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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Missing Milk

During my years overseas, I had come to the conclusion that milk here would never taste like it does at home. If you buy the UHT milk that you don't have to refrigerate until opening, it tastes like it came from a package. If you buy powdered milk, it's bearable when chilled, but not quite right. If you buy the local packet milk, you have to boil it because of potential pathogens and the likelihood that water may have been added to "top it off." That leaves the milk with a distinct cooked taste. While it tastes alright chilled and is by far the least expensive option (almost half the price of the alternative), it's still just not there.

This summer I discovered a farmer was delivering milk to my upstairs neighbors every day, good quality milk that he is very proud of. We started having him bring it to us, too. He quietly arrives in the early morning and pours milk into a pot I have waiting for him outside. I just put the pot out at night so I don't have to wake up. :) From this small operation of only 20 cows that actually eat grass and a man so proud of his delicious milk, I determined to find alternative methods of pasteurization that did not ruin this good milk. I discovered that when you're not concerned about water you can pasteurize more like modern dairies do, albeit with less technology and speed.

So, if you can spot a farmer around your neighborhood or ask someone who might know one, you can pasteurize your milk this way. Over low heat, slowly bring the milk's temperature up to 165F or 74C. I did it a few times with a thermometer, but worked out that this is the point at which tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan and gradually connect with each other. It needs to stay at this temperature for 20 seconds, then you can switch it off. Another trick is to begin cooling quickly so I will put it in a tub in the fridge within about 10 minutes of pasteurizing, that gives enough time for some of the chewy cream to settle at the top so I can strain it. In America, they say that raw milk straight from the farmer that you pasteurize and put in a sealed container will keep refrigerated for about 8 days, much better than the recommended 48 hours we see on packages here. Not that ours ever lasts that long though!

The chilled version of this might vary in flavor according to the cow's daily diet, but it tastes much more like plain ol' milk than anything I've ever had in this part of the world. And I'm a serious milk drinker.

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