Real Ricotta – made from Whey

2014-04-15 - Montasio and Ricotta

As we all know Ricotta is suppose to made from whey and not milk. Even though the whole milk version is not bad, nothing comes close to the real deal. I make milk Ricotta every time I fetch milk, which is about once every ten days. but only can make real Ricotta after I made a hard cheese, which is not every week. Last night the Montasio went well and after it was in the press, I made some Ricotta with the whey.  Following breakfast and lunch, I had to be quick, otherwise there would have been no product left to photograph. Even though the yield from whey coming off ten liters of milk is not a huge quantity, but it made up in quality.


Fresh whey – less than two hours old

50 ml Apple Cider Vinegar

100 G Mesophillic Starter (I propagate my own cultures)

3 g Salt (Non iodised)

50 g Heavy cream – I made my own milk separator – simple and cheap – and will blog about it soon.

Put whey in a large non corrosive pot and heat over direct heat to 94 C.  Stir continuously to prevent the whey from burning to the hot bottom of the pot, but do not boil

Turn the heat off and slowly ad the vinegar whilst stirring continuously. Small white particles will commence to form which is the precipitated protein (curds)

Ladle the curds carefully into a ricotta colander lined with fine muslin cloth.  When all the curd is in the colander, allow to drain for about ten minutes and when no more visible moisture is present in the curds, then mix in the starter.

Tie the corners of the muslin and hang over a container to drain for about three hours. When the ricotta does not release moisture any more, untie the muslin and mix in the salt and cream

Store in refrigerator for up to ten days (It never lasts that long in any case).

One of the most common cheese products used in Italian cuisine




Montasio Cheese

Cheese Press2014-04-14 - Montasio

My Cheese Press was made from a couple of pieces of spare wood, plus I purchased one threaded rod, a couple of wing nuts and washers and two compression springs – all for less than $30.  After manufacture, I calibrated the press with the wife’s bathroom scale and it can press from 0.5 – 10 Kg of cheese at 0 to 50 Kg of pressure.  Also I stole a baking tray to serve as dripping tray (I hope the wife does not read this, as I had to drill a hole in the tray)

If you have not tasted Fricco before, it is definitely worth the while to spend the time and make Montasio for your next Fricco experience

Today I made some Montasio Cheese, but broke all the rules. Traditionally it is made from cow milk (Rule 1 – I used goat milk). Also the milk is normally collected from two milkings, i.e. morning and evening (Rule 2 – I got milk from my goat farm from a single milking). In Gorizia a region of Friuli Venezia Giulia in Italy milk is collected from three different bovine races i.e.  Friesian, Swiss Brown and Pezzata Rossa (Rule 3 – Unfortunately I could get only Saanen goat milk). So I am sure I would not get a DOP trademark certification for my cheese, but still am of the opinion that it would not be too bad.  Montasio is a “cooked”  cow milk cheese so we need to process it at 41 degrees C. This is why we use  two different starter cultures – Mesophillic as well as Thermophillic starter.

Montasio in New Zealand is best made from Jersey milk and I shall be making another batch with Jersey milk next week – unfortunately I shall have to wait for months to make the comparison between the two cheeses.  Montasio is normally aged three different ways to give three different types of cheeses :

Fresh  – This is consumed after 60 – 90 days ripening

Mature  – Consumed as a table cheese after 5 to 10 months of ageing

Aged  – Used as a grating cheese if aged for periods in excess of ten months

Now for the recipe:

10 Liters of fresh unpasteurised milk

100 g Thermophillic Starter (I propagate my own cultures)

50 g Mesophillic Srtarter

5 ml Liquid Calf or Goat Rennet

1 Kg Plain Salt (Not iodised)

5 Liters of fresh water (Non chlorinated)

Heat the milk in a double cooker to 32 C and ad both the Starters. Stir well and cover and leave to ripen for 60 minutes, while keeping the milk at 32 C

Ad the Rennet and stir gently with a up and down motion for two minutes. Cover and keep at 32 C allowing the curds to to set. This may take up to 30 minutes for the curds give a clean break

Cut the curds in approximately 6 mm cubes

Heat the curds to 39 C, raising the temperature with maximum 1 C every five minutes, then hold at 39 C for 60 minutes. During this process stir the curd gently all the time to prevent it from matting.

Drain the curd and ad hot water to the curd to get the curd and water mixture to 44 C and hold at 44 C for ten minutes, while stirring gently all the time

Drain the curds and place in a cheesecloth lined mold immediately.

Press at 2 Kg for 15 minutes – remove the cheese and peel away the cheesecloth – Turn over the cheese and dress with cheesecloth and press at 2 Kg for 30 minutes. Remove the cheese and peel away the cheesecloth – Turn over the cheese and dress with cheesecloth and press at 5 Kg for 12 hours. Remove the cheese and peel away the cheesecloth – Turn over the cheese and dress with cheesecloth and press at 5 Kg for 12 hours.

Make a saturated salt solution, in a non-corrosive container, with the salt and water. Now soak the cheese in the solution for 4 hours, at room temperature, per Kg of cheese.  Remove and pat dry

Store cheese at 12 – 15 C until ready to use. Turn over cheese oat least once every week.


Quest for Raw Goat Milk


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Yesterday we set off with the grand kids to buy raw goat milk for cheese making. We were not in time to see any milking, or to get close to the goats, but, as usual the scenery on the way to the farm was spectacular.  We had a lovely misty view down North East Valley, affectionately known as The Valley to us, its inhabitants, with the rest of Dunedin’s hills in the background. To compensate for missing the goats we had a bit of a walk, a bit of a climb, some hiding behind the trees and collecting many different types of fungi that all seemed inedible to me.

