain as easily, but I might just take extra care to hang it to dry, because it’s beautiful. Now I make them for the tried & true series in the shop. Useful, perennial favourites.

linen-cloth-natural

Like rustic clothing, the difference between store-bought and handmade is often its strength. They’re certainly not cheaper than the imported cotton dishcloths I can easily buy, but then they last so long, and please me so much.

linen-cloth-natural

To care for these linen cloths, I just throw them in the wash as usual, cold or medium, with a drop of tea tree oil to kill any germs. You can throw them in a medium dryer too, though it’s best to take them out while still damp, lay them on a flat, waterproof surface like the top of the dryer, and block them. Block them?

linen-cloth-pewter

Blocking is what you do to shape any knit, woven, crocheted piece, and is simple arranging it back into shape and allowing it to dry that way. You can get fancy with special pins and boards, if you were blocking pieces of a sweater before sewing it, so that it would fit perfectly together. But for the linen dish cloths, you’re just laying them flat while they’re wet or damp, and patting, pulling, shaping back to a square, then leaving them to dry. Shaping is ten-second task. No harm in skipping this part, either. It does please me to see them back in their fine shape.

linen-cloth-natural

Like the candlesticks, each one is unique, each one a variation in pattern. A little bit simple, a little bit ornate, and thoroughly handmade. I adore the texture and gloss of wet-spun linen, at once hardy plant fibre and fine silk, artless pastoral and opulence combined.

One bright day soon I’ll have the fine folks from Flax-to-Linen round to the lake to demonstrate the wonderful process of transforming flax to gold. Stay tuned. There’s a wonderful old bit of Canadiana on the subject, too.

linen-cloth-natural

The linen cloths make a nice accompaniment to the natural sponge, my trusty stiff brush, and a stack of colourful tea towels. Elegant tools make the work far easier, far more agreeable, I think.

linen-cloths-stacked

If you’re in Vancouver, pick out your favourite handmade linen cloths on Main Street at the fabulous shop, Nineteen Ten. They have appleturnover’s handthrown candlesticks too!

stoneware candlesticks

Learning to throw all kinds of things on the pottery wheel is a joyful thing! One of my greatest delights was to learn to make useful, beautiful, ornate candlesticks. These form the first part of my new collection for appleturnover, a series of handmade tried & trues.

stoneware candlesticks

Over the last couple of years I’ve found my rhythm, making them. I center a base of clay on the wheel, and pull it up very narrowly. The trick is to keep a finger tucked in the spinning top of the candlestick, once delicate fingers have formed that shape, to steady it as the undulating forms below it are pinched. I love the concentration required, meditative and therapeutic.

stoneware candlesticks

I’m inspired by ornate, baroque forms, and a pale and muted, aged european sensibility. I’m playing with variations in shape with these, and different sizes, like chess pieces, the queen, the pawn. I’m particularly fond of the elegant way that beeswax drips off their curves.

stoneware candlesticks

These are stoneware candlesticks, fired hot, with a smooth, matte glaze that I’ve been told looks a bit edible, like a glaze of icing on pastry. Combined with the intoxicating scent of my children’s hand-dipped beeswax candles, we should be a bit ravenous for honey and cake all through the winter. Not a bad state to be in, really.

stoneware candlesticks

I’m throwing them in the local studio along the winding road through the forest surrounding our cottage. My children still want me to make an old fashioned candleholder with a curved handle to carry around. Perhaps they imagine themselves walking around with an open flame, wearing Dickensian nightshirts?

stoneware candlesticks

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p>Have a look at the new collection of stoneware candlesticks and other tried & trues in the shop.

studio & shop

Thanks to all who came to the open studio! I am so looking forward to seeing you again at classes starting up. Here’s a peek round the Decemberish shop.

milk painted shop hutch

So nice to fill up the milk-painted shopkeeper’s cabinet with useful things and my traditional skills studies & kits.

kits and pottery

The pottery from my autumn return to the wheel has arrived. I’ll show you more closely soon.

long and elegant kit, with creamer

antique singer

The handcrank, star of the old school quilting tutorial movies, has pride of place.

hand-thrown candlesticks

You can still get the patterns (sorry, the kits are all sold out!) as a gift to someone who’d love to learn a traditional skill. The movies in the sidebar to the left guide every kit and pattern.

studiocorner

More detail of some of the things I’ve been making, here. I’m so pleased with the new white glaze.