There’s a Portlandia skit about how you can pickle nearly anything, which is a gentle ribbing of this city’s general propensity for DIY. Just because you can pickle something doesn’t mean you should, and the same goes for a lot of DIY endeavors. But when it’s this easy, I think you can (and should!) try making your own cheese. Author Claudia Lucero, who just happens to be a Portlander, is definitely a believer in DIY cheese, and has written One Hour Cheese, which is a great guide to making your own simple cheeses in an hour or less.
For the purposes of One Hour Cheese, I would probably be classified as an intermediate cheesemaker. A beginner would be someone who has never made any of her own cheese before, but I’ve made batches of queso fresco and paneer. Have no fear, though, this book assumes you have no cheesemaking experience and walks you through the steps with plenty of descriptions and photos, lots of encouragement, and even a few recipes for how to consume your cheese once you’ve made it. If you’ve never made any cheese before, you’ll probably be surprised at how easy it can be.
To give you an idea of the difficulty, the recipes are classified as “easy,” “easier,” and “easiest.” I tried three types of cheese, one classified as easy (“Fromage Facile”), and two that were easier (“Smoky Cheater,” and “Favorite Melty Mozzarella”). My favorite was definitely the mozzarella, simply because of the three, it’s the type of cheese that I consume the most. Unless they’re for a specific recipe, I don’t buy very many soft cheeses like the one that resulted from the fromage facile recipe, but I knew just what to do with the mozzarella. I sliced up some ciabatta bread, brushed it with a little olive oil, and layered mozzarella on top of fresh tomato slices and torn basil leaves. A few minutes under a broiler, and I had a delicious melty snack.
As you can see, I even got a little bit fancy with my mozzarella and braided it up. That’s one of the coolest aspects of this book: It demystifies the cheesemaking process to the point where you can experiment with different shapes, textures, and flavors of cheese. I’m really looking forward to trying more of the recipes, and whipping up my own cheeses whenever I have an hour to spare. If you’ve ever thought that it might be fun to be able to make your own cheese, I highly recommend that you give the recipes in this book a try.
Our house came with a kitchen that’s a bit of a cosmetic fixer-upper. It’s definitely isn’t the worst kitchen I’ve ever seen, and we’ve already made some upgrades, but the days of those poorly-stained dark wood cabinets are numbered. They desperately need a coat of paint, but until we get around to it, there are a lot of little ways to make the kitchen look nicer, like lots of greenery. The room came with little hooks in front of the kitchen sink window, and I suspect that they were used for some sort of window treatment, but I decided to use them for plants. When I came across these cute bowls on clearance at West Elm, I grabbed a few to make into planters.
It’s the middle of the summer, which in my neck of the woods means it’s super hot. Like, even hotter than it should be in July. Thanks, global warming. But when life gives you global warming, make popsicles. (Also reduce your carbon footprint.) These are made with Oregon strawberries and mint that’s so local it was growing in my yard. And they just happen to be vegan, so these are a dessert you don’t have to feel guilty about.
Strawberry Mint Creamsicles
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups fresh strawberries
pinch of sea salt
1 big handful fresh mint leaves (about ¼ cup leaves, packed)
Combine the coconut milk, honey, lemon juice and vanilla extract in a blender and mix with a few pulses.
Add in the strawberries and the basil leaves and pulse again until leaves are chopped fine. Pour the mixture into your popsicle molds and freeze.