I have propagated new cultures for the cheeses and will start making the real cheese tonight. Half will be Montasio, the other half a Cheddar. The goat cheese ricotta has been done and tastes delicious, very rich and creamy and with a much firmer texture that the cow milk ricotta I normally make. Romano, Caccio Cavallo and Parmigiano are on the list for May.

Back Yard Farmer’s Poultry Self Feeder

I did not know what to do with some wood that was always in my way in the workshop area.  The wood was from an old bed I dismantled some time ago. I am building a new chicken house to accommodate some of the Anconas who are now temporarily in the rabbit hutch. While doing this, I was again made aware of the spillage and waste of layers pellets as result of the bad table manners of the chickens. Suddenly I had a use for the old pieces of wood –  I made a chicken feeder the Backyard Farmer way!

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I designed it in such a way that it holds 15 Kg of pellets – enough for five birds for at least two weeks (so I can go on holiday). Having ordered some water nipples, this, together with the new feeder, will virtually make the chickens self maintaining. (I wish!)


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I have also designed it in such a way that with a few adjustable hole positions in the lifting arms, it could be set that it works for any size poultry – from Quails to those Jumbo Cornish Crosses.

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The proof of the pudding was to see what the intelligent Anconas think of  it as they have been in the rabbit hutches for only one day, and will be there for a short time while I am busy constructing their new luxury apartments. I was a bit worried because I was sure they would not appreciate another change in amenities and environment.

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While the boys were measuring each other up for size, the girls were interested in more important matters – FOOD! It took them less than one minute to decipher this piece of “modern” technology and enjoy a feast.

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Scientists decode honeybee ‘waggle dance’

2014-04-06 - Honey Bee

A honeybee who has found a good source of nectar or pollen performs a waggle dance to tell her nestmates where she has foraged. Here she repeatedly communicates that the profitable food location is at approximately 750m from the hive and about 270 degrees from the sun’s azimuth

Honeybees fly much longer distances in the summer than in the spring and autumn to find good sources of food, a new study has found.

Researchers at Sussex University spent two years decoding the “waggle dance” of thousands of honeybees, a form of communication by which the bees tell their nestmates where to go to get the best source of food to bring back to the hive.

By measuring the angle of the dance in relation to the sun and the length of time the bee waggled its abdomen while moving in a figure of eight pattern, researchers have been able to map the distance and location where bees forage from month to month.

With a one second waggle equating to a foraging distance of 750 metres, the bees dance language revealed that the area they covered in search of food is approximately 22 times greater in the summer (July and August) than in spring (March) and six times greater in summer than in the autumn (October). In the summer the area they cover is 15.2km sq, compared to 0.8km in spring and 5.1km in the autumn.

Honeybees will not waste valuable time and energy travelling to find food if they don’t need to, so the researchers say the results, published in the journal PlOS One, show that the summer is the most challenging season for bees to collect the nectar and pollen from flowers.

“There is an abundance of flowers in the spring from crocuses and dandelions to blossoming fruit trees. And in the autumn there is an abundance of flowering ivy. But it is harder for them to locate good patches of flowers in the summer because agricultural intensification means there are fewer wildflowers in the countryside for bees,” said Frances Ratnieks, professor of apiculture at Sussex University, who supervised the study.

Honeybees face many challenges including increasing lack of forage because of modern farming practices.

The researcher say the results can be used to focus efforts to help bees better. “The bees are telling us where they are foraging so we can now understand how best to help them by planting more flowers for them in the summer,” said Ratnieks.This video describes the research project Waggle dance distances as integrative indicators of seasonal foraging challenges carried out by Margaret Couvillon, Roger Schürch and Francis Ratnieks at the Laboratory of Apiculture & Social Insects (LASI) in the School of Life Sciences, University of Sussex

Honeybees may also have to forage further in the summer because they have more mouths to feed when the colony expands to 50,000 bees and there is more competition for food from other insects and pollinators including bumblebees.

The glass-fronted observation hives are located at the university campus surrounded by the South Downs countryside and a few kilometres from the city parks and gardens of nearby Brighton and Hove.

The waggle dance clearly show that the bees are heading to the downs in the summer and researchers are currently examining which flowers they are feeding there.

The honeybee dance language was first decoded by Austrian scientist Karl von Frisch who was awarded a Nobel prize in 1973 for the discovery.

Ratnieks said its work will benefit other pollinators, such as bumblebees.

“Mapping the waggle dance will allow us to help other species, because where honeybees find good food, we have already found a plethora of other pollinating insects feeding there,” said Ratnieks. “So we can improve forage for all these insects.”

The Sussex research comes as the the IUCN’s latest “red list” of threatened species update warns that 24% of Europe’s 68 bumblebee species are threatened with extinction. According to the Status and Trends of European Pollinators, loss of habitat and wildflowers due to modern farming practices and urban development, plus changes in temperature from climate change, are the main threats to the species.

Autumn Harvest

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I will be cooking for the kids today. Fortunately the garden has delivered all the favorites – broccolini, small zucchini, one teeny artichoke ( next year will be bigger and better) and pumpkin flowers. Two flowers will be stuffed with ricotta for the grownups and the rest crispy fried in flour and water batter. Broccoli probably just steamed and Zucchini in a little butter and sage.  Add leftover lamb and I should have a winner. Should, because one never knows with small kids, what they loved yesterday could horrify them today!