HOW OLD IS TO OLD FOR BAKING INGREDIENTS | SURVIVAL
Baking ingredients such as flour, eggs, and butter may get ‘old’ after awhile if they’re not used readily. The question is, how old is too old?
First of all, when flour is mixed with water, gluten is formed (from proteins). The more it’s mixed (flour and water) the more gluten is formed. This is what gives dough and batter their texture and structure. During baking, moisture in the dough begins to change the starch from the flour, causing it to swell and soften. This is important for the texture and structure of the finished product.
What happens as flour ages?
Starch changes very little as flour sits. However, when the proteins that form gluten are exposed to air, they can change significantly. These changes limit the amount of gluten that can be formed.
Can it still be used?
Yes – but it is best to use flour more than 1 year old in products that don’t need a lot of gluten, like cakes and crumbly cookies. Use new flour for bread and chewy cookies…
How should it be stored?
Keep flour in a tightly sealed container, away from heat and moisture. Whole wheat flour can be stored in the freezer in air-tight bags to prevent it from becoming rancid.
The protein in eggs (especially the whites) gives structure to many baked goods. Eggs also contribute moisture, and they are the only source of water in many cookie recipes.
What happens as they age?
Egg shells appear solid, but they are actually very porous. As eggs sit in the refrigerator moisture is lost through the pores. This is why old eggs (about 6 weeks) will float in water.
Can they still be used?
Yes – as long as the egg has been refrigerated, it is safe to use. According to Foodsafety.gov, raw eggs in the shell can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 weeks. With that said, eggs are unlikely to ‘go bad’ in a refrigerator, but will dry up over time.
How should they be stored?
Keep eggs refrigerated until you are ready to use them.
Old Butter, Shortening, Oils
Butter gives flavor to many baked goods, but shortening often gives a better texture. Fats and oils “tenderize” baked products by limiting the amount of gluten that can form.
What happens as it ages?
Fats and oils turn rancid when they are exposed to air. Oxygen reacts with fatty acids, creating off flavors and aromas. Oils, which contain more mono- and poly-unsaturated fatty acids, become rancid more quickly than fats that are solid at room temperature.
Can it still be used?
Yes, but if it smells bad, chances are your baked product will taste bad.
How should it be stored?
Butter, shortening, and oils do not need to be refrigerated or frozen, but they will last much longer if they are. The chemical reaction that leads to rancidity happens more slowly at lower temperatures. The cream that’s used to make your standard market variety butter is almost always pasteurized, and it takes quite some time for pasteurized dairy products to go bad.
We have been using this Butter Crock (the ‘sea spray’ color ) for our room temperature butter. It’s the perfect way to keep soft butter at the ready!
GORGONZOLA CHEESE | LOMBARDY
Gorgonzola is a veined Italian blue cheese, made from unskimmed cow's milk. It can be buttery or firm, crumbly and quite salty, with a "bite" from its blue veining.
Gorgonzola has been produced for centuries in Gorgonzola, Milan, acquiring its greenish-blue marbling in the eleventh century. However, the town's claim of geographical origin is disputed by other localities. Today, it is mainly produced in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. Whole cow's milk is used, to which starter bacteria is added, along with spores of the mold Penicillium glaucum. Penicillium roqueforti, used in Roquefort cheese, may also be used. The whey is then removed during curdling, and the result aged at low temperatures. During the aging process metal rods are quickly inserted and removed, creating air channels that allow the mold spores to grow into hyphae and cause the cheese's characteristic veining. Gorgonzola is typically aged for three to four months. The length of the aging process determines the consistency of the cheese, which gets firmer as it ripens. There are two varieties of Gorgonzola, which differ mainly in their age: Gorgonzola Dolce (also called Sweet Gorgonzola) and Gorgonzola Piccante (also called Gorgonzola Naturale, Gorgonzola Montagna, or Mountain Gorgonzola). Under Italian law, Gorgonzola enjoys Protected Geographical Status. Termed DOP in Italy, this means that it can only be produced in the provinces of Novara, Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Cuneo, Lecco, Lodi, Milan, Pavia, Varese, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli, as well as a number of comuni in the area of Casale Monferrato ( province of Alessandria).
Gorgonzola may be eaten in many ways. It may be melted into a risotto in the final stage of cooking, or served alongside polenta. Pasta with gorgonzola is a dish appreciated almost everywhere in Italy by gorgonzola lovers; usually gorgonzola goes on short pasta, such as penne, rigatoni, mezze maniche, or sedani, not with spaghetti or linguine. It is frequently offered as pizza topping. Combined with other soft cheeses it is an ingredient of pizza ai quattro formaggi (four-cheeses pizza).
HOW TO MAKE CHEESE | Survival
Like fine wine, good cheese has a reputation as something that requires expert skills and special equipment to make. While it’s true that most cheeses, especially fancy ones like camembert and gouda, have rightfully earned that reputation, professional cheesemakers don’t typically concern themselves with the one type of cheese that has been made since Neolithic times—which, not coincidentally, happens to be the easiest cheese in the world to make: farmer’s cheese.
