Raw milk is a wonderful product to have an abundance of during the summer months. Preserving dairy products in the summer for the winter months is like giving yourself a gift.
We love enjoying fresh kefir, yogurt, and cream cheese throughout the summer. We also love building up a well-stocked pantry with things like hard cheeses or our favorite “Dream Cheese” throughout the winter.
Preserving food in the summer and fall is a big part of homesteading. We not only preserve milk, but we preserve our fruit and veggies, we preserve meat by canning, we preserve fresh eggs in a lime-water solution, and we even preserve fresh greens as a Super Greens Powder.
Properly Handling Raw Milk
Many people are concerned with consuming raw milk. However, fresh milk straight from the milk cow is very clean and safe to consume. The trouble comes when your milk touches contaminated tools or containers you’re working with.
It seems our great, great grandparents knew the health benefits of unpasteurized milk long before we did. They were consuming it for centuries before pasteurization became normal practice.
You will want to be sure all your tools and equipment have been washed well in hot soapy water. And be sure you’re following proper food safety practices before any raw milk comes into contact with the tool.
This means everything from the hands that are milking the cow, the bucket or container you’re milking into, the jars you’re storing the milk in, the funnels you’re using… EVERYTHING! needs to be nice and clean.
Anatomy of Raw Milk
When milk comes out of the animal, it has a lot of fat in it. Depending on the breed and diet of the milk cow, there will be varying degrees of fat.
Typically, the amount of cream in the milk is a lot more than what’s considered “whole milk” at the grocery store (about 4% milkfat).
Once you’ve milked the cow and placed it into the refrigerator, the cream will continue to rise to the top of the jar for up to 48 hours. If you allow it to sit a full 48 hours, the very top of the cream will be what’s considered heavy cream.
This heavy cream is wonderful for churning into butter, cream cheese, or using to make homemade ice cream.
Half & Half or Thin Cream
The middle cream, just below the heavy cream will be a thinner consistency than heavy cream, but thicker than the cream just above the milk line.
This “thin cream” is equivalent to that of half and half from the grocery store.
Half & Half is great to use when culturing cream into sour cream and can also be great when making ice cream and some other soft cheeses.
Coffee Cream or Light Cream
Finally, the very lowest part of the cream is called light cream. It’s just about the consistency of the milk itself, except the color will be that of cream. This thinnest cream is often referred to as coffee cream.
This is what we recommend leaving with the milk. The amount left behind will usually represent true whole milk (which is about 4%).
Skimmed Milk Not “Skim Milk”
When skimming your milk, it’s best to skim off the heavy cream and the half and half cream but to leave the lighter cream. The light cream is then mixed back into the milk (usually by shaking the container each time before pouring a glass of milk or using in recipes).
We refer to this as “skimmed milk”, not to be confused with “skim milk” or nonfat milk (0% milkfat) from the store.
We don’t recommend drinking a true skim (or 0%) milk as the fat content in raw milk is so healthy for your digestive system. It helps to offset the sugar content (or lactose) in the milk, making digestion easier.
In fact, if you have a lactose intolerance, drinking skim milk is one of the worst things you could do. You’re making it the most difficult for your body to process that lactose without any fat present in the milk itself.
What can you do with raw milk?
Raw milk can be consumed as is, or you can turn it into various other dairy products using the following methods:
Clabbered milk happens simply by leaving fresh milk out at room temperature for 4-5 days (or by using previously clabbered milk to innoculate the milk which will then clabber more quickly).
After this time the milk will separate into curds and whey and will resemble yogurt. It can then be eaten as is or strained and turned into cottage cheese or our favorite dream cheese.
Your clabbered milk should never smell bad. It may smell slightly sour, but usually we stop the clabbering process when it still has a pleasant sweet maybe just a bit tangy smell (like that of yogurt).
We always say, “raw milk doesn’t go bad, it goes different!”
Watch this video to see how to clabber milk.
Visit the following link if you’re interested in learning how we make our “Dream Cheese” as mentioned in the video above.
This is when you add a certain strain of bacteria to the raw or pasteurized milk to make it culture in a certain way.
This is what you do when you make cheese, yogurt and even kefir.
Sometimes the good bacteria in the raw milk can compete with added bacteria and will prevent your milk from culturing the way you desire. If this happens, you may want to consider pasteurizing your milk before culturing. You can also find great tips and tricks for culturing raw milk products online.
Storing Raw Milk
If you’re thinking of getting a dairy cow, you’ll really want to have your storage system in place before bringing the cow home. We currently get approximately six gallons of raw milk a day! So if you don’t have a storage system ready, you’ll be wasting a lot of milk. (Or you’ll have a full-time job processing that fresh milk each and every day!)
Milk should stay nice and sweet when properly handled and refrigerated for up to two weeks. Once it’s past this point, it’s still good to use for baking or culturing, but won’t taste sweet when poured into a glass.
Know Your State’s Raw Milk Laws
Each state has it’s own raw milk laws and ordinances regarding raw milk. Some states, such as Idaho, can actually sell it in the grocery store.
In other states, you can buy into a herd-share where you’re essentially part owner of a cow. You then pick up your milk each week from the farmer.
No matter how you get your raw milk, it’s a wonderful and healthy product to have.