Making a Cheese Press

If you have extra milk from your goats, cows, etc… making cheese is a great way to use it. Making cheese is an art and you can get really creative in making hard or soft cheese in an endless variety of savory, sweet and spicy flavors and if you wax hard cheese they can be kept for ages! My dear hubs made me a cheese press and I love it. One of my favorite things about this press is that I can dismantle it and throw it in the dishwasher after I use it. Here’s the directions he wrote out on how he made my press.

 

Cheese Press

I started with the following items:

A flat plastic sheet approx 12” x 12” with holes ( I used an old wall board for hanging tools).

An 8” round PVC pipe approx 8” tall

(3) 3/8” all thread rods, 24” tall

(18) 3/8” fender washers

(10) 3/8 nuts

(3) 3/8 wing nuts

(2) Springs

(1) piece of wood cut into 7 ¾” circle (sanded)

(2) pieces of wood 1”x2” approx 12” wide.

 

I used a drill and drilled 4 rows of 1/8” holes spaced evenly around the PVC from the bottom up to just below center.

I centered the 8” PVC on  12×12 sheet.

I drilled holes for the 2 outer 3/8” all thread rods on both sides of the PVC approx 1” distance from PVC.

I used a nut and washer on both sides of the sheet to secure the all -thread rods to sheet.

I then measured the all thread distance (all-thread to all-thread) and distance to center of PVC to drill the 3 holes in each of the (2) 1”x2”x12” pieces of wood.

I drilled a hole in the center of the 7 ¾” round board (follower). I used nut and washer on both sides to secure to bottom of 3rd piece of all-thread. I made sure to get the nut on the end of the all thread as you do not want it going deep in the cheese.

I used nuts and washers to attach the all-thread rod to the lower board that spans the PVC between the side rods. This is adjustable and allows you to move the 7 3//4” follower up and down for different amount of cheese to be pressed. To start with I adjusted it so the follower is approx 1 in above the bottom of PVC. To adjust all you need to do is loosen the nuts and slide center rod up or down depending on desired thickness.

I then put washer on the wood on each side and slid springs into place. The springs are approx 6” compression springs bought at the local hardware store. I then place washers on top of the springs and put the upper board in place. I used washers and wing nuts to allow you to adjust the compression placed on the cheese.

You can adjust the amount of pressure on the cheese by turning the outer two  wing nuts clockwise which will push down on the lower board and compress the cheese. *Please note that the center wing nut is only in place to keep the wood evenly spaced and does not apply pressure to the cheese.

Wa-laa you have a cheese press!

 

You can see when you use this press you need to keep a tray underneath the press to catch the whey that is pressed out and here is the final product!

 

 

Homemade Beef Jerky

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Homemade Beef Jerky

In our house we have an addiction to homemade beef jerky. You know, the real stuff, not the ground beef strips, but the real sliced, marinated meat that’s dried till your teeth feel like they are going to pull right out of your head when you take a bite. Yup, that’s the stuff. Over the years I’ve probably had more requests for that recipe than any other. I’ve always answered with the same response, “sorry it’s an old family secret recipe and I can’t share it”. Most people respect this and the subject is dropped, except this time. This time it’s my daughter that’s asked for the recipe, no reason not to share it with her right? I mean she’s family…..and so the truth comes out.  I don’t have a recipe. In fact I don’t think I’ve made it the same way twice in the last 20+ years.

What I can share with you are some tips I’ve learned from 20+ years of experience.

Meat:

I like to use chuck roast, but you can use any beef cut, venison, bison, etc… . I use chuck because it’s a cheaper cut and has good flavor. You can thin slice it at home if you prefer, but most grocery butchers will slice it to order. Get it sliced very thin, thicker than lunch meat and thinner than thin sliced steak.  When you get home go over each piece with a small knife and remove any large sections of fat (marbled fat gives great flavor but large sections of fat don’t dry well). Also be on the lookout for areas of meat that are thicker than others. Sometimes when the meat is sliced edges don’t get cut at the same thickness and when the meat is too thick it can take  a long time to dehydrate, leaving the rest of that piece brittle and crunchy instead of jerky like.

Marinade:

I confessed earlier that I don’t have a recipe and that’s true, but there are a few tricks to making a good jerky marinade. First remember unlike other marinades, never to add oils, they delay the meat from drying! I always used dried ingredients rather than fresh. For example I used dried, powdered garlic rather than fresh minced. The base of my marinade usually starts with soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic and pepper. From there I just throw in a pinch of this and  a fistful of that.

