Friday, September 9, 2016

8 Free Gallons of Expiring Milk- Cheese Making and Beyond

In my community we sometimes get deliveries of free past prime fruits and veggies, dry goods near or past their expiration date, and the occasional dairy product.
On Wednesday, among the deliveries were 1 liter cartons of milk, and initially they told everyone they can take 4 per family. But barely anyone took. Why? Because the expiration date was September 8, the day after. Why would people want milk that was about to expire? The milk was just sitting there, and the organizer made an announcement that people can take as much milk as they want. Still no one budged.
I went and took some more milk, and then when I saw the milk just sitting there, realizing it was going to go to the trash if people didn't take it, I took even more.
People saw me taking it, and said "Why are you taking it? What can you do with milk that is expiring tomorrow?" I explained to a friend that once you cook milk, you are extending its shelf life so it will last much longer than just one more day.
This friend asked me what I'm going to cook with the milk, so I told her my first plan is to make cottage cheese. "How do you do that?" she wanted to know. I explained to her simply how to make it- you heat the milk and add enough lemon juice or vinegar until it starts curdling, then strain it through a cheesecloth. Once strained you add salt and milk and you have cottage cheese. She was amazed.
Another person overheard me talking to her, said she heard me talking about making my own cheese, and asked how I did it... So I explained to her as well. Then two more people came over and said they heard something about cheese making, and this time I explained about making cottage, paneer, yogurt, and yogurt cheese. Every single person was fascinated- they had no idea that you could make your own cheese, let alone so simply!
Fortunately, my explanation about the cheese making encouraged some people to take milk that otherwise wouldn't have, but there still was a lot left over. I took as much as I could carry, but unfortunately, a lot did end up in the trash.

When I got home, only then did I count how many liters of milk I bought.
30 liters of milk!
That's 8 gallons, for you non metric folk.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here's how I dealt with my 30 free liters of milk.

6 liters went straight into the freezer, because that is the easiest way to extend the life of the milk. We go through milk a lot very frequently, despite my rarely ever making anything with milk, as I don't eat it. My kids and husband eat cereal and milk for breakfast nearly every day... though that is something I am trying to improve... So if I could have fit more milk into the freezer, I would have. But 6 was all that fit, as it was already filled with meat and fish that I bought cheaply.

Another few went into the fridge to use for cereal the next day or two, until it spoils (don't trust expiration dates- the milk is still fine today). We're just checking before each use to make sure it is still ok.

 That was the simple stuff. But the work?

I filled 2 large stock pots with milk- I think each got 3-4 liters of milk in them, and heated them up. I added some vinegar to them as they warmed, and mixed them frequently. The vinegar and the heat combined caused the milk to curdle into very discernible white clumps among the more yellowish whey. If I saw it wasn't separating all the way (pun intended), I added a bit more vinegar. I then strained it through a cheesecloth and collected the whey.
When I had most of the whey out, I tied the cheesecloth into a sack of sorts and hung it up, letting it drip out the rest of the way. (The longer you do this, the drier it will be.)

Meanwhile, while that was dripping, I heated up some more milk (another 4 liters or so) to a boil, then let it cool down enough so that it wouldn't kill probiotic cultures, then added about 2 heaping spoons of purchased yogurt containing live cultures. I then put that into my oven (off) and let it sit overnight. It became yogurt by the morning.

Back to the vinegar curdled milk. With half the cheese, I broke it up into smaller pieces and added milk and salt and got cottage cheese. According to my kids, it tasted identical to store bought cottage cheese but the texture was a drop different, as I broke up the curds a bit much. It essentially became small curd cottage cheese, not large curd.

The other cheesecloth I left whole, and now have a large hunk of cheese. This is called paneer cheese in Indian cooking, and can be used for a variety of recipes. I plan on making pizza with it- it melts just as easily as store bought cheese does. One mistake I made with it- I should have mixed the curds with salt after straining it but before letting it drip dry, because now it is completely unsalted and in order to mix the salt together with it, I'd have to break it up. Oh well, live and learn.

Once my yogurt was ready, I took half and strained it to make yogurt cheese (same exact way as making cream cheese, only using yogurt instead of the sour cream used for cream cheese). Only the problem was that the yogurt was much runnier than the curdled cheese and much of the yogurt started dripping through the little holes in the cheesecloth, not just the whey. Eventually I figured out that I had to triple layer the cheesecloth and then it worked, and I got a good yogurt cheese, which can work as a delicious spread on breads or as a dip for crudites, especially when mixed with za'atar seasoning blend.

All the whey that I strained out of my cheeses, I didn't want to toss. So I put some into my empty milk cartons in the fridge, and will be using it to make a whey drink (made some already and the kids and hubby all liked it). I did toss some of it, because there was just so much, but it is high in protein, and my husband likes whey protein powder, so I told him that if he's looking for protein, this is a good source. And the whey from the yogurt specifically is a probiotic protein to boot, so it is especially good.

I still had more milk, so made that into a homemade chocolate pudding with milk, corn starch, cocoa powder, and sweetener. (I didn't use eggs in mine, tend to save eggs in pudding for vanilla.)

I made mock eggnog with even more milk, only instead of putting egg in it, I put an overripe banana, plus nutmeg and sweetener. The kids all adored it.

If you can imagine, even with making most of that milk into cheese and other things, I still needed to find room in the fridge to store it, which meant needing to clean out the fridge. While cleaning it out,  I found the brown bananas that I bought on Sunday, intending to freeze, but I hadn't gotten around to it. However, there wasn't much room in the freezer after freezing all that milk. So I froze what I could, and the rest I made into a banana bread recipe that I made up on the spot (with coconut sugar, rice flour, xanthan gum, ground flax seeds, palm oil, salt, and baking powder) that came out amazingly.

I also discovered some gluten free rolls that I'd made and were starting to get a little stale, so I sliced them up, and made them into french toast with more of the milk, plus egg, cinnamon, and a bit of sweetener. (Here's a vegan gluten free french toast recipe for those of you, who, like myself, can't eat dairy or egg.)

Last but not least, supper last night for the family was colcannon, an Irish mashed potatoes, milk, and cabbage dish that everyone enjoyed!

Next up, risotto with some of the paneer cheese.

I don't think I've ever made such a large amount of dairy in a short amount of time, but it was free, and it otherwise would have gone in the trash, and it is protein, so there's that. The biggest issue now is fridge space, and making alternative meals for myself since I can't eat or even taste any of what I've made.

If you were given the option to take as much milk as you want, that expires tomorrow, how much would you take, and what would you do with it all?


  1. All of it, and do exactly that. 'Cept I only use organic and there's never an expired-date excess.

  2. You can freeze cottage really really well, too, of course.

  3. First, it is SO cool that you get deliveries like that!!! I'd take as many cartons as I could & have a big ol' Kitchen Day like you did!

  4. Funny how no one knew what to do with old milk. Where did they think all dairy originates from? It isn't a modern invention...
    I have made yogurt. It is the easiest thing and tastes great. I would like one day to make yogurt cheese or soft white cheese. Cottage cheese, i have been told, isn't the greatest when homemade so i never tried it. But after what you wrote, perhaps i will...

  5. The date on the milk is the SELL BY date, not the date when the milk will go bad. Good for you!

  6. I think what you did is wonderful. I would have taken as much as I could also and tried to preserve for use as you did. I did sonething similar with veggies being tossed out last year at an apartment building my friend lived at. It's a shame to waste. --JAV

  7. Your website is blowing my mind. Thank you so much for this information. Deeply grateful


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