Biology in Practice: How to Stretch a Gallon of Milk

LEFT: Yogurt is comprised of Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacilli such as bulgaricus, acidophilus, casei, and rhamnosis.

In the spirit of Tod Kelly’s Cheap-ass Gourmet series, and to add to the plethora of food posts we’ve had here this weekend…

It’s amazing what a gallon of milk can be turned into. Below the fold I have included detailed instructions on how to turn one gallon of milk (usually ranging in price from $2.50 to $6.00) into a quart of tzatziki, a quart of Greek yogurt parfait, a glob of labneh, a block of faux-neufchatel, a medium-sized cheesecake, a small lasagna’s worth of ricotta cheese, a hearty soup, and two weeks worth of skin care.

Enjoy, oh wise Stewards of Nature.

 

PROTOCOL I: MAKING YOGURT

Supplies: a gallon of milk; a thick pot; a second pot; a four-cup measuring pitcher; a (meat) thermometer; one cup of plain yogurt; five one-quart (hermetically-sealable) mason jars; a fork (for mixing); a cooler

A good sterile technique is crucial for converting milk into clean, fresh-tasting yogurt. If you do this scientifically, this yogurt should taste better than any yogurt you’ve ever had. All temperature values are in Fahrenheit.

1. Sterilize mason jars: boil/steam mason jars and lids for ten minutes in a large pot(s) with the lid on. Do not remove the lid of this pot until you’re ready to incubate (step 9).

2. Pour a gallon of milk into a thick pot. (You don’t have to use a thick pot, but if you use a thin pot, you’ll have to stir frequently to avoid burning the milk.)

3. Heat milk on low-medium to about 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure not to burn the milk. Properly done, this should take you at least thirty minutes.

4. Let milk cool to about 125 degrees Fahrenheit in a cold-water bath.

5. Measure out one cup of 125-degree milk.

6. Mix into a uniform slurry with one cup of yogurt in the measuring cup.

7. Slowly add this mixture to the rest of the milk still in the thick pot. Stir vigorously.

8. Make a 125-degree hot water bath in a cooler that is large enough to hold five one-quart mason jars.

9. Fill five one-quart mason jars up to their necks with milk-yogurt mix. Seal mason jars and place them in the cooler’s hot water bath so that they are still (i.e. make sure the water level does not rise above the necks of the mason jars).

10. Close lid of cooler and incubate for three to seven hours or overnight.

11. Refrigerate for twenty-four hours. If you completed all the previous steps correctly, you should now have a bit less than five quarts of yogurt.

 

PROTOCOLS II THROUGH IX: WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THAT YOGURT

II. Use one quart to make tzatziki:

Supplies: coffee filter, strainer, big bowl, yogurt, mason jar, extra virgin olive oil, fresh dill weed, cucumber, garlic

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl.

2. Pour yogurt from mason jar onto coffee filter; let sit in refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to now empty mason jar.

3. Mix EVOO, fresh, pulverized dill weed, diced or julienned cucumber (make sure to scrape any juices off your cutting board and into the mixture), and minced garlic with strained yogurt to taste.

4. Refrigerate. You have just made one quart of tzatziki, an excellent salad dressing or garnish for sandwiches.

 

III. Use a second quart to make Greek yogurt parfait:

Supplies: coffee filter, strainer, big bowl, yogurt, mason jar, pomegranate, small bowl, honey, Grape-Nuts

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl.

2. Pour yogurt from mason jar onto coffee filter; let sit in refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to the same empty mason jar as in (II).

3. Cut one large pomegranate in half; remove all the seeds and place them in a bowl.

4. Mix pomegranate seeds and two or three heaping spoonfuls of raw, unfiltered honey (I find clover goes best with pomegranate) with strained yogurt to taste. Layer in mason jar s’il vous préférez.

5. You now have one quart of Greek yogurt parfait. Serve with Grape-Nuts sprinkled on top.

 

IV. Use a third quart to make labneh:

Supplies: coffee filter, strainer, big bowl, yogurt, mason jar, mixing bowl, salt, cheesecloth, pot, small bowl for serving, extra virgin olive oil, olives, pistachios, grape tomatoes, fresh mint, bread, white vinegar, red wine, black pepper, rosemary

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl (noticing a pattern?).

2. Pour yogurt from mason jar onto coffee filter; let sit in refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to the same empty mason jar as in (II).

3. Scrape filtered yogurt into mixing bowl; add one teaspoon of salt; mix thoroughly.

4. Spoon mixture into a fresh cheesecloth (or any clean cloth really) spread out over a pot; tie cheesecloth and suspend over the pot to collect the whey; let sit in refrigerator for 24 hours. Intermittently squeeze off lingering whey. Because it has been salted, make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to a different empty mason jar from (II).