What we call farmer’s cheese here in North America has had different names in different regions of the globe over time. Ever eat saag paneer in an Indian restaurant? You may have mistaken it for tofu, but those firm white cubes on top of the spinach were actually the pressed curds of goat milk cheese, known in India as paneer. In the African country of Benin, the same substance is called waagashi. In Latin countries, farmers call it queso fresco or queso blanco, but it’s the same stuff—enchiladas are among its many uses in Mexican cuisine. Ricotta cheese in Italy, quark in Germany, and cottage cheese in America are all variations on the same cheese. The only differences among them are moisture content and the foods they are associated with.
How to Make Farmer’s Cheese
First, you don’t have to be a farmer to make this cheese. Fresh, raw milk straight from the barn is an ideal ingredient, but almost any type of milk from the grocery store will do. Goat, sheep, cow—any variety will work, and each lends its own characteristic flavor to the final product. The only thing to avoid is ultra-pasteurized milk, as it does not curdle properly.
Most cheeses are curdled with rennet, which is typically derived from the intestines of baby cows, but farmer’s cheese relies on something that’s a little less brutal to obtain: lemons. Actually, any number of acidic substances may be used, but lemon juice and white vinegar are the most common. The cheese will absorb a hint of flavor from either, so some cheesemakers opt for citric acid, which has a more subdued flavor, as a curdling agent. Citric acid can be found in many grocery stores in the canning section or purchased online.
Here are the simple steps to making farmer’s cheese. One gallon of milk will yield approximately one pound of cheese.
- Heat the milk in a heavy-bottomed pot, using a low setting on the stove to avoid scalding the milk. Stir the milk occasionally as it heats.
- Turn off the stove when the temperature reaches approximately 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use a cheesemaking thermometer to track the temperature (a canning thermometer is basically the same thing), or you can watch carefully for the first signs of boiling (which occurs just above 200 degrees) and then turn off the heat.
- Slowly add the curdling agent (lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid) and watch for the milk to curdle. Stir very gently as you add the curdling agent and white clumps (the curds) will soon form, leaving a cloudy, yellowish fluid in the pot, known as whey. Many cheese recipes call for a specific amount of curdling agent—the juice of one large lemon, a quarter cup of vinegar, or one teaspoon of citric acid per gallon of milk is typical for farmer’s cheese—but the exact amount needed varies considerably based on the unique properties of each batch of milk (especially with non-homogenized, farm-fresh milk). It’s advantageous to use the least amount of acid possible to avoid an excessively tangy flavor. As soon as the curds form, stop adding the curdling agent. Let the pot sit for about 20 minutes for a complete separation between the curds and whey.
- Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and whey through it over a sink. Whey has dozens of uses, from baking bread to giving your pets a milky treat, so place a bowl beneath the colander if you want to save it.
- At this point, the curds will be soft and spreadable—perfect for mixing with salt and herbs and spreading on crackers. (The herbs you harvested at the end of this summer and dried would be perfect.) Or, place the curds in a bowl with a bit of whey (do not stir or fold in) and you have cottage cheese. For a drier, firmer cheese, tie the cheesecloth with the curds inside it to a wooden spoon suspended on the edges of a large pot or pitcher to continue draining the whey.
After a couple hours, the curds will have the crumbly texture of queso fresco. If you want a really firm farmer’s cheese, like paneer, leave the cheesecloth full of curds in the colander and place them in the refrigerator overnight with a weight on top (like a large can of tomato sauce) and a bowl beneath to catch the whey as it seeps out. Because farmer’s cheese is not aged, it is best consumed when fresh. It may be stored in a refrigerator for a week to 10 days.
TALEGGIO CHEESE | LOMBARDY
Taleggio is a semi-soft, washed rind, smear-ripened Italian cheese that is named after Val Taleggio. The cheese has a thin crust and a strong aroma, but its flavor is comparatively mild with an unusual fruity tang.Taleggio and similar cheeses have been around since Roman times, with Cicero, Cato the Elder, and Pliny the Elder all mentioning it in their writings. The cheese was solely produced in the Val Taleggio until the late 1800s, when some production moved to the Lombardy plain to the south.
The production takes place every autumn and winter when the cows are tired from a summer of grazing. First, the acidified milk is brought to the processing center from milk calves as per tradition that will mature within six to ten weeks. After the cheese is made it is set on wood shelves in chambers and washed once a week with a seawater sponge in order to prevent mold infestation and to prevent the cheese from forming an orange or rose crust. Today, the cheese is made from both pasteurized milk and from raw milk in factories. The factory-made cheeses are brighter and moderate in flavor. Spices, raisins, nuts and some lemons are also added.
The cheese can be eaten grated with salads such as radicchio or rucola and with spices and tomato on bruschetta. It melts well, and can be used in risotto or on polenta.