Milk. It’s a simple pure product, right? The ingredient label is simple – just milk plus a few added vitamins. The USDA recommends we drink three glasses a day.
I started to discover the complicated story of milk after reading Milk: The Suprising Story of Milk Through the Ages. Traditional cultures, I learned, have enjoyed raw and cultured milk products for thousands of years. Our current practices of pasteurization, homogenization, and removing butter fat from milk, however, seem to completely alter milk’s chemistry. This, in turn, changes how our bodies digest and process it. Unfortunately, I read the book when living in Somerville, MA before the founding of the amazing local food stores that now grace the city. Without a car, I had no real way of getting raw milk, so I started to drink smaller amounts of organic milk and more organic yogurt.
Now that I’m in Vermont, I’m incredibly lucky to have a handful of local farms within biking distance that offer weekly raw milk subscriptions. Now that I can drink it, I’m more excited to read about it’s benefits. On a national scale, Weston Price Foundation’s Real Milk site keeps up on the latest research and legal issues. Locally, Rural Vermont worked to legalize Raw Milk in Vermont and continues to support producers and consumers. I’ve noticed several recent articles about milk – one found that preschoolers consuming higher fat milk were less obese and another found that raw milk consumption is a protective factor for asthma. There was even a “real milk war” in which experts debated the safely of raw milk (fun to listen to you want to be introduced to the facts and controversy). Clearly milk is an issue we take personally and have a lot of opinions about!
In the past few week’s I’ve been lucky to sample raw cows’ milk from Donegan Family Farm and Elderflower Farm, as well as raw goats’ milk from Long Field Farm. It’s amazing how good yet subtly different they all taste. We enjoy making butter, ice cream, yogurt, eggnog, and feta from our raw milk. Yogurt is a great one to try out first. Lacto fermented dairy has many benefits even if you aren’t starting with raw milk, and you don’t need any special ingredients.
To make yogurt, you’ll need milk, 1/4 cup of good plain yogurt (I love using Butterworks Farm yogurt as my starter), clean canning jars, a pot, a thermometer, and a warm undisturbed place that can be kept at 110 degrees. If you start with 1 gallon of milk, you’ll get one gallon of yogurt. We use our oven, which has a pilot light, as our warm place – with the door shut it stays just above 100 degrees. You can also use an igloo cooler filled with warm water to incubate your yogurt.
-Pour your milk into a heavy sauce pan. Gradually heat it to 180 degrees.
-Remove from heat and cool to 110 degrees (use a cold water bath to speed this process)
-Stir in your yogurt starter until all the bumps are gone.
-Gently pour into clean canning jars.
-Place in a warm (110 degrees) undisturbed location for at least four hours.
-Refrigerate and enjoy! Remember to save 1/4 cup for starting your next batch!