Rescuing Ricotta

That’s a salad made with minutes-old ricotta, and, yes, it was amazing. Figs are in season now and this is absolutely my favorite summer salad. It’s simple: greens of some sort, quartered figs, balsamic glaze, and cheese of some sort. In the past I’ve used blue cheeses, parmesan, feta and many, many others but when you make ricotta right before dinner is plated, using anything else would be ridiculous.

Ricotta is the easiest cheese to make. It requires almost no equipment and the ingredients are in almost everyone’s kitchen already.

All you need is this:

  • A gallon of milk of any fat content, or half and half
  • Enough lemons to get 3/4 of juice or 1/4c vinegar
  • A pot big enough for all your liquid
  • A colander
  • Butter Muslim or a lint-free cloth (pillowcases, tea towels, bandanas, and cloth flour sacks work)
  • A liquid or meat thermometer (though you can get by without and I’ll get into that later)

My kitchen is small. It’s messy and a little cramped and there are 7 of us sharing it. I don’t have a lot of specialized equipment for cheese making because I don’t have money and I don’t have space to spare. That shouldn’t stop anyone so it certainly doesn’t stop me.

I used half and half because Steven works in a coffee shop. When they have a slow week, they end up with milk products that are technically expired but are still good for at least a few days after the date. Expired milk has to be tossed no matter how good it still is, so to save it from waste, he brings it home. Sometimes I make yogurt but with over a gallon of that still in the fridge, ricotta is the order of the day.

A gallon of half and half went into the pot and I heated it to a target of 175 degrees Fahrenheit. This is where your thermometer is handy, but here’s the thing. You don’t reeeeally need it. Milk begins to froth at the edges of the pot right around 170-180 degrees, and ricotta can be made at higher temperatures too so if you overlook your milk, it’s not going to ruin it. It’s an easy and forgiving cheese. 

Once you reach temperature, add about 2/3 of your acid liquid(juice or vinegar). The proteins should pull together rapidly, leaving fine white curds, and yellow whey. Add more acidic liquid if you don’t see that reaction. If you run out of lemon, add a couple tablespoons of vinegar. I had to do that myself. Lemon juice makes a lighter and sweeter flavored ricotta while vinegar will leave it a little vinegary tasting, but a combination mostly tastes of lemon. I also prefer apple cider vinegar because it is milder and sweeter tasting.

Line your collander with the cloth so it doesn’t slip down at the edges and place it over a large pot, bucket, or into the sink for drainage. Once your ricotta has successfully curdled, ladle or gently pour the curds and whey into the lined collander to drain. You can save the whey if you like. My mother drinks it warm with almond syrup. Keep in mind that ricotta does not create a live culture so there are no beneficial bacteria in ricotta whey. It’s just tastey, that’s all.

Ricotta should drain for 10-20 minutes until the liquid escaping has slowed to a drip. You can do this in a collander, or, you can get creative and set up a hanging station like I did in the photo above. In this case, I knotted the tea towel around my rolling pin and set it across a pail to drain. 

  Your finished ricotta will be white, and sold but still crumbly. Mine was still warm when it was done draining, and I tossed about a cup of it straight into my salad.
Summer Fig Salad


  • Three large handfulls of baby spinach
  • Ten ripe mission figs, quartered
  • 1 cup ricotta, chèvre, or other soft cheese
  • Balsamic glaze to taste

Toss all together and enjoy! We had ours with broiled salmon and brown rice.


Kitchen Witch Lughnasadh 

Lughnasadh is not a pagan sabbath that I have ever felt much connection to, but this summer I set myself some goals about bringing more magic into my daily life, so I decided to find my own way to honor the holiday. I honor this the same way I honor just about any holiday: with food and booze. 


I wanted to create a combination that encompasses the flavors, colors, and memories of late summer in Northern California. For me that means the rolling golden hills dry from summer heat and drought. It means heady perfumes of Alyssum and Lavender growing through clay soil baked hard in the sun, and dust in the air whose earthy scent always reminds me of something like old books and vanilla.


Today’s first recipe is an adaptation of Marisa McClellan’s Pear-Lavender Jam recipe on Hers is my absolute favorite canning resource for her creativity of flavors, small batch recipes, and accessibility. She has also published recipe books which I highly recommend. I’ve modified it to capture my own sense of late summer and the start of harvest season that Lughnasadh is meant to celebrate.

Lughnasadh Jam


3 1/2 lbs peeled, cored, and chopped tart green apples

3 1/2 cups white sugar

1 vanilla bean

3 tsp dried lavender flowers

Juice and zest from 1 lemon


Prepare 3 pint jars or 6 half pint jars and a boiling water canner. Place lids in a small pot and bring to a very low simmer.

Combine chopped apples, sugar, lemon zest and juice, and vanilla in a large pot. Stir to coat the apples evenly with sugar. This will start bringing liquid out of the apples in a process called maceration

Put your lavender into a tea ball or Muslim sachet for infusing so you can remove them later. If you don’t have these options, you can grind up the flowers then add them loose, but you won’t be able to remove them.

Put pot on stove and heat on high. Bring jam to a boil, stirring regularly. Make sure not to caramelize the bottom. Continue to cook over high heat until apples become fully translucent and the jam thickens. It should have a even glossy appearance once the pectin in the apples is activated.

