Say cheese!

I have a running list, mostly in my head, of things I want to try.   Homemade mozzarella cheese has been on the list for quite some time.   We go through enough of it, so I wanted to give it a shot and see how it turned out.   So here we go…

The recipe I used is here.  And it is a good one.  My additional notes with pics below.

I ordered some citric acid powder and Fromase rennet tablets (vegetable-based) from my trusty Amazon account. 

1 1/2 tsp citric acid powder dissolved in 1 cup of cold water.  I used bottled spring water, since chlorinated water is a no-no.  Set aside.

1/4 tablet Fromase rennet dissolved in 1/4 cup bottled spring water. Set aside.

1 gallon whole milk.   Homogenized but NOT Ultra High Pasteurized (UHP) – another no-no.  I used HEB-brand whole milk, and I will again.

1 tsp kosher (not iodized) salt

Pour milk and diluted citric acid unit a 5-quart or larger stainless steel or ceramic NON-REACTIVE pot.  Stir well.  Aluminum or iron are bad… from a cheese-making perspective.   I have a Le Crueset enamel-over-cast iron dutch oven that was a good size, and the enamel ensures it won’t interfere with the citric acid / milk reaction.

Raise heat, slowly, to 90 degrees Farenheit.  Remove from heat.  Add diluted rennet solution and stir, most lightly, for 30 seconds.  Cover and don’t disturb for 5 minutes as the curd sets and starts to separate from the whey liquid.   The consistency of curds you’re going for is soft tofu-ish.   After 5 minutes, mine wasn’t very solidified, so I covered again and let sit for another 3 minutes.

Uncover and make 1″ x 1″ cuts from top to bottom.  I used a stainless steel cake frosting spreader.

Return to low heat, stirring lightly, until temperature is 105 degrees farenheit.   Remove from heat and continue stirring for another minute or two.   The curds start separating from the liquid whey and will want to begin to clump together. Separate curds from whey.  I used a stainless steel colander on top of a large plastic bowl, and a stainless steel scoop.  The picture below shows the remaining whey at the top, and the glass bowl of almost-mozzarella curds in a microwavable bowl at the bottom – ready for the next step.
  Heat in microwave in small bursts, measuring temperature, and stirring in between bursts, until mixture reaches 135 degrees farenheit.   My microwave is pretty strong, so I used 20 second intervals of heating, and then stirring, until it reached 135 degrees. Strain off remaining whey.  Begin kneading (like dough) and stretching, alternating, until mixture becomes cohesive and stringy.

I forgot to add the kosher salt until after the cheese got to the ball stage.   So, this attempt yielded stringier portions than I had imagined.  But it held together alright.  Next time, I will use less salt than called for in the recipe (I’ll try 1/2 tsp next time).    I formed my first batch into 3 loaf-ish shapes.

And then I put in a container with part whey liquid / part water and covered in the fridge.

  First taste… caprese salad…. delicious!
I’m going to get another gallon of milk proto!  I’m hooked.

Garden guest.

I was walking back from the shop today when I saw a butterfly fluttering among the zinnias.   She flitted around, while I stopped to watch, for a good 2 minutes, posing, in perfect light.  Of course I didn’t have a camera with me.  When I got back in the house I grabbed my phone and popped back out.  She was still there, but wouldn’t let me get as close, and didn’t pose as perfectly this time — camera shy, i guess.   I took some zoomed-in shots, not crisp, but pretty.  I think this is an eastern black swallowtail.  She does love the zinnies.


The hunter.

I have some photos from our weekend in Port A that I may sort out and post.  Here’s a shot from one of the pre-dawn firmament beach photo sessions.  The constellation Orion.


and a cheat sheet:

Patience wins out.

I packed the tripod for our trip to the coast.  We went to the beach both mornings, while we were in Port Aransas, to once again try to capture a shot of Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Venus together.

