Preparing Fresh Milk

Israel (where, until recently, I spent most of my adult life) has a reputation for “optimizing cows” – blend of methods and technologies that cause cows to produce industrial (economically effective) amounts of milk – way more then they would naturally. Much of this is supposedly (I haven’t corroborated this) achieved through hormones and I am guessing some genetic engineering. I didn’t (and still don’t) want those intentions and chemicals coursing through me so I mostly stayed away from milk products and consumed soy-milk instead (even when my Yoga teacher suggested I add more milk to my diet).

Here in Romania the milk is so much better – even the industrialized milk tastes and feels better. But there is nothing like milk from the market – it is fresh, rich, tasty and alive. It does however require a bit more attention and preparation. So here’s what I’ve been able to gather so far.

Milk

It is sold in everyday plastic bottles and the first thing you need to do filter and boil it.

We filtered the milk the first couple of times we bought it and found that it was very clean – so now we skip that part and skip directly to the boiling. We spread some butter on the bottom of pot to prevent the milk from sticking and burning (though we are still playing around with this – Andreea has a hunch that the butter may be causing the milk to spoil sooner).

We pour in all the milk and leave it on a medium sized flame.

When it boils a fatty layer forms on top (this is the fat that is used to make butter and what you see are just the leftovers since most of the fat has already been removed to make cream and butter).

Soon after it will begin to rise and that’s when you need to turn off the flame and let it cool.

After it cools you can easily scoop out a substantial top layer of fat (which is really just a residue of what was originally there).

After it has cooled we filter (there’s still some fat floating around in it) it into glass bottles. We’ve been told that all milk products are better kept in glass containers instead of plastic ones. It keeps in the fridge for 5 or 6 days at best!

And even after all the removal, scopping and filtering of fat – there is still enough there to form a natural cork in the neck of the bottle.

Yogurt

We also make Yogurt from the fresh milk. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Mix an equal quantity of unboiled milk with boiled milk. The unboiled mix carries in it the bacteria which transforms the milk in Yogurt.
  2. Add a spoon of cream (though yogurt will probably work too) to the boiled milk and in this way introduce the bacteria which transforms the milk.

We’ve tried both. The 1st option resulted in a Yogurt that was slightly more sour and less to my liking. So we placed a spoon of cream in a 1 liter jar and mixed it together with fresh boiled milk. The jar needs to be left open and covered with a cloth.

… and after 24 hours you get Yogurt. It’s that simple (with real milk)!

2 Comments

  1. kris
    Posted November 30, 2011 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    Again great post …. a couple of questions though WHY do you feel the need to boil fresh milk ? Cant you just drink it fresh ? Do you not trust the people you buy from ? Maybe when you get to know the source you can provide your own containers ….I had a cow growing up and we drank it straight from the bucket ! If you can ask for whole milk you get the added bonus of cream and that is amazing scooped from the top and then you have everything you need for butter yoghurt and even cheese and of course WHOLE milk. Also Glass is best plastic is from petrochemicals and suss at best so yes use glass where ever you can especially when heat is involved. Sounds like you guys are on your way to a wonderful life … congratulations and love the site thanks for letting me stop by : )…. p.s have you tried double boiling instead of direct heat – like when melting chocolate : ) if you still feel the need to boil "imho" l think people have forgotten that milk is natural and the less interference the better Modern milk is what should have a warning label on it !!!!

    • iamronen
      Posted December 2, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      This is a great question … and answering it goes to the heart of what we perceive to be a threat to traditional Romanian culture … so I'll do my best 🙂

      When this post was written we were living in the city and making an effort to get most of our food products from the market where it is mostly from surrounding villages. We even had a favorite woman from which we purchased the milk. Until one day, as we were walking home and Andreea tasted the milk and recognized that it had milk-powder in it – the milk was diluted – to make more profit. I wrote about this on my personal blog: http://iamronen.com/2011/03/one-romanian-woman-in….

      This single event captures much of what it happening in Romania. The city markets are being strangled both by corrupt politicians who prefer to turn the precious real-estate into profit-making buildings and by the industrialized food sold in huge and appealing stores. Villagers work very hard (there isn't much permaculture wisdom to be found – so they really do work hard, too hard) to make a very small profit. These forces act on the villagers and they in turn compromise the quality of the produce to make more profit.

      We have since moved out the village and for the large part we have stopped boiling our milk. We are closer to the producers and know (to a great extent) how they grow their cows. Still there are varying degrees of quality between different producers and cows. Fortunately, when it comes to feed, the villagers cannot (yet) afford industrial feed and still rely upon grazing and huge hay piles for the winter.

      Though in Romania city-people tend to look down at village life I see it the other way around. The city depends on the village for sustenance. That relationship has become abusive and out of balance because of industrial alternatives. I look forward to it achieving a better balance. In the current market dynamics I doubt very much we would make an effort to grow food for sale (unless we found an alternate channel … like direct delivery food-boxes). We will happily pick berries for our own jams but are not likely to do so for others.

      Ironically you can also find (in large/developed cities) a growing fashion of terribly expensive organic food stores – but most of their produce comes from other countries. So on the one hand economic forces are destroying healthy local production (in a country where farming and gardening has been a long-standing tradition) and on the other hand they are opening a door for expensive "organic" produce from other countries. I am tempted to say its sad … but I prefer to think it's society experimenting looking for better solution … only this experiment is going to fail. I guess that sometimes you have go around a long path and come back to your starting point realizing that you already had it good.

      All that in fresh milk 🙂

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