When jam is done (about 20 minutes) turn off heat and quickly pour jam into prepared jars for canning.

Wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings and process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes for shelf stable jars or refrigerate immediately and consume within the month. 

This jam tastes amazing with a punchy cheese like Asiago or Stilton to balance the floral sweetness.

The second recipe of the holiday calls more to my German heritage and memories of summer days in my great grandmother’s big green garden. I have faint but fond memories of sitting in the shade picking currants and gooseberries into a big yellow glass bowl and climbing a short ladder into the branches of the cherry tree. The tiny red cherries were so sour than I couldn’t eat them fresh, but my mother and grandmother did, spitting pits over the fence into the neighbor’s flower beds. We pitted cherries on the balcony and my hands and face would get covered in little red spatters of juice, fingers stained pink for the rest of the day. All the fruit would get coated in sugar and set to marinate in its own natural syrup to be served over whipped quark, a soft sweet cheese like something between creme fraiche and ricotta. 

Kirsch Soda

4oz cherry juice

2oz amaretto

6oz soda water

Garnish with Morello cherries and serve over generous amounts of ice for a wonderfully refreshing drink on a hot day. I think this has got to be my new favorite and I went out and bought more cherry juice as soon as I figured this one out so I will have no shortage during our current heat wave.

The FDA Isn’t Trying To Ban Artisanal Soap.


I’ve seen this and similar articles floating around facebook for a day or two and really need to say something. They make wild claims about corrupt senators, “Big Soap”, and something about forcing us to use “toxin” laden bath products. First off, the FDA is not trying to shut down artisinal soap makers. The FDA is probably in the pockets of anyone with a big enough checkbook(just like we’ve seen in every other department of government), but the senators who co-authored this bill aren’t and have no affiliation with the FDA. They are trying to regulate small bath product producers, but they are also trying to regulate the entire industry in a more consistent and contemporary way.

I read the actual bill and it looks to be a good thing for those of us producing bath and beauty product for sale. Sen. Diane Feinstein D-CA was a cowriter and the text of the bill can be found HERE. Feinstein is a strong proponent of cottage industry and spoke strongly in favor of California’s Cottage Foods Act a few years ago. What she is trying to do is legitimize an industry that already exists in our homes and to give us regulations that will discourage others from barring us from doing what we do. Some of those regulations are simple things like registering your facility every three years so that they can be inspected should a complaint arise. The new law will also allow us to use the FDA’s national product recall registry should we need to, as well as ensuring that we pay the proper taxes to fund said program.

Fat and the Moon is just one small producer who won’t be adversely affected by this law despite selling her products internationally. Click photo for more about Fat and the Moon.

And honestly, I say “we”, but it probably doesn’t even apply to most of us since the gross revenue over 3 years must exceed $500k for a registration to be mandated. That means an individual soap-maker could be making a six figure income off only their home business and would still fall outside these regulations. I can’t think of a relevant one-person business that turns that kind of cash, can you? This bill will mainly affect small business owners who have 2-3 full time employees. These are folks who supply national chains like Whole Foods and Nob Hill Foods with their artisinal bath products, rather than those with a farmer’s market booth or an Etsy page.
The same bill also calls for stricter regulations for big corporations and better labeling practices. This bill seeks to update regulations that are 75 years out of date. For example it sets forth animal testing alternatives, specifically allows for the review of certain previously exempted chemicals, and requires health and safety warnings for adverse affects in not just the general user, but also for specific populations such as children, pregnant women, etc.

I make salves and pomades myself. Check them out!

Personally, I want to see this bill to pass. I hope, now that you’ve got a better understanding of what the bill really says, that you want it to pass too.

Have You Met My Boyfriends?

No, that’s not a typo up there. I really do mean boyfriends. And today is our second anniversary.

From the left: Michael, Freya(that’s me!), and Steven

Our relationship isn’t conventional, but it’s not totally out of the ordinary either. We live together, we shop for groceries together, we take each other to doctors appointments and we go on vacation together. We have interests we share and hobbies we don’t. I cookout  meals, Steven sews like a madman, and Michael is the handiest of men. We arent that different from other relationships. And we are polyamorous.

I try to keep this blog to posts that all people of differing mores and ideologies can enjoy, but I was inspired by my friend Cat, when she wrote about sharing controversial posts

Though that was from a little while back, I was reminded that I’ve been meaning to do this when we were out at Fisherman’s Warf this weekend to celebrate. Michael and I both kissed Steven on the cheek when we went of in search of drinks and left him talking to a shopkeeper. Neither of us hesitated- it was completely natural- but I was reminded that people sometimes don’t think it’s normal by the look of surprise and confusion on the mans face as we walked away. We are fortunate that this is San Francisco and the man needed barely an explanation from Steven before he shrugged it off. We’re blessed to live in a place where we don’t usually risk violence by kissing the people we love in public, and where the looks of bemused acceptance so vastly outnumber confusion and disgust that I usually can’t remember the last negative reaction we’ve gotten.

The anniversary of meeting one of my two sweethearts was the perfect opportunity to come out to you, my readers. This is who I am. This is who I love. And I intend to keep them around as long as they will have me.