Those of us concerned with food waste – and, not to finger-wag, that should be all of us – might want to pay close attention to our milk stocks. A 2018 report suggested that the UK throws out £150m of milk every single year. That’s 330,000 tonnes of the stuff, a whopping 7% of all the milk produced in the country. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Some clever forward-thinking can massively reduce the amount of leftover milk we have. And these ideas are exactly where we should start.
As the food writer Rachel Kelly points out, a good place for any leftovers is in a soup, and that goes for milk, too. Your options here are endless – I’m personally all for the hearty punchiness of a good chowder at this time of year – but Kelly’s slow-cooked creamy fennel soup is much more dainty. Milk, says Kelly, “seems to work as something of a flavour-enhancer, softening some of the bolder flavours in a soup” – making it truly a pint-sized wonder.
Similarly satisfying is the Daily Meal’s recipe for potato gratin with onions and sage. This is sweet with caramelised onions and loaded with butter and fontina cheese: you could serve a fat slab next to any winter meal and receive no complaints from anyone.
Cheesy toast melts
If you need to use your milk up rather more quickly, Love Food Hate Waste offers a recipe for cheesy toast melts. It’s a slightly simplified rarebit, essentially, made with milk, cheese and chopped spring onions. Not only does it make a delicious (and miraculously child-pleasing) lunch, but time it right and it becomes the perfect way to use up leftover milk, spare bits of going-stale bread and old cheese. There, you’ve reduced your food waste three times over.
Here’s a secret I’ve used plenty of times over the years: if a recipe calls for buttermilk, and you don’t have any buttermilk, squeeze a lemon into some normal milk and let it stand for a few minutes, and then you have buttermilk. Now the world of buttermilk is your oyster. I once used it to make some soda bread on a MasterChef press day and caused Gregg Wallace to slap his tummy like a vaguely mutant Duracell bunny. Here, I’m suggesting that you copy Jennifer Joyce, coat a load of chicken pieces in the stuff, flour it and then fry it. Behold, the best fried chicken you will ever eat.
Another thing I have tried making with leftover milk is mozzarella. It is, all said, a tremendous pain in the arse; not least because the leftover milk you have needs to be homogenised. Also, it turns out that homemade mozzarella isn’t as nice as shop-bought mozzarella. However, you can call it a science experiment and have a fun afternoon with the kids. The Kitchn has a good basic recipe.
Furniture polish and leather cleaner
It’s also worth pointing out that not every use for leftover milk requires milk consumption. The website Drink Milk in Glass Bottles points out that milk is a good base for homemade furniture polish and leather cleaner. You can repair cracked china with milk, and clean old silverware with it. It’s a remedy for bug bites and sunburn, and you can bathe in it. The site has plenty more ideas, too.
Now for pudding. If you have a slow cooker to hand, you can pivot your leftover milk into yoghurt. That Mama Gretchen has a decent recipe for the stuff. Be warned; it takes the best part of a day, and the final stages involve squeezing yoghurt through a cloth for half an hour. But the results are delicious, and will save you tipping another bottle of milk down the sink.
There is also something called milk nog, you’ll be pleased to hear. What’s milk nog? It’s eggnog without any egg in it. But isn’t that just a milkshake? Look, Jessica Fisher’s Good Cheap Eats explains it better than I can. It’s milk, cream, maple syrup, honey and nutmeg blended together and served cold. It might not sound particularly necessary, but it is delicious.
Hot milk cake
Let’s finish up with a pair of cakes. The first is Taste of Home’s recipe for hot milk cake. It’s a plain sponge cake that you help along by melting all the butter into a pan of warm milk. The finished product is light and fluffy, and makes an excellent base for any subsequent cake experimentation you may want to try.
Magic custard cake
Get a load of this magic custard cake, which requires an absolute ton of milk. Best of all, it’s much less of a faff than it sounds. You make one mixture, and in the baking process it separates into three layers; a cake on top, custard in the middle and a (magic?) dense base layer at the bottom. Genius.