What do I do with all these herbs?

I like to think of myself as a budding urban farmer. In actual fact, My Mate Sheri and My Mate Sue are actual urban farmers. They grow stuff you can eat n’that. I just tinker about at the edges and like to imagine myself livin’ on the land…… yeah, OK.

I did start growing my own herbs. They die. A lot. I’m onto my third go at coriander and it just died. Again.

But my basil and mint have gone gang busters. At the moment they’re on the window sill in the kitchen (they died on the front porch. Maybe they were feeling left out). And this weekend it was time to do something with the mint, because I just couldn’t eat it all, or drink it all. Time to hit the interwebs to work out what to do with it.

Mint jelly. Hmmm. Intriguing. I don’t eat a lot of lamb, but I figure I could serve it as a thin spread with cottage cheese on a bagel or in a turkey wrap, or even stir a touch through some fruit salad. Obviously it goes brilliantly with roast lamb too.

As a jelly, it could be used for sweet or savoury. It’s heavy in the sugar department, but you don’t use much as a condiment. It mixes well with other condiments too like onion jam or mustard. Side note, I just like saying the word “condiment“.

I got this from Goodfood and the ingredients are just:

  • 1kg Granny Smith apples
  • 2 bunches of mint plus 20 leaves finely chopped to add at the end
  • 1 litre of water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Roughly 3 cups sugar

Chop the apples – you don’t have to peel or core them. Add them to a pan with the water, lemon juice and bunches of mint. Bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Strain through muslin or cheesecloth and leave overnight.

Next day, put the juice to a pan and add 1 cup of sugar to every cup of juice. Mine yielded 3 cups of juice, so 3 cups of sugar. Heat and stir til the sugar has dissolved and then boil it to death for 15 minutes.

Switch off the heat, add the 20 finely chopped leaves and leave it to stand for 10 minutes before adding it to a jar.

Done. Tomorrow will be cottage cheese on a bagel with some mint jelly for breaky for me! And for the next 10 years probs considering how high a yield I got! But my crazy mint harvest is all used up so I’m a happy chappy.

It’s true, you too can make cheese!

“Blessed are the cheese makers”. That’s what we all know and love from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (personal fave). I never realised I could actually do it though.

In simplifying my life, I wrote a list of all the things I use/eat the most of. Cottage cheese was near the top of the list with hummus. I google-ated it because, how hard can it be, right? It turns out, not hard at all.

You need some cheese cloth (I got a half meter at Spotlight for a couple of dollars) and a candy thermometer (sounds fancy – it’s not. Also Spotlight for a few dollars).

Outside of that, the ingredients list is pretty simple:

  • 950ml full fat milk
  • 4 drops of rennet or 2 junket tablets (I used junket because it’s easily available at Woolworths or Coles in the section where they have custard and jelly and stuff, $3 for 12 tablets in the packet).
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 teaspoons of milk or cream or a mix of both and more salt to taste.

Step 1 – put milk in a saucepan and heat to 80oC over a low heat (warning, that’s not very hot so it doesn’t take long). While it’s heating, dissolve 2 junket tabs in half a cup of water. They don’t dissolve immediately so keep stirring the mug til it’s done.

Step 2 – take the milk off the heat, add junket to the milk and stir for a couple of minutes.

Step 3 – put a tea towel over the pan and go and do something else for 4 hours. Read a book (I’m reading a book on how-to-do-parenting-better and then went and saw a friend. You can also do some laundry, but…whatever).

Step 4 – add the half teaspoon of salt and slice through the curds a bit to break them up.

Step 5 – put pan on a low-medium heat and stir to let the curds and whey separate. This is something that gets easier the more you do it – not that it’s hard but you want to let them separate so you can see the clumps of curds and the yellow-ish whey. If you take it off too soon, you won’t have as much curd for the cheese. If you leave it too long, the curds can get quite tough apparently. I am still working this out but you can see here what it looks like when I take it off the heat.

Step 6 – put a sieve over a jug and the cheese cloth on top. Pour the curds and whey into the cheese cloth as shown below (extra points for those who can spot the wine glass for…well….wine. That is an optional extra just for fun-sies for Mummy).

Step 7 – put the whole thing in the fridge with a cover over it (I fold the edges of the cheese cloth over it. It you can cover it with a beeswax sheet or a plate. Then go and do something else for an hour or so. This lets the rest of the whey drain away. It also lets you catch up on any important TV shows you’ve missed.

Step 8 – transfer the curds to a bowl. Add about 6 teaspoons of milk or cream to loosen it up. I am still experimenting with this. All cream is too much. All milk is too bland. I am currently at 2 teaspoons of cream and 4 of milk and a small pinch of salt.

Transfer to air tight container and eat within a week.

Store bought cottage cheese at least $3 for 250g. This makes about 350g for about $1.50 ($1 for the milk and 50c for 2 junket tabs). So cheaper, healthier (no mass processing and preservatives) AND you get to say that awesome line from Life of Brian. Happy days!