Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kathleen Burek's Goat Milk Cheese

Kathleen Burek
30 years ago, she bought her first supplies from us!

Kathleen Burek and her husband, John, from Montague, MA, have been living a "back-to-basics" lifestyle since they got married almost 50 years ago.

They brought up their 4 boys (who are now middle-aged) with a large vegetable garden, horses, a cow, goats, chickens and turkeys.  They wanted their sons to know where their food came from.

When the boys were young, they had 8 goats (Nubians and LaManchas) which Kathleen showed at the Cheshire Fair in Swanzey, NH and at the Eastern States Exposition in Springfield, MA.  She learned about the value of goat's milk from the Southern Vermont Dairy Goat Association.

Their home in Montague, MA
They built this barn themselves.
One of their sons has a construction business, so there is a lot of heavy equipment around.
There are too many different breeds here to even mention!
30 years ago, Kathleen heard about New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. and she made the trip to Ashfield to see what she could find.  She remembers that Ricki and Bobby had goats in the back shed and they used one room in the house for cheese making supplies.

Kathleen purchased their book, Cheesemaking Made Easy (now called Home Cheese Making), a press, and a bottle of liquid rennet.  A friend, who also had goats, told her how to make the cheese she makes to this day.

Kathleen now drives a school bus and sells Pampered Chef kitchen supplies.  The boys are grown and all the animals, except the chickens, are gone.  Normally that would be the end of this story, but recently, Kathleen read Goat Song by Brad Kessler and she was inspired to have goats again.  So, this fall she will be getting two Nubians - one to be bred and one younger.

Husband, John, waiting patiently for his cheese.
This room is huge!  You are only looking at half of it here.
How's that for fun kitchen wallpaper?

In anticipation of her new goats, Kathleen dug out her 30 year old press and she has begun making her cheese once a week.  She's using milk from a neighbor's goats until she gets her own.

Her neighbor's Saanen.

Kathleen likes to add garlic and spices to her cheese, but she points out that you can literally add anything.  It's similar to Panir, but Kathleen calls it Easy Farmstead Cheese.  I tasted it, of course, and it's yummy!

Kathleen's Easy Farmstead Cheese

1 gallon goat's milk
1/2 cup reconstituted lemon juice
Salt and herbs to taste

Butter muslin

Everything's ready to go.
 Heat milk to 190F.
Add lemon juice and stir for one minute.
Pour into colander lined with butter muslin.
She uses a Pampered Chef strainer.
Add salt and/or herbs and stir with a fork.
Adding garlic.
Adding chopped up rosemary.
Put bag of curds in mold.
You can take the curds out of the butter muslin and place them in the mold, if you wish.
Crank down the press and leave for 3 hours.
We have no idea how much pressure Kathleen uses, but we can guess that at least 5 pounds would be right.
Eat your cheese.
The cheese appeared somewhat soft when it came out of the mold, but after refrigeration, it firmed up to the texture of Mozzarella.

Tips from Kathleen

While she was making the cheese, Kathleen shared a few thoughts:

1.  If you can, drink goat's milk and make your cheese from it because it's healthier than cow's milk.  It takes humans 3 hours to digest cow's milk and 1/2 hour to digest goat's milk.

2.  Making cheese requires patience- like milking a goat or nursing a child.  Get in the zone and do not try to do other things while you're making cheese.

3.  After milking your goats, filter the milk and then chill it immediately.  Otherwise it will get that "goaty" taste.

4.  Use stainless steel pots and utensils, disinfect them every time you use them and let them air dry.

This is the milking stand John built for her 30 years ago and she will be using it again in a few months.
Kathleen has plans to try making different kinds of cheese when she has her own goats again.  In fact, she and a friend may do it together.  Naturally, we'll be happy to taste their results!

Friday, August 26, 2011

30 Minute Mozzarella Again!

It couldn't be easier ...

We'll be showing you how to make 30 Minute Mozzarella until the cows come home (forever)!  It's so easy and fun that we don't think there's any reason to stop.

Sarah (Ricki's daughter, the Cheese Princess) spotted Angel Sweezea's blog (Heart, Hands, Home) and we contacted her about her Mozzarella post.  She generously allowed us to print it with her perfect pictures and her crystal clear directions.

Angel's introduction to her blog sets the tone for her website and I like it enough to quote it:


Grab a cup of coffee, pull up a chair and join me on this journey to put Proverbs 31 into action. Women are the hearts and hands of their home! May your heart be content, no matter what circumstances you face. May your hands be busy, caring for your family and reaching out to those in need around you. And may wherever you live, become a haven to everyone around you, not just a place to lay your head, but a home.

If you don't happen to know Proverbs 31, it's there on a page of its own.

Angel has also written a book, Shortcut Cooking-Saving Time and Money in the Kitchen, which you can purchase and download right from her blog.

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese
By Angel Sweezea at Heart, Hands, Home

Mozzarella is one of the easiest cheeses to make, it only takes 30 minutes and the taste can't be beat!

The ingredients are simple although a couple of them you may have to search a bit for, but the end result is worth it--especially when you can say "I made it myself!"

Homemade Mozzarella Cheese

1 gallon whole milk (just be sure that it is not Ultra-pasteurized, any other kind will work, store bought, fresh from the cow (or goat))
1 tsp. citric acid*
1/4 rennet tablet*
2 tsp. cheese salt*
A big pot
Slotted spoon
(Please ignore the mess in the background, we still haven't finished putting things back together after our wall project.)

Place milk in large pot with thermometer.
Sprinkle 1 tsp. citric acid over milk and stir.
Turn heat on med-low and heat milk to 90 degrees, stirring occasionally.

While you are heating the milk, dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 C. cool water.
When milk has reached 90 degrees, turn off heat.  Pour rennet over slotted spoon into milk and stir for 20-30 seconds.
Remove thermometer and let milk sit undisturbed for 8-10 minutes. 

Milk should be like a thick gelatin.  Cut the curd into a grid pattern.
Stir gently for a minute and then remove the curd using your slotted spoon into a microwave safe bowl, trying to leave as much of the whey (the yellowish liquid) behind.
Pour off as much liquid as you can without losing any curds.  Heat in microwave for 1 minute. Stir, pour off liquid and heat for 35-40 seconds more.  Stir and pour off any liquid.  Cheese should start to stick together and look stringy.  If the curds are not sticking together you can heat for 35-40 seconds more.
Once your curds are sticking together and you have removed most of the liquid, add your cheese salt.  I usually sprinkle a little on, knead, and sprinkle more on until all the salt is incorporated.

After your salt is incorporated, heat the cheese for 35-45 seconds more until it is stretchy like taffy.  The cheese will be really hot, so it helps to wear gloves to work with the cheese.
Pull and stretch cheese until it is shiny and smooth.
Shape cheese into a log by kneading on counter top.
Place cheese into a bowl of ice water for about 5 minutes to firm it up.
One gallon of milk will yield about 1 pound of cheese. (I paid $2.39 for the milk, so 1 pound of fresh mozzarella was less than $2.50)
Now the fun part, deciding how to use your homemade cheese!

* Citric acid, rennet and cheese salt can often be found at local beer and wine supply stores or in some specialty grocery stores.  If you cannot find it locally, you can order it online from New England Cheese Supply(That's us!)

The first couple of times I made my own cheese I was sure I was doing it wrong, but I am always amazed that at some point it all seems to come together and I have cheese, so don't get discouraged.  I discovered the brand of milk I used can really make a difference in the finished product, so if the first batch doesn't work out, try a different brand.

I will be sharing some recipes next week that highlight your homemade cheese.

Angel's website-
Angel's Facebook page-

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Come See the Wedding Pictures!!!

400 of the couple's most intimate friends ...

If you don't know that Ricki and Jamie got married yesterday, where have you been?!  We've been talking about it for months and months (years even).  (See our Special Pre-Wedding Moosletter.)

The week before the wedding, Ricki and Jamie hosted a Village Harmony singing camp with over 30 attendees staying at the house.  The camp ended the day before the wedding!  (Readers- are you remembering your own weddings and cringing at the thought of this?)  Only Ricki and Jamie would attempt this!

The picture on the right is Ricki in the morning (the wedding was at 2pm).  Her daughter, Jen, had arranged for her to have a massage when she woke up, so she was feeling gooood.

The weather was beautiful with a few moments of heavy rain, which means, according to the old wives tale, that the marriage will last forever.  (Those old wives really knew their stuff!)

A few hours before the wedding, at 11:30am, a small group of Ricki's women friends and family held a tribute ceremony for her in the "barn" (a beautiful building Ricki and Jamie created in the back yard).  We meditated together first and then we each took our turn telling Ricki why we love her.  I think we all would have gladly spent the day together in that quiet space, but we had a rather large wedding to attend!!!

