Tuesday, March 29, 2005

PROJECT: how to turn sour milk into gold

So perhaps I didn’t get enough of the frontier experience camping, or perhaps having Bart and Kate here inspired me, but I woke up wanting to cook. Bart and Greg had made hummus the night before, so Kate and I decided on an orzo salad from her Frog Commissary Cookbook (except we used brown rice and couscous because I thought we had quinoa, but we didn’t) to go with that.

Then there was the issue of two half-gallons of milk that were in the fridge the week we went camping. They weren’t sour yet, but on their way, and we had fresh milk delivered in the meantime. A year ago, friend Annie sent me a great book called Wild Fermentation about coming to terms with and helpfully using and harvesting the invisible biota in your kitchen. There is a recipe in there for Farmer’s Cheese, a simple cheese made from curdled milk. It is not a fermented food, but to make other kinds of cheese you then ferment this product. I had successfully made this un-aged cheese from sour milk in the past and then turned it into a reasonably healthy lemon cheesecake. So we made the cheese and from this ricotta-like substance, a lemon cheesecake. Rees, who will not eat cheese or eggs by themselves, loves it!

One of the byproducts of the cheese curds is the whey, and, according to this fermentation bible, there are many useful things you can do with whey, from soups to baking to gardening to fermenting further. The cookbook Nourishing Traditions was recommended for more ideas, but Wild Fermentation had one recipe that used whey, a recipe for “Sweet Potato Fly.” This is apparently a soft drink from Guyana made from fermenting whey, lemon, and sweet potatoes. The recipe included interesting spices and an eggshell (to neutralize the acidity of the lacto-fermentation). Kate said, “When else would I have a chance to try Sweet Potato Fly?” so we whipped up a batch of that (using an eggshell from the eggs in the cheesecake, of course) and left it to sit for three days, as directed, to ferment.

Well, three days was last night and Bart and Kate and Cuillin sadly left early this morning, the Sweet Potato Fly all but forgotten. I noticed it again around breakfast time, peeked at it, and it smelled good! Like spicy gingerbread and root beer with a hint of lemon. I strained it and put it into glass jars and was sorely tempted to drive to the airport to give Bart and Kate a try. It’s thick and gelatinous, a nice bubbly pale yellow, and tastes quite good with subtle spicing and a refreshing lemony zing. Kate, you’ve gotta try it!

So the next time you have sour milk on hand, you could bake with it, but I suggest you turn it into these gems: a lemon cheesecake and a spicy soft drink.


m said...

I had a 1/4 gallon of milk that had turned sour and I left it out for two days forgetting to put it down the drain...in these two days it fermented and although the whey smelled awful the curd smells sweet and cheesy...I haven't gotten the nerve to taste it, but I emailed a friend of mine who I worked with in the kitchen and who makes cheese and she found your blog. The sweet potato fly sounds incredible - could you give me the recipe?
Thanks for writing your experience.
be well,

jennifer said...

For the recipe, see either cookbook:
Wild Fermentation or
Nourishing Traditions
Check your local library, but they're also available from Amazon.