I made cheese today, my first effort since succumbing to the lure of Ricki Carroll and her New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.  It was not, perhaps, an auspicious beginning, since the never-fail, easy-enough-for-a-seven-year-old mozzarella recipe...failed.  Maybe I need a grandchild or two to help.

On the other hand, what I did manage to produce is a great, lower-fat substitute for cream cheese, and if I knew what it was I did wrong, I could replicate it.  My biggest mistake was clearly to ignore Ricki's instructions to keep a cheese journal, logging everything from ingredients to procedures to the ambient temperature and humidity.  Cheesemaking is an art, and at some point you're bound to create something you'd like to be able to make again; keeping a log doesn't guarantee that you'll be able to, but it greatly increases the odds.

For now, I'l enjoy my "cream cheese," and try again with the mozzarella another day.
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, August 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm | Edit
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alt Chocolate Unwrapped:  The Surprising Health Benefits of America's Favorite Passion, by Rowan Jacobsen (Invisible Cities Press, Montpelier, Vermont, 2003)

Like chocolate, this delicious book goes down easily, and the facts about chocolate's health benefits are not hard to swallow.  At a mere 126 pages from introduction through references, it's a quick and easy read—I read most of it on the way to and from church today—and yet manages to cover the history and production of chocolate, a good deal of detail on why chocolate—which begins as a fruit, after all—should be considered a health food, environmental and labor issues in the production of chocolate, unusual chocolate recipes, and list of great chocolate sources.  It is necessary to ignore a few insults to Columbus, the Puritans, and anyone who likes milk chocolate, but on the whole these are minor annoyances. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, July 26, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Edit
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Making vegetables grow in our nutrient-poor, nematode-rich sand soil is always a challenge.  After the initial shock of moving here from a world where one puts the seeds in the ground and stands back, we pretty much gave up on gardens until a couple of years ago.  We do a little better each year, but at least financially the balance sheet is still dismal.

One plant that is still thriving, even in the oppressive Florida summer heat, is our lemon balm.   We planted it this year for no other reason than that it was available at Lowes (or Home Depot, I forget which) and I remembered that Porter had remarked on how good it smelled when we encountered it at Leu Gardens.  We let it grow untouched for a long time, mostly because I didn't know what to do with it, but when a friend mentioned making lemon balm tea, I had my answer.

Now I brew a pot of tea with one regular PG Tips tea bag and a handful of bruised, fresh lemon balm leaves.  I don't know how it tastes hot, as we're not in that season, but I can attest that it makes a wonderful iced tea.  I generally prefer my tea unflavored, but at least for now I can't get enough of this delicious combination.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm | Edit
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On June 12—tomorrow—Food, Inc. opens.  As usual, we'll probably wait for the DVD, but it's definitely one I want to see.  Do I really want to hear more about the dangers of our factory farming system?  Unfortunately, yes.  True, it produces plenteous, apparenly low-cost food—we spend less of our paychecks on food than in any time in our history—but the true costs are hidden, and high.  Did you know that 90% of the items in our grocery stores contain some form of corn or soy?  That our supply of beef, chicken, potatoes, and many other foods is driven by the fast-food industry? One reason I'm looking forward to the movie is that supposedly it is not entirely a doom and gloom horror flick, but also celebrates the power of the individual to make a difference.  We shall see.  Thanks to DSTB for the alert.

Here's the official Food, Inc. website, where you can see the trailer.

And a PBS show about the movie.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, June 11, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Edit
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The young lady at the grocery store was right:  a chopstick makes a great cherry pitter.

Until I was nine years old, I lived in a small house with a yard that was small by American standards, but large enough to support four beautiful trees:  two spruce, one maple that was the delight of my heart and the joy of my tree-climbing days, and one cherry tree.

