ricotta cheese 

While it is true that one can extract a bit of ricotta cheese by cooking acidified whey leftover from yogurt or other dairying, I like to produce this simple cheese from a gallon of goat’s milk (from the goats we are tending now! That’s a story for another day.) Quite a lot of cheese is produced using this method, and it is the easiest and the quickest cheese I know. Let me show you how it’s done.

You’ll need a pot that easily holds a gallon of milk,
an acid like lemon, vinegar, or citric acid,
sea salt,
a thermometer,
a whisk,
some cheesecloth or butter muslin,
a colander,
a fine mesh strainer,
a slotted spoon,
and a bit of string just in case.

Make sure all of your tools are very clean. Cheesemaking books say to sterilise them – I use straight vinegar, well rinsed away, after hot, soapy water, and I scald my cheesecloth.

First, acidify the milk with lemon, vinegar, or citric acid – I use 1.5 teaspoons of the latter in our goat’s milk. In cow’s milk, use less.

Add a teaspoon of sea salt. Using a whisk and making up-and-down motions is a good habit to get into when cheesemaking.

ricotta

Raise the temperature very slowly, over a good ½ hour, to between 184 – 190F, stirring now and then to prevent burning on the bottom.

When you see the milk separate into curds and whey (chartreuse liquid), you’re done – take off the heat and cover the pot, let it sit for ten minutes.

Scoop out the whey into a clean cloth – I use butter muslin – over a strainer, first using a slotted spoon, and at the end, a fine mesh strainer.

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Gather the corners of the cloth and tie them securely, and then string this up to suspend the ricotta to drain for a quarter of an hour. Sometimes I put two tall milk bottles on either side of the bowl with a long wooden spoon holding the tie. The longer you drain it, the dryer. After that you could put a plate on top, and a weight of some kind over it, and you’d have paneer!

You’ll have a lot of whey left. If I cannot use it up in a couple of days, I freeze it or use it in my fermented chicken feed. However, you can add it to soup, to sourdough starter, in place of water in any baking recipe, in milk shakes. It’s really high protein.

Keep the ricotta in the fridge for up to a week – ours never lasts a day. Glorious in lasagne, desserts, on homemade crackers with some herbs.

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.

rhubarb crown

Rhubarb, like so many things I adore, requires more patience than work. You can plant a rhubarb crown through March – though November or December is best – so we squeaked in a quick bit of transplanting.

rhubarb crown © elisa rathje 2013

My mother’s well-established rhubarb is coming along nicely. Next door to this raised bed, we needed to move some rhubarb to another spot.

rhubarb crown

We gently dug it out, just as you would if you were dividing it. I can see what it is called a crown, the roots are majestic.

rhubarb planting

The crown needs to be planted with the growth at or just above the soil level, and some good compost tipped in first will help it get a good start. Here’s where the patience comes in. Aside from watering in well, the rhubarb isn’t harvested in its first year, and only lightly in the second. Yet for a good ten years, the rhubarb should provide nicely, without much attention at all. A bit of fertiliser in midsummer perhaps, and then cutting back the leaves in autumn when they’ve died off. Not much to it.

rhubarb crown © elisa rathje 2013

It seems happy enough, though it might have preferred moving earlier in the year. One day I’ll be settled enough to put in my own rhubarb and look forward to years of pulling rhubarb for kiiseli, rhubarb tarts, rhubarb anything. Perhaps I shall give in to a Victorian impatience and try forcing it with a rhubarb pot! I anticipate it each spring as the first local fruit of the season.

how to cable-knit

Well, I wonder if you’ve ever worn a cabled sweater and marvelled at the twisting pattern, and if you might like to see how they’re made? Or, better yet, you’d like to try it yourself!

This movie is a tutorial for both the Cabled Handwarmers and Cabled Mittens projects. It’s also got a very favourite song in it, which we realised is also in a movie we love, Beginners. Fitting, then, as I adore cable-knitting. Learning how to cable-knit is one of those pleasingly simple techniques, like plaiting hair or weaving homespun yarn, which gives a surprisingly satisfying result that looks more complex than the process truly is. It captures the eye like a good melody captures the ear. I hope you enjoy the little movie. Watch them all in the old schoolhouse (to your left) and mail-order your materials from the shop.

short.cable.heatherblue.typing

joining & ribbing

Each of the projects in The Knitting Series are made in-the-round. Any garment you might like to knit that would usually need to be knit flat, then sewn up, leaving a seam, can be knit in a circle on several double-pointed needles. These needles haven’t got an end to keep the stitches on; they can move easily because of this, and they can shift from holding a whole lot of stitches to just a few. It looks quite intimidating to knit on four, five needles at once. I assure you that looks are deceptive; only two needles are stitching as usual and the others hold the work. This is a traditional skill all knitters should acquire. The first step is to join the stitches, having cast them on. (This part is 2.5 minutes and has such a good old melody).

The next step is to start ribbing up the cuff. Ribbing is pretty basic, in this variation, knit, knit, purl. I teach my children to rib little pieces once they can manage plain knitting. If you can comfortably rib, you can do these projects. Joining & ribbing around in circles is only slightly trickier, once you get the hang of it. In fact, I find it easier since I don’t ever reverse (purl, purl, knit). I hope the animations make things very clear for you.

Knitting-in-the-round like this translates to knitting mittens, hats, as you like it. Work along with the other movies in the “Cabled Handwarmers” set, next door at the old schoolhouse (look in the column to your left!). “Cabled Mittens” is out now too, and both projects are in the shop now. If you haven’t already, you might like to watch our first movies on quilting.

writing with handwarmers

short & sweet heather green cabled handwarmers