Saturday, 23 January 2010

Imbolc Food; Sheep’s cheese and Milk Bread

Imbolc is a time of year where the milk supplies were very important. The word Imbolc comes in part from the phrase "ewe's milk," so dairy products became a big part of February celebrations. This time of year was hard for our ancestors, crop stores were very low with no fresh ones to replenish them. They had livestock pregnant and the lambing season would begin soon. As the ewes came into milk they knew they would have food again.
Making as much of our food is very important for me, not just for the Sabbats but all year round if possible so to combine the two and to have some recipes that the Littleun can easily join in we have made some sheep’s cheese and milk bread. You can use other milks such as goats.

Sheep’s Cheese; Makes 2 x 500g cheeses

1.7l fresh sheep's milk
10 drops vegetarian rennet (or follow the packet instructions)

1. Put the milk in a saucepan and heat gently until it reaches 37°C (blood temperature). If you don't have a cook's thermometer, dip your finger into the milk. When you can't feel the liquid - i.e., it is neither hotter nor colder than your hand - you'll know it's at blood temperature.
2. Take the pan off the heat and add the vegetarian rennet. Give it a quick stir then leave the curds and whey to separate (about 15 minutes). Use a sharp knife to cut the curd into small chunks (about 2.5cm) in the pan.
3. Line two sieves (or one very large one) with two layers of fine, untreated muslin. Place each sieve over a bowl. Spoon the cut curds and whey into the muslin. Gather up the corners of the muslin and tie them with string, then suspend the bundles over bowls overnight to allow the whey to drain away, leaving you with lovely, creamy soft cheese.

Milk Bread Makes 1 large loaf, Takes 50 minutes, plus proving


750g strong plain white flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
75g butter, cut into small pieces, plus extra for greasing
7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
300ml milk

1. Put the flour into a large bowl and add the salt. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until it's like breadcrumbs. Tip in the yeast and sugar.
2. Pour the milk into a large measuring jug and stir in 150ml water. Microwave on high for 2 minutes until warm. (Or warm in a pan over a medium heat.) Add to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Use your hands to mix the dough until it forms a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl clean.
3. Sprinkle a work surface with flour, then tip the dough onto it. Stretch and work the dough for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Roll the dough into an oblong shape.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Grease a 900g loaf tin and add the dough. Cover with greased cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 25 minutes, until the dough is almost at the top. Discard the cling film, dust with some extra flour and bake for 30 minutes, until risen and golden brown. Cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes.

A great way of warming up and doing things together, not so good on the waistline though...


Maluszeq said...

I like your new layout :)

We'll be celebrating Imbolc here on 31st with Beltane people :)

Thanks for sharing receipes :]

Sandra Morris said...

At this time of year I crave comfort food so this all sounds very appealing.

My mother used to make milk bread and I remember the yeasty aroma of baking days with great fondness.

Where do you buy your sheep's milk and rennet?

Jenandollie said...

One of my friends owns a sheep farm so we cheat and get it from him but I think you can get it in farmshops. Rennet again from a friend who makes goats cheeses but you can get it online easily.

I love baking and bread making, it's soothing and something we can both do together.