How To Make Dairy Staples

buttermilk
Delicious homemade butter and buttermilk. Photo by Robyn Rosenfeldt

Making your own dairy basics at home can not only save you money on your grocery bill and avoid plastic packaging, but allows you to experience the flavour and freshness of homemade food that will far surpass anything you can buy from the store.

BUTTER

Ingredients

  • 500 mls cream

Method

  1. Source the best quality cream you can find with the highest milk fat content, preferably 35%, with no additives or thickeners.
  2. If you’re into low-tech, add cream to a jar with a tightfitting lid and shake it well till it separates. This can take anywhere from five to thirty minutes.
  3. Alternatively, if you have a food processor, pour in the cream and process until the cream goes past the whipped stage and separates into buttermilk and butter.
  4. Pour off the buttermilk and save it to use in pancakes and scones. Also makes a healthy drink.
  5. Add some cold water to your food processor (or jar) and mix the butter again to wash it. Pour off the water and place your butter in a storage container. Paddle it a bit with spoons to release the rest of the buttermilk.
  6. Add salt if you wish (salt will help it keep longer). Use around 1 tsp of salt per litre of cream. Store in the fridge for more longevity, or at room temperature if it’s salted.

CULTURED BUTTER

Culture your cream before making butter and you will end up with cultured butter – butter with a delicious tang and complex flavour. Most butter made in Australia is called sweet butter, whereas butter made in Europe is often cultured.

Ingredients

  • 500 mls cream
  • 2 tbsp of cultures – could be buttermilk, yoghurt or kefir grains (or 1/8 tsp of mesophilic cheese cultures)

Method

  1. Pour cream into a clean jar and add the cultures.
  2. Put the lid on the jar and leave it on the bench for at least 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the more sour it will become.
  3. If you used kefir grains, strain them out now.
  4. Follow the instructions for making butter.

YOGHURT

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of quality milk, raw or pasteurised
  • ¼ cup of yoghurt or active milk kefir

Method

  1. Slowly heat the milk to 85ÅãC. Do not boil. (If you don’t have a thermometer, it’s ready when you see bubbles around the edge, and steam starting to come off the milk). Stir the milk as it’s warming.
  2. Take it off the heat and let it cool down until you can put your little finger in and only just count to 11. (Or, if you have a thermometer, when it gets to 43ÅãC). If it’s too hot, you will kill your cultures and it won’t turn into yoghurt. You can cool your milk down more quickly by pouring it into a bowl placed in a cool-water bath.
  3. Pour into a clean 1 litre glass jar and mix in your kefir or yoghurt.
  4. Put the lid on and keep the jar in a warm place for twelve to twenty-four hours. This might be in the warming drawer of a woodstove, in an esky or wrapped in a warm blanket with a hot-water bottle.
  5. Store in the fridge. It will last about a week.

Clockwise from above left: Flavoursome yoghurt with lots of beneficial bacteria; Drain yoghurt in cheesecloth for cream cheese; Unwrap the feta ready for slicing; Pour brine over feta and leave to age.

CREAM CHEESE

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of home-made yoghurt, or good quality storebought yoghurt
  • 1 tsp of salt

Method

  1. Pour yoghurt into a cheesecloth-lined bowl.
  2. Carefully tie up your cheesecloth and hang it up. Place the bowl underneath to catch the whey that will drip out.
  3. Let it hang for twelve to twenty-four hours (or until your cream cheese is the consistency you like) making sure the cheese is well above the whey.
  4. Unwrap your cheese and add the salt, mixing through roughly.
  5. Tie up again and hang for another few hours.
  6. Eat it as is, add herbs or roll into balls and preserve in a jar with olive oil.
  7. Cheese will keep in the fridge for one week, or much longer if stored in oil. Whey can be stored in the fridge for up to six months.

FETA

Ingredients

  • 4 litres of quality raw or pasteurised milk – cow, goat or sheep
  • ¼ cup of yoghurt with live cultures, 1 dose of mesophilic cheese cultures, or active milk kefir
  • 1 regular dose of rennet (1 ml of liquid rennet or 1 tablet) dissolved in ¼ cup of cold, filtered water
  • salt

Method

  1. Warm milk to 32ÅãC in a stainless-steel pot, then turn off heat.
  2. Add the yoghurt, cultures or kefir and gently stir in, then place the lid on the pot and leave for one hour.
  3. Gently stir through the rennet, then put the lid on the pot and leave for one hour.
  4. Check for a clean break – where the curd has formed properly. If using yoghurt as your culture, you may need to leave your cheese to form a curd overnight.
  5. Cut the curd into 2 cm pieces with a long bladed knife, then slowly stir for twenty to thirty minutes.
  6. Let the curds settle for five minutes, then pour off the whey (keeping 1 litre for the brine).
  7. Gently pour the curds into a cheesecloth-lined colander.
  8. Sprinkle 2 flat tbsp of salt (20 g) over the curd and carefully mix through.
  9. Tie up the cheesecloth and hang for four hours or overnight.
  10. While it’s hanging, make your brine: dissolve . cup of salt in 1 litre of reserved whey, store in glass and leave at room temperature to ferment until the feta is ready to be used.
  11. Untie the cheesecloth and cut the cheese into a size that will fit into your ageing vessel.
  12. Apply salt to the surface of each piece to develop strong rinds.
  13. Air dry the cheese at room temperature for twenty-four hours, flipping the cheese once or twice.
  14. Place your cheese in the brine, put on a (non-metal) lid, making sure the cheese is submerged under the brine, and age in the fridge.
  15. Feta will be ready to eat in two weeks, but leave up to two months for better flavour.

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