I've got to admit, getting into the swing of using up this milk from our new dairy cow has been a pretty easy task. Apparently, for all these years, I've just been gravely suppressing the desire to utilize more milk. Since we've been paying $10 a gallon for a few years, it's easy to treat it as liquid gold and only use it for a few tasks here and there (despite fresh drinking, of course). But now that I've been blessed with 2+ gallons a day to use, I've fully realized and accepted my true love and desire to use this wonderful raw milk.
Shaye + raw milk = true love for-ev-ah.
When we first purchase Sally Belle, she was giving her owners about 2 gallons per milking (or 4 gallons per day). However, she was also getting about 5 pounds of grain per milking (which helps to boost milk production). I didn't want to carry the weight of purchasing that much grain, but it is difficult to teach an old cow new tricks and so (much to Sal's delight) she's still getting a few pounds of rolled oats and barley each milking. Cutting back on her grain consumption, paired with the fact that she's on a grass/alfalfa hay (and not pasture… it is almost winter, after all!) and her milk production is steady at 2 1/2 gallons per day, which is just fine with me.
2 1/2 gallons per day feels manageable. 4 gallons would have felt a bit more overwhelming. At least for this milker.
So let's see here…
Oh yes. The milk! Let's talk about the milk. Isn't that why you're here, after all? To learn all about milking cows so that you can search Craigslist, find the cow of your dreams, purchase her, stick her in your front lawn, learn to milk her, and live happily ever after? Perfect. That's why I'm here too.
Ways to Utilize and Use Up Fresh Milk:
1. Drink it. Duh, right? If you've been a follower of the blog for any time, you know that we're avid supporters and lovers of raw milk. We thrive on it. And let me just tell you, after drinking milk that has literally just been milked from the cow, it's a love that has reached a whole new level of awesomeness. I have never drank milk that fresh before – and dear me. Dear, dear, me. I am in love all over again. Once milk comes out of the cow, it begins to change – but when it's consumed fresh, the sugars haven't begun to break down yet. And it's so, so, sweet. And thanks to our sweet Jersey girl who gives about 30%+ of cream, it's incredibly rich and smooth. So ya. We've been drinking A LOT.
2. Make kefir. One of our favorite additions to breakfast is kefir smoothies. This fermented milk offers up a ton of probiotics and keeps gut flora awesomely active and healthy. A healthy gut = a healthy human. It's important to constantly be feeding our guts fermented foods that are rich in probiotics – which is why we always take care to include foods like kefir, kombucha, and sauerkraut into our diets. Breakfast is no exception and is a fantastic opportunity to utilize this lacto-fermented goodness. You can read more about how to make kefir HERE. It couldn't be any easier, I swear. You can find kefir grains to get started HERE and my favorite kefir smoothie recipes HERE.
3. Make yogurt! For the same reasons as kefir. Yogurt is rich in probiotics and is a fantastic way to culture fresh milk. I use a very easy method of culturing the yogurt in our crockpot, which you can read about HERE. It's easy and fool-proof. I usually culture a gallon of yogurt at a time which will last us a few weeks. Seasoned with vanilla and real maple syrup, we serve it over soaked granola or fresh fruit for breakfast and snacks. We also use it as a base for delicious chicken recipes like THIS ONE or as an addition to smoothies or curries. Versatile. Delicious. And the kids love it. Win-win.
4. Make cheese! I've only learned to make a few easy cheeses thus far, like ricotta and yogurt cheese, but I've purchase all my cheese making supplies to make cheddar, feta, and mozzarella and am in the beginning stages of learning how to make them all! My “cheese-cave” is in place for aging the cheese and I'm all set up with equipment – today will be my first day. Since I'm already familiar with brewing and bread-making, I think that making cheese will be a fairly easy transition. It's all about sanitizing and culturing – just in a slightly different way. I'm very much looking forward to it! Will it be perfect from the beginning? Of course not. I'm sure I'll have plenty of flops (anyone else remember their first loaf of bread they made?). But it's a skill I'm anxious and willing to learn. Being able to provide all of our cheese needs will be a huge bonus of having Sal around. And really… what's one more task in the kitchen…
5. Share some with your Grandpa. Of, if your Grandpa is like mine, I'll just show up and request some. Mine has been a huge supporter and advocate for us getting a dairy cow. He worked on dairies for many years (back in the day) and knew the joy that could come from having a cow around. The second day we had Sal, he showed up and drank three big glasses. Now, he's got a standing appointment (three times a week) for making the drive up to our homestead and picking up a bit of fresh milk. I'm happy to share. If anyone has earned his share of farm fresh milk, it's this ‘ol man.
6. Butter. What more need be said. I'll be posting a how-to in a few days for both fresh butter and also cultured butter. Because of Sal's high cream content (even without lush pasture!) we've been able put up about 3/4 pound each day. I simply hand skim the cream off (leaving about an 1″ on each gallon for flavor) and then mix it up. Wham. Bam. I'm excited to show you this process! Stay tuned.
7. Barter. Having milk is like having farm money. We've already found a farmer that is willing to barter milk for piglets, come spring. We don't sell our milk but we do trade it for things we need here on the farm. We recently agreed with a friend to trade milk for use of his bobcat and auger to dig holes for our new section of pasture. Both of us get something we want and no money is traded. I love that! Bartering is a great system.
8. Feed it to the other animals. We're only fifteen days away from the butchering of our 45 meat chickens and they've been benefitting from having Sal around also! Right now, they're receiving all the buttermilk that is a result of butter making. They also received a few gallons the first couple times I milked her, as my slow milking caused our poor cow to loose patience and stick her foot in the bucket. I don't blame her… it took me an hour and a half the first time I milked her! What? Don't judge. I'm a novice, remember? That being said, no milk goes to waste. So if it's not something that we're going to use directly, we can easily feed it to the laying hens, meat chickens, or dog. All of them are over the moon for it! Once we have the pigs in the spring, they'll likely be first in life for any clabbered milk.
I've heard it said that the dairy cow is the Queen of the farm, and in our instance, she totally is. Not only does she provide us with milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and kefir but she also fertilizes our gardens and pastures, as well as supplements the chickens and dog. Sally Belle offers a lot to this farm and we're slowly learning that taking really good care of your dairy cow means taking really good care of your farm. Sal is the Queen around here and we're happy to have her.
I have a few favorite parts thus far about owning my own dairy cow. The first is that calm, dark, chilly time that we have together in the morning when I'm tucked up under her hind end, milking. I love the sound of her munching on her grains and the sound of her low mooing when she's finished. I love the smell of her and the warmth that she gives off. I love that she's not only teaching me patience and animal husbandry, but she's also helping me to learn so many tasks that were once common knowledge for the homesteader. Like how to make cheese. Or butter. What used to be common knowledge is now “artisan” and rare.
I enjoy reviving these chores from the past. Learning from them. Through them.
It offers a richness to everyday life that is almost too good to swallow.