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Mar 8, 2001 11:03 AM

Raw milk

  • p

I met a woman last night who has a dairy farm and sells raw milk. She said that Maine State Law requires buyers to bring their own container. What's the deal with that, I wonder? I've long wanted a source of unhomogenized milk. But raw? I'm a little uncomfortable with unpasteurized. Should I be? Anything I should know about the farm, cows, et al.?
They also have free-range chickens and eggs for sale. Rural life is looking up! pat

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    Jeremy Osner

    You lucky gal! Unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk from a small farm is a rare treat; unheard of down here. I can't speak for everyone, and I know the official (USDA, etc.) line on this is don't drink it; but I drank raw milk every day of the summer I worked at a dairy, with no ill effects. Another thing you can do with it besides drinking, is to get a yogurt or kefir culture -- both should be available at your local health-food store -- and grow it. Kefir usually matures overnight; yogurt may take a few days. Also you can check your local cultures by leaving a jar of warm milk on the windowsill overnight to sour. If it smells good the next day (i.e. not like a sewer) it is safe and healthy to drink (and good for the digestion) -- you will not be confused about the smell, it will be obviously good or obviously bad. When I say "warm milk" I don't mean you should heat it, I just mean unrefrigerated.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Jeremy Osner

      Jeremy: You're my HERO! Thank you, thank you. It *is* kind of exiting. And the eggs! Freshly collected eggs. Now that's something to cluck about. She said if I planned to come, to do it before mud season, so she's OUT there. pat

      1. re: pat hammond
        Jeremy Osner

        Hi Pat,

        You're welcome -- Jen Kalb's post made me think I should note about timing -- uncultured raw milk you should really drink within 24 hours of milking. I would assume the dairy you found is selling milk from this morning's milking; you should check to make sure that is true, and use what you buy within the day -- either drink it, cook with it, or set it up to culture.

        1. re: Jeremy Osner

          I buy raw milk every couple of weeks from a Mennonite farm and have been doing so for the past year. (Ok so I don't actually "buy" it I donate to their farm.) I get up to 10 gallons at a time (cooled till I get home) then I freeze it. The unfrozen is always best but just keep shaking after thawing the frozen stuff and it's great.

          It is wonderful stuff can't say enough for it. Can not only make yoghurt but also cheeses (nothing like the flavor of cheese from raw milk), as well as butter (remember store-bought is pasturized as well).

          Never had a moments problem. Am raising my children on it. Buy farm-fresh eggs as well. Next step is to get my own cow (just bought the book "Family Cow" it full of information even if you never actually take the jump).

          1. re: JoAnna

            You are freezing it? I have tried to freeze it... it always is off. What are you doing to make it right?

            1. re: Sal Vanilla

              After I thaw it (in the refrigerator), I shake it very well until I see the cream and the milk blended together again. I actually shake it in the bottle even if I don't freeze it... before each time I pour it, because the cream separates... The farmer I buy from, his milk is half cream/half milk in the gallon bottle, God it's so delicious.

              I only had to freeze it when I lived in Chicago, I had to go over a 100 miles to a farm in WI so I bough a lot for the time I knew I couldn't make the trip next week. Now I buy it fresh from a farmer a few towns down so I can have it fresh any time I want to. I now even get an extra bottle just to leave it out over night to make butter milk. Yumm :)

    2. You probably should be uncomfortable. I grew up with a dad who is a dairy technologist. Every so often we visited his aunt's small dairy farm in upstate NY, where we were treated to absolutely delicious milk and cream essentially straight from the cow. They would always send us away with a container of milk, which he would pour by the roadside as soon as we got a decent distance away from the farm. He felt that even with adequate refrigeration the risk of bacterial growth in the unpasteurized milk was just too great to carry it away for later consumption. I would hope that farms that sell "raw" milk directly to the public are even more rigorous in their sanitary and refrigeration practices than farms which sell exclusively in bulk to dairies but that may not be so. I guess my advice is to be very careful about who you buy raw milk from and how scrupulous their sanitary practices are. Refrigerate the milk immediately after purpose and use it up fast. I still remember the taste of that fresh creamy milk though...

