My routine is the same every day. I wake up, put some water on to boil for coffee, and maybe have a quick snack before heading downstairs with my coffee cup to haul Banjo into the barn. At the milking station, I give her a flake of alfalfa and a scoop of grain. (She's mostly grass-fed, but the grain serves as a good treat when she's milking.) Then I go to work on the milking machine.
At first, I was skeptical of the machine. I had romantic notions of milking by hand, and the machine seemed impersonal, and possibly less humane. Also, the machine doesn't always work very well. None of us know how to use it, exactly, so it's all trial and error. But after the first success, I was converted. Five minutes of milking by machine results in a gallon of milk, versus perhaps one-half to three-quarters of a gallon after almost an hour of milking by hand (or longer, if you're a noob like me). When there are a bazillion chores to do every morning it's hard to argue with the efficiency. And as far as I can tell, it doesn't bother Banjo to submit to the machine. In fact, she seems happier to be left alone to eat after only five minutes, without having her ladybits mangled in an inexperienced hand.
I wipe down her udders with two warm cloths and then turn on the machine. A few minutes later, assuming the machine is working, I attach it to her udders and talk to her encouragingly while it's pumping. Then I break the seal, give her a good rub-down, and thank her for sharing her milk. She stays in the barn eating while I carry the (extremely heavy!) machine up to the house, where I strain the milk into jars, date them, and put them in the refrigerator. Then I clean the machine and head back out to the barn, where Banjo is usually waiting to be released so she can nurse Hamilton.
From the time I collect the machine to the time I let Banjo out of the barn, the process takes over an hour, sometimes much longer. It's my most arduous chore in the morning. So when Patrice's refrigerator stopped working, I was not about to let all that milk go bad. There were several gallons of raw milk in there, but the milkshare is barely off the ground so I couldn't dump it on willing investors. My first thought was to make yogurt, but we're already overrun with it, so why not cheese? Cheese is an excellent way to make use of lots of extra milk, especially if you have limited chilled space. But Jeremy was skeptical that we could make it work in our makeshift kitchen.
Fortunately for all of us, I made cheese inadvertently.
I pulled out two gallons of milk yesterday, intending to make yogurt, but I kinda-sorta forgot about them sitting in a bag on the floor. I worked in the garden, played with the chickens, chased the sheep, herded Hamilton (badly), and then went to a bonfire dinner before collapsing into bed. When I woke this morning, the milk didn't look so good. I know, I was surprised too.
Theoretically, you can still make yogurt with milk that's barely turned, so I stuck it in the pot where it immediately separated into curds and whey. Cheese it is, then!
Ricotta, meaning "twice-cooked," is not one of my favorite cheeses. In fact, it's not a cheese I like much at all. Growing up, I hated lasagna specifically because of the ricotta. On the few occasions I've made lasagna myself I have never used ricotta. But it's one of the first cheeses Jeremy learned to make, so I found uses for it. My favorite is to keep it a bit wet (or mix it with some yogurt), stir in a dollop of honey and a few drops of vanilla extract, and serve it as a dip for fruit, especially strawberries.
Traditionally ricotta is made with sheep's milk, and it's not necessarily made from whole milk. Originally it was a "waste cheese" made by acidulating the whey left over from other cheesemaking. But it works just fine with gone-over milk, too, without needing to add an acid. If you've never made cheese before, this one couldn't be easier. It literally makes itself -- you just need to strain it.
1 gallon whole milk (a day or two gone-off is fine)
Put the milk in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Boil rapidly for a few minutes until the curds begin to separate from the whey. (If this does not happen, you can add the juice of 1 lemon, or an equivalent amount of cultured buttermilk or white vinegar. I haven't found this to be necessary.) When the curds stick together during stirring, instead of separating, turn off the heat.
Line a colander with a clean cloth napkin or butter muslin. Pour the whey out of the pot, holding back the solids until the end. When most of the whey has run out, pull up the ends of the cloth and tie them securely, then hang the pouch over a bowl to continue straining. (Jeremy puts little holes in all four corners of the cloth, then pulls them together to hang them from a hook over the compost bucket.) Instead of discarding the whey, you can save it to feed to dogs or farm animals; it's high in protein and various vitamins and minerals, and especially loved by pigs.
Depending on how dry you like it, you can hang the cheese anywhere from five minutes to several hours. I let mine stand for about an hour. Then you just scrape the stuff into a bowl and refrigerate. If you like, you can add a pinch or two of salt to taste. You will end up with close to 1 pound of cheese from a gallon of milk.
Here are some recipes based on ricotta. Some of them include gluten, but all could easily be modified. The pie would make a fine fritatta, GF pasta or flour could be substituted, no bread in the meatballs, and so forth.
Whey Crepes with Ricotta
Herbed Ricotta Dip with Spring Vegetables
Pork and Ricotta Meatballs
Farfalle with Lamb Ragu, Ricotta, and Mint
Sweet Potato Ricotta Enchiladas in Chipotle Sauce
Chocolate Ricotta Cheesecake