In 2009, editor Jerwin de Graaf got two new mothers to donate their breast milk to science. Did he manage to make cheese out of that? Let’s find out..
Breast milk has to become curd to make cheese
The two mothers together gave us about 600 milliliters of breast milk for this experiment. And with that we went to the cheese farm of Gerrit and Irma de Graaf in Bodegraven. The De Graaf couple is confident that the experiment will be successful. If all goes well, the milk will curdle, as it is called. The clumped heaps of proteins that result are called ‘curds’. The liquid they float in after curdling is ‘whey’. The whey is used as a raw material for soft drinks. Cheese is made from the curds.
We heat the milk to 29 degrees on a heating plate. Because that is the ideal temperature for curdling. Now we have to wait half an hour, until the proteins in the breast milk have clumped together. When the time is up, I lift the lid and see… milk. So no curds. ‘Strange,’ says Irma. She takes the thermometer and puts it in the milk. Way too hot. Perhaps that is why no curds have formed. Because at too high a temperature, the rennet does not work optimally.
Not a lump in sight
Attempt 2. We therefore put the pan of breast milk in a larger pan with warm water. I constantly monitor the temperature of the water in the large pan. Because that ensures that the breast milk stays at the right temperature. After 30 minutes we look at our pan again. And see exactly the same as last time: breast milk with a slightly thicker layer on it.
The whole process starts from scratch. And also in attempt 3, the milk has continued to be milk. Not a lump in sight. After 3 attempts I can do nothing but stop the experiment. I haven’t been able to turn breast milk into cheese. On the one hand, I regret that the cheese-making process failed. But on the other hand, I’m relieved. Because if the experiment had been successful, I should have tasted the cheese too. And as much as I love cheese, I wasn’t really looking forward to that.