Yesterday clouded up just before Mercury rose.  This morning the clouds threatened again, but danced between the planets.   I took this shot looking above the south jetty on the Port Aransas end of Mustang Island.  The lowest in this shot is Mercury, just above the seeping pink glow of dawn.  Above it is the pair of reddish, smaller Mars just below and to the left of larger Jupiter.  And then above them, and the brightest, Venus.  The other stars above and to the left of the ecliptic are stars in the constellation Leo.

The red and green lights on the horizon are some of the channel markers that guide the ships through the channel between the jetties.


Gulf or bust.

I’m taking a vacation day today so that we can make a long weekend of it and take a road trip.   We headed south to the coast.

We stopped in Lockhart for lunch, skipping the amazing barbeque on this trip and ate at a lovely cafe on the town square called T&C Cafe – delicious sandwiches – right across the street from the Caldwell County courthouse:

IMG_9268Down past Refugio we spied miles and miles of windmills.IMG_9275

We took the ferry from Aransas Pass to Port A and have been enjoying the waterfront ever since.IMG_9283

It’s kind of rare to find a place to watch the sun set over the water … in Texas.  But our vantage spot from Port A looking west over the ship canal towards Corpus Christi afforded that kind of view.


Three out of four!

I used a tripod this morning with a long exposure and captured Venus (the brightest), then Mars (smallest, reddish), and Jupiter (just below Mars) together.  If I zoom all the way in, I like to think I can also identify a dot washed out by the dawn near the tree tops that could be Mercury.   If that’s true, I guess I technically have 5 planets in the same frame, if you count Earth.  :)

Factoid of the day:  the origin of the word “Thursday” is “Thor’s Day.”  Thor is the Greek god of thunder, also known as the Roman god Jupiter.  (according to wikipedia, anyway).

Happy Thursday!IMG_4875

Two out of four’s not bad.

I went outside before dawn this morning, to take the garbage can to the curb.  I looked up in the sky and saw two bright planets shining in the East.


I fired up my Sky Guide iphone app to get my bearings.  Venus is the one above, and Jupiter is the one below.   I was disappointed to not be able to see Mars, which should have been just above Jupiter, but it must have been washed out by the light of Jupiter.  Mercury had just risen but was too far below my view of the horizon.  IMG_9257

Autumn afternoon.

We checked out trees at a nearby nursery.  They didn’t have many, but I found the mums mesmerizing.


Then we stopped by the beer garden at Austin Beer Works brewery and enjoyed a couple pints and some trailer-fare for dinner.

IMG_9239With temps still in the 90s, it’s hard to imagine a chill in the air.  But that, too, shall come.

A fun, full, first weekend of Fall!

We’ve been busy!  This past weekend, we made a roadtrip out to west, stopping first at William Chris Winery, where we caught up with a friend of ours that we ran into, by chance;  then we hopped over to Wildseed Farms to pickup a bunch of seed; then made it over to one of our faves, Becker Vineyards, where we had a tasting, a picnic, and checked out their new field of zinnias.  Just beautiful.

IMG_9140 IMG_9142

On the way home we headed over to the Real Ale Brewery in Blanco.  We took the river road south/southeast from Hwy 290 to Blanco, and stopped along the way several times to check out the now lazy river that was uncontrollably raging just 4 months ago, tragically sweeping away homes and families over Memorial Day weekend.IMG_9158

At Real Ale, Monte sampled a flight, and I sipped my favorite – Hans Pils.

IMG_9170 IMG_9179

Then Sunday rolled around, and we headed out to see the Anderson Mill historical site, near its original location at Cypress Creek on Lake Travis.   The Anderson Mill Gardeners do a wonderful job of preserving the site and its history.IMG_9183We made it to the boat in time to cheer the Seahawks on to their first win of the season, enjoying the recently repaired air conditioning on Nirvana (yay!).

About an hour before sunset, Kurt, Barbara, Dakota and little Leila joined us on the boat, and we motored out to the body of the lake to drift and watch the supermoon lunar eclipse.

Have I mentioned taking photos of the moon and stars on a moving boat is hard?  I didn’t get any good shots.  But I thought this one was kinda cool… you get the idea.


It was a great weekend, indeed.