5. After twenty-four hours have passed, remove cheese from cloth and shape into a uniform ball with clean hands. Place in bowl, create well in the middle of the cheese (as with mashed potatoes) and smother with EVOO. Top with diced black and/or kalamata olives, halved grape tomatoes, and crushed pistachios; garnish amply with chopped fresh mint. Place this bowl on larger plate.

6. Cut pita bread, ciabatta, and/or baguette into one-centimeter-thick (or less) chip-sized pieces (about sixty or eighty pieces altogether is a nice amount).

7. Pan-fry bread in two parts olive oil; splash with one part white vinegar, one more part olive oil, and one part red wine. (Shiraz or grenache works well here.) Continue to fry until firm and golden brown but not burned. Make sure to flip bread. Garnish with black pepper and/or rosemary (this works well if you chop up a stock and a half or so, fry half the rosemary in olive oil before putting bread on the frypan and then sprinkle the other half of chopped rosemary on top of the bread when you’re almost finished frying).

8. Arrange chips on large plate around bowl. As an appetizer, this dish serves eight to ten people.

 

V. Use a fourth quart to make faux-neufchatel:

Supplies: coffee filter, strainer, big bowl, yogurt, mason jar, mixing bowl, salt, cheesecloth, pot, “Tupperware”, chives

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl.

2. Pour yogurt from mason jar onto coffee filter; let sit in refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to the same empty mason jar as in (II).

3. Scrape filtered yogurt into mixing bowl; add one teaspoon of salt and chopped chives; mix thoroughly.

4. Spoon mixture into a fresh cheesecloth (or any clean cloth really) spread out over a pot; tie cheesecloth and suspend over the pot to collect the whey; let sit in refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours. Intermittently squeeze off lingering whey. Because it has been salted (and chived), make sure to save this whey along with the salted whey from (IV).

5. After twenty-four hours have passed, remove cheese from cloth and pack into Tupperware or fake Tupperware (I prefer fake Tupperware for real neufchatel and real Tupperware for fake neufchatel.) Put this on your bagel; avoid early cardiovascular death.

 

VI. Use a fifth quart to make cheesecake:

Supplies: coffee filter, strainer, big bowl, yogurt, mason jar, mixing bowl, salt, cheesecloth, two eggs, fresh cream, flour, butter

So far we’ve eyeballed everything we’ve made from our initial gallon of milk, but for baking we want precise amounts:

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl.

2. Pour yogurt from mason jar onto coffee filter; let sit in refrigerator for 1 – 2 hours. Make sure to save and return whey (filtrate) to the same empty mason jar as in (II).

3. Scrape filtered yogurt into mixing bowl; add one teaspoon of salt; mix thoroughly.

4. Spoon mixture into a fresh cheesecloth (or any clean cloth really) spread out over a pot; tie cheesecloth and suspend over the pot to collect the whey; let sit in refrigerator for 24 – 48 hours. Intermittently squeeze off lingering whey. Because it has been salted, make sure to save this whey along with the salted whey from (IV).

5. After twenty-four hours have passed, remove cheese from cloth, and measure out 200 grams in a mixing bowl. Add the rest to labneh (IV) or faux-neufchatel (V).

6. Add 80 grams sucrose (or alternatively 120 grams honey or maple syrup); two eggs, one cup of fresh cream, 30 grams flour, and 45 grams unsalted butter.

7. Spoon into delicious graham cracker crust.

8. Bake at 340 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes. 9. Top with favorite seasonal chutney or compote (future post). Let cool in refrigerator. Enjoy.

 

VII. Use the salted whey from IV, V, and VI as soup stock:

I won’t go into too much detail here, but, I find that salted whey goes well as a stock for French onion soup, especially considering what happens in Protocol VIII:

 

VIII. Heat the unsalted whey from II, III, IV, V, and VI to make ricotta cheese:

Hopefully you’ve been collecting the unsalted whey that has filtered off and you now have about a quart of it. It should be relatively clear and yellowish in color. Tasting it should make you want to polish your broadsword and shout “Valhalla I am coming!”.

1. Place a coffee filter over a strainer in a big bowl.

2. Put this whey in a thick pot and heat slowly to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit. A delicate precipitate should form. If it does not, try adding some delicate acid (white balsamic vinegar or citric acid – i.e. lemon juice – are relatively good sources for this). Try and keep the becheesed liquid just below boiling point for no longer than a few minutes.

3. Pour contents of pot over filter.

4. Let sit in refrigerator for two to three hours. You won’t get the best ever yield out of this, but you should wind up with enough ricotta cheese for a small lasagna or a few cannoli.

 

IX. Use the unsalted whey that remains after making ricotta cheese for skin care:

If you’re someone who is inclined towards caring for your skin, whey has been used successfully in this capacity for thousands of years.

