Supporting People and Pollinator
I hate throwing out food, for the money, for the sense that so many resources have gone into that food, for the idea that I’ve lost control of what we buy balanced with what we’re eating. Lately milk seems to be going off, just mildly, before we finish it– it just gets that little bit sour and unpleasant and not drinkable on its own or with porridge or cereal, as my children consume it most if at all.
In the past I’ve “cultured” excess milk with a smaller proportion of live buttermilk, a cultured product available in some shops, a soured, living-culture milk that is useful in baking because its pleasant acidity, in conjunction with baking powder, causes a gaseous reaction that leads to nice leavening, or rising, as for pancakes and certain cakes, etc. To do this, you simply mix a bit of the cultured buttermilk with a larger proportion of your milk, leave it at room temperature for a while, and in some hours you begin to have a thicker, silkier “buttermilk.” You can do the same with cream for a soured cream– very nice to eat and cook with, as well.
This week we’ve twice had milk going off, and I’ve tried several experiments, all successful.
The first time, we realised the problem when I poured some of the milk into our visiting friend’s coffee, and it curdled. On the spot there I decided to curdle the whole lot, so I heated it all up in a pan on the stove, strained the curds in a sieve, and divided the liquid whey into two jars. (Had it not curdled this way, I would have added just a squeeze of lemon juice or a teeny bit of vinegar.) The curd I let sit, and it became like the most basic of “curd” cheeses / farmer’s cheese– a little bit chewy, very dry and plain in flavour. Of the wheys, one went straight into a sour-dough starter, later to become pizza dough and flat breads. I used the curds cheese mixed with other melting cheeses on the pizza, which I privately labeled Sour Milk Curds and Whey — not such an appealing name but a very appealing, nutritious supper made with foods that might have been thrown away.
In the other bottle of whey I mixed two spoons of creme fraiche, and it transformed nicely into a kind of thin buttermilk, similar to what I’ve described above. (Sometimes what is called buttermilk is the liquid that remains from the cream that’s been shaken into butter– lots of terminology that I am not worrying about too much.) A week later it still feels fresh. I put some into a pineapple smoothie (over-ripe pineapples I got for free) which I then pureed and froze into a nice icey snack for after-school– kind of like a sherbet or milky sorbet.
I want to note that neither the curd cheese nor the “milks” from the whey had the ikky off taste or smell of the original milk. I don’t know how past-best milk would have to be before this kind of activity were no longer possible.
And then, this morning: I was pouring milk for the porridge, and again, unexpectedly, it smelled sour. Really not sure why, as totally within the sell-by dates, but I was determined to try something else. So, as before, I heated the milk, and separated the curds in a sieve. The liquid is sitting in the fridge, awaiting inspiration- perhaps to ferment something, To Be Announced. The curds this time are especially creamy: I mixed them with, you guessed it, creme fraiche, because I tend to have it, as a living and delicious dairy product for puddings and soups. The spread, pictured above, has a creamy, fresh Ricotta feel, delicious honestly like fresh buffalo’s milk mozzarella I once tasted in Rome, and tastes lovely smoothed on bread. I think it would be wonderful in a tart, sweet or savory, in a crepe, in a blintz, anywhere you might use a soft cheese.
I’ll never be throwing out sour milk again, always instead seeking ways to transform it. And I’m looking forward to having kefir grains in my life again, to see what might be possible. Stay tuned.