On food and Mars, Antarctica, and Early Modern England

Plus a cheese recipe with some unexpected twists

The days are beginning to noticeably lengthen, and the sun feels perhaps a bit warmer than it did this time last month (or at least I hope that’s true for you, too).

Through much of history, spring was not only the time when fresh veggies reappeared on our plates, but fresh eggs and milk as well, brought by the birth of new livestock and the light of lengthening days.
Longer days signal chickens’ bodies to start producing more eggs, and by the end of spring egg laying is in full swing (my birds are already back to their summer laying schedule).

It makes sense, then, that eggs and dairy were some of the symbols of various global spring solstice celebrations.
To celebrate, I’m sharing a “cheese” recipe (more of a custard, really) from 1615 that combines eggs and cream with the brightness of lemon and the floral depth of rosewater. A wonderful ways to mark the end of winter (and citrus season) and welcome in spring’s bounty.

To make:

Gervase Markham’s excellent Fresh Cheese

As an add on to our member email this month (all about custards), I’ve dug up my old recipe of this custard-based spreadable cheese, a modern adaptation of the version in Gervase Markham’s 1615 cookbook, The English Housewife.

This recipe makes a silky, soft cheese, which is very smooth and spreadable, but not quite thick enough to crumble. The perfect cheese to spread on toast or on crackers with jam.

Yield: about 1 cup

Half pint heavy whipping cream

2 cups whole milk

Juice of one large lemon

Cheesecloth

½ tsp rosewater

-1/2 tsp salt

¼ tsp sugar

1 egg yolk

½ tsp ground nutmeg

-Heat milk and cream over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until warm (about 100 degrees).

-Add the lemon juice and stir gently for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

-Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

-Pour into a colander lined with a piece of cheesecloth, and let sit for 1-2 minutes for some of the whey to drain from the curds.

-whisk together the rosewater, salt, sugar, egg yolk, and nutmeg in a large bowl and add the cheese from the cheesecloth. Mix until thoroughly combined.

-Place back into the cheesecloth to drain again, squeeze very gently to release excess whey.

-Place in a container and refrigerate for several hours to firm before serving.

To read

Last month I shared a piece I wrote for the AJC on food-based crafts. One thing I mentioned was citrus-infused vinegar.
But what to do with the citrus after you’ve made vinegar? I recently turned mine into burnt orange pickle powder by roasting the oranges then drying them in a dehydrator and grinding them. It’s fantastic on a whiskey cocktail!

I also wrote this stream of consciousness piece on sound waves and food while falling asleep one night.
If you're missing the sound of your favorite bar, I Miss My Bar hopes to provide that ambience while you're at home.

A few other reads:

This piece on how different styles of music impact the flavor of cheese as it ages.

This piece on winter CSAs, including an interview with yours truly and a shout out for our new Herbs + Art CSA.

A recipe for kahlua, from a wallet that made its way back to its owner 53 years after being lost in Antarctica.

In honor of a successful Mars Rover landing, this piece on NASA’s research into using the native muscadine grape as a nutritional source for astronauts.

Root happenings

Clubhouse fermentation chats: If you happen to be on Clubhouse, I’ve been hosting casual fermentation chats along with guests from around the world and would love to have you join! Follow me at @bookishjulia to be notified of upcoming chats.

Appalachian preserves: The new class is live at last! To sign up, just visit this link

As always, Root members get mini-classes class for free. Didn’t get your access email? Please reach out and let me know!

Herbs + Art CSA: I’ve started a fun new monthly CSA to help ring in Spring, which includes everything from herb-infused vinegars to wildcrafted teas and handmade inks. If you’re interested, head here for local pickup or head to this link for nationwide shipping.

Have a wonderful March!

Julia