Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Welcome to Legal Tender Farm

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Ricotta, and Prosciutto, Gluten Free

I found a recipe on Martha Stewart's website that calls for ricotta so that I could use my homemade ricotta in something rather than the standard lasagna.  I tweaked it a little, so here's my version of the recipe:

1 pound Tinkyada elbow macaroni (or other gluten free pasta)
6 ounces sliced prosciutto
20 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess moisture
2 cups raw goat milk
2 cups homemade ricotta cheese
2 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper to taste*
1/2 cup grated peccorino romano

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Cook pasta a few minutes less than package instructions suggest.  Cut prosciutto into thin strips.

In a casserole dish (about 9 x 13 inch), toss pasta with spinach, half of the prosciutto, milk, ricotta, and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper.  Top with remaining prosciutto and peccorino.  Bake until golden and bubbly, 30-40 minutes.

* I used 1 tsp. of salt, but it was a little on the bland side.  The next time I make it, I'll use 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons.  Other than needing more salt, this recipe was quite good.  I'll definitely make it again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Making Chèvre

Today was my last attempt with making cheese with my fresh goat's milk.  I may experiment later in the year with frozen milk.  I've read lots of advice from different internet sites on using frozen milk.  They directly conflict each other on several points.  "Don't use frozen milk, it won't work.  Frozen milk works just fine for cheese making.  You can make cheese with frozen milk if you thaw it slowly. You can make cheese with frozen milk if you thaw it quickly. etc."  My book says to only use milk less than 48 hours old.  So, who knows?

Anyway, I chose chèvre for today's cheese. It is a french-style soft cheese.

Once again, I started out with fresh whole milk in the vat, five quarts this time, and warmed it to 80 degrees.  I sprinkled DVI Chèvre Culture over the warmed milk and stirred.  Then I added diluted rennet and stirred again.  Then, as per the instructions, I put the lid on and left it undisturbed for eight hours.

It was pretty quick and simple.

This is what it looked like after eight hours.  I didn't dare even lift the lid or jostle it during that time period for fear of messing something up.  So, I was excited to see if it had done anything, and it had!  I was happy to see that it was a large solid mass.  I tilted the pan for the picture to show how it pulls away from the edge en masse.  There was a film of whey over the top.

Then I poured it into a cheesecloth lined colander to let it drain.  After a large portion of whey had drained out...

I pulled up the edges of the cheesecloth and tied them so that I could hang it to drain more.  My banana hanger worked pretty good for this part.  I had to empty the blue bowl several times.

After about six hours of draining, the cheese had taken on the contours of the cheesecloth.  It looked sort of like a pumpkin.  I divided it into containers and put it in the refrigerator.  I'll do an internet search for a good recipe to season it.

I was very happy with how it turned out.  Hopefully, it will taste as good as it looks.

Broody Guinea

The guineas are laying their eggs in all kinds of random places.  Sometimes I'll come upon one single egg just laying out in the field, but usually they have a nest with at least 20 eggs in it.  Up until a few weeks ago, we were raiding the nests when we found them.  They had a stash in their coop, but when I removed some of them (for reasons that made sense, but didn't work out), they abandoned that location and the same six eggs have been sitting there ever since.

We found one nest in the tall grass of an unmown alley between pastures and decided to leave it undisturbed to see what would happen.  Eventually, one of the hens stopped coming to the coop to eat in the evening, so I figured she had probably decided to sit on the collection of eggs.

I went to check the nest and, sure enough, she was snuggled all down on the eggs.  She's in the picture, but you might have to double click on it to see her.  She sits still as death.  For several days, one of the males would sit on the fence for most of the day screaming at anyone or anything that ventured near.  But, I guess he got tired of that and he no longer hangs around.

Here she is from a different angle.  Really, if you didn't know where to look, it's likely you'd never know she was there.  Thankfully, the dogs haven't been interested enough to have a look.  

I've been wondering what she'll do if she successfully hatches any; how she'll get the little keets out of there, or if she'll even try.  I've heard that guinea hens are careless mothers.  I'll have to gather them up and get rid of them because I do not want any more guineas.  I guess I'll sell them or give them away, so if any of y'all want some, let me know.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cute Critter

Tom saw this little turtle trying to find it's way out of our back yard.

So little and cute, I had to take a picture.

And pretty on the bottom.  I wonder if a turtle shell is like a fingerprint?

I put it in the flower bed to hide it from Harry and Ginger.  I'm sure they would have tried to eat it if they found it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Year of the Cheese

Finally, after raising goats for, what? five years now, I had enough milk to experiment with cheese making.  My plan was to milk three goats, with Daughter-in-law's help.  It turned out that we got so much milk from just two that I really didn't need the third, so we just let her feed her triplets and left her alone.  My milking is limited to how much storage space I have.  I filled up my allotted space in the chest freezer, gave several quarts to Nephew (who has returned to Texas, God's country, but is living at his own place now), and two dozen quarts to Daughter-in-law's parents.