      2 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        Thanks, Jen. Information is what I'm after. I'm really a babe in the literal woods. pat

        1. re: jen kalb

          Current thread on raw milk for drinking and for cheese, and the incidence of illness:

          "Raw milk cheese and other unpasteurized dangers? "

        2. p
          Pat Goldberg

          I grew up drinking raw milk with no ill effects. But watch out for the first few days after the cows go outside to pasture -- they eat everything in sight and the flavor of the milk can be just awful. This was not just my experience. I started to say something about the first days out to pasture to a friend who grew up on a dairy farm in Peru, NY. She made the most amazing grimace. It was clear she had similar memories to mine!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Pat Goldberg

            Onion grass?? I remember something like that from my grandfather's dairy farm in southern Maine. He had a small milk route and sometimes his customers would call to complain about off-tasting milk. I recall his ph. # was 22-6, which meant there were 5 other familes on the line! If you had an extended conversation someone would interrupt to tell you that you'd talked long enough! pat

            1. re: pat hammond
              Pat Goldberg

              Ours was 23R4 and featured a live operator, also a neighbor, to complete calls.

              It may have been onion grass. But it sure was nasty.

              1. re: Pat Goldberg

                Pat, I was one of those operators back in the late 50s, the year before I went off to college. "Number, please?"

                Was talking to some folks last night who drink raw milk regularly. They echoed your caveat about waiting until the cows had been out awhile. pat

              2. re: pat hammond

                I'm not sure of the scientific name of the plant, but there is definately something that the cows can eat that makes the milk taste terrible. In southern Georgia where I grew up, my family loves to tell about one of my uncles spitting fresh milk across the kitchen and exclaiming "Betsy's been in the bitterweed patch!"

                1. re: Bonnie Celt

                  I've heard the same about cows eating just a small amount of certain herbs and their milk amplifying the essence. I believe things like ramps and other wild garlicky herbs do that. I wonder if a cheesemaker could perform magic with milk like that, or if the "flavor" would change or deteriorate during the process...?

              3. re: Pat Goldberg

                Apparently single-source milk can have a peculiar taste at times other than this. I am reading a collection of short stories entitled "String Too Short to be Saved" by Donald Hall and came across the following paragraph:

                "Sometimes our hay was poor, especially if it had stood too long after it had turned ripe. The juice drained out, and in the winter the cattle would turn up their great pink-and-black noses at it. There was a meadow in back of the Blasingtons' which was thick enough - your foot sank in the soft turf - but in which the weeds and the wild flowers grew as grossly as the pungent grass. Often when we brought in a load from the Blasington meadow we stored it in the lofts of the sheep barn and spared the finicky cattle. For one thing, sheep didn't have milk to be off-flavor on the doorsteps of Manchester."

                So I guess it is worth knowing something about where the silage comes from as well.

              4. p
                Peter B. Wolf

                Pat, I envy you. Please let me know name and address of that farm, you know I live just down from you Farmingdale/Hallowell. I will eat and drink anything that's "un". Grew up with it in the old country. Let me give you an address to get excellent culture for yoghurt, quark and Kefir:
                G.E.M. Cultures, 30301 Sherwood Road, Fort Bragg CA 95437 Tel: 707-964-2922, send them a SASE and they will send you a small brochure/price list.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Peter B. Wolf


                  So far all I know is Cornville. Will let you know when I have more info. I'll see her next week.

                  And thanks to everyone for their input. pat

                2. I had the pleasure of being fed only raw milk for the first five years of my life. We lived in Brooklyn, NY and had raw milk delivered from Walker-Gorden Dairy every day. They referred to it as raw and certified but not homogenized or pasteurized.

                  Milk in this country is a hugely political food. So-called whole milk is actually a predetermined 4% of butterfat homogenized into skim. This is purely an arbitrary thing. Oh, and by the way, milk doesn't have to be COWS milk like we all have been brainwashed into believing (but not us chowhounds, I'm sure). Cows milk was provided by nature to nourish calves.

                  The dairy industry is very powerful and goes to great lengths to maintain our mental set regarding their product. A case could be made for the obesity rate in this country being so high in part because of the ingestion of products of the dairy industry, especially because of homogenization; not cows milk, per se, but the way it is processed and then "shoved down our throats" as necessary to children's health and the American way of life.