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Zero Food Waste: Sour milk

by on January 17, 2011
Sour milk cheese

Finished product!

It’s happened to all of us before: sour milk. Today my morning coffee was ruined because our new fridge is too warm and the milk spoiled (cottage cheese coffee, mmm).  With half a bottle left, I hate to throw it out – but I don’t have to.  When life gives you sour milk, make cheese!

Hang curds to drain excess whey

Heres what I did.

Making cheese from sour milk is beyond simple. Here’s how:

1**. Gently heat the milk until the curd separates from the whey (sorry no pic. You can’t miss it – the curd forms a white puck and the whey is yellow, looks nothing like milk).

2. Remove the pan from the heat, let set for 5-10min.  Be careful to remove from the heat. Overcooked sour milk gets bitter.

3. Gently strain thru a napkin, facecloth, or (if you have it) cheese cloth and lightly salt the curd.

4. Tie up the strainer and let the whey continue to drip for another 20min. You can squeeze a bit to remove more whey and make a more pleasant soft cheese (less whey = harder cheese)

5. Refrigerate, then eat it as fresh cheese (recommended); mix with cream, salt and pepper for cottage cheese; brine for a feta-esque cheese…

This makes a cheese similar to cream cheese. Its best fresh, spreads, and also melts like cheddar (you can make mozzarella with it). Let me know how yours turns out!

**If your milk isn’t sour enough it won’t develop a curd on its own – you can instead use rennet or add a shot of vinegar. Using vinegar means you won’t have a melty cheese but its easier and more forgiving than rennet.

From → Tips and Tricks

  1. Sara Tetreault {at} Go Gingham dot com permalink

    OK, with 2 kids who eat everything (and drink) we don’t normally have milk go sour but I’d still love to try this. Thanks for the tutorial!

  2. Paige permalink

    Thanks! We had a half gallon of sour milk that I just bought… I’ve always wanted to try making cheese and it was the perfect opportunity. It worked perfectly.

  3. Alicia permalink

    I tried this and it worked…. But tasted gross!!! Did I do something wrong? I threw it out because it made me gag….

    • Christopher permalink

      I’ll be honest-I made this quite a few times and sometimes it came out bitter, horrible really. I fed it to the chickens. I got the best results if I used rennet or vinegar to help the curd form and processed the cheese as little as possible (just plain soft fresh table cheese). Glad you tried it!

  4. Anna permalink

    This worked like a charm for me. I’ve made cheese (fresh cheese and paneer) a few times before using whole milk from the store plus lemon juice or vinegar to curdle it, but I now have a source for farm milk and I was curious to see what the difference would be. This was by far the most flavourful cheese I’ve made. I would also say I got a higher yield of cheese from the farm milk than from the store-bought milk. I didn’t have to add any acid to make it curdle. I’d like to try pressing and brining it next time to see how that goes. Also, the whey can be used in bread making, baking, soups, etc. I believe some people even drink it straight up.

    • Christopher permalink

      Wow-thanks for sharing Anna! The vinegar/lemon juice method was taught to me by my grandmother. My mother and I spent a summer making goat cheese this way. We lightly pressed the curd then brined it in salted whey. After that we rubbed it with 50/50 salted whey and olive oil or vinegar and olive oil a couple times a day while it dried on racks. After a couple months we had a really nice grating cheese. (I think we ate the last wheel 2-3yrs after that summer.) Keep your “cheese cellar” cool. ~60F and ~50% humid ideally (maybe ask the internet too-its been a while since I’ve aged cheese).

      A lot of body builders eat protein derived from whey (so its probably a good lean protein source). I liked sipping a little and gave the rest to our chickens. There is certainly no shortage of health claims about the benefits of whey. I can promise its better for you than soda ;-).

      The farm milk does have a higher yield if its whole because they haven’t separated the cream. Any cheese is better than no cheese but farm fresh milk makes the best cheese.

      Let us know how the aged cheese turns out!