1. Soak some paper towel strips in whey; place on face or on other area of dry skin.

2. Leave on twenty minutes; remove.

3. Wash face thoroughly.

4. If you do this everyday before bed, you should have enough whey to last ten days or so.

 

So there you have it. One gallon of milk: $4.00. A quart of tzatziki; a quart of Greek yogurt parfait; labneh for eight; a healthier, more-delicious cream cheese substitute substitute; a cheesecake; soup stock for one hearty bowl; ricotta cheese for a small lasagna or a few cannoli; ten days or so worth of skin care; a smaller carbon footprint; major reduction in risk factors for early cardiovascular death with very little trade off in terms of food satisfaction; the satisfaction that comes with rejecting lazy consumerism, choosing self-sufficiency, and successfully working through a challenging procedure: priceless.

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20 thoughts on “Biology in Practice: How to Stretch a Gallon of Milk

  1. For a thicker tzatziki, I grate the cucumber into a colander, stir in salt, then squeeze the liquid out after an hour or so. I also add lemon juice, which I guess thins it back out some.
  2. The whey is a great liquid to use in bread; use it in place of water or milk. I’m a big fan of powdered buttermilk for baking, and frequently use whey for the liquid in muffins and pancakes with some powdered buttermilk.

    And I’ve seen several recipes for salt-preserved pickles that call for a bit of whey.

    Nice, Christopher, Thank you.

    (Currently working on a sourdough bread, though without whey, didn’t have any on hand.)

    And frozen yogurt, if you’ve an ice-cream maker. I like it with just about 1/2 cup of maple syrup and some toasted pecans mixed in at the end. But a bit of vanilla and some fresh fruit or frozen is also nice. Without the ice cream maker, you can simply put it in a zip lock bag and freeze, take it out and kneed it after about 10 minutes and then every 5 or so until it’s set up, usually about 1/2 hour or so.

      • I’ve never tried the bag method, my mom told me about it. A Google search shows several recipes using a large (gallon bag) with ice/salt, and a smaller (pint sized bag) with the ice cream, shaken for five minutes.

        I’m not an appliance fan, but the ice cream freezer, with inserts that go in the regular freezer, are nice to have around; particularly in summer when the wild berries are plentiful and begging to be turned into sorbet.

        Younger son insists a shot of brandy/rum helps prevent large ice crystals forming and improves flavor.

      • Really, I was intrigued by your protocol #1. It’s a lot like mead-making.
        I’m strictly of the no-boil type. Boil the water, dump the honey in, and it comes out to somewhere in the neighborhood of 180. A good 10 to 20 minutes sterilizes it without the deterioration that comes with boiling.

        The difference is the pitching temp.
        I use a red wine yeast for mead (results from feedback in taste-testing). That type of yeast will work well in the 80 – 85 range, but I tend to go lower due my experiences with ales.
        With ales, you have to cool below 80 to aerate or you get oxidation. That comes from the reaction with the hop oils from what I gather, but I still cool below 80 to aerate a mead.

        125 is likely way too high for the strains of yeast that I work with. I have some sours that I cultured from bottles of Orval and Flag Porter that have other strains that tolerate higher temps. But I would still be leery of anything over 90.

        My understanding here is that 125 ensures the survival of the appropriate bugs for yogurt.

      • Mead is actually next on my list! I’m planning on having a 12th Night party this year (seriously). Do you have a recipe or a good website to check out?

        You’re right that 185 is more than enough to kill everything. Boiling is overkill. After that dropping to 125 degrees assures that S. thermophilus and its cohorts the Lactobacilli will be okay when they’re mixed in. This combined with the hermetic seal pre-incubation means that there will not be any colonization by unwanted bugs, and our yogurt will be clean. And therefore ridiculously delicious.

        The human taste bud is a complex and nuanced machine, one that I would like to study more and more.

      • Most mead recipes deal with spices or varietal honeys more than anything.
        Varietal honeys are nice, and these days I’d rather add the spices into a finished product than have a whole batch like that.

        First, you have to figure out how strong to make it. I started with 3lbs./1 gal., but that was too strong. I couldn’t stay awake long enough to enjoy it. I went down to 2.5lbs./1 gal.
        Somewhere after 3.5lbs./1 gal but before 4 lbs./1 gal., you’ll reach a point where the yeast dies off from the alcohol rather than continuing to ferment.
        I step my mead up to keep the gravity low. Anything over 1.060 will smush the yeast, inhibiting growth; and 1.070 is definitely way too high.
        I start it with from 5 to 7 lbs./3 gal., and let that sit for 6 weeks. I take the total honey weight, divide by two, and add them for a total of 1 gal. additional volume six weeks apart. Total 18 weeks.
        Mead doesn’t benefit from aging due to the lack of tannins.

