I’ve downed glasses of my local Dungeness Valley Creamery Jersey milk for 15 years. It’s a wild love affair that’s grown into a committed relationship. When I lived closer to Sequim, I’d drive out to the farm weekly, visit the Jersey cows in the field, watch milking time, and take bottles of fresh milk home. I’ve grown accustomed to the rich, sweet, floral taste, the thick layer of cream that settles on the top; and can’t drink ‘regular’ milk anymore. It tastes cooked, flat and frankly it doesn’t agree with my stomach. I’ve become a real Jersey connoisseur. I offered a glass to a friend who’d never tasted true Jersey, which by the way boasts the highest milk fat content of any cow, a whopping 4.60%. The look of joy she gave me! She went on about how delicious, and why oh why, had she been deprived all her life? She now buys it regularly, especially when I finished showing her all the magic she can make with a gallon.
Cheese/yogurt/kefir from one gallon milk
The price of local Jersey is higher than other milks, but a real deal if you do your own home culturing. I buy a gallon every week, checking for the best pull date. This milk does ‘go’ more quickly, because it’s alive, not sterile or dead, so it must be used within a week or cultured. A gallon costs me around $9 rounding up, but from that gallon I make a quart of yogurt, a quart of kefir, and fresh cheeses like fromage blanc, or paneer. I use all of the whey from the cheesemaking to drink, or in baking, it makes divine crepes. I also save back a pint or two of milk for drinking fresh. If I were to purchase the cheese $9, yogurt $4, kefir $5 I’d have $18 worth of dairy for my $9 investment, and with minimal kitchen work on my part.
Fast/slow Fromage blanc
I spend around 30 minutes of hands-on time a week culturing milk. The kefir takes 10 minutes of active time. The yogurt’s easy, but I do have to wait for it to heat up to temperature, and then cool back down again. Fromage Blanc is ridiculously fast-- two minutes to start, plus the overnight culturing time, and then another 2 minutes to set it straining. I use my kefir mainly for baking, or in anything requiring buttermilk. The variety of yogurt I like to make is skyr, which is an Icelandic strain. Our Food Coop sells small containers of Siggi’s skyr that I use as my starter. I also strain the yogurt down into a thick Greek style,, and labneh, yogurt cheese. I make fromage blanc from culture packets that I order from New England CheeseMaking Supply Company. They're inexpensive, convenient, and keep in the freezer. I usually order enough to last the year.
Gift, so gift it forward
There are many folks in Jefferson County who make kefir and will give you kefir grains for the asking. By tradition they are not suppose to be sold, but gifted because they were originally a gift from Allah. They are however, available online, and at our Food Coop for sale. I usually have extra to share. The nice part about sharing is that when you’re in need, those you have gifted to will have some ready to give back.
It's easy you can do it...
This all sounds great, but how do I learn to culture yogurt, kefir and cheese? Just remember it all very easy to do! I learned to make yogurt and kefir from the instructions inNourishing Traditions available at our local libraries. New England CheeseMaking Supply Companyhas a great cheese making book written by the owner, and free cheese ebooks. Oh and remember, once you learn to culture milk, teach it to your kids, friends and neighbors. Pass the knowledge on until we all become cultured
EASy Paneer Cheese
Fresh Indian Cheese makes about 2 cups of cheese cubes Ingredients ½ gallon local Jersey milk ( yes, it works with any whole milk) ¼ cup lemon juice or vinegar ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt Equipment 4-quart saucepan, slotted spoon, strainer or colander, mixing bowl, cheesecloth, nut bag, dinner plate, weights--like a 32-ounce can Instructions Heat the milk Pour the milk into the saucepan over medium heat. Bring the milk to a simmer — just below the boil at around 200F. Stir the milk occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the milk doesn't scald. When 200F, the milk will look foamy. Add the lemon juice Remove the milk from heat and stir in the lemon juice. The milk should begin to curdle immediately, but it's ok if it doesn't. Let the milk stand for 10 minutes Cover the milk and let stand for 10 minutes to give the acid time to completely separate the curds and whey. At the end of 10 minutes, the curds should be completely separated and the liquid will look yellow and watery. If the milk hasn't separated, try adding another tablespoon of acid. Strain the curds Set a strainer or colander over a mixing bowl and line it with cheesecloth, a nut bag, or other straining cloth. Carefully scoop or pour the curds into the strainer, letting the whey collect in the bowl beneath. Squeeze the curds Gather the cheesecloth in your hand and gently squeeze to remove the excess whey. Salt the curds Open the cheesecloth and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the curds. Stir gently and taste. Add more salt if desired. Press the curds Transfer the curds (still in the cheesecloth) to a large dinner plate. Shape them into a rough square and then fold the cheesecloth tightly around the curds to form a neat rectangular package. Set a second plate on top of the package and weigh it down. Press for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. Use or refrigerate the paneer Once pressed, your paneer is finished and ready to use. You can use it immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerated paneer will be firmer and less likely to crumble than fresh paneer. Save the whey to drink or use. With Love Enjoy!