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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.

                  1. b
                    Brandon Nelson

                    Hi Pat

                    I wouldn't worry to much as long as you follow these guidelines, keep it cold, use it up fast. The B.Y.O.B. regs have to do more with our litigious society than they do with unsafe milk. The U.S. has built up a well deserved reputation for being lawsuit happy. The effect of this situation is the near absense of raw milk, and cheese made from raw milk.

                    I would do this; sterilize the bottle, make sure the milk was very fresh, and keep it on ice for the trip home. Oh, by the way, I envy your good fortune.


                    1. Hi Pat,

                      When my grandparents had their ranch up near Red Bluff, CA., we used to go down the road to Mrs. Joseph's place every day to get raw milk. (Hey, I'm only 38, and know the joys of the stuff).

                      Do you have an ice cream maker? If the answer is "yes", then when those "balmy" New England summers hit, you are going to have the makings for the best home-made ice cream that you've ever had! The most delicious ice cream I've ever tasted was my Grandpa's fresh peach ice cream, made with the cream skimmed off of raw milk. I am so envious!

                      Yours in junketness,
                      P.S. Yoroshiku

                      1. I definitely wouldn't buy raw milk in hot weather because the cows stand in pond water in the heat, and their normally crusted-over teat orifices are opened and nasty things like e-coli get in from the dirty (manure-thickened) pond water.

                        A friend in Duncan OK became very ill after buying raw milk two years ago. I'm sure the "own container" thing is to help protect dairies from litigation from people who become ill after consuming their product.

                        One good reason is malta fever, or undulant fever, from brucellosis abortus which collects in the uterus & udders of infected cows and is destroyed by heat. When contracted by humans it remains in your system permanently causing fever and severe flu-like symptoms repeatedly, and later shaky handwriting and you can never give blood again. Your state is, I'm pretty sure, brucellosis-free after 50 years of lots of very very hard work.

                        But yes, under ideal conditions, it is tastier stuff.

                        1. My parents grew up on farms drinking raw milk as did my grandparents as have people for thousands of years. Milk is pasteurized to kill bacteria present because factory dairy farms make the cows sick. 70% of the antibiotics in this country are given to factory farmed animals to keep them from being too sick to eat/milk. Raw milk is as heavily regulated in this country as pasteurized milk if you buy it in a store and it's quite superior in taste. It also has enormous health benefits as it's a living food naturally but pasteurization kills the healthy bacteria as well as the bad.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: littlewonderpics

                            This is pseudo-scientific nonsense. People have been suffering from milk-borne illnesses (eg, listeria) for thousands of years, as well. Boiling milk is a common practice in places with unpasteurized milk. This playing-with-fire raw milk craze is only coming about because in the US the last of the people who remember the days before pasteurization are dying off.

                            Technology is your friend. Find microfiltered milk or boil your raw milk, and don't get sick.

                            1. re: tmso

                              TMSO, it hasn't been that long. My mom grew up drinking raw milk and she's in her early 50s. My sweetie did too, and he's in his early 40s.

                              There have been HUGE improvements to raw milk safety since they were young, too. In my state raw milk is held to a much higher standard that milk that is destined for pasteurization. The raw milk dairies all test their milk in modern labs locally. They charge an arm and a leg because it's so difficult to keep the product immaculately clean. They put so much effort into bringing this product to market. Even if I could keep my own pastured Jersey cow, I'd stick to buying my milk from them.

                              And science-wise, explain to me why pasteurized milk gives me lactose-intolerance symptoms galore (read: very sick) and raw milk doesn't give me any symptoms. It's not pseudo-science to say that the live nature of the food means something.

                              1. re: Vetter

                                The enzymes that are killed during pasteurization may help you digest milk. I'm not saying that that's so, I'm saying that that's a good possibility.

                          2. We have, no make that had, a nice little town run dairy in Simsbury, CT until this year. The dairy was selling both pasturized (in the local stores) and raw milk products. Last spring, approx 12 people became ill with e.coli from the raw milk. Two of them were extremely ill. Unfortunately the dairy is now out of business and they are in the process of selling most of the herd. It is very sad.

                            I would not take a chance on drinking raw milk unless it was my cow and I "poured" it myself.

                            1. Raw milk is sold in grocery stores here in Southern CA. I've been interested in buying some, but have been a little scared.
                              Based on reading the posts in this threads, it seems I shouldn't buy the stuff in the store b/c it probably wasn't milked that day. Is that right? Has anyone bought raw milk from a store?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: cookingodyssey

                                Yes, we've been buying raw milk from Whole Foods here in CA for a few years now, ever since my wife discovered the health benefits. It's organic also, called Organic Pastures.

