There is a big difference
between home dairying to produce food for your family and dairying to
sell milk or milk byproducts to others. Since milk and dairy products
are some of the most closely monitored farm products, laws and legal
requirements pertaining to their sale and processing are staggering. For
this reason, this article addresses milk and milk byproducts for
personal consumption only.
In terms of productivity, few
animals can compare with the homestead dairy animal. From this humble
creature comes pure milk, providing valuable nutrition for you and your
family. Milk is also the foundation of many other delicious foods like
cheese, butter, yogurt, pudding, sauces, custards, ice cream, milk
soups, and gravies, as well as nonedibles like livestock feed, homemade
paint, and soaps.
Cattle and goats are the two
most commonly utilized dairy animals in the United States. Each species
requires housing, fencing, and feeding, as well as a firm commitment to
regular, twice daily milking. This is a very important consideration to
remember when acquiring a dairy animal. Regardless of which you may
choose to own, the milk and milk byproducts from each are handled
basically the same way.
Stainless steel is the material of choice
for milking buckets and for other containers used in milk processing.
It is also the most expensive and beyond the budget for many.
Fortunately food grade plastic containers and glass will work fine, but
they should be seamless since bacteria and germs can collect in seams. Clean utensils
are a major factor in milk flavor and one of the biggest causes of
“off-flavor” milk. Always pre-rinse buckets, containers, and other
utensils in lukewarm water as soon as possible after using. This
pre-rinsing will help prevent milkstone deposits from forming, which can
be very difficult to remove. Next wash and scrub thoroughly in warm
soapy water, then rinse. Follow with another rinse in scalding water and
air dry upside down.
Any milk intended for human
consumption should be strained. Milk strainers can be purchased which
use disposable paper filters. One of the smaller models can be purchased
with 300 filters for less than $15. You can use a regular kitchen
strainer lined with several layers of a clean fabric like a dishcloth,
muslin, or diaper. Always rinse and boil the cloth afterwards. Glass
jars, like regular canning jars or gallon jars can be used for storing
milk. Because of the difficulty in cleaning, plastic commercial milk
jugs should not be used. You will also need buckets or other containers
for washing and rinsing the animal’s udder, as well as a cloth and towel
for drying. Commercial udder wash is available, but most home dairies
use a small amount of mild antibacterial soap like baby wash added to
the water. A small amount of vinegar is also sometimes regularly added
to the rinse water.
It is important to keep milk as clean and
sanitary as possible. Clean utensils, washing and drying the udder,
brushing the animal to remove loose hair and debris, fresh bedding, and
keeping long hair clipped from the udder will all help to keep your milk
clean and reduce the bacteria count. Always strain milk immediately
Pasteurization is a
bacteria-killing process that kills germs. Some scoff at the notion of
pasteurization, maintaining that if you have healthy animals it is not
necessary. Others are adamant about it, insisting that all milk is
potentially dangerous unless pasteurized. Convenient electric
pasteurizers are available that you simply plug in or you can use a
double boiler set-up and pasteurize on your stovetop. Use a thermometer
and heat the milk to 161 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir milk to be sure it is
161 degrees throughout, then hold at this temperature for 20 seconds.
Remove the milk from the heat and cool quickly by placing in ice water.
If you choose not to
pasteurize, immediately chill milk by placing the strained milk in a
container of ice water. Ideally you should chill the milk to a
temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit within one hour. Store milk, both
pasteurized and unpasteurized, in the coldest part of the refrigerator.
Milk can be canned or frozen
for those times when your dairy animals are not producing milk. To can
milk, fill jars to 1/2 inch from the top and process for 10 minutes at
10 pounds pressure or process in a boiling water bath for 60 minutes.
Processed milk will not taste like fresh milk but it is suitable for
cooking. To freeze milk, use jars, plastic containers, or freezer bags.
Allow for expansion (like freezing any liquid) and let thaw completely
before drinking for better taste.
Butter and cream
Butter is made from the cream part of the
milk. Cream is the globules of fat that are suspended throughout milk.
Cream is harder to remove from goat’s milk than from cow’s milk because
of the difference in the milk’s structure, not the cream content. There
are two basic ways to remove the cream from either animal’s milk: by
skimming or by separating.
Cream can generally be removed
from cow’s milk by skimming. Simply let the milk set undisturbed for 24
hours, then skim off the cream, which will have risen to the top. When
you remove cream in this manner, you do not get it all because some will
stay mixed with the milk, but this cream is denser than that which
stays mixed and great for making butter or whipped cream. If goat’s milk
is left to set for 24 hours, some cream will rise to the top, but not
nearly as large of an amount.
Using a cream separator is the
most thorough way of removing the cream from milk. If you use a
separator for goat’s milk, be sure it is one that can be adjusted for
goat’s milk or one that is designed specifically for goat’s milk.
Separators work on the principle of centrifugal force and are available
in both freestanding and tabletop models. If buying a used one, be sure
all the parts are there. Separators have as many as 18 disks, (depending
upon the model) that the milk is forced through. Many separators
commonly seen at auctions and antique shops do not have all the disks.
Churning the separated cream
makes butter. Churns are traditionally dasher churns which are some sort
of crock with a wooden dasher, drum churns which are a revolving drum
with paddles inside, and hand-cranked churns, which are gear-driven
paddles inside a jar. The famous Daisy churn from years gone by is an
example of a gear-driven churn. Electric and nonelectric versions of the
Daisy can be found, while some people routinely use their kitchen
mixers or blenders at low speeds. If you do not have a butter churn, a
quart jar and lid will work nicely. Let 24-hour old cream reach 60
degrees in temperature, then fill the churn (or jar) not over half full.
Rhythmically and steadily slosh the cream back and forth. Butter will
usually begin appearing after 20-30 minutes of churning, resembling
small clumps in the milk.
After churning, the butter
must be “worked” to remove the milk from it. This is critical in making
good butter that will remain tasty. Remove butter from the milk and
place in a bowl of cold water. Gather the butter into a ball, then
flatten into a layer. Repeat as if kneading bread and change the water
frequently. As the milk is rinsed away the butter will begin to feel
waxy. Continue working until the water remains clear. Remove from the
water and knead with a spatula to remove as much water as possible. Salt
can also be added at this time and worked into the butter if you wish.
Pat dry and shape into a patty (or use a mold). Cover and refrigerate or
wrap and freeze for later use.
Cream can be frozen after
separating and utilized later as butter or whipped cream. Let thaw
completely before using.
If you have never tasted homemade yogurt,
you are in for a real treat. Yogurt made from whole milk is far
superior in taste to the commercial variety. If you are using cow’s milk
for yogurt you should skim it first. Goat’s milk will be fine as is.
Adding “friendly” bacteria to the milk (in this instance it is
Acidophilus) causes the milk sugar (lactose) to turn to lactic acid and
“sour” the milk, producing yogurt.
Acidophilus can be purchased
as cultured or non-cultured bacteria. The easiest way however is to
simply purchase a container of commercial yogurt like Dannon plain
yogurt with acidophilus, as a starter. After that you can save your own
culture from each batch for the next.
Yogurt making tips
- Yogurt made from pasteurized milk is
often more successful because the “friendly” bacteria is not competing
with the “unfriendly.” This is important if you plan to save starter
from each batch for the next one. Yogurt can be made immediately after
pasteurizing by cooling the milk from 161 to 110 degrees F and then
proceeding with making the yogurt, bypassing the warming step that
follows in the directions below.
- Be careful not to use milk that is too hot when making yogurt.
Temperatures over 115 degrees F can kill the acidophilus.
- Yogurt likes to be kept evenly warm and not disturbed during
incubation. Electric incubators are available, but covered jars placed
in a warm spot, (100-110 degrees) will work just as well. Some folks
choose to place the jars on a heating pad and cover with a towel, others
use their ovens or other heat source. I have never had a failure when
using an insulated cooler. Simply place the covered jars in a cooler and
add 100-105 degree water until it reaches the necks of the jars. Close
the cooler and let set in a warm place until the incubation is complete.
- Adding more starter will not make the yogurt thicker, only more
sour. Powdered milk or gelatin can be added for thickness.
For plain unflavored yogurt, the first
step is to warm milk to 110 degrees F over low heat. Next add 1 heaping
teaspoon of cultured starter for each quart of milk and stir gently.
Remove from heat and pour into clean warm jars and place in a warm spot
to incubate. Do not disturb. Yogurt is ready when thickened, usually 6-8
hours later. Refrigerate after incubation. Adding 1/2 cup of powered
milk or 1/2 pack of dissolved gelatin per quart of milk will make the
yogurt thicker and more like commercial yogurt. This should be added
before incubation. After incubation is complete, fruits, honey, vanilla,
etc. can be added to the yogurt. Save some of the yogurt for starter in
your next batch before adding any of these.
Flavored yogurt is easiest
made by using flavored gelatin (like Jell-o brand gelatin). First
prepare plain, unflavored yogurt as directed above, but do not add
thickeners. Next dissolve 8 tablespoons of flavored gelatin in 1/2 cup
of cool water and bring to a boil. Add to the yogurt before incubation.
Fruit or jam can also be placed in the bottom of the container like
commercial yogurts if you wish.
Cheese making is an art in itself, but
many of the simpler varieties can easily be made at home. Homemade
cheeses are generally divided into three basic groups: soft, semi-soft,
and hard. All cheeses contain the same basic ingredients—milk, cultures
or “friendly” bacteria, rennet, and salt. What makes cheeses different
is the type of culture used and the way it is processed. Some specific
types of cheeses require the addition of special powders or mold in
addition to the basic culture. Colorings are also available to make the
Milk coagulation is caused by adding
rennet, which is either animal or vegetative based. It is available in
either tablet or liquid form and is always diluted with a small amount
of water before use. Both tablets and liquid come with dilution
instructions and strengths but generally are diluted as 3 drops of
liquid rennet or 1/2 tablet to 1/4 cup of cool water.
