Monday, June 18, 2012

Rescuing food destined for the dumpster

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!


Julie said...

I was going to suggest giving it to the dog - I know Dex loves it. Upon googling (just to make sure it was safe for dogs), I found this:

Green Grrl said...

You are a genius! How could I have not thought to give it to the dog? He *loves* yogurt so I'm sure he'd love whey. Def. doing that next time! And maybe some of those other things on the prairehomestead list. Didn't know whey could be frozen! I like the idea of using it in baking. :)

Urban Girl said...

Sounds like a great book! Funny I was just reading Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents and she talked about how they used to dumpster dive outside of these expensive restaurants in Seattle in the early 90's and make the most amazing meals!

Love what you did with the organic milk! So resourceful!

Urban Girl said...

p.s. Just saw this:

Thought you would like!

Green Grrl said...

Hey Urban Girl!
I felt the same way when watching Dive! They even showed a chef who went diving with them who cooked up a gourmet meal with what they found. Heartbreaking to see all the meat thrown out though. Horrible to think that the animals died for nothing.

Thanks for the tip on the Fontenelle. I've never been there. Hooray for hidden gems in Vanier!