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Two questions about Straus cream-top milk

I have two questions about Strauss cream top milk in the glass jar.

First, what exactly does one do with the cream on top? I wonder, is the milk underneath still considered whole milk, even though the cream isn't homogenized into it like other milks? Or is it more akin to skim?

Second, this stuff goes sour very quickly on me. I'm finding that it sours a few days prior to the expiration date, or about 4 days after I buy it. Is that normal?

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  1. 1. Some people mix it back in. I usually scoop it out and spread it on a scone, brownie, strawberry, etc. The milk is pretty rich without the cream top, so I have no complaints. I think strauss also sells skim with cream top as well.

    2. Yes, it does go sour pretty quick. I think it has to do with their milder pasteurization process. Mine usually lasts about a week. What helps is to keep it very cold--turn your refrigeration down a notch, don't let it linger at room temperature. Whatever you do, don't let people drink straight out of the bottle! Also, I think that shaking it to get the cream top back into the milk tends to shorten the shelf life, but that could be all in my mind.

    8 Replies
    1. re: sfbing

      The 2% has some cream on top, but the skim doesn't really have a cream top. I also like to scoop it out and put it on bread or scones, but I notice sometimes if I've walked home or driven on some bumps, the cream has been shaken back in and there's not much to scoop up.

      And yes, it does go bad more quickly because it's not ultra-pasteurized. Keep it very cold all the way home, leave it in the back of the fridge, and if you're going to shake the cream back in do it with a full bottle but not after you've poured some out .

      1. re: Pei

        Straus is pasteurized using the same HTST process as most other milk. It's just not homogenized. In my experience it keeps just as long.

        The skim doesn't have a cream top because the cream has been skimmed off. Hence the 0% fat.

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          iirc, Straus milk is pasteurized (HTST) but not ultra-pasteurized (UHT, about 280 degrees), which a lot of cheaper milk is.

          1. re: Pei

            Yes. And Strauss pasteurizes to the lowest allowable temperature as well, so it spoilers faster than other brands that aren't ultra-pasteurized (like Clover).

            1. re: Aaron

              It often takes me over two weeks to go through a half-gallon, and it never goes sour on me.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Question: Are you buying actual Strauss label milk or are you buying the Trader Joe's stuff?

                1. re: sfbing

                  I buy Straus label or Trader Joe's depending on which is more convenient. I don't notice any difference except in the price.

              2. re: Aaron

                I believe all dairies in the US that use HTST pasteurization use the lowest allowable temperature. Only UHT pasteurization uses a higher temp. Pasteurization is heavily monitored and regulated, there's no reason to go above the recommended temp (which is set as the lowest possible temp to yield a 5-log reduction of spoilage and pathogenic microbes) unless you're doing UHT.

                In the EU, they also use a lower temp process called thermalization but that's illegal here if you are using the pasteurized label (still considered raw).

      2. I shake the milk vigorously. If you skim off the cream, what's left is skimmed milk (that's why they call it skim).

        Often the cream has solidified and I have to use a whisk (this never used to happen).

        It keeps fine for me. Have you checked your refrigerator with a thermometer? Mine's about 40F.

        1. As sfbing said, you can mix the cream back in but I prefer to put it on a scone or biscuit along with some jam, it's like English clotted cream. Delicious.

          Hmm, I've never noticed it going sour quickly, but maybe we go through our half gallon bottle faster than most?

          2 Replies
          1. re: Kosmonaut

            If you're going to skim off the cream, why not buy skim milk and cream separately? Don't want that much cream?

            I've been buying Straus since they were only at the farmers market and I think I've had only one bottle of milk go sour.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              The cream at the top of Straus cream top more closely resembles the thick, spreadable texture of English clotted cream.

          2. I don't understand why they can't just make non-cream-top 2% milk. You'd think living in the Bay Area we could get glass-bottled homogenized and pasteurized milk that still comes from small locally-owned family farms. Of the three places I've most recently lived - NC, VA, and here, only here can I not find it. That's just wrong considering how much we pride ourselves on local foods movement.