Gallery of Wedding Photos

These 3 stooges were supposed to be working on the set-up, but ...  That's friend Josh on the left, groom Jamie in the middle and Ricki's brother, Peter on the right.
The small tent was for the food and the big one ended up being for the ceremony and the reception.  The ceremony would have been outdoors, but the forecast called for a storm with the possibility of strong winds.  Fortunately, we were spared the winds and most of the rain cleared up during the ceremony.
At left, that's Will, Jamie's youngest son.  At right, his oldest son, Eli.  Who says men don't make weddings?
There was a small staff of 4, (that's Ryan in front).  Ryan is engaged to be married soon, so he'll be hiring his own staff.  We know 3 great guys ... 
Ricki and Jamie had borrowed a refrigeration truck from Paul and Amy at Sidehill Farm and Norm, their next-door neighbor let them keep it in their driveway.  The guests brought their dishes there when they arrived.
Golf carts always come in handy (plus they're fun to ride around in)!
Sarah's husband, Mark, seemed to always be there when anything needed doing.
Did I mention how great the staff was?  This is Matt Szulborski, the team leader.  We first met him when he worked at Ricki's youngest daughter, Sarah's wedding two years ago.  ( This picture is a little blurry because he had a lot to do, and it was hard for him to stand still long enough for me to take his picture.)
Ricki's sister, Marci, worked tirelessly to make sure everything was done the way Ricki wanted it (as she has done at every significant event in Ricki's life.)  I think everyone would agree that Ricki  won the cosmic lottery when she picked Marci to be her sister.  (And visa versa, of course.)
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Sarah and her mother in law, Ann (wearing blue), arranged the cheese platters  for the appetizer table. 
Sarah had made beautiful labels for each of the cheeses.
Friend, Marcia, brought the watermelons.  What can we say?!
Kathy Bullock was recovering from a full week as one of the leaders at the singing camp. 
 She had stayed overnight for the wedding, but had to leave early to catch a plane back to her home in Kentucky.  She teaches music at Berea College.  During the ceremony, she led a much beloved song, written by her sister.
From 1-2, the guests arrived, dropping off their food at the refrigeration truck and then heading into the tent.
Sarah with her uncle Peter.
Jamie actually stood still for a moment!
Ricki's daughter, Jen, and her fiancee, Jason will be tying the knot next September.
These folks were practicing some of the songs for the ceremony.
When Ricki came through the rain to the food tent, the wedding party gathered around her to hear the plan (who would go first, etc.)  Anyone over 60 who wanted to be a flower girl was invited to participate.  (I did, of course, partly because I serve the Queen and partly because we got to blow bubbles as we walked down the aisle.)
That handsome man in the middle (I have to say that or he gets upset) is Jason, Jen's fiancee.  You'll be seeing more of him at the wedding next September.  To his right, you can see a glimpse of Eli, Jamie's oldest son and his brother, Will,  behind Jason.
Those are the bubble tubes in one of the flower girls hand.
There was a little gap between the two tents, so Peter and Marci prepared for the entourage.  The pretty lady on Marci's right came with Richard Dunbrack (the Thieving Magpie who made all the fabulous structures and the kitchen cabinets in the house).  After the ceremony, she and Richard set off some firecrackers, thus beginning the reception with a BANG!
At this point, it must be noted that the bride wore special sparkly shoes made by daughter, Sarah.  They started out as Crocs, so they proved to be quite practical in the rain, as well as gorgeous, of course.
The procession was almost ready and Peter was still standing with his umbrella.  However, for some reason, his head turned red which I thought complemented his green shirt.
Flower girls with bubble tubes, ready to go.
The rain ended and the sun came out just as Ricki began her walk to the stage. (Jamie had made a stage and painted it magenta, one of the Queen's favorite colors.)
Ricki's father accompanied her down the aisle.
Marci, Peter, and their father.  (Ricki's mother, Sandy, was there, from New Jersey, and Ricki paid a special tribute to her during the ceremony.)
Too many friends and family to name... At right, Ricki's buddy, Glenda, played the keyboard for many of the songs in the ceremony.
Kate Stevens, the minister of The First Congregational Church in Ashfield, officiated.  She has known Ricki and Jamie for years. 
Can you see the bubbles?  That's Sarah in the middle and friend, John Bos at the microphone.
Ricki's longtime friend, Jack from Vermont read a poem he had written for the occasion.
Jamie and Ricki read to each other from long scrolls (with big type for easy reading).  After that, they kissed (somewhat passionately, I thought for a family wedding!).  After that, I was watching it all too closely to get any more pictures but I can assure you that Jamie and Ricki are now husband and wife.
Meanwhile, back at the food tent, the staff was making progress with the meal.
Nancy Charbonneau worked with the staff for a few hours, then she drove Kathy Bullock to the airport in Hartford. 
Many folks had included a list of ingredients with their dish.
This picture was taken before the table was ready. but, believe me, it looked scrumptious.
The staff was getting it together just as the ceremony ended.
Eli breaking away.
As soon as the ceremony ended, the food tent was open for business.
Now Ricki and Jamie had the opportunity to chat with old friends and enjoy the day.
The wedding cake was made by Ricki's daughter, Jen, from Cypress Grove's Humboldt Fog, their award-winning surface ripened goat cheese. 
It's always hard to tell whether Ricki's having a good time (hee hee) but we can venture a guess here...
To all of you- Thank you for helping to make this world a place where love is cherished and celebrated.