Sharon January 8th, 2009
Ok, folks, today we’re going to cover the storage and preservation of dairy foods and faux-dairy foods. That is, how to keep your milk and what to do with it.
Let’s start with types of milk storage:
1. Dry milk. This comes in several forms (nonfat, full fat, low heat process) - the low heat, full fat tastes the most like regular milk (note that I did not say “just like regular milk). The non-fat powdered lasts the longest - more than decade if stored in the right cool, dark, dry conditions. Works fine for most milk uses, except perhaps drinking straight, although if you gradually mix it with regular milk, upping the proportion of powdered, you can cut costs and get children, at least, accustomed to it. I keep some of this stuff, but I don’t love it since it all comes from industrial dairy - there are organic versions, but they are pricey and industrial organic.
2. Evaporated milk - milk reduced. Can be used in baking, for coffee, or diluted to make something sorta drinkable if you add a lot of other flavors. Keeps a long time in cans, expensive. Not something I bother storing.
3. Condensed milk - sweet. Ok for making key lime pie and pudding, not really milk.
4. Powdered faux-milks - rice, soy… I don’t use these, so I’m not real famliar with them. Readers here have reported that they are ok. Probably better than nothing if you will be relying on them.
5. Cheese. This is the traditional method of storing milk - turn it into cheese and keep it in a cool place. Yogurt, kefir, and butter are other traditional methods.
6. In an animal. In this method, you grow grass or save it as hay, and add some supplemental grains or roots, and the animal produces a daily supply of milk which doesn’t need to last too long. Extras become cheese, butter, kefir and yogurt.
7. In the form of soybeans or rice to be made into soymilk or rice milk. I have a soymilk maker, which we use mostly for making tofu. It does require electricity,
We have chosen a combination of #1 (we do store some powdered milk and use it in baking, and to thicken yogurt), #5 and #6. Our two little tiny goats give an enormous amount of milk for their body weights - at this point, on the low end of their lactation curve, a little less than a quart of milk a day. It takes about 10 days for the two of them to eat a small square bale of hay (they get hay from November to April), and they get a few ounce of grain and sunflower seeds each day. A quart a day keeps us in yogurt and milk for drinking and baking, but not in cheese or enough, say, for dairy based soups. So eventually we’d like to move primarily to on the hoof and cheese based dairy.
But while I think more people could have tiny goats than do (mine weigh about 55 lbs and are the size of a comparable dog, quieter than dogs, can be picked up by a healthy adult and carried where you want them to go and don’t require a ton of space, although they like it - perfect critters for a suburban yard), and it certainly would be possible eventually for neighborhoods to, say, go cooperatively in on a small cow that would rotate around the neighborhood lawns, most of us aren’t there. But whether you are using powdered milk or real milk, you can make quite good yogurt, cheese, kefir etc…
Yogurt is incredibly simple. You do need a starter - you can order funky starter cultures online from the resources at the end, but really the easiest way is to go to the store and buy a brand of plain yogurt that has live cultures on it. A couple of spoonfuls of that will seed your next culture.
If you are using powdered milk, mix up a batch, if you are using fresh, just pour it in a pot. Heat 1 quart of milk up until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Stir in 1/4 cup of powdered milk (yes, over and above what you’ve already used) if desired - this will make the yogurt thicker and more nutrious.
Take the yogurt off the heat, and let it cool until you can just put your finger in for 10 seconds. Stir in 2 tbsp of yogurt with live cultures. Pour into either a thermos or a jar and put in a warm, draft free spot. Leave for 6 hours, and check - it should be thick and yogurty. All set!
Yogurt will keep for a few weeks at around 50 degrees, or less time in warmer weather. But it keeps longer than milk.
What about non-dairy folks? Must they suffer life without yogurt? Nope, here’s a recipe for making soy yogurt out of soymilk - I’m told it is good for things like tandoori chicken (which I might try since the regular type isn’t kosher): http://www.soya.be/how-to-make-soy-yogurt.php I’m told, but have not tried, that canned coconut milk can be turned into yogurt as well, by following precisely the same directions, and adding a small amount of dairy yogurt (or you could order powdered cultures). This obviously would be a less efficient way of preserving coconut milk than keeping it canned, but might provide a tasty (I’m told it is pleasantly sweet and great with fruit) yogurt substitute for non-dairy households. Let me know if you try it.