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The cherry tree produced a gorgeous display of blossoms every year, followed by an abundant harvest of cherries.  These were sour cherries, the kind used most often for pies, though to my child's tastes they couldn't get much better than straight from the tree into my mouth.  The abundance, however, was more than I could consume, even had that been allowed, so I remember hours of sitting around the table with my family, pitting cherries to freeze for future pies.  Despite the work, it was a delightful time because we were all together, working and talking and laughing.  It is nonetheless a pity that we didn't discover the delights of Chinese food until after we had left the house and its trees behind. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 2:45 pm | Edit
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Looking back at my Lenten disciplines for 2009, I find it was a surprising exercise.  While I can't say I was perfect in keeping them, two worked so well I intend to continue the practices.

The computer goes off at 9:00 every night.   When I stick to a 10 p.m. bedtime, my life goes much better, but that's not always easy, especially when I'm in the middle of a project and "just one more thing" can lead to midnight or beyond.  Not only are most of my projects computer-oriented, but for some reason computing is one of those areas where I blink and two hours have passed. If I get nothing else from this discipline, at least I'll be better rested.

Discipline 1 was downright pleasant, except on days when my evenings were taken up by other things, like choir practice; then I felt entitled to at least a few minutes of computer time after getting home.  But even then the rule kept that time short.  I enjoyed having the excuse to stop work, and it dovetailed nicely with Discipline 3: (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Friday, April 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm | Edit
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Lord of the Rings fans may remember Shire Year 1420, when "the fruit was so plentiful that young hobbits very nearly bathed in strawberries and cream...."  That's what life has been like at our house for the past few weeks.  It's strawberry season in Florida, and we've been treating ourselves to strawberries on our cereal, strawberry shortcake, strawberry-yoghurt pie, and—fresh rhubarb is also available now—strawberry-rhubarb crisp.  Life is delicious good.
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 15, 2009 at 3:08 pm | Edit
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I spent several of my formative years in the City of Soft-Pretzel-y-Love.  Not the fancy, cheese-filled mall variety, or the bake-at-home frozen blandness, but the soft, chewy, salty Philadelphia Pretzel, preferably from a germ-laden street vendor's cart and drizzled, of course, with mustard.  Nothing ever tastes as good as memory makes it, so for over thirty years I have been making do.

Enter Facebook.  Bear with me here, it's a convoluted story.

It all began, for me, when Janet joined Facebook.  I no longer remember what brought her, reluctantly, to that point, but she had so much fun re-connecting with old friends that she persuaded me to join as well.  The connecting-with-old-friends bit only works if one's friends are also on Facebook, which is much less likely for folks of my age, but nonetheless I've made a few enjoyable connections.  As a whole I find the Facebook package more annoying than not, but can put up with it for the few gems it tosses my way.

Like the inspiration for this post.  This summer I met a friend of my son-in-law-to-be.  Enjoyable as our time together was, we are far apart both generationally and geographically, and in the old days the chances of her sharing a recipe with me would have been nil.  But she is on Facebook, and graciously accepted my "friend request," the result of which is that when she posted a video on pretzel-making, I found it.  There are actually two in the series:

It is a very good thing we do not have cable television.  Put me in front of a food channel and I might not move all day.  Other shows by this guy are proving a major temptation getting in the way of progress this week.  "This guy" is Alton Brown, and his show, Good Eats, is on the Food Network (whatever that is).  Some related links:  One set of shows on YouTube, another set of shows on YouTube, and the fan page.  (I spent a fair amount of time trying to determine the legality or lack thereof of having the shows posted on YouTube, without success, but they've been there for quite awhile without being removed, and one of the posters runs the fan site and knows the chef, so I'm feeling free to enjoy them unless convinced otherwise.)

After all the preliminaries...ta da!  What I Did Yesterday:  I made the pretzels!  It was easy!  Dark brown, shiny, chewy, and exceedingly delicious, with or without mustard.

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Did I say they were good?  I mean really, really good.  Even without the umibacillus vendorophilus.

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 at 7:45 am | Edit
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