Experiments In Cheese Making

So we have a little baby, right – and at the moment I have so much breast milk I have to occasionally express it to avoid my boob’s exploding.  Once I got over the social norms which imply it’s weird to consume your own breast milk (heaven forbid) I’ve been drinking some, adding some to yoghurt (which is based on cows milk) and this morning thought I’d experiment with making 100% breast milk cheese – as you do early on a Monday morning.

I used the same old ‘farm cheese’ recipe I always follow (in my head) when making cheese with cows milk as it’s super quick, easy and tasty. Here’s how I do it…

The first step is to bring the milk up to just before boiling point – around 80 degrees.

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Then, take it off the heat and add either lemon or apple cider vinegar. How much, you ask? I start with small amounts (i.e. half a lemon) and then add more until I see the milk curdle – which means the curd and whey separate which looks like milky snot globs forming amongst watering substance. Nice description, I know.

IMG_2294Alas, the 100% breast milk just did not want to curdle, I added more lemon, and then a touch of apple cider vinegar to see if that would make any difference. But it was beginning to taste super sour, so I surrendered to the fact that perhaps cheese made from 100% breast milk doesn’t work.

Some research suggests that breast milk has only 2.5% protein when compared to cows around 8% and goats 8.7%.  Apparently breast milk also has a bit more fat than the others but not my much.  When making cheese it is the proteins that react to form the characteristic curds.  The more protein the thicker the curd and higher the cheese yield.

In the name of a good science experiment, I also made a small batch of 70% cows milk and 30% breast milk cheese to compare the two. Below you can see cow/brest milk on the left which has been heated to 80 degrees and had 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar added to it (I ran out of lemons). Straight away it has curdled, which is what you want. Compare this to the 100% breast milk mix on the right where I had put the juice from a whole lemon and a few teaspoons of vinegar into it with a whole lot of nothing happening.

A bit more research reveals a chef called Daniel Angerer caused a bit of a stir making cheese and blogging about it  in 2010.  His recipe involves a 50% cow and 50% breast milk mix.  He also uses true rennet (derived from animals) rather than an acidulant – like lemon juice. You can also use vegetarian rennet made with microbes or from thistle plants, microbial rennet is usually fermented from bacteria but can also be genetically modified. You can can vegetable rennet online from websites like this one – I’m sure there are others as well.

IMG_2298Cows milk on the left and breast milk on the right

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The next step in cheese making is to strain the curdled mix through some cheese cloth – I put mine into a colander with a pot beneath it to catch the whey.

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You can simply leave it here while is slowly drains, or you can hang the cheesecloth up (as below) to begin shaping it.

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Before you walk away and let it drain, you can choose to add flavours at this point. I’ve added salt, pepper and thyme – which is herb of the moment in our house right now.

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Just pop in your flavours of choice and mix them through

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If you don’t hang it up, I encourage you to ‘press’ it with a bit of weight to speed up the draining process and to form a firm shape. I do something different every time, this morning I used a collection of bowls and plates to form my highly sophisticated press. IMG_2313

5 minutes later (I’m impatient) you have a soft mold of cheese ready to rock and roll. Of course you can leave it longer to get a firmer cheese, but technically you can eat it straight away.

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But what happened to the pot of failed breast milk cheese? I used it to cook a batch of brown rice – in the past I’ve also used it as a base for making a curry or stew instead of stock or water. It’s a pretty amazing resource which has major health giving properties and there’s no way I’m tipping it down the sink.

You can read more about the benefits of breast milk on the Australian Breastfeeding Association. 

6 Responses to “Experiments In Cheese Making”

  1. Robyn Gates

    Fantastic. Great to use while you have milk to spare and too good to waste. I make a soft cheese with yoghurt. Just drain, squeeze and ready to spread and eat or hang in the fridge to harden. 🙂

    Reply
  2. Heather-Gaia Thorpe

    Hi Hannah,
    Did you know that the sap from a fig tree will set cheese. Apparently this is commonly used in Italy.

    Reply
  3. sonja

    Nice work! I once accidentally made a simple cheese when I heated some raw milk in a little pot for my coffee one morning – not to boiling. I did not use it all and left it sitting out, forgotten, until the evening. It had formed curds and whey. I wonder if the same would happen eventually with breastmilk as its unpasturised and full of beneficial bacteria?

    Reply

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