            12 Replies
            1. re: mikeh

              The local foods movement came out of the natural / organic foods movement. Homogenization is (with very rare exceptions) artificial, accomplished by running the milk through a machine invented in 1899.

              Straus's FAQ says, "We do not homogenize our milk because we like a natural product bottled the way it comes out of the cow." It might also be significant that a pasteurizer-bottler costs around $65,000 while a similar machine with homogenization costs around $155,000.

              Pasteurization is also artificial, of course, but there are a lot of legal obstacles to selling raw milk and none to selling unhomogenized milk.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Note that homogenization (the pushing of the liquid through a small orofice to break up the fat globules and create a smooth product) will eventually revert itself if you let the milk sit for awhile (awhile being a week or two with no movement).

                1. re: skwid

                  From the earliest days, we wanted to produce minimally-processed milk ... our decision to not homogenize was part of that philosophy, and had zip to do with cost of equipment (believe me, we weren't spending all that much on equipment either!)

                  If you let the cream separate and skim it off the top, that'll make the rest of your milk pretty much nonfat (though there might still be a little cream lurking in suspension).

                  Milk souring ... generally, that's an issue with refrigeration - should never go sour before the expiration date, and often the milk lasts longer. Worth checking with your store, and checking your own fridge settings. If it's neither, definitely contact the creamery.

                  // MIchael Straus (no longer in the family biz - this month, however, marked the 17 year anniversary of Straus Family Creamery, and I just wrote about those early days on Ethicurean ... there's a link from my blog ... www.MichaelStraus.ORG/my-articles

                  1. re: MichaelStraus

                    Thinking out loud. I sure wish Strauss would supply their Barrista milk for retail sale to some outlets. Even some selected coffee houses would be great.

                        1. re: poser

                          So if Straus is the source for TJs organic cream-top milk, then who provides their homogenized, if it's not Straus?

                            1. re: Spatlese

                              I'm not sure who provides Trader Joe's homogenized organic milk (never bothered to research it since I don't like the flavor), but it's definitely not Straus.

                              1. re: Spatlese

                                Last time I checked I'm pretty sure it was Clover.

                                1. re: lexdevil

                                  After a tour of Clover Stornetta this fall, my understanding is they supply SOME of (local) TJs homogenized milk, but definitely not all.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Although the process of homogenization was patented in 1899, it wasn't widespread until the 1950s. It was a boon to families like ours that had milk delivered to their front porch before dawn in sub-zero temperatures. The cream would freeze solid and expand a couple of inches above the top of the bottle (which is why fitted waxed paper caps were used). You'd have to let the bottle thaw out before remixing.

                      I don't consider the process of forcing the cream through fine tubes to break up the fat into smaller globules "unnatural." One could also say the making of butter is "unnatural." because of mechanical intervention.

                  2. I have noticed there IS no more cream on top of the "cream top" Trader Joe's organic whole milk. A few years ago there was that chunky thick hard to mix up cream on top. Then I noticed in Oregon a year ago there was less and less of it and now there is zero in San Diego. It says it is non-homogenized but if that's true, WHERE IS THE CREAM????? I usually get my milk at a farm in Oregon and the cream always floats to the top a few hours after it is out of the cow and in a jar. It is easily mixed in with the milk after a couple of shakes. That is the natural way cow's milk is. I drank it when I was a teen also and the cream always rose to the top and was shaken up easily. I feel like something is not right with this "cream top" milk at Trader Joe's. Does anyone else feel this way? How can I find out where the cream is?

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: karencandance

                      There's always cream on the top of the Straus cream-top milk I buy regularly at various Trader Joe's in the Berkeley area. The distribution seems to be limited: I was working near San Jose last year and the stores down there carried only the regular homogenized organic milk.