Urban Artisanal: Sophia’s Greek Yogurt

In my upcoming book Small Batch: Pickles, Cheese, Chocolate, Spirits and the Return of Artisanal Food, I interviewed more than fifty pickle, cheese, chocolate, and spirit artisans from around the country – many in person, some on the phone, and … Continue reading

Locavore on the Road: Artisanal Cheese & the Marin County Cheese Trail

I’ve spent what would likely add to up to countless hours contemplating the purchase of various cheeses at locations ranging from Whole Foods to Stinky Bklyn to a “serve yourself” fridge on a country roadside in Western Massachusetts. I clearly remember … Continue reading

Locavore on the Road: Portland, Oregon

When I was planning my west coast research trip in support of my upcoming book Small Batch: The Fall and Rise of Artisanal Pickle, Cheese, Chocolate, and Alcoholic Spirits in America (Alta Mira Press) – I almost didn’t plan to … Continue reading

Homemade Mozzarella

I often buy balls of mozzarella from Fiore at the local farmer’s market. For $5 I get a sandwich bag of deliciousness, almost always made that morning. Which got me thinking – if this small cheese company can make countless balls of mozz before 9am, it can’t be too hard for me to make a few of my own! I did a bit of research and discovered that besides milk, I would need rennet and citric acid, both of which can be bought from any number of cheese making sources. Luckily, New England Cheesemaking Supply Company, one of the best known and respected sources, is located barely more than an hour away (thus supporting a local business as well).  Online, I ordered the beginner mozarella and ricotta kit – promising 30 minute mozz – all I needed to add was the milk.

A few days later when my kit was delivered, I made a quick trip to Sherman’s for a gallon of milk. I buy all of my dairy from Sherman’s anyway, but in particular fresh cheese must be made from milk that isn’t “ultra-pasteurized” – which is about the only kind that most large grocery stores sell. Thus proper sourcing of the key ingredient is important. Procuring the milk was almost the hardest part – once home there were only a few steps of heating the milk, adding the citric acid and rennet, stirring and stretching. NE Cheesemaking Supply Co was right! – I had four balls of mozz ($20 worth by farmer’s market prices) less than 30 minutes later – ready to be sampled. So easy – and delicious!

Homemade Yogurt

Making yogurt is So Easy. I don’t care if you want to call me a hippy. Or if you think only post-feminist eco-housewives with too much time on their hands make their own yogurt. I swear that if you try this just once, you will become a convert. Maybe my fourth or fifth batch is on the stove as I type, and my method is failproof and is largely adapted from various recipes I found online. What you will need: a candy thermometer, a big pot (some people have declared that a double boiler works better, however I only used that method once and I just made an even bigger mess, although it also worked fine), milk and a few tablespoons of plain yogurt (preferably small batch and/or local and/or organic, etc. I started with Narragansett, but I’ve read Stonyfield Farms is another good one.)

I use whole milk – I tried this with low fat and it worked fine, but the yogurt was a bit thinner than I wanted so I switched back to the full fat kind. And I should also mention – although this should be obvious – that everything should be clean and sterile. But other than those two caveats, just jump right in and make your own batch!

First, over medium to low heat, warm the mik to 185 degrees. (This might take 5 – 10 minutes, perhaps stir it a few times and skim off any film that forms on top.) Then, cool the milk to 120 degrees. Don’t let it cool below 90 degrees or something scientific that is supposed to happen won’t – thus you must keep an eye on it. I.e. don’t put it in the fridge and forget about it. When it reaches between 110 – 120 degrees add in about two tablespoons of plain yogurt and stir.

Next you must keep it warm for 5 – 8 hours. I found a number of useful tips on how to best do this: a purchased yogurt warmer would do the trick. But who wants to spend $50 on a glorified hot plate? If you have an oven with a pilot light that is always on you can keep it in there.  I generally have poured the milk into a metal bowl (conducts heat better) before cooling and have covered it with foil and wrapped it in a towel or two and allowed it to rest in either a cooler or the microwave. Both are insulted and keep heat in quite nicely. I have added a pitcher of boiling water to the cooler to help ensure that it stayed hot, but I am not sure if it is neccesary – depends on your cooler, I guess. You want as little extra space in either one as possible.

After about 5 hours or so the yogurt should be thick. A little green liquid on top is fine, just pour it off or stir it in. Transfer to smaller containers if you’d like or maybe flavor it with jam or maple syrup and toss it in the fridge. It should keep for at least a week – although I have kept it for as long as two weeks and it hasn’t seemed to go bad. Remember to keep a few extra tablespoons for your next batch though!

Active time: maybe 5 minutes, plus time watching the milk both heat up and cool down.

Cost: $3 for a half gallon of local milk = $3 for a half gallon of local yogurt

Homemade Chevre

As a locavore in the city I sometimes forget the fabulous bounty available once I drive towards where the suburbs melt into rural farmland. Today my husband and I had an errand that took us about 90 miles outside of the city. Since the weather was quite hot we mapped a lake stop, which took us down a lovely leafy rural route. However, once I spotted the sign below, I knew I had to make a quick u-turn.

Inside the fridge was a price list (feta and hard cheese available by request!) and one lonely 8 oz tub of homemade garlic and marjoram goat cheese. I put my money in the indicated “honor” basket (taking my $2 change in quarters), my beach snack secured. Luckily there was a co-op just up the street (imagine that! what kind of locavore heaven did I find in rural central Massachusetts?) and bought two local heirloom tomatoes to complete my impromptu salad. Local lake-side deliciousness.