We decided to experiment with cheese making using the milk from the last couple of weeks of milking.  My cheese making book said to use fresh milk, no more than 48 hours old.  So we had to plan ahead, saving a couple of days worth of milk for each project.  We started with not-really-cheese-but-yogurt.  It looked like a very simple process in my cheese book.

I got my cheese making stuff laid out and ready to go.  Cultures, measuring things, book...

cheese vat (which is really just a large double boiler), and thermometer.

We started with two quarts of fresh milk.

Put it in the vat and heated the milk to 115 degrees.  We used some store bought greek yogurt as a starter culture, which is stirred into the warmed milk.

Then the yogurt-to-be must be incubated for 6-12 hours, at a temperature of 100 degrees.  We decided to keep it warm in a crock pot, which seemed like a great idea at the time, but turned out to be not such a great idea.  I had to check it constantly and adjust the temperature...low, off, high, keep warm...none of the setting would keep a constant temperature.  We read later that putting it in the oven works well for some people.  I'll try that the next time.

We thought it was a big fail because it looked so milky even after ten hours of incubating.  But, after being refrigerated, it did set up and we were happy to find that we actually were marginally successful at making the yogurt.  Daughter-in-law let hers strain in cheesecloth, which gave it a thicker consistency.

Next up was an attempt at mozzarella.  We started with one gallon of fresh milk, added dissolved citric acid to it and then heated to 88 degrees.  Then we added diluted rennet and let it sit for fifteen minutes to coagulate.

When it's coagulated enough, the test is dipping a finger in to see of the curds break cleanly.  Daughter-in-law did the honors and it did, indeed, break cleanly.

Beginning to cut the curds carefully.  This is nerve wracking.

It's cut into squares and then an attempt to cut them underneath the surface.

This is the best we could do.  We were pretty pleased with ourselves to see our little squares of curds floating in the whey.

Our satisfaction was short lived because the curds, which are supposed to stay in nice little square shapes, quickly became a big sticky glob as we followed the instructions to slowly bring the temperature to 108 degrees and hold for 35 minutes.  We were supposed to stir gently to keep the curds from matting.  I'd say it's too late for that.

We strained the cheese in a colander and then "heat treated" it.  We were supposed to be able to "work" the curds with our spoon, mixing them with a little salt.  But it was pretty difficult to "work" a  little unwieldy lump of spongy mozzarella.

Oh well.  It wasn't a complete fail.  A little on the dry side, but we did end up with something mozzarella-like, bordering on parmesan.  And it tasted OK.

On to the ricotta.  Super easy. 

Again, we started with one gallon of fresh milk.  We heated the milk in our cheese vat to 185 degrees, removed it from the heat and added organic apple cider while stirring.  The tiny curds formed quickly.

Poured into a colander lined with cheese cloth and let it drain for 30 minutes.

Voila!  Lovely ricotta.

I see lasagna in my future.

What surprised me the most about this cheese making experience is that it takes so much milk to make so little cheese.  A gallon of milk yielded just two little pats, maybe a cup each, of mozzarella and it took a gallon of milk to make about two cups of ricotta.  I felt so wasteful pouring all of that whey down the drain.  There are things one can make with whey, but it requires fresh whey, so you have to be prepared to start your next project immediately after you've poured off your whey.  That's a pretty big time commitment that we weren't ready to make.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Around the Farm

 The baby goats are growing up and will all be going to their new homes soon.

A little head butting practice.

They come running to me when I go out to the pasture so that they can jump all over me and chew on my clothes.  Their favorite thing is to chew on my hair, which they do every time I bend over and they can reach it.

Sweet little face.

This rosebush is just stunning this year.  My photo doesn't do it justice.
Tom gave it to me on Mother's Day two years ago and it was just a stick.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Snake a Palooza

Wow, this must be the year of the snake.

This is the third snake that Son has killed in the last 24 hours.  One was beside the barn, one was in the barn, and this last one was in the coop, in a nesting box...

with a full belly.

We cut the belly open (pretty gruesome) and guess what we found?

The black chick that was hatched by the broody hen several weeks ago, which had gone missing yesterday morning.  It was significantly bigger than in this picture.

We were very sad to lose the chick and even sadder to know that it was eaten by a snake.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Honey Mustard Asparagus

It's asparagus season, folks.  You know what that means...asparagus 24/7.  In the past I just steamed my asparagus and served it with a dipping sauce (unless, I put it in a quiche or something like that).  But I made up this quick, easy, and delicious recipe that is one of my favorites now.


Freshly ground black pepper
Honey Mustard Dressing (I use Ken's)

Snap asparagus into one to two inch pieces.  About two cups will serve two people.

Cut a couple of slices of bacon into small pieces and sauté in pan until almost crispy.  Add pepper to taste.

Add asparagus pieces and sauté until done.  "Done" to me means still crunchy and bright green.  I can't stand soggy, limp asparagus.

Add a tablespoon or two of honey mustard dressing and stir to mix well.


Serve it nice and hot.

Note:  I apologize if these pictures are blurry.  I went to the ophthalmologist today and my pupils are still dilated, so everything is blurry.  I took these pictures with my eyes in that condition and I can't really tell what they look like.