Making Lasagna

Yesterday was a dark day of spitting snow. Since I have weaned Rocky, my refrigerator is crammed with gallons of milk in glass jars. Today Lucy and I will be in Vermont for a dental appointment, returning just in time for supper. So yesterday I decided to work on paperwork and in between, make a pan of lasagna so I could stretch a meal over two nights.

Here’s the recipe: World’s Best Lasagna.

The only difference in my version is that I had no fennel seed, and:

a) I raised the beef

b) I raised the Italian mutton sausage

c) I gathered the egg from my hens

d) I made the mozzarella from my fresh milk

e) I made the ricotta, ditto.

It was fabulous. I don’t particularly enjoy cooking but this was satisfying. What a festival of farm bounty! Lucy thought it was the best lasagna she’d ever had. DH had to be cut off after 2.5 robust servings.

*   *    *

I made two different versions of ricotta. The traditional version is made from whey. After making my mozzarella I had over a gallon of leftover greenish-yellow whey in my stockpot. Truly, whey has an odd and slightly alarming appearance and I’m amazed that anyone ever thought to tinker with it in an attempt to produce more food. Hooray for clever Italians!

If you heat that futuristic-looking greenish liquid to just shy of boiling, tiny white particles precipitate out of the whey. Strain this into clean muslin, tie up the edges of the cloth to drip, and presto! A couple of hours later, you have ricotta cheese.

The problem is, you only have about a 1/2 cup.

An even simpler method to make ricotta is to bring your two gallons of warm milk in from the barn, strain it, and dump it into your stock pot. Pour in about 1/3 cup of white vinegar. Heat the milk to 200°. Then strain the curds into clean muslin and tie up the edges as above. A couple of hours later, you’ll have a big bowlful of lovely soft white ricotta.

Purists say the original method is best, that the texture is different and the taste more delicate. It’s true that the texture is different. The whey ricotta is extremely fine-grained. I’m not sure the taste is “more delicate.” Without any spices it resembled, to me, sheetrock mud. But then I am far from a gourmet. In fact, I’m far from a cook.

Someday perhaps I’ll be brave enough to tackle hard cheeses and can make my own parmesan. Someday, for sure, I’ll have time to start a garden and can raise my own basil, garlic, and tomatoes. (Well, tomatoes would only be possible in this climate if I also built my own greenhouse.) But that would be very cool. I could make the entire dish completely from scratch.

Of course, then I’d have to go to bed for a week to recover.


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