Cheese cultures are usually divided into
two basic groups. Like Acidophilus in yogurt, they change the milk sugar
(lactose) into lactic acid. Mesophilic culture is the one most often
used in homemade cheese making. It does not like high heat and is used
in soft cheeses, Colby, and Cheddar. Buttermilk is also made with
Mesophilic culture and commercial cultured buttermilk can be
interchanged in cheese recipes that call for Mesophilic cultures.
Thermophilic cultures are used in cheeses that require high heat when
processing like Mozzarella, Swiss, Provolone, and Parmesan.
Cheese cultures can be
purchased as a freeze-dried powder that is simply added to the milk when
making cheese. When kept in the freezer it will last indefinitely.
The easiest cheeses to make at home are
the soft cheeses. They require no pressing, aging, or special humidity
and temperature control. They do not take a lot of time in actual
preparation, require little attention, and most of the
equipment needed you probably already have. To make soft cheese, begin
by heating 5 quarts of whole milk to 80 degrees F in a large kettle.
Stir in 1/2 cup of commercial cultured buttermilk or 1/8 teaspoon of
freeze-dried Mesophilic DVI culture. Add 2 tablespoons of diluted
rennet, (dilute according to manufacturer’s directions) and stir well.
Cover and let set at room temperature for 10-12 hours. As coagulation
occurs, a layer of whey will appear on the top of the curds. (Whey is
used in Ricotta cheese and can also be fed to livestock.) Line a
colander or other strainer with muslin, cheesecloth, or a clean
pillowcase. Then pour the curds into it. Gather the corners of the cloth
and tie with cord, then hang to drain. Draining can take 8 hours; when
complete, the curds will be of a consistency similar to cream cheese.
The cheese is now ready to be
seasoned or flavored if you wish. Additives like garlic, chives, minced
onion, hot peppers, powdered ranch dressing mix, and dill make tasty
cheeses. Work the additives thoroughly through the cheese and shape into
a patty or mound. Plain cheese can be used as cream cheese in recipes
or frozen for later use.
Cottage cheese requires a
little more preparation than basic soft cheese. Begin by warming 1
gallon of milk to 90 degrees F and add 1 cup commercial cultured
buttermilk or 1/4 teaspoon freeze-dried Mesophilic DVI culture. Next add
3 drops of liquid or 1/2 tablet of rennet (dilute first in a small
amount of water) to the milk, cover and let set in a warm place to
coagulate. When curds appear, use a long knife and cut into small cubes
about 1/2 to 1 inch in diameter. Cut across the curds one way, then the
other to form squares. Let the curds sit for 30 minutes, occasionally
stirring slowly and gently to prevent them from clumping. Return to heat
to firm up the curds. This is a matter of personal taste. The
temperature at which you stop heating will determine the firmness of the
curds. Curds are cooked when they no longer are custard-like in the
center. Heat slowly, and gently stir frequently. Stop heating around 115
degrees F for softer cheese, 120 degrees for the firmer, “farmer style”
cottage cheese. Dump the curds into a colander with small holes and
drain off the whey. Rinse off with cold water and drain again. Add salt
to taste and refrigerate after draining has stopped.
Other uses for milk
Pigs, chickens, and other fowl love milk.
If you have more milk than you can use, it is an eagerly devoured and
nutritious feed that will help cut down on the feed bill. Most livestock
seem to prefer it clabbered, which is easily accomplished with fresh
milk by adding a glug of vinegar to a bucket of milk and permitting it
to sit for an hour or so.
Milk paint is very popular for
interior decorating and for restoring furniture, both antique and faux
antique. To make whitewash from milk, add 3 oz. of slake lime to 1/2
gallon of milk. Stir well, then add 3 oz. of linseed oil. Colored paint
can be made by adding pigment to the above until the desired shade is
obtained. Pigment is available in many hardware and paint stores, as
well as art stores. You can make your own pigment from natural sources
like clay, roots, and other vegetative matter. A smoother finish can be
obtained if the paint is strained before using and lightly sanded after
Adding milk to lye soap makes
it kinder to the skin. To make wonderful milk and honey soap, first
dissolve 1/4 cup honey in 1/2 cup hot water. Next pour into a large
enamel kettle (do not use aluminum) and add 2-1/2 cups cold milk. Stir
well with a smooth piece of wood or wooden spoon, and then slowly add 6
oz. (by weight) of lye, being careful not to breathe the fumes. The
mixture will begin heating and get very hot. After it cools to 70
degrees F, warm 7 cups of rendered lard (or a combination of lard and
palm or olive oil) to 80 degrees and slowly pour into the mixture. Stir
constantly until it resembles thick honey, then pour into molds.
Insulate the soap with blankets or a layer of newspapers so it will cool
slowly. Allow to sit for 48 hours, then unmold and allow to cure for 6
weeks before using. Always work in a well-ventilated area when making
lye soap and avoid breathing the fumes or letting the lye splash on you!
Caprine Supply, P.O. Box Y, Desoto, KS
New England Cheesemaking Supply, P.O. Box 85, Ashfield, MA 01330.
Both these sources carry a
variety of supplies and equipment for the home dairy. Many farm supply
houses also carry a line of home dairying equipment.
by Marcella Shaffer
Read More Food
& Recipes Articles
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