buttermilk & fermented pickles – february in my kitchen

in my kitchen…….

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……buttermilk, ripening cheese and a tub of home-made ricotta are proof of my recent fixation with dairy products. As you may know, thanks to the lovely unhomogenized Jersey milk from a local dairy farmer and the creamy Buffalo milk I was given recently, I’ve been experimenting with labneh, mozzarella and paneer. The arrival in my kitchen of a beautiful book, The Creamery Kitchen, has fired my enthusiasm further.

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I’ll write a full review of ‘the creamery kitchen’ very soon, once I’ve tried cooking the delicious looking buttermilk parmesan scones and buttermilk fried chicken, maybe the mascarpone too. It’s full of lovely, traditional recipes, the sort that would’ve once been passed down from generation to generation in an era when most people made some butter, maybe cheese in their own kitchen. Some are exotic (saffron and cardamom labneh or lamb skewers with za’atar labneh), a few are a little more complicated; others are reassuringly simple, such as buttermilk. If I’d known that all that you have to do is add white wine vinegar or lemon juice to whole milk  and set aside to thicken and sour for 15 minutes, I’d have made buttermilk to add to American style pancakes, cornbread and Irish soda bread ages ago.

I’m reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, one of my childhood favourites, to Ruby at the moment and buttermilk seems an entirely appropriate thing to have in the kitchen while I’m transported to a time and place where Aunties deliberate over calico or gingham for dressmaking and Rebecca’s mother singlehandedly makes butter, cream and cheese back at the farm while bringing up seven children (making me feel very inadequate the more I think about it!). Loving the very strong/slightly eccentric girl characters in books like Rebecca and Roald Dahl’s Matilda at the moment. Surely better role models than all those Princesses in towers? Although after listening to the 6 year old chatter in my car this morning on the school run (“Shall we dress in camouflage as teachers?”) I fear these strong characters may be having an immediate influence.

in my kitchen……

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…….a few other things are fermenting. Inspired by the great Whey to go post at Fromage Homage’s blog, I’ve had a go at lacto-fermentation to make use of all that leftover whey from my cheese experiments. I’ve tried it with beetroot – partly as it’s still plentiful in the garden. Also, it has to sit on the kitchen windowsill for 4 days. I think I imagined a jewel coloured kilner jar like the gorgeous ones in Diana Henry’s Salt Sugar Smoke. Instead I seem to have a cloudy jar of suspect may smell rancid. Reassured by the Fromage Homage notes that the cloudy stage passes, I’ll remain optimistic as usual.

I’m also having a go at semi-hard cheese. Inspired by the recipe here. The plan is to avoid glitter and coat it merely with sea salt and olive oil (unlike the lard in the recipe) although I have to say that the glittery cheese was tasty once I’d scraped the sheen off. Not sure the glitter added anything though!

My cheese is currently at the stage where I’m meant to leave it for 2 days unwrapped for the rind to dry out. With two resident cats, leaving a cheese that is rapidly developing stinky tendencies uncovered on the kitchen work-top isn’t ideal. So I’ve covered it with a colander hoping that the air can still circulate and dry the rind.

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In my kitchen we’re very lucky to have a good supply of free and pretty wild protein at the moment. Thanks to Pete the fish-catcher we have lots of lovely trout, currently being cooked simply in foil to be eaten with roast root veg – leftovers mixed with a little home-made soft cheese, lemon juice and horseradish for a simple pate. The blustery February days are giving me a craving for warming spices and the trout is also going into Thai curries along with our Mother Hubbard squash and chard from the garden. I fancy trying it in a tandoori salmon recipe soon too – interested if anyone knows if this works with trout?

Pheasant is our other plentiful free food at the moment, thanks to farmer friends. It horrifies me when I hear of big, corporate pheasant shoots where 200 pheasants are shot and nobody is bothered about eating them. When they’re shot for the table though or from a small scale farmer’s shoot, I reason that, if you’re going to eat farmed foods, these have a pretty wild, free-range life. And are delicious roasted with bacon and prunes or substituted for guinea fowl in pies like this. I also made pheasant curry, inspired by this recipe in Mad Dog’s TV dinners.

I’ve been spicing up veggies from the garden and local eggs in dishes like gypsy eggs and chickpea cauliflower too. Both lovely with my favourite flat-bread.

