25 July 2010

Playing with food: A success (farmer's cheese) and failure (collards and beans)

Most Polish families are likely familiar with farmer's cheese, a mild and soft cheese that resembles ricotta or firm cottage cheese. My mom has made it for years, using it as filling for pierogies and cheesecake and as a base for tomato sandwiches. After years of completely not paying attention to her technique, I decided to try it myself. It was surprisingly easy and yielded a delicious result.

I started with a half gallon of high-quality (local and organic) milk that was pasteurized, NOT ultra-pasteurized (a totally unnecessary process, in my opinion), and let it sit until it reached room temperature. I heated the milk, stirring often to prevent scorching, until it simmered.

(start with high-quality milk)

Once the milk began to bubble slightly, I added about 3 tablespoons of sour cream and a splash of white vinegar. My mom uses buttermilk, but I didn't have any on hand, and she said sour cream would do the trick. I've read that you can forgo the sour cream or buttermilk and just use lemon juice or vinegar (1/2 a cup or so), but I like the idea of adding dairy rather than going heavy on either of the latter.

After adding my sour cream and vinegar, I turned off the heat and began slowly stirring. The curds and whey began to separate almost instantaneously. After stirring for another minute or so, I let the mixture sit for 10 minutes.

(curds and whey)

The final step was to strain it. Although most sources suggest that you use a cheesecloth, my mom usually uses only a strainer, and that worked out just fine, though I would have benefited from a finer mesh. The outcome was about a 1/2 lb of cheese. Not bad for my first try!

(farmer's cheese - voila!)

While my first attempt at cheese was a success, my first time cooking with collards yielded a mediocre result.

After hearing a radio interview with my beloved Mark Bittman raving about a simple meal of collards, beans, and garlic, I decided to give the meal a try. I had no recipe on hand, so improvised as best as I could.

I boiled a bunch of white and kidney beans until just about soft. I then sauteed onions, garlic, a small handful of heirloom cherry tomatoes, and added a huge dose of Indian curry powder (because I can't get enough of it). Once everything was nice and soft, I added 2 bunches of chopped collard greens, and then poured in the water in which the beans had been cooking (since I didn't have veggie broth on hand). I then added the beans and allowed the whole mixture to cook for about 30 minutes. The result was edible, but that's about it. Such a shame, since it looked fairly pretty.

(pretty but not very good)

I think maybe I just don't like collards. Does anyone have any other ideas how to prepare them?


  1. I do! Come talk to me sometime, and I shall share collard green recipes.

    My favorite, which I make all the time, is on the blog, if you look for Kenyan Collard Greens

  2. I will be blissfully reading your blog for advice!

  3. Usually collard greens are boiled with ham hocks, so that's an issue. you may want to get something to get you that smokey flavor if you're veggie - fying it.

    Your sis -


  4. One of my recipes may give you that delicious meal you're wanting -- it is cheesy and rich, your homemade cheese could also be used! The recipe is here: