Culturing Dairy and Local Oat Cakes

I created this supremely local treat last weekend – Scottish oat cakes (made with local oats, and homemade butter and buttermilk,) topped with homemade cream cheese and fig jam. It was a long and involved process – especially all the dairy culturing – but worth it! This is based on a recipe from my childhood, and it even surpassed all my good memories!

Step one was to make the cream cheese, which is actually not true cream cheese, but a spreadable tangy cheese made from strained yogurt. I used homemade yogurt had been sitting in the fridge for over a week and needed to be used up. I poured the yogurt in a small colander lined with several layers of cheese cloth over top a Tupperware bowl.

I tied the cheese cloth over the yogurt with a rubber band and weighted it with this bag of beautiful local beans that I picked up at the farmer’s market on Saturday. It’s a mix of about 6 different bean varieties – almost too pretty to cook!

After about 10 hours, the yogurt had reduced to about half it’s original volume.

It’s hard to see in this picture, but the bowl underneath the yogurt had about 3 cups of a clear liquid (whey) that had strained off. Whey cool!

And here’s the finished cheese. It’s thick and creamy – about the consistency of cream cheese – relatively low fat, very high in protein – and it’s delicious!

My next task was to make butter to use in the oat cakes. I’ve been making my own butter pretty consistently for a few months now – it’s so good, and easy to make! Nobody makes butter in this county from Humboldt County cream, so it’s also the only way to get truly local butter. If you haven’t been converted to the wonders of butter, follow this link to the Weston A Price Foundation website. The cream is from Humboldt Creamery, which is mostly pasture raised – even better! The above picture is step one: heating the cream to about 180 degrees to sterilize it.

I cooled the cream to about 110 degrees and added the starter culture: a few tablespoons of this organic cultured sour cream. I would have used my own yogurt, but it had been sitting for over a week and I wasn’t sure that the bacteria were still strong enough to make a good culture.

I poured the cream into two jars. The cream in the quart jar was for butter. The pint jar was for sour cream.

I wrapped the warm jars in dish towels and let them sit overnight in this cooler – can you find the cat in the picture?

The next day, it was thick and tangy – perfect!

I put the pint jar in the fridge to eat as sour cream, and dumped the cream from the quart jar into the food processor.

After about 4 minutes of processing, the butter separated from the buttermilk.

I poured off the buttermilk. It’s tangy – great for baking or making salad dressing. I had enough to do both!

I poured some cold water into the processor, processed it with the butter, and strained if off. This cleans any remaining buttermilk from the butter. I had to do it 6 times until the water that drained off was totally clear. If there’s any buttermilk left, it will go rancid and ruin the butter. It’s also important that it be cold water, since warm water will melt the butter.

I strained the last of the water out of the butter by pressing it into this sieve.

I bought this nifty French butter dish at a local fair recently. The bottom half has about 2 inches of salt water in it, and the top half gets packed with butter.

It stores really well like this on the counter. The water makes an airtight seal around the butter and keeps it nice and fresh. We’ve learned not to keep it too close to the stove since the butter gets too warm and soft and slips down into the water.

The next step was to make the oat cakes. These are local, unrolled oats from Shakefork Farm in Arcata. These oats were the inspiration for this entire process – they’re fresh and delicious, and I wanted to try them in this recipe.

Here are the oats after being processed for about 5 or 6 minutes – pretty fine, but not as fine as flour. Here’s the full recipe:

  • 3 cups oats, blended
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/3 scalded milk or cream (or buttermilk)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix oatmeal, flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in butter with hands. Dissolve soda in hot milk, add to dry mixture. Roll to 1/3 – 1/4 inches. Cut into round shapes using the top of a glass. Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

Here’s the dough. It’s pretty crumbly, and seems too dry to roll out….

…but somehow it works. Here’s the glass that I used to cut the cakes into rounds.

And here they are coming out of the oven. These are really good – a little chewy, and deliciously oaty!

Finally, it was time to make the fig jam. I got these super-ripe and delicious Black Mission figs at the farmer’s market on Saturday. These have an extremely limited season. They’re also pretty pricey, but worth every penny – they’re one of the produce items I look forward to the most all year!

Here they are cut up. You can see how deliciously ooey-gooey they are!

I cooked them with local honey, orange peel, and cinnamon.

After about 30 minutes, the jam was thick, sweet and beautiful to behold.

It made a little over a pint of pure goodness!

Finally, late Sunday afternoon, everything was ready! It was almost dinner time, so I just made one to taste.

Later, we indulged ourselves in a delicious, almost completely local dessert. Mmmmmm! The jam has an almost jewel like quality. It’s sweetness is perfectly complemented by the tangy cheese, and chewy, not too sweet oat cakes. It was a lot of work, but I’ve had plain oat cakes with tea for breakfast every morning this week, and a delicious dessert every night!