Kefir is a cultured milk product that, like yogurt, slows down the decay of milk, but doesn’t stop it. But it is tasty in its own right, and extremely good for you. Among other things, it has very small curds, so babies can eat kefir, and the bacteria in it can help you with digestive difficulties, even more than yogurt. To make kefir, you need to order or barter some kefir grains - there are sources down below, or you can find someone with some and get some from them. Once you have it, it stays alive as yogurt does, with a little from that last batch.
One advantage of kefir is that those who are lactose intolerant can drink kefir and eat kefir cheese in many cases (not all, and people to build up a tolerance) because the critters in the kefir eat almost all of the milk sugars (lactose) in the milk. So if you haven’t been able to eat milk or yogurt, you might be able to enjoy kefir.
Here are instructions for kefir making - kefir can also be made on coconut milk and some soy milks - lotsa info here: http://users.sa.chariot.net.au/~dna/kefir-faq.html
Making butter: Butter keeps nigh on forever frozen, for several months at fridge temperatures, and for a month packed into one of those butter keepers. I won’t go into the details of how to make your own, since Crunchy Chicken has already done that. http://www.thecrunchychicken.com/2008/01/holy-cow-i-made-my-own-butter.html. If you are going to do it regularly (and note, you can’t do this with non-fat powdered milk), you’ll want some kind of butter churn, available at www.lehmans.com.
If you need to keep butter in hot weather, or for a very long time without refrigeration, the best strategy is to turn it into ghee, or clarified butter. This is not quite the same in taste or texture (it is somewhere between a liquid and a solid at room temperature), but it adds a buttery flavor and will last many months at room temperature. Instructions are here: http://www.ayurbalance.com/explore_howtosghee.htm. For those with abundant milk when the weather is warm, ghee is a way of having year round homeproduced fats.
Ok, on to cheesemaking. This is not an area I’ve explored nearly as much as I’d like to - we’ve only made farmer’s cheese/chevre with our goat’s milk so far, and I’ve tried Barbara Kingsolver’s Mozzarella Recipe (which I won’t reprint here for reasons of fair use, but it is in _Animal Vegetable Miracle_). So I’ll take you as far as I’ve gone, and then offer some resources.
1. Yogurt Cheese/Labneh - this is not a true cheese, but it is damned good stuff, and a much better choice for your bagel taste-wise than cream cheese. All you do is take your yogurt and put it in some cheesecloth, and suspend it over a bowl. Leave it overnight, and what’s left is yogurt cheese. You can mix in herbs, put it in a jar and cover with a bit of olive oil, and it will last for a month or more in the fridge or at cool temps. The liquid is good in fruit smoothies, or stirred into oatmeal.
2. Farmer’s Cheese/Chevre - with slight variations, these are the same - the latter is made with goat’s milk, the former with cows …usually. Take 1 gallon of milk, 1 tsp salt and the juice of 1 large lemon (or 4 tablespoons of bottled). Put milk and salt in a heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium heat until it boils, stirring regularly to prevent burning. When bubbles form at the edges, turn off the heat, and stir in the lemon juice. The milk will begin to curdle - the when the process is complete (maybe 10 minutes)
You can also stir in pepper, garlic, jalapenos, whatever before you add the lemon juice. Experimentation is good.
Line a fine colander with cheesecloth and pour the milk through it. When it is through draining, pick up the cheese curds and squeeze to get rid of remaining liquid. What’s in the cheesecloth is the cheese, the remainder is whey. If you have a copy of Sally Fallon’s _Nourishing Traditions_ she has many, many suggestions for fun things to do with whey, or you can give it to the chickens or whatever. Pack into a container and store in a cool place for a month. This is *great* crumbled over a salad of greens and fresh tomatoes, or over winter greens, sliced apple and dried cranberries. Yum!
More cheesemaking info:http://www.leeners.com/cheeserecipes.html
Cultures, rennet, info: http://thecheesemaker.com/
Coming up next…kitchen equipment you need…and don’t.