Of Cows and Cheese

Given my longstanding love of all things (or at least most things) agricultural I was anxious to find some way to indulge my interest in husbandry and agronomy.  Thankfully, one of my favorite organization–The Trustees of Reservations–posted a volunteer opportunity at Appleton Farms in Ipswich.  I have loved the farm since I relocated here 6 or so years ago, mostly because the rolling pastures remind me of home, or at least what home looked like before developers decided that McMansions were a preferable crop to hay or corn.  I’ve also had a longstanding love of the channel island breeds, and so I could not be happier that Appleton maintains a herd of Jersey cows.

Jersey cows have good dispositions and are inquisitive and at times goofy.

The members of the dairy team are really fantastic and though I came in with a little bit of knowledge there is a lot I don’t know and they have patiently indulged my questions and tolerated my enthusiasm.


The farm maintains a farm store where they sell dairy products produced from the Jersey herd and beef culled from their herd of White Park cattle in addition to products from other producers.  Now having a steady supply of Jersey cow milk (higher in butterfat and protein than that produced by the ubiquitous Holstein) I decided to have a go at making cheese, something I’ve never tried before.  So, cheese made from milk from a humanely managed herd of Jerseys that I get to help feed and care for.  Farm to table indeed.


I knew nothing of cheese making so I went to New England Cheese Making Supply Company and bought one of their beginner kits.  They provide you everything you need to get started including well written instructions.  Elsie and I decide to start by making Mozzarella. These instruction are not mine, but are directly from the recipe pamphlet provide with the cheese making kit.  This recipe requires 1 gallon milk, citric acid, rennet, and salt. In addition to ingredients, you need a 1 gallon stainless steel pot, thermometer, colander, knife, and slotted.spoon

  1. Dissolve 1/4 rennet tablet in 1/4 cup cool, chlorine free water (or use 1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet).
  2. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid into 1 cup cool water and pour into your pot.
  3. Pour 1 gallon milk into the pot and stir vigorously.
  4. Continue to stir while heating the milk to 90° F.IMG_1069
  5. Remove pot from heat and stir in the rennet.  Continue to stir for 30 seconds.
  6. Cover the pot and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  7. Check the curd.  If it is too soft or the whey is still milky let it sit a few more minutes.
  8. Cut the curd with a knife in a criss-cross pattern.
  9. Put back on heat and raise temp to 110° F while slowly moving the curds about.
  10. Remove from the burner and stir slowly for 2-5 minutes
  11. Pour off the floating whey.
  12. Heat a pot of water to 185°F.
  13. Ladle the curds into a colander.
  14. Dip the curds into the hot water.  After several dips use a spoon to fold the curds until they become elastic and stretchable.
  15. When it becomes stretchable enough remove the curd from the water and pull like taffy.  Add salt.IMG_1068
  16. Form into a ball and chill in ice water.

So, how did we do?  Not bad for the first time.

The cheese is a little harder/firmer than I intended–next time we will reduce the amount of time we stir it in step 10.  We could also use a bit more salt.  Nevertheless, we are really happy with our first effort.


It made a great chicken Parmesan, which Elsie cooked up using a Raddish Kids recipe.


I cannot recommend the kit from New England Cheese Making highly enough.  The instructions are great for a novice like me.



Sometimes I’m Man-Dumb

Every sitcom and commercial for the past 50 years has used the old trope of the man too stubborn or proud to read instructions or ask for directions, usually resulting in some sort of comic folly. Lets call it “man dumb.” Granted, I hate to trade in sexist tropes, but there really is no other way to put it: sometimes I’m also man dumb.   I don’t always ask for directions or read instructions when I should.  Case in point is my table saw.

A few years ago I got a Grizzly G0771 hybrid table saw. It was a good choice for me as it struck a good balance between the substance of a cabinet saw and the mobility of a contractor saw.  In my small shop, I need to be able to wheel larger tools out of the way.


And while I love to use hand tools, I desperately wanted a table saw and was willing to sacrifice some of the precious real estate in my basement.  I assembled it and have run a lot of wood through it.  It worked okay but not great.  I thought perhaps I had been spoiled by using my father’s heavy duty cabinet saw.  You see, I assembled the saw without ever opening the owner’s manual.  That’s right, man-dumb.

After three years I finally opened the owner’s manual and went page by page measuring, squaring and adjusting (plus had the blade resharpened by Forrest Industrial).  It wasn’t that off just a 1/16th here and 1/32nd there.  My lord what a difference.  It cuts straight, square and smooth. It really is a very good saw; the only “upgrade” I have made was a zero clearance throat plate from Highland Woodworking. Had I read the manual three years ago when I first set it up I could have saved myself so much hassle. So, Grizzly, you have my apologies for the light swearing that went on for the past few years–in reality, the problem was the user, not the manufacturer.

Another Toasting Box

I’ve been busy in the shop this past month building another toasting box for my friend Jay.  The box is built out of solid mahogany; there is not plywood or laminates.  There is a humidor compartment that is lined with Spanish cedar and held closed by maple toggles.

This is the first time I have used mahogany in a project.  It has its challenges: open grain and it splinters and splits easily and it also loves to cup.  It is a softer wood and so easier to work with hand tools–I met little resistance while sawing and chiseling the dovetails.  When you add an oil finish, the results are stunning.


My dovetails are improving


Just waiting on a few final bits of hardware and this one will be all wrapped up.