我們的牛奶大部分都做成芝士。直到一個月前，我對牛奶是如何變成芝士只有很模糊的理解，雖然這個古老的技術曾經存在過幾乎每一個鄉村家中。做法是：將牛奶在一個不鏽鋼容器中慢慢的加熱，同時把神奇的乳酸菌攪拌進去， 牛奶中的乳糖就會轉變成乳酸。你要注意牛奶的酸度來加入乳酸菌。然後在正確的時間加入凝乳酵素來凝結酸化的牛乳。 然後，依據你要做的芝士種類來切塊，加熱，攪拌，以及加鹽到凝乳中，然後再將它們舀到放置著芝士過濾網的容器中，用磚塊或盛水的桶子來壓。第二天早上，你就會有一塊芝士了。然後將它放入鹽水中，最好是放在一個可以保持常溫以及保持溼度的洞穴中儲存。由於我們家沒有這樣的洞穴，就建了一個可以走進去的冷藏室。
by Donella Meadow
30 Jan 2001
Years ago, when I went out to my new chicken house and found the very first freshly laid egg, I stared at it in awe. "How did that hen do that?" I wondered. She takes in grain and bugs and kitchen scraps and turns them into an egg Shell on the outside, white and yolk on the inside, all proper and perfect. Under the right conditions (or hen) that egg could even become a chick. Just amazing!
I still think every egg is a miracle, though they appear on our farm by the dozen every day. Our leading-edge chemists are miles from being able to convert cracked corn and cabbage leaves into an egg, much less a chick. The biotech biz can't make grass into wool and lambs either, though my sheep, which were not at all smart, used to do it with great reliability.
All these years the one farm miracle I never got to witness firsthand was the transformation of hay into calves and milk. I never got a cow. I was daunted by their size and by the prospect of never-fail, twice-daily milkings. "The only difference between being in jail and having a cow," my then-husband used to recite, "is that in jail you don't have to milk the cow."
So I stuck with chickens and sheep, until two years ago, when one of my farm-mates drove in one day with a tiny Jersey calf in the back of the truck. We named her Maple. Maple has just had her own first calf, and we are awash in milk.
I shouldn't have been surprised at how good fresh, sweet, organic milk is. After all, once I tasted fresh organic eggs I never went back to supermarket ones. The same goes for vegetables and fruits out of the garden. But somehow I thought milk was milk was milk. So I have just learned one more time what we give up in taste and quality for the dubious privilege of living far away from the sources of our increasingly industrialized food.
I was also surprised at the quantity. Jerseys are not big producers, and ours is still working up to her peak, but she's already milking five gallons a day. That's nothing to a big farm with Holsteins and vacuum lines and bulk tanks. But when you're operating out of your kitchen, five gallons a day is a river -- a river of possibilities. You can do so many great things with milk!
Most of ours goes into cheese. Up to a month ago I had only the vaguest idea how milk becomes cheese, though this age-old art was once practiced in most rural households. Here's how it works. You heat milk gently in a stainless steel vat and stir in a magical lactobacillus that turns the milk sugar lactose into lactic acid. You monitor the acidity of the mix to follow the bugs' working. At just the right moment you add rennet, which congeals the curds. Then, depending on what kind of cheese you're making, you cut, heat, stir, and salt the curds, scoop them into cheesecloth-lined forms, and press them (with bricks or a bucket of water). The next morning you have a wheel of cheese. You soak it in brine, then age it, ideally in a cave with constant temperature and humidity. Lacking a cave, we built a walk-in cooler.
We just tasted our first cheese, now 45 days old. It's bland, because it's only halfway through its minimal aging period. But it's nutty, elastic, melty, good cheese. In my totally biased opinion, it's on its way to glory. As with that first egg, I'm in awe.
I am not good at delayed gratification, so I take some milk to experiment with products that can be eaten immediately. So far my favorite trick is this: I start with two gallons of milk and scoop off the top layer of wonderful, thick cream. The cream goes into a hand-cranked churn. After 20 minutes of lackadaisical cranking (I read a book while I do it), the paddles hang up on a half pound of golden butter. I pour off three cups of surrounding liquid, which, kids, is called buttermilk. Great for biscuits or pancakes.
Taking off the cream leaves a gallon and a half of skim milk. That I warm to 90 degrees and stir in a little commercial buttermilk (which contains live lactobacillus). After sitting overnight, it separates into white jelly-like curds and watery yellow whey. (Along came a spider and sat down beside her ... now I know where those nursery rhymes come from.) I cut the curds into pieces, warm them a little, scoop them out, add a bit of salt, and voila! A quart and a half of low-fat cottage cheese! I feel very clever, though it was the bacillus and the cow and the housemate who milked the cow who did the real work.
One more transformation could turn the whey into ricotta. But we make that with the whey from the other cheesemaking, so our refrigerator is well stocked. (Lasagna, blintzes, cheesecake!) I take the whey out to the chickens, who slurp it up contentedly. It's full of nutrients that flow into the eggs. The composted chicken and cow manure go to the garden to flow into the vegetables.
Simple miracles. Satisfying work, like baking bread or building a shelf. Fresh, delicious food. Nutrient cycles closed right at hand. Health for land and people. Sometimes I wonder, with all our supposed progress, what we're rushing toward and what we're leaving behind.
唐妮拉米朵斯是達特茅斯學院（Dartmouth College）環境研究的副教授，也是佛蒙特州（Vermont，Vt。）哈特蘭（Hartland）永續協會（Sustainability Institute）的理事長。