more kitchen alchemy (or, my yeast pee was awesome!)
The mead is finished and it's really good. The blackberry batch turned out drier than I expected (additional yeasts on the blackberries maybe?) and the plain one is really nice - a different flavour than last time, despite using the same honey. (Well, from the same company - maybe their bees were in a different place?) Anyway, success!
I also recently tackled another alchemical hurdle - cheese! The Scholefield clan went away for 3 weeks and I was under orders to preserve their milk share for that time. They get 3 gallons a week, and my fridge operates at capacity most of the time, so immediate processing was necessary. They requested feta, so I made some using some "rennet" I found at Ambrosio and yogurt as the starter, and a recipe I found on the internet. It turned out ok, but 3 gallons of milk makes a decent amount of feta, so I thought I should produce something else the next week.
The following week I borrowed our cowshare administrator's book on cheesemaking and attempted a queso fresco. It was actually pretty fun to make - cheese curds are like a blend of jello and cheese, and enjoyable to cut and play with - but on further reading I discovered that the rennet I had bought was actually junket rennet, and largely unsuitable for cheese. Indeed, the cheese that resulted was edible, but didn't melt, and had some crunchy bits because I had no kosher salt, only celtic sea salt, which contains small particles of "minerals" (aka sand).
So I did some panicked ordering off the good old internet. Several days later, thanks to some speedy shipping by Danlac, I had proper rennet and some mesophilic starter. I had to do math to figure out how much rennet to use, and as it turned out the stuff I got was SO concentrated that the amount was on the order of milligrams and I had to use Stirling's powder-measure scale. But wow what a difference! The milk gelled up in an hour and was a much firmer set than with the junket rennet. Lesson learned.
The next batch of cheese turned out decidedly better, and I made some with garlic and herbs in it that was really quite tasty. I had another batch planned, but I got distracted while heating the milk and ended up scalding it, so I reduced it by half and turned it into pumpkin pie ice cream, which was also pretty tasty.
After all that I was a bit cheesed-out. But I've had a rest now, and it's colder so I think my pantry might actually be the right temperature for aging cheese soon, so I will attempt something more cheddar-like next.