                                It really is delicious, and neither my wife or I have ever had any bad experiences drinking it. Great in cereal or smoothies!

                                1. re: GK in SO

                                  Have you had the nonfat raw milk? I wonder if it is really "raw" if it is nonfat. I assume they just skim off the fat when it floats to the top.

                              2. I recall as a child having milk squirted into my mouth straight from the teat. I still recall the taste of that cow's milk, its butter and its cream. That was when i was a toddler and farms often had their own, solitary milk cow.

                                However, I don't have to travel far back in my family tree to find someone dead of "milk sickness" or other possible milk-borne diseases including TB.

                                The nozzles of a cow are located at the same end as its alimentary orfices.

                                6 Replies
                                1. re: DockPotato

                                  I'm interested in unhomogenized milk (I don't care about the un/pasteurized issue) because I want to make butter at home. Is raw milk the only way to get unhomogenized milk in the US?

                                  I've tried making butter from homogenized milk and it just does NOT separate.

                                  Or do you all know a reliable way to make butter from homogenized milk, and from yogurt made from homogenized milk? (The latter makes cultured butter).

                                  1. re: Rasam

                                    The reason you can't separate homogenized milk is I believe because it has already partially undergone this process.

                                    The separation process you are referring to I think is separating the cream (fat) from the milk. therefore if you want to make butter I would suggest churning cream (i.e. whipping it to the extreme).

                                    1. re: irisav

                                      OK, I'll try making butter out of cream, thanks.

                                      But what if I want to make yogurt, then make butter from that cultured fat? Any suggestions there?


                                      1. re: Rasam

                                        Trader Joe's has some unhomogenized dairy products. I don't know if they still do, but they used to carry whole milk that was pasteurized but unhomogenized. They definitely carry unhomogenized yogurts...

                                        1. re: Rasam

                                          I'm not really sure about that one.

                                          Butter made from yoghurt, that's a new one for me! I don't know of any method of separating the fat from yoghurt (although presumably there is some method as how else could you wind up with low fat yoghurt?).

                                          The only method I know of to make butter is via cream. But I guess if you already know how to separate the cream/fat from the yoghurt then it would be much the same as the method I mentioned earlier, just keep churning it.

                                          1. re: irisav

                                            Low fat and nonfat yogurt are made from milk that has been separated BEFORE making the yogurt, not afterward.

                                            Note that most fluid milk in the United States has been run through a separator and then has cream and skim milk recombined to hit the desired butterfat level in a process called standardization. Years ago they tended to just blend back cream or skim milk with whole milk to adjust the butterfat level, but the current approach is simpler in the plant and more accurate.

                                            Separators use a centrifuge to separate off the lighter cream from the denser skim milk. These machines run from little hand cranked ones that sit on a table to industrial monsters. They are still available at places like Lehman's Hardware in Kidron, OH: http://www.lehmans.com/shopping/produ...

                                  2. I will keep it simple. If you are immunocomprimised in any way, you cannot risk unpasturized milk. Free range chix eggs are not an issue.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Sal Vanilla

                                      Raw milk actually strengthens your immune system. I would simply suggest, if you are new to raw milk, eat yogurt and drink kefir for a week before you switch to raw milk. Us old raw milk drinkers will not get sick from it, even if we stop for years, and start again.

                                      1. re: DrGraceG

                                        « Raw milk actually strengthens your immune system »

                                        War is peace; Ignorance is strength; Listeria does not exist.

                                        There's a lovely technology called microfiltration that will filter out pathogens without cooking the milk. Failing that, boiling milk is quite effective.

                                    2. My brother and I were raised for the first 5 years on raw milk - my brother was ill a lot and on doctors advice we changed to pasteurised milk. My brother stopped getting stomach problems mmediately. (he has developed chrones disease later in life so maybe he was predisposed to being sensitive to raw milk?)

                                      1. hi i was just given a gallon of milk from a cow share, un pasteurised, the cream on top is pale pink, they say it is safe and has been tested, what do you think? tastes good.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: mamaclogs

                                          Raw milk is fantastic. A real food, a complete food. People who are lactose intolerant do not have problems with raw milk. There is a campaign underway to get people educated on this natural product that is so much better for you than the nonsense with hormones, heat that destroys good bacteria, etc http://www.realmilk.com/

                                        2. You can easily pasteurize your raw milk at home. In fact, that's basically what you're doing when you heat milk for making yogurt. The heat kills off the bacteria in the milk that might overwhelm your yogurt cultures. No need to boil it. Here's a couple of links: