Posts Tagged milk

Changing my life 

If I’m honest, it was the one-pot-does-everything idea that attracted me to my new toy, the Instant Pot, because I liked the idea of getting rid of a bunch of single-task stuff and still being able to simmer oatmeal, slow-cook beets and fast-cook chickpeas for hummus.
But after just two weeks as a member of the IP cult, I realize that the yogurt it makes has the potential to change my life. This a smooth, creamy yogurt, which I make with full-fat, organic milk and strain just long enough for a medium firm consistency. (It works both for me and for the “I don’t like Greek yogurt” spouse.) I add it to my morning oatmeal, for a spoonful of tang, and then eat it by the bowlful with a generous dollop of jam. He mixes his with hemp seeds and maple syrup and takes it into work. The only problem is making it fast enough and often enough that we don’t run out.

The recipe, if you can call it such, is beyond simple. Heat milk in the pot until it gets to 180F (or a bit more), cool it back down to 115F (or a bit less) – experts suggest placing the inner pot in a sink of cold water and whisking the hot milk to cool it down. Add starter (basically a tablespoon of the previous batch), and then leave the pot of milk on the yogurt setting overnight to let the bacteria do their stuff. Come morning I strain the yogurt for an hour or so for a set that’s half way between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt. You need almost nothing: strainer, cheesecloth, thermometer and a container to store the yogurt when it’s done.

No muss, no fuss, true perfection.

The bonus: the leftover whey is perfect for bread and for that amazing Ottolenghi chocolate babka. I even added some to a pasta casserole instead of milk.

My life will never be the same again.

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Like buttermilk, only better

There are those who rave about kefir because it contains the good bugs that our anti-bacteria society seems to want to purify out of existence. I just prefer the tart-sour kefir taste to the blandness of milk. But I rarely bought it, and never dreamed of making it myself. Then someone swapped me a jar of jam for a handful of kefir grains, and my life turned upside down, just like the discovery of steel cut oats revolutionized my winter breakfasts. There’s no machine, no thermometers and nothing to worry about, and kefir tastes great in oatmeal, cold oats or granola. Why didn’t I discover this decades ago? kefir2The secret for me is to make enough kefir for a day or  two, and just let the grains rest, covered with water, in the fridge when I’m not in kefir making mood. When I’m ready to ferment, I rinse the grains (which look like mini silicon brains), put them in a clean Mason jar and top up with as much milk as I think I’ll need the next day. I close the jar loosely (the ring/lid combo is my alternative to covering with a cloth) and let it sit on the countertop until it’s sour enough to use. In summer that can take as little as 6-8 hours, although the recipes all say 24 hours at least. Don’t close your jar tightly — the milk bubbles as it ferments, and a cracked jar (or an explosion?) could create a nasty mess in the kitchen.

kefir1 When it smells sour enough, I tighten the seal on the jar and shake it up to mix the whey back in with the solids, and then sieve it. The grains are little squeaky things so you sieve the mix gently – don’t try to force the grains through the mesh. Save the kefir, rinse the grains, cover them with water and put them back in the fridge until you want to start the game all over again. I’ve kept the grains in water for as long as a week so far, although I understand you can freeze them for longer storage. I’m planning that for the next few weeks; I’ll update this entry once I figure out if it works.


The beauty of all this? Kefir grains grow as they sour the milk, so you almost always have some to give away. If my grains don’t work from the freezer, I can always find a way to get grains back.

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Say cheese

Canning buddy over at Alliums to Zinnias is always several notches ahead of me in terms of Doing Stuff, so when she suggested we punctuate my visit to her part of the world with an attempt at making cheese I wondered if a new era in my culinary life was suddenly opening up.

I made kefir for a while a couple of years back, but never quite managed to keep up with the ever-growing kefir culture and ended up pouring more kefir away than I put on my morning cereal. But cheese is different.  This had to be worth a try.

It turns out that making cheeses involves all sorts of specialized equipment, which canning buddy acquired after a cheese making class in Missouri over the summer. There were containers with holes so the cheese could drain, mini colander/strainer thingies with more holes as well as strong, fine-mesh cheesecloth (well duh) and little packs of fairy dust (rennet and other cultures) to make the milk go sour. It was actually quite fun.

We started by gently heating our gallons of milk (special low-temperature pasturized milk) and then adding the fairy dust until it curdled on us, looking pretty gruesome in the process (this was the heat-the-whey picture, of which more below).

Then we slopped it into cheesecloth, and hung it up to drain, knotting our bulging bags of will-be cheese to sturdy kitchen spoons.

Instructions suggested adding salt or herbs at this stage, before stashing it away in one of the containers-with-holes for more draining and firming up.

Ok, it doesn’t look perfect, but it disappeared pretty damn quick on home made no-knead bread.

The whey from the first batch, heated gently until it curdled, and then strained, turned into super creamy ricotta, while canning buddy was converting our second gallon of milk to feta cheese as I left for the airport. She reports that it shrank significantly in the multi-day salting process, but refused to come out of the container in a single chunk. More practice is clearly needed.

Now I need to figure out if it’s even possible to buy low-temperature pasturized milk here in Toronto, let alone order all the special pots and fairy dust. Any ideas?

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