When I first participated in WIC (Women, Infants and Children) I was in my early 20’s, had only one child, and was relatively new to homemaking. (WIC is a supplemental nutrition program, federally funded, which provides vouchers for specific foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals.) But I wasn’t new to nutrition, and I knew that drinking as much milk as WIC provided, and serving it to my child, wasn’t going to guarantee health.
WIC provided gallons of milk per month (in addition to beans, peanut butter, eggs, juice, cheese, and cereal). I normally didn’t cash in most of the milk vouchers, but occasionally would make an attempt to collect it all and use it up. With my limited kitchen experience, my options were limited to “cream of” soups, puddings, and baked goods. I had no idea what else to do with milk and much of it went down the drain.
Since I’ve been on maternity leave, my lower income qualified us for WIC once again. I am happy to see the program has evolved — there is less milk, less juice, vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables, soy substitutions for those that can’t have dairy, and vouchers for whole grain foods (whole wheat bread, tortillas, rice, and other whole grains in bulk). The local WIC office also provides vouchers for local farmers markets, as well as organic vegetables that are grown on site.
Even with less milk vouchers, as a pregnant mother of a child under 5, we still receive more milk than we could ever imagine drinking. Something like 7 gallons per month? But my kitchen experience has greatly expanded in the last 10 years, and I had some new ideas.
We might not like drinking milk, but we love other dairy products — cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese. I think we would live fairly richly, with minimal effort, if I could utilize the milk to make the dairy products we love and can use.
We are lucky to live in an area with a local dairy company (although it is now owned by a non-local corporation), and the majority of the milk they use is from local cows that we can see roaming free in open pastures across the county. We love our cows here. The milk is pasteurized, but luckily not ultra pasteurized (UHT) — is it true that UHT milk is all some people can find in their towns?
Since I already was familiar with making ricotta at home, my first challenge was to turn a gallon of milk into a ricotta cheesecake. Most recipes called for cream cheese as well, and since I don’t have the culture for making cream cheese (and no energy to track some down), I decided to drain yogurt, which results in a “cheese” that is similar in consistency and taste to cream cheese. In order to do this, I also had to make yogurt.
To make ricotta-yogurt cheesecake, I only needed milk, lemon, salt, yogurt culture, eggs and sugar. Since we have graham crackers gathering dust in the cupboards, I decided to use them and some butter for the crust. I also needed time. But probably not as much as you expect.
More to come.