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Raw milk has a bad rap with some people. It’s even treated like contraband in some states. I personally believe that raw milk is far healthier for you than pasteurized milk. I would’t drink just any ol’ raw milk though. The source must be a healthy dairy animal and the handling practices must be sanitary. It’s all in how you handle raw milk.
When we handle raw milk, we take certain steps to be sure that our milk is clean and safe for our family as well as stays tasting fresh. Sometimes, real milk is thought to have a “cowy” or “goaty” taste but this is not a problem when handled correctly. The off flavors come from the breaking down of the enzymes in the milk. Enzymes start doing their enzyme thing immediately so getting the milk chilled completely as fast as possible is very important.
We always use stainless steel and glass to handle raw milk. This ensures that we can properly sanitize our tools and it keeps the milk tasting great and not getting any weird or off flavors from plastics. No one wants their milk to taste like plastic, bleck!
How to Handle Raw Milk
1- We start by milking the animal (we used to have a milk cow but now we have goats). You can see exactly how we milk here. We are very careful to clean the udder to keep any debris from getting in the milk. By cleaning the animal’s udder, we are taking the first step in keeping our milk fresh.
2- Once we get a full pail or finish with that specific animal (whichever comes first), we pour our milk into a clean jar. This jar has a double straining system using a stainless steel funnel with a mesh strainer as well as a reusable coffee filter. This makes sure that no debris or hair gets in the jar ensuring that phase 2 results in fresh milk.
3- We place this jar in an ice bath to begin the chilling process before we even get in the house with it. The ice bath is a large stainless pail but any kind of bucket would do. We put several inches of cold water and ice in the pail so that’s it is extremely coldThis keeps the enzymes from being as active and breaking down the milk. I learned this little trick from Jess at 104 Homestead.
4- We pour all of the milk from our goats into the same jar. As soon as we fill a jar, we send it to the house to be placed in the freezer. We usually need more than one jar so we like to send the full one into the house as quickly as possible. One of the farm kids can handle that task for us.
5- Once we finish the milking process, we take any milk that hasn’t been taken in yet to the house. We leave at least 1 inch of headspace in the jars and place them in the freezer. We set a timer for 1 hour for 1/2 gallon jars and 30 minutes for quart jars.
Don’t forget the timer, you don’t want your milk to freeze! Well, we’ve forgotten the timer a once or twice (or twelve or twenty or…. well, you get the point), this is where the headspace in the jar comes in, it won’t break if theres plenty of room for the milk to expand when it freezes.
If your milk does freeze, its ok-don’t freak out, it is still good, you can just thaw it out and still use it. If you plan to make goat’s milk soap, you may want to freeze some milk in baggies.
Starting out with raw milk can seem so involved or even somewhat intimidating. It’s really not hard to make sure it is safe, clean, and tastes great.
It’s all in your sanitary practices and how you handle the raw milk. I love having access to such a healthy and valuable food item for my family. Plus, there are all kinds of yummy dairy food I can make using it. (Like ranch dressing, muffins, pancakes, broccoli cheese cornbread, mozzarella cheese, butter, half and half, hot chocolate, ice cream, and everything that needs milk!)
For more information on raw milk and your state’s laws, check out the Real Milk website.
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