PRATIE PLACE

Sunday, March 09, 2008

[New York]: What do you tend when you can't tend livestock?

As you may know, it is difficult to fit any livestock in a Manhattan apartment. This is partly why, I realize, I've become mom to some more space-efficient pets:

- lactobacilli
- Saccharomyces florentinus

- and I'm doing my best to tame some Streptococcus salivarius subsp. thermophilus and Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus

Like Jethro, my pets are also supposed to be working beasts (or they would be, if I were a better pet handler).

I had an unfortunate first experience this weekend with some proteolytic enzymes, which did the equivalent of running off behind the donkey shed when I tried to use them to turn milk into mozzarella.

I was inspired to take this project on by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which Barbara Kingsolver succeeds in making mozzarella every week using materials from the New England Cheesemaking Company.

I invited some friends over to sing Balkan music and sprung the cheesemaking project on them - as I suspected, there is a high correlation between women who like Bulgarian singing and who are intrigued by the idea of making their own cheese.

It started off so well - you pour the milk in a pot and heat it up gently with some magic ingredients (my pets, the enzymes). Then you let it sit (while singing songs) and soon you should be able to spoon the curds into a bowl. Well - as Helen demonstrates - it's not quite that easy sometimes...



Instead of curds, we got... well... this.



Apparently this means our milk was ultra-pasteurized, which destroys the proteins to the extent that my pets can't eat them. I salvaged what was left, salted it, and put in the fridge, where it turned into something that resembles ricotta but is too creamy to eat (I know that sounds impossible, but believe me, I tried. I tend to eat these kinds of things out of pride and make myself sick).

I relieved my feelings by making some truly spectacular sourdough baguettes...



And by starting some ginger beer by making a "ginger bug" (1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon grated ginger in 1 cup of water).



Check it out, you just make this, cover it with cloth so the flies don't get it in, and stick it in the pantry, feeding it more ginger and sugar every two days until, and I quote:

There are a few bubbles on the surface and a white residue forms on the bottom of the bowl.


Mm! Sounds good! How do we know this white residue is my good tame bacilli instead of evil invading bacteria? Time will tell, my friends!

I also meant to start making some yogurt today, but the recipe said that you shouldn't make bread and yogurt on the same day because, I kid you not, the two kinds of yeasts fight and the bread always wins, so your yogurt starts sulking and won't curdle.

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