In 52 Homestead Skills, Kimberlee Bastien shares her journey as she learns a new homesteading skill every week for a year. Both readers thinking about living life on the homestead and those currently doing so will benefit from the 52 skills provided in this book, which include creating your own laundry and dish soap, making deodorant, and freezing jam. The following excerpt is from Chapter 1, "January."
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As I looked out the window there were several feet of snow on the ground and the temperature read -32 degrees Celsius. The temperature in our 200 year old farmhouse also read -32 Celsius. Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I'm sure the temperature in our upstairs bedroom was very close to this because...
I was so excited about finding 12 acres of land we could actually afford that several features of the charming farmhouse were overlooked: When you turned on the bathroom tap, water leaked from the kitchen ceiling. Much of the electrical in the house had not been updated. And there wasn't ANY heat in the upstairs of our home.
January mornings were the most fun. I didn't have to worry about being groggy because as soon as I slid from underneath our warm covers, it was like being tossed into a bucket of ice. Every morning our family would dash out of bed and run like fools, elbowing each other to be the first down the stairs and into the slightly warmer part of our home.
So despite the cold and our farmhouse troubles, I proudly made my first ball of lopsided mozzarella cheese while imagining myself milking my own dairy cow or goat. Much to my husband's dismay, I also saved money by making my own peppermint deodorant and forcing him to wear it to work.
It is almost impossible to take on any new homesteading activity without learning a thousand other skills. And as soon as you think, "you've got this," Mother Nature laughs and throws you an unexpected frost, a hungry predator or a swarm of bees. The learning never ends. And that's okay. Because life without challenge would be BORING.
30-Minute Mozzarella Cheese
Exhilarating. That's the best word I could come up with to describe how I felt holding my first homemade ball of lopsided cheese. Who knew making cheese could be just as thrilling as Disney's Expedition Everest roller coaster or zip lining in Costa Rica? Yes, my friends, cheese making should be listed as one of the most exhilarating experiences on earth.
All it takes is 30 minutes and you could be holding your own ball of delicious cheese. You could eat it raw, grate it over pizza or just have your friends over for wine and cheese and oh-so-casually mention you made the mozzarella yourself. I know you want to so let's get started.
- 2 tsp non-iodized salt
- 4 L or 1 US gallon whole, organic cow's milk
- 1-1/4 cup cool, chlorine-free water
- 1-1/2 tsp citric acid
- 1/4 rennet tablet
- Two large pots
- Two small bowls
- Digital thermometer
- Slotted spoon (not plastic)
- Long knife
- Rubber gloves
- Large bowl of room temperature water
- In a small bowl dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 cup of room temperature water and set aside. Wrap and store the remaining tablet in the freezer.
- In another small bowl, mix 1-1/2 teaspoons of citric acid into 1 cup of room temperature water. Stir until the citric acid is dissolved and pour the mixture into your large pot.
- Add the milk to the pot with the citric acid and stir vigorously with a slotted spoon while slowly heating the milk to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. This will cause the milk to curdle slightly.
- Take your pot off the burner and slowly stir in the rennet with an up-and-down motion of the slotted spoon for approximately 30 seconds or at least long enough to ensure the rennet makes its way to the bottom of your pot.
- Cover the pot and let it sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. This is when things start to get exciting. There should now be a clear separation between the curd (solid) and the whey (liquid). If not, let it sit for a few more minutes.
- Cut the curd in long sections with a knife that reaches to the bottom of the pot.
- Put the pot back on the stove and continue to heat it to 110 Fahrenheit while stirring the curd with the slotted spoon.
- Take the pot off the burner and you guessed it... stir, stir, stir some more (for about 2 to 5 minutes). Note: The more you stir, the firmer the curds will become.
- Heat another large pot of water to 185 Fahrenheit.
- Ladle the curds into a colander folding them together toward the centre and draining the whey as you go.
- Dip the colander containing the curds into the hot water and use the slotted spoon to fold the curds back into the centre of the colander until they reach 160 to 170 Fahrenheit.
- Remove the curds from the colander, add salt and with your hands form it all into a ball while squeezing out any liquid. Start stretching. It will be hot so you will probably want to use gloves. Unfortunately, I could only find one glove so yes, my other hand was burning.
- Continue to stretch the curd, almost the same as kneading dough, until it is soft and shiny. The more you work the cheese, the firmer it will become. If the curds do not stretch easily, return them to the pot and reheat them to 160 to 170 Fahrenheit. Try stretching them again.
- Form the cheese into one large ball or you can get fancy and braid it, make cheese strings or whatever your imagination can come up with.
- Cool the cheese by submerging it in a bowl of room temperature water for about 15 minutes.
And ta da... you have your own homemade mozzarella! You may now crank up the tunes and perform a little celebratory cheese dance. It's best fresh so don't party for too long before gobbling it all up. I mean... dividing it equally among your family.
Excerpted from 52 Homestead Skills by Kimberlee Bastien (Ogden Publications, © 2018). You can buy this book from our store: 52 Homestead Skills.