I used to marinade the meat in a bowl and turn the meat every 12 hours or so to ensure that each piece was well coated, since then I’ve learned of the wonders of ziplock bags. Now I pour the marinade in the ziplock, toss in the meat and just ‘massage’ the bag every now and then. Simple!

Dehydrating

There are no hard and fast rules for how long it takes to dehydrate the meat. It will depend on the thickness of the meat, the weather, the type of dehydrator etc….. I check mine twice a day and do the ‘flex test’, meaning I pick it up and try bending it to see if it still has some flex to it or if it starts to crack rather than flex. You want it to be right at the cracking stage.  It helps to flip them over after 16 hours or so also, remember to always add fresh meat from the bottom trays rather than the top. You don’t want the raw meat dripping down on the almost dehydrated and finished pieces of jerky.  Finally, even thought this is dried meat, I don’t consider this shelf stable. I leave mine on the counter and have never gotten sick…..but it also has never  lasted more than a few days. 🙂 Good luck and enjoy!

Cold Process Soaps

People have been asking about cold press soaps, so I thought I would give a brief overview of the process. This is just my experiences with CP soaps and some things I’ve learned over time.

This *IS NOT* meant to be a tutorial on how to make cold process soap. There are some very good sites with great tutorials, a couple of my favorites are:

http://www.soap-making-essentials.com/cold-process.html

and

http://www.brambleberry.com/Cold-Process-Soaps-W2C146.aspx

Making  CP soaps comes down to remembering  4 things

 1) safely using  the lye;

2) accurately measuring ingredients ;

3) reading temperatures to ensure you are adding lye to fats at the right temps and

4) stirring till trace.

~See it’s simple!~

 A word about supplies

I picked up most of my supplies from a local thrift store. You will want to have items that are devoted strictly to your soap making and not reuse them for food items later.

Things you will need:

a crock pot (to heat and melt my fats)

a pitcher (to mix my lye in)

a electric hand mixer (mixing by hand until trace is HORRIBLE! trust me!)

a plastic long handle stirring spoon

a soap thermometer

a soap mold (you can use a variety of things to start with like old cardboard juice concentrate containers. My hubs made me a wood log mold)

and of course the actual lye, fats, scents, exfoliates, etc…. There are many good places to buy these online, but my favorite is Bramble Berry.

Lye safety

I’ve run into a lot of people who are intimidated by the use of lye in CP soaps. Don’t be.Yes, there are some dangers, but there are dangers in everything!

~Just read up on the subject and remember to follow the safety precautions~

*make sure you use your lye in a well ventilated area (the fumes  aren’t fun)

*wear safety glasses (you really don’t want to splash lye into your eyes)

* wear gloves and a long sleeve shirt

*always add the lye to the water, not the other way around.

Measuring

Okay so first thing, invest in a good digital scale. It is soooo worth it! You will need to accurately measure EVERYTHING!

Temperatures

You will be melting your fats until they rise to the desired temperature. Some people melt their fats on the stove top, I prefer to use a crock pot.

You will be adding your lye to water and letting it cool till it gets to the desired temperature.

The goal is usually to get them to meet in the middle and both to be around 90-95 degrees Fahrenheit.

*notice the pitcher is clearly marked for lye use only*

Trace

Once the fats and lye are at their desired temps you will add the lye (carefully) to the fats and gently stir them until they are mixed. That’s when I switch to the hand mixer. At this point you can add exfoliates or color if you wish. You will need to stir until trace. Trace resembles a thin pudding consistency. If you dip a spoon into the mix and pull it out dripping some on top of the mix you should be able to see the drip marks on top of the mix. I tried to capture it in this picture. (I’ve added burgundy pigment to color my Summer Splash soap)

A word about fragrances

Some fragrances don’t do as well in the heat of CP soap making as others, so don’t add it until you have hit trace.

Bramble Berry has some good suggestions on fragrances that hold up to heat well. Also a good rule of thumb is .7-1 ounce of scent per pound of soap.

Okay, at this point you’re going to pour your soap into whatever mold you’ve picked and let it sit in a draft free environment (I have a lid on my mold to let it cool slowly) for 24-36 hours. When it’s set to the firmness you want, remove it from the mold, cut it and let it cure for 4-6 weeks. Wa-la! It’s done.

As you experiment you can really get creative with scents, colors, adding scented glycerin chunks to CP soap, using different molds, etc… the options are endless! Enjoy!