The Cheese Project (2/?)

“Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth.” 

― Professor Lidenbrock

Discount Milk, Failure, and Lessons Learned

I’ve never been one for carefully planning projects and this one has been no exception. The initial result of my gung-ho attitude is typically failure. However, there are advantages to starting my projects without really knowing what I’m doing. I learn faster and I’m less paralyzed by uncertainty. It makes clear very quickly which tools and skills I actually need and which are bonuses.

Haggling at the grocery store

As I mentioned in the first post of this series, I was considering haggling for milk nearing its expiration date if my surplus store didn’t come through. Yesterday, after leaving the surplus store empty handed yet again, I decided to try to persuade some store managers to part with their expiring product.

Fortunately, it turned out to be shockingly easy. Unfortunately, I have no thrilling tale with tense negotiations and threats of walking.

Six Gallons of Discount Organic Milk
Store One

I ended up going to two stores. At the first, I picked up the two glass bottles of unhomogenized milk. Both bottles were due to expire on the 6th but considering there were only two, I figured that the store wouldn’t be willing to budge on price. Five minutes after finding a manager I was walking out of the store with a gallon of milk for 20% of sticker price. Initially the manager had offered 50%, I asked for an additional 30% and she immediately agreed.

Store 2

The second store was only slightly more challenging. It was a large chain store, so in order to talk to the manager I had to get through an employee first. After explaining what I was after, he told me “we don’t do that here.” I love haggling, so I’ve heard this a lot. Often it’s because the employee has never dealt with a customer interested in haggling. I asked him if he would be willing to do me a favor and ask his manager anyway. He pointed me towards his manager and walked off.

The manager was clearly interested. We walked over to the dairy section so I could show him how much of his milk supply was nearing expiration. The previous manager had quickly agreed to the price I asked, so I figured stores were more eager to offload surplus milk than I had thought. He accepted my first offer and walked me over to a register to adjust the price. In the end I went home with 6 gallons of organic milk for $18.50. Enough to make ~4lbs of cheese.

Mistakes made and lessons learned

Feeling under the gun because of the soon to expire milk, I made the decision to start the cheese that night. I hadn’t yet figured where I would age it and how I would mold/press it. I figured I would work that out as I went along. Here are the only real problems I encountered:

  • I needed a smaller springform pan to use as a mold
  • The pieces of cheese cloth I had were too small

And the problems I solved:

  • Aging the cheese: The poorly insulated closet I used to hate
  • Even heating: Sink full of hot water
  • Molding the cheese: Smaller springform pan
  • Food safe wood surface for aging: Bamboo steamer

In fact, I learned so much that I’m making another attempt as I write this. Right now I have another few pounds of curds draining and about to go into a small springform pan I bought today.

Video Update:

Continue to Part 3

Until next time!

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