Thursday, June 4, 2009

Dairy Adventures

After I wrote about my Dairy Magic class a few weeks ago, you surely knew that homemade cheese was sure to follow. I bought myself a copy of The Home Creamery and have started to experiment.

The first thing that caught my eye was chevre, a fresh cheese made from goat's milk which is actually something my entire family enjoys. I went off to New Seasons and grabbed a couple of quarts of goats milk not long ago, started heating everything up, reached the proper temperature, added the cider vinegar and....nothing happened. Nothing. I knew from making paneer and mozzarella that the curds and whey tend to separate pretty quickly so I figured something was wrong. When I dug the milk cartons out of the recycling bin I realized I'd missed one of the first details Chris mentioned to us: ultra pasteurized milk is no good for cheese. And sadly the Meyerberg goats milk so commonly available is, in fact, ultra pasteurized. I ended up tossing half gallon of warm, sour milk down the drain as I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to use it.

Earlier this week our homeschool co-op was scheduled to visit a small family farm outside of Camas, Washington. I figured we'd go and pet horses and chicks and whatnot but as it turned out, Conway Family Farm is a licensed dairy guessed it--fresh raw goats milk. Hooray! Despite their long list of customers, they had a couple of half gallon bottles to spare and I was in business!

I made the cheese yesterday morning and it really was super simple. You heat the milk (half a gallon in this case) to 175 degrees, hold it at that temperature for 10 minutes, add 1 cup of cider vinegar, watch for the curds to form, and then strain using a colander lined with a clean tea towel. You then wrap the curds in the towel and hang to drain for and additional few hours though I found mine was well drained after an hour and beginning to get quite firm.

This isn't the creamy, tangy chevre that we buy at the farmer's market. It's a firm cheese with a clean, pure dairy flavor. I was able to slice it and eat on hearty bread with a light sprinkle of coarse salt-heaven!

The goat cheese went so well I decided to give yogurt another go. My first experience a few weeks ago was using the crockpot which sounded too good to be true. My result was runny and stringy and not very tasty at all. This time I used the stovetop method outlined in The Home Creamery and it was a snap. Really--heat the milk, cool it down a bit, add some starter and stir. The big issue is keeping the milk somewhere warm for 9-12 hours while it sets up. I used a large picnic cooler and nestled my jar of yogurt among some large jars and bottles which I'd filled with hot water. Once I closed everything up in the cooler, the temperature stayed nice and warm, perfect for turning milk into yogurt. Ten hours later, I opened up the cooler to find a perfect quart of yogurt awaiting me--so exciting!

I'd wanted to make granola to eat with my homemade yogurt but didn't get to it right away so today's breakfast was a tumbler full of banana lassi. I put a cup of yogurt in the blender with a banana, some crushed cardamom seeds, and a dab of honey. So simple but so, so good. Of course ripe mangoes make a lovely lassi, too.

Now that I have the book, the thermometer, fresh rennet and starter cultures, I guarantee there will be more dairy adventures in the near future.


Lisa said...

I've never had much luck keeping yogurt warm in a cooler, but I found a heating pad wrapped around the jar of yogurt that I'm culturing to be consistent and effective.

Chris said...

Looks delish!!