Last week was all rain, and all kinds of rain. There was the gray, dripping rain that blanketed everything in damp and made interesting kinds of mold sprout under the shelves in the kitchen from the ambient humidity.
There was rain that came down in silver sheets, moving towards you like a fog and obscuring everything like a veil of the otherworld.
There was rain that suddenly overtook a bright blue sky like the wings of an enormous eagle, and biblical rain that seemed to bubble up from the ground and made the pastures an ephemeral lake.
In between there was light rain that fell while the sun was shining and the foxes were holding their weddings, making rainbows in the sky and sprinkling all the flowers with shimmering droplets.
Being often rain-bound with too much milk on hand, I have been undertaking new adventures with cheese making. I’m finding that slow mozzarella, while not as easy as chevre, gets eaten more quickly being new and exciting for now.
In the morning I milk the goats, getting one and a half gallons of milk. I pour the milk, still warm, through a strainer and into an enamel pot and mix in 1/4 cup kefir for a culture, and add 3/4 of a rennet tablet mixed in water. I let it sit while I milk and move the cows. When I return, the curd has set and I cut it into 1 inch pieces.
I stir it whenever I remember while I make lunch. After lunch I pour off most of the whey into the piggie bucket, along with the skimmed milk from making butter.
The curds are put into a cheese form in a bowl to shed more whey. The whey collects in the bowl after a while, leaving the tightening curds soaking in whey. Sometime that afternoon I heat up water and cut the cake of cheese curds into pieces. I soak the pieces in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and then stretch and roll them into mozzarella balls. The remaining whey is mixed with 1 tablespoon salt to make a brine, and the cheese is put in to soak and keep until eaten.
It turns out very nicely, and melts beautifully. I think it has better flavor than the fast mozzarella made with lemon juice or citric acid.
The glory of the garden right now is molokhia, or Egyptian spinach. It’s thriving in the heat and rain, growing high over my head.
We are in another in-between time in the garden. The summer garden has declined and the fall garden is just started. Okra, pumpkins, Malabar spinach, callaloo, cassava greens, Roselle, and sweet potato leaves are the staples of this season.
This was the first year I’ve grown molokhia. It was very easy to grow, has a good flavor, is very nutritious, and the shape of the leaves is very interesting, with little wispy points near the stem.
It is related to okra and hibiscus, and like okra it has some slime, but mixing it with other greens and adding lemon juice seems to make it less so. Adding it to a stir fry thickens the sauce without adding any corn or arrowroot starch. I have several recipes I’ve been testing out, and this is one of them. Mixed with basil, it made a delicious pesto for pizza.
Pizza Crust – makes 4 pizzas
5 cups of flour (i used fresh ground hard winter wheat)
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon melted butter or olive oil
1 cup sourdough starter mixed with cup water
- Mix flour, salt and butter or oil together in a large bowl.
- Add the water and sourdough culture bit by bit until the dough is a good consistency, kneadable and soft but not sticky.
- Knead for 15 minutes or so. Leave in a covered bowl overnight.
4. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and stretch or roll them out about 1/4 inch thick.
5. Lay on parchment paper or a buttered pan.
1 cup sunflower seeds
1 big bunch of molokhia, leaves plucked from the stems
1 big bunch of basil, stems removed
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
4 cups of good cheese
1. Melt butter in a pan and sprinkle the sunflower seeds in a single layer.
2. Toast the sunflower seeds and set aside.
3. In a food processor or blender, finely chop the garlic, onion, basil and spinach. Season with salt and lemon juice.
4. Melt more butter in a pan and gently stir-fry the peso for a few minutes. Set aside.
5. Assemble the pizzas: First add the pesto, then sprinkle with sunflower seeds. Add the cheese last and bake at 350F for 30 minutes. Depending on the cheese, you might have to bake it a bit longer for it to get toasted on top.