Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Shannon Olson - Making Buttermilk Cheese & More in North Dakota

Logo from one of Shannon's blogs

She's a Southern belle at heart!

Shannon Olson is one of those women who inspire the question- "How does she do it?"  She maintains 3 websites- a cooking blog- North Dakota Kitchen, a lifestyle blog- A Southern Belle with Northern Roots, and a religious blog, Christian Living by Grace.

She also has two children living at home- a son, 18 and a daughter, almost 22.  She has been homeschooling them for the last 12 years.

And, she accomplishes all this from a mobile home with a good-sized kitchen!

Chocolate cake from her "North Dakota Kitchen" blog
How did you end up living in North Dakota?

My mom met my dad in the South and they lived there until they divorced when I was 4. We then came back to ND where she was raised, and most of my life I have lived here. I have spent some summer time there and my husband and I lived in Mississippi when our daughter was young. We have been back here in ND for over 20 years of our 23 years married.

I would love to live in the South but he doesn't want to.  Hence the Southern belle with Northern roots. I guess I am a true Northern girl with a deep love of Southern lifestyle.
Just a typical party "tablescape!"
Shannon found this hutch at a garage sale for $40 and refinished it!
A Southern tea party in North Dakota; Shannon's son Stephan sipping a virgin mint julep with his
girlfriend, Anna and Shannon's friend, Karissa.  (Shannon made the ricotta salata and everybody loved it.)
How did you get started making cheese?

I grew up loving the kitchen and the wonderful things that came out of my grandmother's kitchen. I also remember fondly the hard work yet simplicity of her life. I have always loved farms but have never lived on one.

With a love of food, baking and canning .... making cheese just seemed a natural thing to do. There is a satisfaction in knowing you made something yourself. You know where it came from and then to share the product with friends will hopefully inspire them to try something new. I marvel at the idea that the normal way of life was to have a cow or two and use it for milk, butter and cheese. To raise your own and preserve it to last in a safe way. No one ran to the supermarket - they worked hard and relied on others. Living in ND where winters are so harsh ... can you imagine raising a family long ago?

So when home made cheese comes out of the mold, it is like the cake coming out of the oven or the jar on the counter sealing with a wonderful pop. It is mine, it reminds me of a time past and it makes me feel satisfied.

Shannon's goat cheese with herbs
What cheeses have you made so far?

I have made cheese curds .... they tasted good, but the consistency was wrong.  Although they held together it was lots of very small curds, kind of like the texture when you have frozen cheddar.  I mixed in diced jalapenos and, like I said, they were good but .... not right.

I also made whey ricotta from it and I made the English muffin bread from the whey ... it is on the blog under breads (also from Ricki's book). That is an excellent bread!!  I have some whey in the freezer and want to use it as a soup base one of these days.

I probably give cheese a try once every month or two and as soon as my husband gets that press made, I am looking forward to the next step!

I made mozzarella out of raw milk from a friend, and then butter from the cream. That was different to me.  I liked the consistency of the mozzarella better from the store bought milk. Do you think it may have just been the cheesemaker? The only difference would have been the lipase right?  Note:  When making Mozzarella with raw milk, some modifications to the recipe are necessary or the cheese may be hard and/or rubbery.  After you heat the milk to 86-90F and cut the curds, do not reheat the curds.  Proceed directly to the microwave or hot water bath.
Shannon's Mozzarella

What has kept you from trying the aged cheeses?

The biggest obstacle to making aged cheese has been mostly fear- what if after all the time I wait for it ... it doesn't turn out!  But I will soon give it a whirl and hope for the best. At first it was just getting supplies, now I have wax, more starters etc. ... and hopefully a press soon. We also live on one level ... we don't have a cool room or basement to speak of, so storing it while it ages is something I have to think about.

I do have access to raw milk ... in fact just got some this morning from my dear friend. They farm near us and sell, although do not advertise, raw milk. With all the controversy you can probably understand why.  She also makes cheese, but has not shared any with me. umph! 


Shannon's Dry Buttermilk Cheese
From North Dakota Kitchen
Heat buttermilk in a large stainless steel pot. I used 2 quarts.
Stir occasionally until 160 degrees, you will see curds and whey separating, if they do not separate, heat to 180.
Remove from heat and pour into a colander lined with butter muslin or several layers of good quality cheese cloth. Tie corners of cloth and hang to drip 6-12 hours.
Place cheese in bowl and add salt to taste. Use non-iodized salt.
You may press with small weight if you like. This cheese is very crumbly. You may adjust time hanging, checking the texture from time to time until it is as you would like.
For a more sour cheese, let buttermilk set out at 72 degrees for 24 hours before beginning the cooking process.
Store in refrigerator for 3 weeks.


Brownie said...

What a wonderful post to my good friend Shannon! I've been a recipient of one her marvelous southern teas. Shannon is a gracious hostess and a lady truly feels pampered when visiting.

bariolio said...

Well, that's cool! I've been making ricotta with buttermilk and fresh milk in a 1:4 ratio. Same procedure, except I just drain for about 30 min. I actually put this in my cereal in the morning to increase the protein! Makes it nice and creamy. I also love to bake, have a veggie garden, and am learning more about canning. Glad I came across your article. God bless! Janet

Ann in the UP said...

I am impressed. I made my own butter and cheese when my kids were growing up and we used up lots of food. I used my cheese press for tofu, too. (they accused me of sneaking tofu into everything). Not true.