        Other than that, what you need to know:
        3 lbs. of honey = 1 quart. Figure your total volume with this.
        Honey is deficient in magnesium, which the yeast need for healthy reproduction. About 3 grains of epsom salt is plenty. I always use filtered water, because that’s one of my hangups. Adding a gallon of unfiltered water should do just as well.
        Boiling the water reduces temporary hardness, but you’ll still need some acidification. Lemon juice is the way to go. Get some litmus paper, and make sure your stuff is sitting around 4.8 to 5.4.
        A paint stirrer on an electric drill for 2 minutes works great for aeration.

        Other than that, find a good yeast you like, and stick with it.
        I took a look, and I’ve used the White Labs wlp718 Avize and the wlp735 French White. At least, that’s what I can find. I was pretty sure that I had a red wine yeast in there.

        Those are the basics.

      • Sorry, but I realize that was unclear.
        It’s an initial and two additions.
        Each addition adds 1 gal. volume, so I end up with 5 gal. with about 12.5 lbs. of honey.
      • One other word about yeast metabolism and temperature:
        For every +10F, the yeast metabolism doubles.
        For every -10F, the yeast metabolism decreases by half.

        Moderate temps will produce esters, which can be fine, as long as they’re not overpowering (esters are really the big difference between a lager & an ale, btw).
        At higher temps, phenols become more pronounced. Some phenols give a spicy flavor, while others give a harsh flavor.
        A higher temps than that, fusels form. Fusels area bad in any amount.

        Which is to say, that the best fermentation temps are at the low end of the ester spectrum, in most cases.

        And if you want your mead stronger than the yeast will take, try cold distilling.
        Just freeze the stuff in a bowl and pull out the large chunks of ice.

      • I’m planning on having a 12th Night party

        Is that where the men have to dress up as women pretending to be men?

  3. Or you can get lucky. Just found the most delicious wild mushrooms I’ve ever had, short of morels. Its a field mushroom (agaricus elvensis) found in Europe that looks enough like ordinary field mushrooms (agaricus campestris) that I took a chance and picked them.
    Extensive research ended up with: Edible choice.
    Lightly sautéed in butter, it smells like theatre popcorn. Tastes like heaven.
  4. This was a fun post, and I liked it a lot. But I do have a quick question or two on lactose intolerance:

    The whey fraction of milk contains nearly all of the lactose found in whole milk. Whey is one of those avoid-at-all-costs food ingredients for the lactose intolerant. Sadly, it’s used in a whole lot of packaged food products.

    However, yogurt bacilli will very efficiently eat all of the lactose in a sample of milk, so it’s not clear to me whether the “whey” extracted here will still be bad. Is it? Does anyone know?

    When I make homemade paneer, I start with Lactaid milk, whose lactose has already been digested by the application of lactase enzyme. Paneer doesn’t use a bacterial culture, just milk, vinegar, and cheesecloth, so you can’t expect all the lactose to be removed any other way. (Or can you?)

    Blue cheese cultures excel at digesting lactose; others are usually poor, and non-blue cheese usually retains considerable lactose unless it has aged for several months. And sometimes even then it can be a problem.

    • I’m wondering if Beano will break down lactose.
      It breaks down heavier dextrins, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t.
  5. Dude! Great stuff, and I’ll have to try some of these. Only recently has the wife gotten into tzatziki et al (Chinese are notoriously lactose intolerant and dairy averse). Your post reminded me of my own comment on the much-traveled Jason Op Ed. Back in the days when I was dirt poor, I too made my own yoghurt and could really stretch it out. If you’re really desperate (and poor) you could start with milk that’s already going sour (since it will end up as yoghurt anyway). I made friends with the assistant mgr at a nearby store and he’d give me gallons that were past their expiration date for free. Nowadays there is probably a law against that.

    Speaking of laws, Costco makes a mean broiled chicken. Part of the reason it is so good is because they rotate the entire stock every two hours. They used to just throw away the unsold chickens. I went to the manager and said, “Why don’t you donate all those rotisserie chickens to the food banks?” He said, “Can’t, health regulations would kill us, we’ve already looked into it”. I said it was a crime to throw all that away, and we noodled on it for awhile and decided that they could use that chicken in Caesar salads and fettuccine. Even though he was a mgr, it worked better by their system for me (a customer) to put it in their suggestion box as in “Gee it sure would be nice if you guys put that great rotisserie chicken into Caesar salads and other stuff so I don’t have to”.

  6. I never made fresh yogurt before but I might try it now. Thanks to this detailed instruction and the delicious recipes that we may try after, hopefully, successfully making our own yogurt. This is one healthy way to satisfy your cravings.

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