Friday, April 15, 2011

Sustainability in the Kitchen

I eat a lot of yogurt. A lot. Typically I'll have a smoothie a day made with plain yogurt, a banana, and frozen berries. Sometimes I'll add peanut butter. It's delicious and oh so healthy. We buy a lot of bulk plain yogurt and thus have collected many large plastic containers. Our collection is ever increasing and I'm concerned about our consumption of all this material.

But here's the thing. We don't have to collect containers any more. As of yesterday I started making my own yogurt following the basic instructions here. Only I didn't heat the milk to 180 degrees. Thus my first batch came out a touch runnier than I'd like. So this morning I am making another batch with the extra heating step to thicken it up. Last night's batch is going to be turned into cream cheese.

Additionally I have a bottle of whipping cream waiting to be spun into butter. If these kitchen experiments pan out not only will I save money I'll also save on packaging and decrease our overall carbon footprint; a definite win-win.

But I'm not done there. I've got issues with milk. With the way it's produced. The way the cows are housed and treated in large production dairies. Milk is pasteurized because it invariably comes with contaminants -- bad bacteria and the like. And most of our milk comes from grain-fed cattle. Organic milk is no better. Believe you me -- one of the worst dairies I've ever visited was an organic facility*.

So I'm scheduling a tour of a small local dairy that sells cow shares. Their cows are pasture raised in small groups. Though contamination is still possible it is much less likely in a small properly run dairy.

If this facility meets muster I will purchase a share and we will join the raw milk revolution. This milk is whole and pure. It comes with cream on top. It would be delectable for making yogurt and butter and sour cream and cream cheese.

One share would get us about a gallon of milk a week. This is not enough to meet the needs of my milk guzzling children. However I'm going to try to substitute almond milk for the remainder. And even that I'd like to make on my own.

I may have been raised a child of the industrial revolution; new technology at every turn. But I'm slowly but surely stepping back; learning the crafts of yesteryear and finding them to satisfy my needs and desires. As it turns out some things were better in the good 'ol days.

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* Though I am a small animal veterinarian I was also taught large animal medicine in school. Thus I was given an intimate view into the dairy world and livestock production.

I believe in organic for many things -- fruits, vegetables and grains for instance. However I also believe in judicious antibiotic use. If an animal is sick it deserves the chance to become well. And antibiotics can play an important role in healing for certain and specific diseases. If these animals are pulled from the milk line for the prescribed withdrawal period then the drugs will not enter the consumption stream.

I've seen too many animal suffer with curable illnesses simply to gain an 'organic' label. My goal as a omnivore is to eat animals that were treated humanely. Parasite ridden diseased animals do not fit this category for me. This is not to say all organic animals are treated as such. But one should know where their food comes from.


Forseth Fun said...

Thanks so much for sharing this! I think I'll try the crock pot route or maybe the oven route once it gets hot here...heck, I could leave it outside in the summer and be guaranteed a 110 degree temp. We eat so much plain yogurt, I would love to get this working!

Shalet said...

You are welcome! Can't wait to hear how it turns out.

Gypsy Meadows said...

Yay for happy cows. I'm lactose intolerant but have been thinking of making handmade soy yogurt. This is encouraging! Maybe I'll give it a shot. FYI, we love almond milk :) great post!

Debi said...

For many years we purchased raw milk and fresh eggs from a local farmer. Unfortunately, they were elderly and passed on and we were unable to find anyone else who would sell the raw milk. It ruined me on commercial milk forever! The raw milk has so much more taste and I can't help but think that it is better for you.

Jen said...

Awesome! Use a good multi-strain probiotic as your starter and you might be amazed at how great you feel and that it really keeps you from getting sick. I was getting raw goat milk for awhile and doing that. It's kinda fun all this stuff.

Shalet said...

Well I can happily report my second batch of yogurt turned out great. I am contently drinking my first smoothie and can say it's unlikely I'll buy much yogurt in the future.

Daph said...

What a great idea! My girls love yogurt, and it would be great to make our own. And cream cheese too, yum!

Shalet said...

So far so good. Last night I made our third quart. And we are definitely enjoying the cream cheese. Looks like this experiment is a definite go.