Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some dairy ideas

© 2010 Joshua Stark

Smarter people than I know why buttermilk (and yogurt!) make better biscuits, cornbread, and cakes.  Smarter people have shown me how to easily make them.

My Dad would occasionally set out some buttermilk with regular milk out to "clabber" (sometimes he wouldn't even put the buttermilk in it for a real taste treat!), but I didn't know it was just making more buttermilk.  Now, I do.

For a great website on making everything from buttermilk to good, hard cheeses, check out Dr. Fankhauser's cheese page.  It is as informative as you can get, yet it is still very accessible.  He starts with buttermilk, goes to yogurt, and then on to cheeses. 

I don't use the good Dr's. yogurt recipe, though.  My sister pointed me to Crockpot365's yogurt recipe in a crock pot.  It is very easy, if a little finicky.  The yogurt is a bit runny, but that's how yogurt is supposed to be; if you want it firmer, squeeze out the liquid.  If you are as cheap as I am, you can use that liquid for making pasta or rice. 

Right now, I've got a half-gallon of milk sitting next to the wall heater, hopefully clabbering, and I'll be whipping up a batch of yogurt in a couple of days. 

Making these things takes a little leap.  Of course we have a good reason to be nervous keeping milk out of the refrigerator, or heating it just a little and letting it sit.  But it is only by taking these little leaps, putting ourselves into slightly uncomfortable places with the hope of accomplishing something, that we learn.  We might fail, but we learn.  (see my myriad pages on trying to grow a garden with three ducks).

Cheese (and dairy products) is one of these places where we can feel a little uncomfortable, learn some hands-on chemistry and biology, and feel like we've accomplished something special when we are done.  It can be a very rewarding process, even when the end result is less than desirable.

I made queso blanco a couple of years ago, and though I didn't fail at the recipe, I learned that I do not like queso blanco, not one bit.  I also learned that many, many people on the internet think that queso blanco and queso fresco are the same thing, and I'm here to tell you that they are absolutely not the same thing.  Queso fresco is fresh tasting, wonderfully fresh tasting, creamy with little ridges where you cut it, while queso blanco is the dairy version of rubber. 

I will definitely try for queso fresco soon, as well as mozzarella (also not queso blanco!) and ricotta.  Perhaps next year sometime, I might even make a cheese press and see if I can get a nice feta or cheddar. 

Have any of you had fun with dairy lately? 


Hippo said...

I use yoghurt a lot in my cooking and just for eating, especially after one of those all too frequent African tummy upsets.

I make it using powdered milk. I prefer powdered milk because it will be sterilised and I use bottled mineral water for the same reason. I can also mix up a richer mixture for a real full fat yoghurt.

I thoroughly clean a large plastic bucket (it should be one with a close fitting lid) and then mix up a batch of powdered milk about 20% thicker than recommended if it were to be reconnstituted as drinking milk and then pour off a few pints and heat it up so that it is hot, not boiling. If it is just too hot for you to stick your finger in it, then the temperature is about right. Then I pour it back into the bucket with the rest of the mixture, give it a good stir and then add the starter (a tub of the last batch), give it a good stir and bang the lid on.

On the work surface in the kitchen, I lay out some towels, place the bucket in the middle and then wrap the bucket up in the towels as insulation.

We have a relatively high ambient temperatures here but no more than California in the summer and in winter, I guess your house must have its warm and cosy spots.

After a few hours, I cannot resist taking a peek and giving the mixture a stir but within about six or seven hours you will have a rich, creamy yoghurt with none of this messing around with thermometers etc.

It tastes really nice and is an essential ingredient for most curries, especially as a base for a spicy marinade.

Maybe I should do a video?

Josh said...

You really should do a video on this process. It sounds similar to the crock pot method I use, which I suppose it should, the idea being to get milk hot, but not too hot, and then add something that likes warm milk.

Many people have problems getting the consistency right, and I think your mix could give folks some confidence. I don't use powdered milk (too expensive compared to our whole milk options), and I do end up with a tad runny yogurt, but we are okay with that.

The buttermilk I had sitting next to the wall heater (and later, the oven), became very, very thick; I think I made sour cream. It's been great for making American buttermilk biscuits.

Hippo said...

I'll need to get my brother to send me a cheap digital video camera from Germany. My video camera still uses tape...

Have you got a recipe for flat (pancake thickness) bread that I can use for wrapping doner kebabs? The usual stuff is unleavened made with flour, water and salt but I fancy something made with all this yoghurt we will be producing.

Guess the economics of this place are twisted. Powdered milk is way cheaper. We cannot get fresh milk here, just UHT in packets but having tried it both ways, I get a better result with the powdered milk. I would love to have a pint of milk straight from the chiller on a dairy farm...

Josh said...

Hippo, I would guess you could just replace the water w/ the yogurt, or a yogurt/water mix, if it's too thick. I make Indian fry bread with 1/2 wheat flour, 1/2 oat flour, and a pinch or so of baking powder. Buttermilk or yogurt can be used for the liquid. The ratio is usually about 1:3 liquid to flour. Add cinnamon, et. al., for different flavors. Fry in oil.

It won't wrap too well, though.

For flapjacks, you can't go wrong with Bob's Red Mill oatmeal pancakes:

Substitute yogurt for the milk, and if need-be, add a little water and a little baking soda into the yogurt first.