My milk delivery is on Tuesdays, so it looks like Wednesdays are becoming Cheese Day. I like to let the gallon jar sit in the fridge overnight so the cream will separate out, but the gallon jar takes up too much room. So Wednesday mornings I skim off the cream (this week I mixed last week’s leftover cream with the leftover Créme Fraiche I made a couple of weeks ago and set it downstairs on my seed-starting heat mat to ferment), and wash and refill my glass refrigerator pitcher. The pitcher holds about a half gallon and is more than enough milk for me for the week.
This was really easy. I sort of kludged together a couple of recipes — Michael Chiarello’s recipe, and the one from the Home Cheese Making book that came with my cheesemaking kit. I had a scant 3 quarts of milk once I’d skimmed off the cream and refilled my refrigerator pitcher (actually, I used last week’s milk for the cheese and refilled my pitcher with new milk). Michael Chiarello’s recpie calls for 1 quart buttermilk to 1 gallon milk. I had 3 quarts milk and 1 pint buttermilk — so I looked at Home CheeseMaking where the recipe called for 1 gallon milk and 1 teaspoon citric acid. I split the difference and added 1/2 teaspoon citric acid dissolved in a little water along with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
Then into a big pot, onto the stove with my handy candy thermometer attached, and we’re off to the races. You just heat the milk slowly to between 175 and 180 degrees at which point the curds separate from the whey — the curds started separating out earlier, so I had to keep stirring to prevent scorching (I might need a heavier pot than my old revere-ware one). When it reached temperature, I set it aside for 10 minutes (one of the recipes I found when I Googled “home made ricotta” suggested this. Another one suggested leaving it for a couple of hours or all day if you were off to work.). After 10 minutes I ladeled the contents of the pot out into a colander lined with cheesecloth, then hung it on the faucet to drain. I also wound up with two quarts of whey. Look at this whey — how could I throw it out?I figure if nothing else I can add it to the dog’s food — although when I Googled “what do do with whey?” I did find some suggestions for using it when cooking beans or pasta, or even in place of the water when making bread. So I put it in the fridge because it just looked too useful to thow out.
Maybe it’s because I get the milk from an actual person, or because as I’ve grown more of my own vegetables and have started getting more of my meat from local sources — whether domestic or wild — that food seems not more valuable in monetary terms, but more — sacred? My milk comes from a real person who milks the cows herself. My vegetables started as seeds in my basement. My meat (well, as much of it as I can muster) either came from a local rancher or from someone I know who hunted, killed, gutted and hauled it back to the truck. None of it seems like mere commodities. None of it seems particularly disposable. Maybe one reason we waste so much food as a culture is that we don’t know our food — it doesn’t come from any identifiable source but from the anonymity of the grocery store.
Or maybe I’m just a little nuts … always a possiblity, particularly when I’m making cheese in my PJs on a Wednesday morning ….