Friday, January 3, 2014

Is raw milk worth it? Is it easy to make butter and yogurt with it? Hint: yes.

(okay fine, the answer should really be: It can be.)

The things we do for our raw milk. Currently Buttercup is not in milk because we are waiting for her first calf. It was a wait we expected and it will be well worth it because she is a good fit for our homestead. For now, we purchase from a wonderful farmer in Plymouth. Most weeks, I pick up in Holderness on a Wednesday, but with the snow, the days have been changing. So today, I took the longest route so that I had the best roads with fewer sharp curves, and it took an extra 20 minutes to get there.

Why do it?

Well, I love raw milk. Everything I can do with it tastes fantastic. Things are creamier, and richer! And I can make whipped cream, butter, yogurt, and “cream of” soups from scratch.

It also isn’t heat treated, which takes the good bacteria and enzymes out of the milk (you can read tons of info by googling, here is a website I pulled up: If you don’t think raw milk is safe, well, you’re just not going to think any of this is important or interesting – but I definitely think it is safe if you know who you are getting your milk from and trust their ability to use common sense and cleanliness. When you get to bigger operations, their ability to keep track of all this can diminish and you have the need to pasteurize etc. But I would argue that farms with a few cows are more than able to keep track of the quality of what they are producing and selling (they drink it themselves too!). Let’s not become too paranoid about the raw foods that God created!

I love our farmer. She uses organic grain, but doesn’t feed it in excess and knows that more grass fed is better. She buys organic hay from wherever she can find it (which can be very far away!), and she doesn’t use antibiotics etc.

I trust the milk! We get 2 gallons a week for $16. That seems steep if you aren’t used to buying raw milk, but it’s the going price, and it’s worth it. You can use it to make several dairy products (raw butter, raw whole milk yogurt, raw sour cream) and save a little money on those.

I don’t currently do a lot of this. My big crock pot isn’t working so I haven’t been making yogurt. But we should. I could make it my old way on the stove top, but I haven’t been. I do make butter for us and use the buttermilk in biscuits or pancakes. I’ve been using those butter paddles I found and they work great.

The remnant of a "stick" of butter I shaped with the butter paddles
If I were concerned about getting more for my money, I might do something like this:

2 cups of cream = ~1/2 lb (one stick) butter for me and 1 ½ cups buttermilk
½ gallon milk = 2 quarts yogurt
1 3/8 gallon for regular milk consumption.
Total costs: $16 for the raw milk
Butter and some buttermilk

If I purchase all this separately (trying to recollect):
Organic prices:1 stick Butter – $1.25 (2lb organic = $5)
Buttermilk – $1.20 (1 quart organic = $3.25)
2 quarts yogurt – $8 (Plain whole milk yogurt from stonyfield $3.99/quart)
2.75 half gallons pasteurized milk – $10.97 ($3.99/ half gallon organic milk around here)
Total costs: $21.42

Conventional prices:
1 stick Butter – ~$.75
Buttermilk - ~$.75
2 quarts yogurt – $6?
2.75 half gallons pasteurized milk – $4?
Total costs: $11.50

These numbers can’t be the only thing you think about because everyone would want different things from their milk – like sour cream, more butter, more buttermilk, less yogurt etc. I make more butter some weeks and so the value of the cream I used doubles. For some people, they will be so attracted to the ability to make their own cultured raw butter that they’ll purchase it based on that! And for many it is worth it for the raw milk, period.

Pros: In my mind, there is the added benefit of raw milk from a source I like and trust – which means that our butter, buttermilk and yogurt would be from a source I like too! And then there is the benefit of supporting a local farmer!

Cons: We could consider travel time, and the work involved in making the products as “cons”… But it really doesn’t have to be that much work!

If you have a stand mixer and a crock pot – you can easily make the butter and yogurt.

For Butter, here is a simplified explanation of butter making (Just read the italics to get the supper fast gist of it).
Put cream in mixer and use shield or plastic wrap to guard against splatter.
Turn the mixer on full speed and let it go until the butter and thin buttermilk separate
Turn the mixer off
Gather all the butter with clean hands and squeeze out as much buttermilk as you can
Rinse and squeeze in a bowl of ice cold water
Store in the refrigerator.
(You could see a slightly different variation, and cultured butter, by clicking here.)
Just let the mixer do all the work. This is the whipped cream stage. (Look around on craigslist for a stand mixer -
I found this discontinued stand mixer on their!

For Yogurt:
Follow the Elliott Homestead’s instructions for crock pot yogurt!

Easy peasy.

You might still think we are crazy. But like I said – the raw milk is worth it to us. I buy this raw milk, and I get whatever I want out of it for that week (including lattes...). I make room in the food budget for certain special things – and raw milk is one of them.

When we start to get 2 gallons a day from our own cow, I'll have all the milk I need for cheese making and dairy products! In another post, I can explain my expected average cost for the cows per day and how much a gallon is going to cost us. You’ll find it is significantly less – but you’ll have to understand the cost of paying the farmer to wake up at the crack of dawn in all weather to do the hard work!

Legal Disclaimer: I am not a health professional and can not be held accountable for any health claims I make. These are all opinions based on personal research and reading. You should do your own research and reading to come to your own conclusions. 

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