Being the child of parents who grew up in the Second World War is a mixed blessing. “Waste not, want not” is a consequent mantra. This, together with the Scottish tendency to watch the pennies, often leads me to thinking what I can do with something that’s past its sell-by date, and is (unless you hadn’t noticed) a recurring theme in what I cook.
The festive season is not just hot in McGregor, but shopping is more of a challenge: the shops run out of things and, it seems, sometimes either the stock rotation doesn’t work, or cold chain is broken. Or both. We try to shop once a week – frequent trips into Robertson, our nearest town, are costly (time and petrol), so we buy enough of most things to last, including milk.
We are blessed that there is a local dairy that produces milk that reminds me of my childhood. It really is full cream: once in a jug, and in the fridge, a lovely layer of cream rises to the top. On the down side, what it does mean is that it probably goes off more quickly than other “full cream” and low fat milk. Last weekend, when we opened a second sachet of milk that was also evidently on the turn, I found that we had another two with the same sell by date. They, inevitably, would also be on the turn.
What could I do with nearly 3 litres of milk that was not good for tea, coffee nor cereal? I was not going to put that into the compost heap or down the drain, and there is a limit to how much one can use in cooking – quiches, koeksisters, etc.
Google to the rescue: I would make my own cream or cottage cheese. So, the other two litres of milk were added to the already liberated milk and allowed to stand for another 24 hours – until it had thickened and curds had developed. I lined a colander with a square of muslin and put this in a larger bowl with enough space beneath it to collect the whey. After tying up the muslin, I popped the lot into the fridge and after a day or so, or even less, the whey that had collected in the bottom to be poured off (this time, into the compost heap). I did this again the next day, and squeezed the muslin gently until it seemed that there was no more whey seeping from the curds. This was repeated – about four days – until there was a lovely firm lump of cheese left nestling in the muslin.
I confess that I was a little nervous about the result. So the first time I put some out for a meal, a friend was visiting, and I had a tub of commercial cottage cheese and put also some of that out. I didn’t let on as to which was which.
So, from about 2,5 litres of milk, I made about 500g of cottage cheese, and it is free of preservatives and any other additives, including salt.
So far, in addition to the meal I’ve already mentioned, we have had it, as part of a tapas platter, also for lunch, topped with chives and freshly ground black pepper. It goes beautifully with the pickled peppers or cocktail tomatoes and fresh basil.
And as part of a continental breakfast board. Green fig preserve, combined with this creamy cottage cheese is heavenly and, methinks, would make a wonderful, simple dessert with a few nuts and honey added!
It also turns out, that not only did I not waste the milk, the cottage cheese was cheaper than the commercial one. So, and instead of chucking out the milk, I got the equivalent of two standard tubs of cottage cheese. For less than the price of one!
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