      • Anna permalink

        Thanks for the reply and the info about cheese-making. It gives me some ideas on how to progress with my aged cheese. I’ll see what else the internet has to say too. I would love to get into cheese-making more, but I am happy dabbling for now. We’ll see – now that I’ve got a good source of farm milk…

  5. Sonia permalink

    Hi Dear Christopher,

    Im new to the cheese thing…actually i met the same accident of sour milk, so decided to make cheese out of it, i did the same exact thing, then played with it a little to make it smooth, (but the texture of my cheese i think was lil different, i mean, i felt it lil oily and that it wasnt really combining together) i dont know whether i did right or not..caz the cheese when i was playing with it, seems little oily in my hands, do u think its ruined or what?
    Help would be really appreciated.



    • Christopher permalink

      Were you making mozzarella? I never had much luck making anything but simple curds and ate it as a table cheese. Aged cheeses and mozzarella are best made with fresh milk. A side note is that if your milk is too sour you get bitter cheese :-(.

  6. How can you tell if it’s sour enough?

    • Christopher permalink

      The bigger question is is it too sour? If you smell it and don’t want to drink it its sour enough, if you smell it and gag its too sour. If you’ve ever seen chunky milk you are witnessing wild cultured yogurt. That is awesome but doesn’t mean it’ll taste good. I’m not 100% on the general safety of making cheese from wild cultured milk but its probably safer than you’d think. This whole article is about avoiding food waste but if you want to make the best cheese start with fresh milk, ideally straight from the mammal that made it.

      If it isn’t ‘sour enough’ it may not curdle on its own so just add a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice. Somewhere I found out that the bible mentions stirring with a freshly cut fig branch. I tried it, it works but you need a good sappy switch.

      • Catherine permalink

        Hmm … I have sour milk AND a fig tree that needs pruned … might have to try that little trick! Thanks for the ideas. :)

  7. Great! I have a half gallon of sour raw milk in the fridge and I’m tired of baking with it :) Thanks for sharing!

  8. I just tried your recipe with soured Jersey cow’s milk. I am so pleased with the outcome, and my dog Georgia loved the whey. The cheese basically turned out to be a farmer’s-style cheese with a tight, small curd and ever-so-slight cheese flavor. I love it! How long will it keep in the fridge? I’m considering making a pizza out of it with fresh arugula.

    • Christopher permalink

      My mother and I used to age it for 2-3 years in the crisper but you need to brine it and rub it with oil and vinegar. As is it should keep for a week or two I’d think. Note that its not a very melty cheese but is great on pizza. Treat it like feta.

  9. I found this article searching for what happens when you heat sour milk, because I was trying to make yogurt and the milk was behaving funny. Turns out the milk was sour enough to make cheese. Haven’t tasted it yet, but I am very excited at the discovery of a new way to make the most of my resources. Having recently begun a “real food” journey, it is very fun and exciting to add this bit of wisdom to my “tool box.” Thank you for your excellent post.

  10. Rodster permalink

    I think you must salt the curds to make a harder cheese

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    My blog site is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would truly benefit from some of the
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    • Christopher permalink

      have at it. Glad you found the content useful. ~Chris

  12. HerbGal permalink

    Do you stir the milk as you heat it?

    • Christopher permalink

      Yes I stir a lot and heat gently – especially with the older milk. Its really easy to scorch. If you do don’t scrap the burnt milk off of the bottom of the pan until you’re done making cheese

  13. Amanda permalink

    How long do you have to boil it for? Mine is not separating. (its definitely sour. But not enough to make your gag, so should be perfect). Wonder what’s wrong.

    • Christopher permalink

      Sorry for the delay Amanda. I’m not sure why your milk isn’t separating. For most cheese you don’t even want to boil it. Bring the milk to a boil, shut off the heat and try adding a shot per gallon of lemon juice. It that doesn’t separate it I don’t know what will.

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  1. Okay, It’s Official, We’re Cheesemakers Too | The Cheese Traveler

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