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in my kitchen……

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….I’ve also been noticing what a great helper I have these days. It doesn’t seem a minute since there was flour everywhere and licking out the bowl from cake-making was Ruby’s main kitchen activity. Cleaning out the cake bowl is of course still very popular but it recently dawned on me quite how capable she’s getting. One of those realizations that has mixed emotions as I don’t want the time when she’s happy to cuddle up with me and read Matilda to pass too quickly. Still, useful when it comes to baking….

Linking in once again with Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial’s fab In my kitchen where we get to have a lovely peep at other kitchens around the world.

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31 thoughts on “buttermilk & fermented pickles – february in my kitchen

  1. Andrea, The Creamery Kitchen sounds like a great book! I look forward to reading your review. It’s fun having lots of new recipes to play with, especially when you have such a sweet little helper in the kitchen!

    • I’m looking forward to trying out a few of the recipes in this book at the weekend with Ruby. I’m like a big kid myself in my enthusiasm every time I get a new cookery book – but this has lots of tempting things to try.

  2. How lovely to share all of those literary heroines with Ruby and baking too! You really are making the most of the season’s bounty in your kitchen, great to hear you are using up those unwanted pheasants, so sad that they are just a day’s sport for someone.

    • Funnily enough Danny Champion of the World is another literary favourite at the moment too! Love the idea of all those pheasant being divided up and transported around the village in a pram! x

  3. Is it really that easy to make buttermilk? The number of times I’ve put a recipe to one side because I don’t have any and it’s a good ten miles to the nearest supermarket that stocks some! Your kitchen is starting to sound like a laboratory filled with interesting experiments. No wonder Ruby is becoming such a competent cook with a mum who is constantly trying new things in the kitchen.

    • I’ve been the same with buttermilk – we don’t have a supermarket near either and I’d always put recipes away or sometimes used yogurt instead. But it’s a doddle. And I know, I think I’m as bad as my daughter with smelly potions everywhere.

  4. I’ve started making muffins with american recipes that start off by soaking a cup of oats in a cup of buttermilk for an hour or so. (Since I discovered the vinegar in milk trick). There’s a traditional Welsh thing about buttermilk and sour oats – ‘sucan’. Before potatoes, oatmeal boiled into flummery (llymru in Welsh) was a staple carb – you boiled it till it was a slicable ‘blancmange’ like texture

  5. Thanks for the name check Andrea 🙂
    I like the cat proof cheese – I’d die for a larder and space to experiment. I believe that muslin and lard are a very traditional method of sealing a cheese to preserve it. Don’t tell the vegetarians 😉

    • I think it’s my clumsiness that put me off the sealing with lard. I have nothing against the stuff, in fact have rendered my own from the pigs we kept and told everyone that it was healthier than they thought/had suffered a bad press. Just thought that me covering a cheese with melted lard sounded as if it was heading for trouble.

  6. Andrea, such a lovely age Ruby is at, I’m so glad that you’re getting to enjoy it! Our kids grow up so fast, and if we don’t grab precious time with them when they’re little, it just seems to disappear! Exciting cheesemaking projects you’ve got going, and your gypsy eggs and chickpea curry looks amazing! And how fabulous to have freshly caught trout!!

  7. Really enjoying the cheese making journey vicariously. I’m horrified to hear of the waste from big pheasant shoots – it’s a once a year expensive treat for us.
    The years where I read to my girls are one we look back on with a lot of fondness – many happy moments.

    • Would like to hear how you cook pheasant as a once a year treat. Can’t believe how many people aren’t interested in eating it (even though happy to shoot them). I’ve just tried pheasant ragu and used it in a lasagne tonight – was great.

  8. So cute to see your little helper there! It really is worth ploughing through the hard years of spilled flour everywhere to get them to the stage where they are actually ‘helpful’ 😉

    • Some of them are delicious. Not sure about how those pickles using the leftover whey are looking though! I do love having a daughter, fab having an excuse to revisit my favourite childhood books.

  9. What a delightful post!
    Love your cheese and fermentation experiments- well- I just love cheese- all the time.
    Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm was/is one of my favorite books. My sister and I found some recipes once for Dianna Barry’s Cordial and for Afternoon tea biscuits and we made a joyful tea and enjoyed it together for years.
    Your daughter is so precious- glad you are enjoying her and recognizing the passing moments of your lives together.
    Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Andrea, I love your cheese-making enthusiasm and your creative solution for keeping the cats at bay! Your thoughts on ‘how do folks manage?’ (making everything homemade and raising kids, too) made me admire our forebears and those who carry on with those traditions (including you!) even more. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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