The raw milk question

At the moment we only have heifers at Wensleydale Cottage, and they arent even on site yet due to delays in building their barn. Until then, I get my milk from a dairy about 20 minutes away. 

Dexter Cows

We are waiting for two calves from this lovely family of Dexters

This dairy is not organic. By which I mean, it is not certified organic. It is a small farm with healthy, pasture-raised cattle. We do have an organic dairy less than a minute down the road from the Cottage. They don’t sell raw milk anymore, thanks to their insurance. In fact, the majority of organic dairy farms now have their milk ultra-pasteurized. Because we all know that milk from healthy, happy, grass fed cows that don’t need antibiotics is dangerous stuff*. Ultra-pasteurized milk (and its worse cousin UHT milk) is the diet, caffiene-free coke of the dairy world. It is heated to double boiling temperature, breaking down not only all its natural enzymes but also the vitamins and nutrients, which then have to be added back in ‘artificially.’ Which means, at $5+ per gallon for organic milk, we essentially are paying for expensive white water. (You can’t make cheese with the stuff either, because of how much it has been changed.)

Another reason I no longer purchase organic milk from the store is that farms can be certified organic simply by feeding their cows organic feed in confinement. This means you are receiving none of the nutrition (and ease of conscience) of milk from cows out on the pasture. Equally, many farms have practices we would associate with organics, but are not certified as organic: getting this certification in itself is very difficult and expensive, and farmers have these and many other legitimate reasons for not going organic. Over-regulation of local family farms has brought us to this.

Which means, until my own cows are producing milk, I go down to my farmer friend’s place and get fresh, raw milk as its being produced by the cow. I personally make the choice to low-temperature pasteurize this milk, for a number of reasons. I’m not religious about it: if I don’t have the time on the day I get it we will drink it raw. I don’t advocate raw over low-temp pasteurizing, or vice versa: low-temps keep the natural flavor, don’t denature the enzymes, or alter the calcium content. I fully support those who drink entirely raw: farmers who drink their own milk raw trust in the health of their animals and that’s a good assurance for me. (My farmer comes out with his milk pail every morning and fills it fresh from the cow.) Many of the cheeses I make are produced at virtually the same temperature as I bring my milk to for pasteurization, so pasteurizing my milk ahead of time buys me time before I use it to make cheese without my feeling like I have lost anything. 

Most people’s first reaction when I tell them I get my milk straight from the cow is “oh you will be be as big as a house soon with all that fat.” Yes, my milk is absolutely full fat, with all its cream-on-top glory. At least, it starts that way. Some of it is made into cheese, some of the cream skimmed off and whipped. And the milk we drink is put in a blender until it makes butter and separates, ‘skimming’ the milk for us. So, for $2 a gallon (much more than my farmer gets paid by the stores that buy his milk) I get butter, cheese, cream, and milk. I have yet to get as big as a house.

If you are able to get raw milk (and this is a whole other story, especially in NY!), and would like to low-temp pasteurize it, this is a very simple process. (It was invented by Louis Pasteur, for whom the process was named.) Your grandmother may tell you that the doctor would say to boil the milk if there were bad tummies in the house, and low-temp pasteurization is the same idea:

1. bring the milk to 145 degrees F. Don’t go above 170 or you will lose nutrition and denature the enzymes

2. Keep at 145 for 1/2 hour

3. cool quickly to fridge temperature. I put it in bottles for this part, or your cream with form a skin and you will lose it.






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