|Clockwise from front left: Cilantro, Taco, and Garlic Basil|
"Only a small portion," is my constant theme.
So eventually, when I sense we're using too much, I try to make up a big batch. This is really an easy process, so it ought not to be a big deal. I warm the milk to about 190°F in the crockpot. I let the milk cool to blood warm. I remove a cup or so of milk from the pot and stir about 3/4 c of yogurt into the milk. When it's stirred until smooth, I return it to the crock pot and cover the whole business with a couple of thick towels or a folded quilt for about 8 hours or until I get to it. Voila'! Yogurt! Easy-peasey.
Unless I forget about it during one or another stage. And it begins to sour. Which is really a bummer, since sour milk has a different kind of sour taste than does yogurt. And my crockpot holds over five quarts.
This time I forgot about it after the warm to 190°F part. I left it cooling on the counter. But I missed the part about blood warm and left it there for a couple of days. Sigh.
But I didn't want to throw all that milk out. Dairy products can generally be used one way or another unless they have obvious mold or strangely colored bacteria colonies floating on them.
Often I simply freeze less palatable milk in smaller containers and then thaw later to use in baking. But since we had that Wal-mart milk souring issue last month, I have many, many containers of sour milk in the freezer.
So, ... what to do with the milk. It was not terribly soured. I think because of having heated it up, it slowed the souring process or something. But because of the frequency of the aforementioned sour milk episodes, my kids are especially sensitive (read: picky) when it comes to sourish milk.
I put on my thinking cap.
How about that homemade cheese I used to make when we had raw milk?
What was that recipe? Oh, well, who really needs a recipe anyway?
I once more brought the milk to about 190°F.
(An easy way to gauge this is to heat until little bubbles form around the edges, but it's not yet boiling. When I use the crockpot, it's such a large volume, that I usually give it a good stir and then wait to see if the bubbles reappear quickly. The crock pot doesn't always heat very evenly, and sometimes it's nearing the correct temp at the edges and still cool in the middle.)
And actually, I ended up simmering the milk for awhile, since I once again forgot about it. It was covered with a thick golden brown skin by the time I remembered it. That's what gives my cheeses their golden glow, rather than being a clean creamy white.
I turned off the crockpot and stirred in a cup or two of white vinegar. I don't really know how much since I didn't measure it. It was a little over an inch in the bottom of the big jug. I slooshed in the first little bit and stirred the milk mixture. It didn't feel like it was coagulating as quickly as I wanted, so I poured in the rest of the vinegar. I put the lid back on the crockpot and went to bed.
That was a couple of days ago. Finally this morning I strained off the whey. I was unsure what kind of a final product I'd find after all that forgetting.
It was good! Really good. Probably one of my best batches of homemade cheese ever.
But it was quite a large amount. So again, ... what to do with it.
"You have all these fresh herbs sitting around here, Mary," thought I. "Why don't you do something with them."
I ended up with about 2 quarts of curds.
- About 3 cups with a handful of minced cilantro.
- About 3 cups with taco seasoning mix and salt. This was supposed to be a smaller amount, but I put in too much salt, and so had to add another cup or the curds.
- That left me with about 2 cups into which I stirred minced garlic and basil.