Simple Cheese Making (Skip the Microwave) and Homestead Planning from the FAIR

Reader Contribution by Ed Hudson
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While it was obvious from my last post that I have no issue with using a microwave, it was also obvious from the number of emails I received that there are a good number of you who do not like to use them and many who simply do not have one. Do not worry — no microwave is required to make mozzarella. I have not personally used this technique but I watched Cary Jennings from The Ploughshare Institute at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR last month do it, and she did so in just under 30 minutes.

After you have collected the curd in to one large curd, you can warm the whey to 175 degrees Fahrenheit and dip the curd into it for a few seconds to heat it up. Remove it from the pot using a slotted spoon and wearing rubber gloves, stretch the curd. Repeat until it stretches smoothly and does not break. It will have the consistency of taffy. This can be made easier by cutting the curd into smaller pieces so it heats through quicker.

Alternatively, you can heat a pot of water to 175 degrees Fahrenheit while making the mozzarella and use it for the heat and stretch step. However, if you use the whey, you are just a few minutes away from making ricotta so, why not?


My wife and I attended the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR at the Bell County Expo Center in Belton, Texas. Initially, this location seemed odd but as it turned out, this Central Texas venue was perfect for this event even with the larger-than-expected crowd. All walks of life were represented and the attendees were engaged, the speakers were excellent, and we spent way too much money on the exhibitor floor.

It was a great opportunity to meet and talk with authors, bloggers and experts in fields ranging from backyard chickens to organic gardening to food preservation. The highlight was lunch with Cindy Conner, Andrea Chesman and Kristi Quillen discussing writing, blogging and exchanging a few personal anecdotes.

We are thinking about attending one of the other FAIRs in Asheville or Topeka later this year and will definitely make it back to the next one in Texas.

On Our Suburban “Homestead”

We jokingly refer to our 8,500-square-foot suburban postage stamp property just outside of Houston as Hudson’s Farm on the Cement Pond, saying we are just too lazy to be real homesteaders. Our small-scale project never seemed smaller than last month at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. However, for the last three years, we have been in the process of converting our little backyard into a garden that will sustain two empty nesters like us. We have removed all non-edible and non-food-producing plants from our backyard except two wisterias (or, as I like to call them, hysteria vines) that we just can’t kill and an oak tree that we do not want to kill.

Our back lawn has evolved to be more of a path between approximately 500 square feet of garden beds of varying size filled with a wide range of vegetables, herbs and a few fruit trees. We are in year two of transitioning to “organic” garden practices. I use the quotes because we have not yet found an organic treatment for the Texas fire ants that plague our garden (any suggestions would be greatly appreciated).

Our goal is to raise all of our own vegetables and to eat more healthily while controlling what we put in our system. We will be discussing that (along with some of our homemade cooking recipes and methods) on a new website that will be online in the next month or so. For this month, I just wanted to share some highlights of what we are doing down on the “farm”.

Down by the Cement Pond

In January and February, I expanded (hopefully for the last time) our growing areas to add four new raised beds and in the process hauled in about 1½ tons of soil. In total, we have 42 beds ranging in size from 2 feet by 2 feet to 4 feet by 8 feet — with most of the beds being 4 feet by 2 feet. Most are arranged in a modified keyhole configuration, allowing us easy access to all sides of the beds and providing nice footpaths.

Tomatoes that I started inside under lights went into the ground February 15th and 28th. I have also been adding lettuce as we harvest and open up spots in the lettuce beds. We have finished harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, radish greens, turnips, beets, spinach, carrots, and parsnips, and are currently working on sugar snap peas, lettuce and asparagus, as well as some holdover kale, bok choi, tomatoes and peppers.

We have harvested over 55 pounds of vegetables so far this year — not a bad start to the new year. This month, we will finish harvesting the fall crops and get the rest of the spring and some summer crops in the ground.

Until Next Time

Next month, I’ll be converting our cabbage into a nice batch of sauerkraut as we take that and some homemade corned beef for our first “yard-to-table” Reuben sandwiches.

Photos by Jennifer Hudson 

Ed Hudson is a biochemist for NASA in Houston. His free time is filled with gardening and an ongoing list of Food Preservation Projects with his lovely wife, Jennifer. You can read more MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts from Edhere, and contact him via email athudsonfarmtx@gmail.comHe is always looking for comments, new ideas and suggestions.

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