Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cheesepalooza, month 1: whole milk ricotta

I have the privilege of being a part of a very cool project this year: Cheesepalooza. Organized by some fabulous food bloggers and modeled after last year's Charcutepalooza, Cheesepalooza works its way through Mary Carlin's Artisan Cheesemaking at Home, setting one cheesemaking challenge a month. This month (month one) was relatively simple: whole milk ricotta.

I should mention that I have made ricotta before, as a byproduct of making mozzarella (a slightly different process than the recipe I used here - I had made whey ricotta, which uses the leftover whey from another cheesemaking project. This recipe simply curdles milk with acid).  It was delicious.

Sadly, though, this time was kind of a flop. I combined the required ingredients - milk, cream, citric acid, salt - in a pot and heated it to 185 degrees fahrenheit, at which point there should be discernible curds and yellowy whey. Sadly, though, while a few curds formed, I never got the curdling transformation I expected. I kept heating the mixture, hoping that maybe my thermometer just wasn't correct, but when I saw simmering bubbles I finally gave up. I strained the few curds through cheesecloth, and I got about a quarter of a cup of (admittedly, very delicious, very expensive) ricotta. So expensive that I don't even want to know about the cost comparison of homemade versus store bought.

Now, if you know me in person, you know that I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Therefore, I'll be trying this recipe again. However - I am terribly disappointed, having heard very positive things about Carlin's book. Oh well. On to better things, Cheesepalooza!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Fancy fudge, for my grandmother

One of my earliest memories of my grandmother, Sally, is "helping" her in the kitchen - though this help mostly consisted of licking bowls and spoons and being generally underfoot. She is sick, in the hospital, right now, and I started to put together a care package for her. Her favorite flavor combination is black raspberries and chocolate (though usually in ice cream form), and I found some blackberry-dark chocolate fudge at a nearby chocolate shop. I was all set to buy it when I realized that I could easily make the same thing at home.

This particular recipe calls for more processed ingredients than I usually like to use. If I was really going to keep to the spirit of this blog, I would probably try to make my own substitute for sweetened condensed milk - but at this moment, I just don't care. This is the recipe that my Mom grew up with my Grammy making, and that is what I want. Tradition is tradition. Delicious is delicious. 

Dark Chocolate Blackberry Fudge
For my grandmother, Sally
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 pound butter (one stick)
3 cups chocolate chunks
1/2 pint blackberries

Line a 9x13 inch cake pan with waxed paper (I couldn't find one, so I used two 4x9 inch pans instead). Arrange the washed and gently dried blackberries on the bottom of the pan. In a double boiler, heat butter, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate to 240 degrees fahrenheit, or until the mixture is smooth, stirring gently. Pour the melted chocolate mixture over the blackberries. Chill in refrigerator or freezer until firm, then cut into 1x1 inch pieces.

And, as always, the cost comparison. This time, more than ever, the commercial price is based on the particular economics of where I live - and exclusively, on the pricing of Kilwin's fudge, around the corner from my house.

1 1x3x6 inch slice of Kilwin's blackberry chocolate fudge: $8.00
Price per cubic inch: $0.44

1 can Eagle brand sweetened condensed milk: $2.83
1/4 cup butter (one stick from a four-stick package, at 2.89 per package): $0.72
3 cups Nestles chocolate chunks: $3.29
1 half-pint local blackberries: $3.69
Total for two 1x4x9 inch pans of fudge: $10.53
Price per cubic inch: $0.15

Feel better soon, Grammy!