I want to give you a bit of background information on our sustainability library before getting to the good stuff which is about canning cheese. Our local store is a wonderful place. The downstairs part is the store proper. In a tiny space they manage to fit in a fabulous herb and spice section, a food preservation section with everything from canning and cheese making supplies to books and specialty items, a really good book selection, a local artisan area, the best deli in the world and even a rack for seeds. This is in addition to local produce and groceries. The upstairs has an apartment on one side and our library on the other. There is a bathroom, a kitchen, the Creamery office and the library, a beautiful space with hand made tables and book cases, comfortable chairs, a table with all of the co-op ordering info, a basket of yarn and knitting supplies that anybody can access, a seed exchage rack, high speed internet service and books on everything from green building to alternative medicine to gardening to nature to peak oil to politicsto home schooling to preparedness. There is also an amazing selection of magazines. A local person just donated a commercial quality magazine stand so the magazines can finally get organized. I was up there yesterday and found a huge pile, several year’s worth, of Backwoods Home. I have seen copies from time to time but this was the first time I sat down with a dozen issues and really looked at them. This is a very good read. I will warn you that it has a heavy Libertarian slant but the articles are among the best I have come across in terms of useful information. 

The best part of the magazine, for me anyway, was the “Ask Jackie” section. This lady is a canning expert. She cans everything I can plus a lot of stuff it would have not occurred to me to try. I bought some canned cheddar cheese from an on-line preparedness site just so I could review it. It was good but really expensive and out of the question for a lot of us trying to store food on a budget. I use powdered cheddar a lot and it’s not bad, but I love the idea of getting cheese on sale and canning it. Killene, over at Preparedness Pro uses  cheese wax and keeps hard cheeses for a long time that way but canning will allow you to keep softer cheeses too. The directions were clear and easy.

Cut cheese into one inch cubes and drop into wide mouth canning jars. Put the jars in a roasting pan that is half filled with boiling water. As the cheese melts, stir it down and add more cheese until the jar is filled, leaving 1/2 inch of head space. Seal and process in a water bath canner for 40 minutes. To use the cheese, heat the jar in hot water just barely melting the outside layer. Use a table knife to gently help slide the cheese on to a plate like you do with a Jello mold. Let the cheese set in a cold place, then slice or grate to use. She says the cheese may get a bit stronger tasting with age so it might be better to start with a mild variety.

Unfortunately, Jackie did not say which cheeses she recommended canning nor did she specifically say that any did not work but as the process is so simple, I am going to give this a try. I will do cheddar first then move on to some softer cheeses. I would love to come up with a healthy and inexpensive alternative to a Cheeze Whiz type of product. When I want to do that I will often write down the ingredients in the product I want to reproduce, omitting the ones that came from a chemistry lab and fiddle around until I like the results. I have had good luck with cream soups although I have not had luck with canning those. The soup always separates and curdles. Now I just store the ingredients and make it fresh every time. As I have so many mushrooms I want to give you my recipe for cream of mushrooms soup. I make a simple roux with 2 Tbsp of melted butter and 2 Tbsp of flour (use white flour for this). Stir in a cup of whole milk and a bullion cube, Heat but do not boil then add a pint jar of pressure canned mushrooms. I usually chop the mushrooms pretty fine first as I don’t care for big chunks in my soup. I love this soup although Bruce likes his with more mushrooms. If you are using fresh mushrooms, saute them first in a bit of butter or, if you want to be decadent, saute in bacon.

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