Tuesday, June 9, 2009

(Re)Starting from Scratch

At a "hail and farewell" party - held for officers when they arrive and leave post - last weekend in Mumbai (more to come), I immediately bonded with a woman who makes her own cheeses. Luckily enough, multiple people there also had brought their home-brewed beer. Although good beer and cheese are available in Mumbai, the prices can make you seriously consider making your own. And when you factor in the long term considerations of a foreign service career, being able to make the foods that you crave when resources may be limited, making cheese and beer is definitely a prized skill.

Another benefit of living in India is that you can easily get raw milk in the cities. In the US, many state governments have regulated milk production so that raw milk is not available to the consumer unless you keep your own cow (get that one by the home owner association). Since I was raised on a dairy farm - which since the 80s my family has no longer been allowed to use the raw milk from our own farm to make cheeses since it was not regulated by the state - I was elated when I realized I could make ricotta cheese like my grandparents had before.

The milk available in Kolkata is very fresh and rich, so much so that I only recently realized that my daughter has been drinking water buffalo milk for the last year! But boy is it delicious, and it also makes a delicious mozzarella!

Leeners looks like a good option for starting your food making endeavors. They have some great kits to try, or you can just find recipes online.

Here is my version of a ricotta, great for use in a lasagna or on a pizza:

1 gallon whole milk
1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if you are going to use for sweets)
Cooking thermometer

1. Place milk in large, heavy pan on medium heat. Add salt (if desired) and stir briefly. Allow milk to heat up slowly.

2. Just before boiling temperature, take the pot off the burner, add the vinegar and stir gently for only one minute. The curds will form immediately. Let sit undisturbed for a couple of hours.

3. With a slotted spoon, ladle out the ricotta into colander or cheese cloth. Place so it can drain freely. Let it drain for two hours or more depending on how dry you want it to be.

4. Place in container and refrigerate. The cheese should keep for up to 7 days.



Alan said...

I've been thinking of investing in beer brewing supplies before our next post -- but not if we go to Germany.

spencer said...

As a homebrewer who aspires to a foreign service career myself (just took the written test last week), I've been wondering about bottles or kegs and the availability of things like CO2 for carbonation. It doesn't seem like a great idea to ship 50 or 100 empty beer bottles halfway across the world to a duty station like yours ... if I've already got a kegging system, do you think I'd be able to find the gas for it in places like Kolkata?

Natalie Buda Smith said...


Yes, you will most likely find beer bottles where ever you are posted, but honestly it doesn't sound that crazy to ship specific beer bottles, if that is your passion.

If kitchen supply stores, etc are not available, you could always go to the upscale hotel bars and ask where they get their supplies.

At some of the upscale hotels here, they will source from their network of hotels if asked. Of course, you will be paying more than normal.

Kelly said...

I'm fascinated by your blog, and especially by this post - I had to blog about the recipe. I'm wondering if it will work with whole milk here in the states, maybe organic raw? We'll see :)

Natalie Buda Smith said...

Kelly, Try the organic, raw and let me know how it goes! I used to make it with the standard whole milk in the US and it worked fine, albeit not as creamy as it could be.

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