Notes from Windward: #68


Solar Crackers and Goat Cheese

Oana branches out

     The days are long here, in the nicest way possible. There's lots to do and it's often similar to playtime. The downside of this plethora of activities is that there's so much I can do that I'm overwhelmed. Within my first few days here I had already decided that I wanted to bake something in the solar oven, make goat cheese, read interesting books, work on the alternator, and write letters. Somehow I managed to do a bit of all of that.

     I experimented with the solar oven by making Solar Crackers. They don't need to rise and are done in about 30 minutes. I put the oven out at about 10 am to heat up to 250°, and by 11am the first round of crackers went in. After about 20 minutes I turned them over so that the underside would dry off. They are terrific to have around for breakfast or a mid-afternoon snack.

Oana with a fresh batch of solar baked whole-wheat crackers

     Part of sustainability is using the things that would otherwise go to waste. The sun drops about 1 kilowatt per square meter of power onto the surface of the earth for about eight hours a day. This energy is a lot more useful in a solar oven (and in our crackers) than heating up the surface of a picnic table.

     About a week ago, Kerst and I gave goat cheese a shot, using only apple cider vinegar to curdle the milk. It didn't really work. There was a little curdling going on, but the result was rather vinegary. The creamy consistency of the cheese encouraged me, though, and I wanted to give it another chance. On her way from Portland, Opalyn picked up some rennet for us to use.

fresh cheese ready for the crackers

     Animal rennet typically comes from the stomach lining of a ruminant. Vegetable rennet also exists. Katie has found that certain species of the mallow weed can be transformed into rennet... somehow.

     So I tried making goat cheese again with some generous help from Jewel, our milking goat. First I heated up half a quart of milk to 190°F-- just below boiling. Then I allowed it to cool to below 100°, at which point I added about a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to begin the curdling process. Next I added 3 drops of rennet and immediately stirred the milk to distribute it throughout. I let the milk curdle for about an hour, at which point the whole pot of milk was a gelatinous block.

curds and whey ready for straining

      I gently broke it to begin separating the curds and whey, then poured the whole deal into a strainer lined with a coffee filter, adding salt and herbs. I left everything there overnight, allowing the whey to drip into a pan underneath the strainer. In the morning I strained out the remaining whey and put the goat cheese into the refrigerator. I am saving the whey, hoping to find a way to feed it to the chickens.

     We've used the goat cheese in crepes, on Solar Crackers, and with pasta. It is creamy and rich, and not at all "goaty." Success!

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 68