2 August 2016

The Great Goat's Cheese Debacle

In our house over the last few months, there has been much discussion about the future. Of potential house moves and possible projects that we would really like to undertake and one of those things was to become more self-sufficient and have a go at not only growing more of our own food but actually producing some of it too. One day, a few weeks ago, I happened to mention that I would love to have a go at making cheese and lo-and-behold, a couple of days later, three little kits plopped onto my doormat, a mozzarella making kit, a goat's cheese making kit and a bacon making kit (we will get to the making bacon one in another post). Needless to say, I was thrilled and couldn't wait for the weekend so we could give them a try. I had big plans for the cheese and in my head, I was already picturing us out shopping for cute little goats to start our own goat herd to begin our little cheese-making business. Unfortunately, for the time being, we are still goat-less so, with two large cartons of goat's milk duly purchased from the supermarket, we set about preparing the culinary delight. 

We followed the instructions to the letter. We heated and we stirred and we heated some more with our cute little thermometer, then we lined the colander with the fine muslin from the kit and we waited for the curds to form. And we waited ......... and we waited ......... and we waited some more. And ........ nothing! Not a curd in sight. We repeated the process as instructed in the "if no curds form" section of the instructions and we waited again. Still nothing. So, ever the optimist, my husband suggested leaving it a while. Soooooooo we made supper, had some wine and waited even longer. And nothing. Not a thing.

Making sure the milk is at the right temperature.

Looking hopeful ......

Not one single curd got caught in the muslin.

Anyway, we chalked that batch up to experience, checked the milk to make sure we hadn't bought UHT treated milk and that it was actually suitable for making cheese and the following week we tried again. The same thing happened. Not one single curd. I was mightily disappointed but decided that, for now, we would put the goat's cheese making on hold until we could figure out where we went wrong and try the other kit and have a go at making a batch of mozzarella. With a certain amount of trepidation, we once again, heated, stirred and waited and this time, 

Curds beginning to form :-)

Cutting the curds

Draining the curds.

At this point, to say we were ecstatic was a total understatement. We salted the cheese and turned to the trusty internet to find out how to heat and stretch the cheese in the microwave to get it to the stringy, stretchy, pizza-licious-ness everyone knows and loves and then we tasted it. It was delicious. Although I think we over-heated it slightly and it was a bit chewy, all-in-all, it was a total success. 

Ready for eating. 

I have to say, the un-stretched cheese was equally delicious and next time I make it, I probably won't bother with the heating and the stretching part and will just use the cheese in the curds stage just after it's been salted and mixed. It's perfect on pizza and in salads and next time I am going to add some chopped herbs as well and see how that tastes. Oh, and if anyone has any idea as to why the goat's cheese was such a disaster, a comment would be much appreciated. I'm not going to get very far with my cheese-making business if I don't actually know how to make cheese :-)

1 August 2016

My New Garden Design.

Well, I have to say it was lovely to get so many comments from people on my last blog post, I'm so happy that there are still some of you out there :-)

I have been looking back through all the photos I've been taking over the last few months, wondering where to start and I think I will start with the garden. In my very first blog post my garden was a boring, bare rectangle of grass that mostly resembled a field, probably because that's exactly what it used to be. The person who converted our house from foundry workers cottages, badly, I might add, ran true to form and basically just left the front garden to grow wild.

At the time, I didn't have much money and keeping the grass down and managing to get it fenced in so the dogs had a safe place to run was as much as I could manage and over the years, I have added little bits and pieces to the garden and now, although it's still a rectangle consisting mostly of grass, it's slightly less boring. But not much! That, however, is about to change. Over the last few weeks, there has been lots of measuring and sourcing of materials and a gazillion ideas pinned on a virtual mood board and then there was a LOT of garden designing and planning and a fair old amount of, shall we say, "discussion" about where, what and how things should be done and finally, thanks to my husband ......... drum roll please ........ the finished plan can now be revealed.

Isn't it fabulous. This is hopefully what my garden will look like a few months from now. We have already started and have spent every spare weekend preparing the space. There's been a lot of digging and turf stripping and clearing and a couple of weeks ago, a big lorry with a crane on the back delivered 2 tonnes of granite setts for the pathways and edging. A delivery of compost will be arriving next week to start filling up the flower beds and more sand and cement will be arriving in the not too distant future so I can finish concreting in more of the setts ...... I'm actually getting quite good and cementing the little buggers in place and have only managed to drop them on my toes twice. It's hard work but it's very slowly starting to look less like a field :-)

Digging the trench for the first lot of setts to be cemented in. I'm getting very good at it now :-)

Between the apple trees, the turf will be stripped off, soil added and then bark chippings will be put on top and some shade-loving plants will be planted to add some colour.

Roughly laying out the setts to see what they look like. 

Around the edge of the lawn will be flower beds full of cottage garden plants.

Harriet and Bluebell helping in the garden. 

So, watch this space. I will keep posting progress photos so you can see how it's coming along. And if anyone has any suggestions and ideas for plants that don't mind shade I would love to hear from you.