I've been thinking a lot about food waste lately. I recently borrowed Dive! (the film) from the library (it's great), and I'm currently reading An Everlasting Meal - cooking with economy and grace by Tamar Adler (pure poetry and I want to buy a copy for everyone I know).
So inspired, I walked into my local health food store to discover that all their organic whole milk was marked down from $3.79 to $.99. The reason for the drastic price reduction was that it was due to expire in two days. Knowing what I know about expiry dates I bought all 6 litres they had on sale. The owner of the shop was happy to sell it so that she didn't have to "pour it down the drain".
Each litre container was slightly bloated but a taste test of each revealed that the milk wasn't even starting to go off. It was absolutely fine. After turning the first litre into yogurt I decided to turn the rest into paneer. I could have also made ice cream/frozen custard but I was excited to make my first attempt at cheese.
A quick search of the internet turned up countless recipes. I picked this one, followed the recipe exactly and it worked perfectly. I worked in batches and had hoped to use the whey from the first batch to separate the curds from the whey in the second batch (instead of using lemon juice) but it didn't work. So I switched back to lemon juice.
All in all I ended up with 2.5 cups of paneer. After pressing the paneer and cutting it into cubes, there were some crumbly bits from the edges of the block which I salted and used the next day on top of a salad. Since I didn't want to eat all that paneer in the next week, I fried the 2.5 cups of cubes and froze them. I'm already craving mattar paneer.
What I realized in this is that knowing how to make food from scratch is not only economical (I ended up with 2.5 cups of organic paneer, and 1 litre of organic yogurt for $6 - as opposed to $22.74), but also makes me feel great. All the energy that was used by the cow, the farmer, and the distributor to get the milk to the store was not for nothing. And nothing ended up in the landfill (milk used, whey composted*, cartons recycled).
*I know whey makes a very healthy drink. I tried it but didn't like it. Any other suggestions for how to use whey would be much appreciated!