We are milking two cows this year, and right now we’re getting about 20 liters (5 gallons) a day. Poppy, our older cow, gives about 12 liters a day, and Bluebell, the younger one on her first lactation, is giving about 8 liters. Bluebell gives A2A2 milk, so we primarily use her milk for drinking, kefir and cooking, since Gayle does all right with that kind of milk. Poppy’s milk is A1A2, so that’s what we give to friends who need it, and turn the excess into cheese. In the summer, I used a lot of it to fertilize the garden or as a spray to try to ward off powdery mildew (I still don’t know if it works). I was thankful for friends who needed a lot of milk for the last few months, but now their cow is giving them plenty of milk, so I have a lot to deal with again! Yesterday morning I decided to make a lot of cheese, to clean the fridge out for the weekend. This is what I started with:
The big pot, 20 liters (5 gallons), was mostly cold milk from the fridge. I turned that into a block of hard cheese. The pot to the left is about a gallon (5 liters), which I made into feta. The pot to the right is six liters (a gallon and a half) which I turned into mozzarella.
I started with the hard cheese, since that takes about four hours of on again/off again work to get it into the press. This is what I end up with a day later; it’s a type of Colby. Because I use raw milk, and don’t have a climate-controlled area in which to produce and store it, it varies quite a lot in texture and flavor, but is always delicious. I keep the cheeses in the kitchen on a mat for a week or two, flipping them frequently until they develop a rind. Lately, with the chilly, damp fall weather we’ve been having, I have had a problem with mold growing on the outsides, so I’ve been rubbing salt into them to help the rind grow without mold; when mold does grow, we rub them with vinegar to slow that growth down. Usually, the cheeses develop a nice hard rind within two weeks, and then I move them to an old fridge where they keep, without any wrapping, till we use them. Some that we have out there right now are four months old, with quite a sharp flavor.
These are the cheeses I made over the past couple of weeks. The oldest is the back one on the left; the front right one is only a couple of days old.
After the curds are out of the whey, I bring the whey to a boil to extract the rest of the protein. During the growing season, we just take the whey out to the garden and feed it to the tomatoes, but there isn’t anything out there right now that needs it. We can’t eat very much ricotta, since most of it is made from Poppy’s milk and Gayle can’t have it, so we feed it to the chickens. It’s a good source of protein for them! I bring the whey to a boil, stir in a little vinegar, then drain it through a cloth and hang it up overnight to finish dripping.
When I was about halfway through making the hard cheese, I started the mozzarella. A few years ago, I came across a recipe that gets around using citric acid. Instead, use a mesophilic starter to acidify the milk. The proportions given were 1 quart of starter to 3 quarts of fresh milk (I doubled that this time), and I’ve found that works very well with the Caspian Sea yogurt I use for starter for everything I make. Kefir would likely work just as well. The recipe says (and I actually followed it this time!) to mix the starter with the milk, heat it to about 90ºF, hold for half an hour, then stir in half a teaspoon liquid rennet diluted with water. When it coagulates, cut the curd, then stir gently while heating slowly to about 100-105ºF. Strain through a cloth, let hang to drain for about 20 minutes (I think I went about an hour or an hour and a half this time). Reserve a quart or two of whey for a brine. Heat some water in a pot to about 150ºF, slice the curd into roughly 1/2-3/4 inch slices and cut into chunks about 2-3 inches square. Put a chunk of curd into the hot water till it’s soft, then stretch and form into a ball. If it is just the right acidity, it will stretch beautifully and form a smooth, shiny ball. If it’s not acidic enough, or too much, it won’t work. This time happened to be perfect–I’ve had a lot of failures, though! Drop each ball into cold water, or if you want a block of mozzarella, use larger chunks and drop them into a container to melt together and form a brick of cheese. If making balls, when finished, cover them with a brine made of a quart of the reserved whey and a teaspoon of salt. These balls rarely last more than a day or two around here; the children love them!
The smallest lot of milk turned into feta. This is the easiest cheese to make! I take milk still warm from the cow, put it into a pot, and stir in maybe 1/4-1/2 cup of starter. The Caspian Sea yogurt works great; kefir would, too. Stir in 4-5 drops of liquid rennet diluted in water (for 4-5 quarts/liters of milk). Cover and let sit on the counter top all day. In the evening, ladle out into molds (or a cloth-lined colander). I have several ricotta/feta molds, and they are wonderful for that. Let drain overnight. In the morning, unmold and sprinkle all over with salt. Turn once or twice through the day and sprinkle with more salt. Eat any time. As you see here, someone had a sample an hour or two after I took them out of the molds this morning. I rarely bother to refrigerate this cheese, since it stays nice on a plate on the table for 3-4 days and is gone by then anyway.
So, there is my day yesterday, in cheese. I also made butter, but forgot to get any pictures of it before it was finished and in the freezer. In one picture, you can see the cream warming up. I got it out of the fridge the night before and mixed some started (the Caspian Sea yogurt again) into each jar. Halfway through the afternoon I made the butter. I have discovered that my Bosch mixer, with the whisks, works great to make butter. Depending on the temperature of the cream and the cows’ diet, it takes anywhere from five minutes to half an hour to make a batch of butter. I can put about 3 quarts of cream in my 6-quart mixer at a time. From about 9 quarts of cream, I got around 4-5 pounds of butter. Because the cream has been cultured before churning, the butter can stay at room temperature for a couple of weeks without going rancid, as long as I work all the buttermilk out of it and salt it properly.
We are thankful to be able to have our cows! It does get to feeling like a lot of work sometimes, but I’m grateful to be able to feed my family such good food.