I took a big step on my Real Food journey today: I made cream cheese and whey from raw milk! The process of making cream cheese and whey is called culturing or fermenting the milk. Basically you let the milk sit out at room temperature until it naturally separates.
But isn't that dangerous, you might be asking? Well, according to Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Traditions,
Without pasteurization or refrigeration, milk sours and separates spontaneously. This is due to the process of lacto-fermentation during which lactic-acid-producing bacteria begin digesting or breaking down both milk sugar (lactose) and milk protein (casein). When these friendly bacteria have produced enough lactic acid to inactivate all putrefying bacteria, the milk is effectively preserved from spoilage for several days or weeks..."
In fact, she writes that people all over the world used to consume soured milk for the health benefits. She writes:
Research has shown that regular consumption of cultured dairy products lowers cholesterol and protects against bone loss. In addition, cultured dairy products provide beneficial bacteria and lactic acid to the digestive tract. These friendly creatures and their by-products keep pathogens at bay, gaurd against infectious illness and aid in the fullest possible digestion of all food we consume.
A few days ago my in-laws found a jug of raw milk in their walk-in cooler that was a little older than the rest. They gave me their blessing to make cream cheese and whey with it. I put the jar in the cabinet above my fridge (past experience led me to believe it needs to be at least 65 or 70 degrees to culture). This morning (2 days later) I took the jar down and this is what I saw:
I put a flour sack cloth in a bowl and dumped the soured milk into it:
Then I gathered up the cloth and secured it with a rubber band. I needed a place to hang it. Our kitchen cabinets don't have knobs, and our sinks seemed too shallow, so I fastened it to the snow blower in the garage:
Then I let the liquid drip out for about 2 hours. This is the liquid (whey) that came out:
I think I could have let it drip longer, but I was ready to be done with it. Here's the "drip-dried" cloth with the cream cheese inside:
Ahhh, fresh cream cheese!
I ended up with about 5 cups of liquid whey, which I'll use to soak my grains.
I didn't measure, but I'd guess I ended up with about 2 1/2 cups of cheese:
I kept one contained and gave the other one to my in-laws. They were very reluctant to eat it. I whipped it with a fork to give it a more pleasing texture.
It tastes like.... sour cream. Tangy and smooth. Yum!
Then I realized the bagels I'd made last week were molding, so now I have to make some more to go with my fresh cream cheese. Sigh... A woman's work is never done (especially if she's trying to feed her family Real Food made from scratch!)
*I should mention that you can only make cream cheese and whey from yogurt, whole-milk buttermilk, piima milk, or raw milk. You cannot do this with pasteurized milk.
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