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The Country Enterprise Handbook
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........ Milk
...In the dairy
...Dealing with milk

Taking dairy work into cheese-making is following the tradition of our ancestors who were endeavouring to save some of the summer overproduce in a nutritious form for consumption in the winter.

The very simplest way to produce a soft cheese is to leave milk to sour and then strain it. This generally produces a sharp-tasting soft cheese. You can beat in a little cream to make it softer or salt or herbs to flavour it; it is also delicious with soft fruit and it can, of course, be used in cooking. All the other forms of cheese are based on the same principles. You do something to encourage the milk to separate into curds and whey. This can be done simply by leaving the milk to sour quickly in a warm place or using a cheese rennet to coagulate the milk. Then strain the curds off and process them as you wish. You are always left with whey. If the curds have been efficiently made and processed there will not be much whey left. Some whey, however, contains solids and butterfat. In any case, the whey is nutritious and easy to digest. Years ago some farmhouses fermented the whey and produced a sparkling drink from it. We use it a lot in baking, it makes excellent scones. You can further process the whey to remove all the solids and make another type of cheese. Or you can use it in another valuable way: feed it to poultry for the finest birds imaginable. Any cat or dog thinks they are pampered beyond belief when fed on it and pigs guzzle it.

This kind of lower level use is not good enough for skimmed milk, that is milk from which you have removed the cream. Although in some cream-producing farms it is still fed to the pigs, and this use is encouraged by government subsidies, it is really better used for human consumption. Anyone on a diet appreciates the fewer calories in skimmed milk (compared with whole milk), and anyone with a history of heart problems would benefit from its lower cholesterol level. For your own consumption you may prefer to use it in place of whole milk, particularly if the cows you have are Channel Island. Goat's milk makes excellent cream and butter if you persevere for long enough. Some goats do produce quite creamy milk although sometimes waiting for the butter to turn is a lengthy process. To go all the way and produce hard cheeses is one of the most satisfying dairy enterprises as long as things go well. If they do not, it is one of the most disappointing.