Making butter, cheese, yogurt and lots of other stuff

Pickled ginger on upper right, next to ginger carrots and sauerkraut, above the ricotta-spinach spread.

Except for the pickled ginger, Sunday was an outstanding food day. My Valentine made real oatmeal for breakfast, no sugar, just the warm, oat-y taste of the grain and an occasional burst of sweetness from a soft, puffy raisin. The Women of the Church served lunch — a choice of chicken taco or potato soups, muffins, tossed salad and many Valentine desserts. Pink camelias and hellebores on the tables.

Madge's kitchen ready for 17 students

Then on to Madge Eggena’s beautiful Mills Garden Herb Farm where she and her sister Jane Abe were teaching a 3-hour class in fermentation. Fermentation as in yogurt, cultured butter, feta, ricotta and chevre and those — ahem — pickled vegetables which included cabbage, daikon radishes, carrots and ginger. And a zippy mustard made with whey, lemon, garlic, honey and mustard seeds. 

We had the butter and cheeses slathered on Madge’s wonderful whole-grain baguettes. We drank lemon grass-lemon balm-green tea, beet kvass (next time I want mine with gin and

Madge (left) and Jane say their classes aren't a success unless every dish in the house is messy.

sparkling water as suggested by Clark, the young chef in our class), dipped crudites in herbed chevre, tried to restrain ourselves when eating mouthfuls of home-made feta with black olives, gave up any pretense of restraint when the home-made tortelllini stuffed with home-made herbed ricotta, vegetable cheesecake and chicken thighs marinated in yogurt and spices hit the groaning boards. Dessert was Greek yogurt, red raspberries and blueberries, nothing more, nothing less.

Passing around pot of cheese in the making

It is no wonder that I weighed 3 pounds more this morning than yesterday.

Yogurt is something I think I was supposed to learn how to make in the ’60s, but I was busy changing diapers. It’s never too late to learn, though, and as soon as I find milk and cream that are not ultrapasteurized (pasteurized is what I’m looking for), I’m ready to start.

This cultured butter couldn’t be easier, silkier or tastier. I do not think I can be alone in the house with it.

Cultured butter/creme fraiche

1 pint heavy cream, not ultra pasteurized

3 tablespoons yogurt

Fresh herbs, salt to taste, optional

Mix cream and yogurt well in glass bowl, cover with plate and leave out overnight. The next day, whip the cream past the stage where it looks like whipped cream clotting into butter. You want to whip until it separates into butter and buttermilk (and you can do this with an immersion blender or hand-held mixer). Once it separates, use a spatula to force out more liquid from the solids. Add herbs and salt, if you’re using, to butter  before refrigerating. If you don’t whip the cultured mix to separate out the butter, use it in recipes as creme fraiche or European-type sour cream.

If you look at the buttermilk at left, you can see the butter is a beautiful pale yellow.

As for the buttermilk, it’s sweeter than what I’ve bought in the grocery. If you’re a true Southerner, you’ll squish a piece of cornbread in your glass and “drink” it with a spoon.




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