Monday, January 16, 2012

Dark Days Week 7: Raw milk

This week I ventured into new territory, for me at least. I was able to score 4 litres of raw, local milk, which was far more exciting to me than dairy should be ;) Only problem, neither B nor I really drink milk. B is lactose-intolerant, as I've mentioned before, and while I have milk/cream in my morning coffee, that's about it. So, what the hack could I do with a gallon of extremely fresh and extremely perishable milk!?

Why, make cheese, of course!

I kept some milk aside for my coffee, but the rest I split between two recipes: Quick Homemade Cheese (pictured above) from Little House in the Suburbs and a simple yogurt cheese.

The first was quite easy, simply heat, add vinegar, leave it to do it's thing and then drain. To the cheese I added some salt, pepper, garlic and chives, though a word of advice on the garlic: avoid using raw garlic (as I did), as it is extremely powerful and will give you Death Breath. ;) For this application, I would suggest either cooking the garlic a bit first to mellow the flavour, or perhaps use a pinch of garlic powder instead. We enjoyed it as an accompaniment to a rotisserie chicken and some vege-pate, as well as the occasional chunk along with some fresh, warm bread.

The yogurt cheese was a bit more involved. You can, of course, skip the yogurt-making step and just buy good quality plain yogurt and let it drain in the fridge overnight to get the same end result. I had some yogurt starter that needed to be used, so I mixed it up with the milk and put together a homemade yogurt maker consisting of a metal bowl, a hot pad and some towels. It's not pretty:

but it worked surprisingly well. You can sort of see the probe for my digital thermometer sticking out of the top... I used this to alert me whenever the temp got too high so I could adjust the setup. Yogurt needs to be kept steady within a specific temperature range for the cultures to do their thing, so this is something you'll need to do when you're around to babysit it (assuming you don't have a yogurt machine)... though once you find the right balance of heat and insulation, it will hold itself steady without much fussing. A few hours later I had a large jar full of tangy yogurt goodness, which I then poured into a clean towel in a colander to drain and left in the fridge overnight. The end result is a texture similar to cream cheese and a taste like concentrated yogurt, as you would expect, since that's basically what you've got!

You can flavour it and use as a spread or soft cheese at this point, though personally I find it a bit too tangy, so I prefer to use it as an ingredient in other dishes. For this batch, I used it in a pumpkin ravioli recipe that called for smooth ricotta cheese, and it worked well.

It was an enlightening experience and I'm glad I tried it, though since I try to avoid dairy for B's sake, I'll probably stick to the store-bought stuff when necessary. The fresh stuff was nice, though honestly I didn't see a huge difference... and I made the mistake of looking up info on raw milk on the internet before making my cheese, and was amazed at how vehement people are about it, both pro and con. Heck, I half expected to keel over dead on the spot the first time I put it in my coffee! A little information can be a dangerous thing...

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