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Emily Paster, co-founder of Chicago Food Swap and author of the new book Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving

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Food Swap: Specialty Recipes for Bartering, Sharing & Giving – Including the World’s Best Salted Caramel Sauce

The next Chicago Food Swap will take place on July 17that the Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston. The event is open to anyone interested in swapping their homemade goods. For advance registration and to find out more, visit  Bookends & Beginnings is located at 1712 Sherman Ave. in Evanston, IL.


Creamy Ricotta
Makes 3 8 ounce jars

2 quarts whole milk
2 cups cream, preferably not ultra-pasteurized*
1 1⁄4 cups buttermilk
Squeeze of lemon juice

Combine the milk, cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice in a large saucepan, and heat over medium heat. Avoid stirring. When the mixture has just started to boil and has reached approximately 200F (95C), turn the heat down to its lowest setting and continue to simmer until you see visible curds, about 2 minutes. Remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to allow the curds to develop. Line a fine-mesh sieve with two layers of cheesecloth and place over a large bowl. Gently ladle (do not pour) the curds into the sieve, allowing the whey to drain. Fold the cheesecloth over the top of the ricotta and continue to drain the whey until the ricotta has reached your desired consistency, between 15 and 30 minutes. The longer it drains, the drier it will be. Ladle the ricotta into four clean, 8-ounce jars and refrigerate until ready to use.
Note: You will have quite a large quantity, 2 quarts or so, of whey left over. Whey is very nutritious and can be used in place of water in making soup, baking bread, or soaking beans or nuts or as a protein boost in smoothies. If you do not plan to use the whey, rather than discard it, bring it to the swap and see if someone there would like it.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Makes 1 Pint

16 ounces raw hazelnuts
1 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar
1⁄3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of espresso powder (optional)
1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
3 Tablespoons nut or vegetable oil

Toast the hazelnuts in a 375F (190C) oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until fragrant and the skins rub off easily. Remove as much of the skins as possible by shaking the nuts in a large, covered bowl or by rubbing them with a clean tea towel. Add the hazelnuts to your food processor or high-speed blender and process until they become creamy. (This could take several minutes. The hazelnuts will start off powdery and eventually begin to break down and release their oils, forming a creamy paste.) Add the powdered sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and espresso powder, if using. Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the insides into the blender or food processor, or use vanilla bean paste. Gradually add the oil with the motor running, scraping down the sides as necessary, and process until the mixture is a smooth spread. The finished product should be glossy and creamy. Transfer the spread to a clean pint jar and refrigerate until needed.

Vanilla Extract
Makes 4 4-ounce bottles

8 vanilla beans (look for Madagascar vanilla beans for the best flavor)
16 ounces light rum, such as white or silver

Cut the vanilla beans in half, then split the halves down the middle lengthwise. Place the vanilla beans in a clean, dry pint jar. Cover the beans with rum, filling the jar to the top and making sure the beans are completely submerged. Cover the jar and store it in a dark place for at least 4 weeks. (Label the jars with the date you made the extract.)