Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Real Food & Real Milk

Spring is here, isn't it?? I love this forsythia 'peeking' over the neighbor's fence! The daffodils on the ground below it echo the cheery yellow.

This week I drove out to a nearby farm to buy real milk, yogurt & eggs!

I only got 1/2 gallon of milk, since I 'rarely' drink milk these days, but it's s-o good!! In Oregon, a farm can sell raw milk, but they can't advertise that they do. From the looks of the sparkling clean racks filled with half gallons of milk & quarts of yogurt & kefir, word of mouth keeping this great little farm & dairy going strong. The cows are pastured, so eating grass, as cows are designed to. They also sell free range chickens (& have a small, certified processing plant to serve a few other chicken farmers.)

I grew up drinking raw milk from pasture fed cows. At first we had our own cow, Susi, (a Guernsey, cousin to the Jerseys) & my dad milked her. She went to our friends' farm to 'freshen' (I didn't realize there was a calf involved!) We had a separator, & my mom made our own butter from the cream.
After we sold Susi, I'd walk down the driveway with a gallon jar to 'Wilson's dairy' across the road, & put the jar in the 'empty' rack, 50c in the tin can, & choose a fresh gallon from the fridge. Sometimes we'd skim the cream, at others just shake it in. My grandkids still shake milk, tho they're used to the pasteurized, homogenized version.
Later, when the Wilsons moved, Marie Petersen delivered raw milk to our door. All these cows ate grass or hay, what cows are designed for. I recall a conversation with Austin Wilson about cow 'pats' - he asked why I thought they were unpleasant, 'they are just digested grass & hay!!'

In college I still ate butter, & probably drank some milk, but I preferred it raw. I was amazed that some of my friends liked margarine better - that's what they'd grown up on! Yuck!! I also ordered milk when we went to restaurants, & the waitress often forgot it (most kids must have been ordering pop!)

Here's Nina Planck's description of making Margarine, from her book 'Real Food:' Begin with a polyunsaturated, liquid vegetable oil rancid from extraction under high heat. Any oil will do, but about 85 % of hydrogenated oils are soybean. Mix with tiny metal particles, usually nickel oxide. In a high pressure, high temperature reactor, shoot hydrogen atoms at the unsaturated carbon bonds. Add soap like emulsifiers & starch to make it soft & creamy. Steam to remove foul odors, bleach away the gray color, dye it yellow, & add artificial flavors."

Double yuck!! & some folks think this is a 'healthy' alternative?? Nina suggests mixing olive oil into the butter if you want a lighter spread - or try coconut oil! :) (of which she's also a proponent)

When my kids were little, a group of La Leche League moms took turns driving to a farm that sold raw milk, our weekly 'milk run.' When our family moved from Corvallis, my hubby (also raised on farm fresh milk) & I found a local dairy for our private 'milk runs.' In the late 80s we divorced, & around that time stopped getting raw milk. I stopped drinking much milk, 'tho I continued to eat yogurt, & enjoyed a kefir cheese. My former hubby continued drinking milk, & later was diagnosed as 'lactose intolerant.' (he can use some cheeses, but needs to take lactose tabs if he wants any other dairy products.)

Interesting tidbit: raw milk has enzymes - lactase, for digesting the sugars (lactose), phosphatase to absorb calcium, & a protein digesting enzyme. It's high in 'heat sensitive' vitamins, folic acid, Vitamins A, B6, B 12 & C . . . raw cream contains a cortisone like agent which combats arthritis & cataracts.
& raw milk from grass fed cows is resistant to pathogens. So folks drinking raw milk aren't likely to have problems with the lactose.

So why did folks begin 'Pasteurizing' (heat treating) milk??

In the 19th century, the folks in cities (inc: NY Philadelphia & Cincinnati) wanted milk, & owners began putting dairies next to whiskey distilleries, & began to feed cows spent 'whiskey mash' (fermented grain) which was not easily digested by the cows. The cows got acid stomachs, & began getting ill. The dairy workers were often ill as well, & as milk quality went down (in 'city milk' only!) people who drank the milk became ill - Nearly half the deaths in NY in 1839 were probably related to drinking this 'slop' milk! Hence trying the newly perfected 'Pasteurization,' which made the milk 'safer' to drink, but raises a host of other issues!

& at first, no one dreamed of heat treating good farm milk, & in 1907, doctors & social workers fought a raw milk ban in NY, arguing that self milk should be 'guaranteed by inspection, not pasteurization.'

Now, as in earlier years, much milk (even that sold as 'Organic') is from cows who are not pastured, & are fed grain (often corn) & soy, . . . which is no better for cows than the whiskey mash was!
Pasteurization permits milk to be gathered (into refrigerated tanks) over several days from several 'farms,' shipped long distances, then Pasteurized & bottled. (p73/4 in Real Food) Plank comments that about 60% of dairy farmers drink raw milk at home because it 'tastes good,' 'it makes me feel better,' or 'I don't like store-bought food.'

My dad, a farmer at heart, would complain when he saw packets of 'creamer' or margarine on the tables at Grange (a farm org.) "We're farmers! What are we doing with this stuff? We should be supporting other farmers!"

I go through about a quart of yogurt a week, & am happy to have a local source of good, grass fed milk & yogurt. I'd been thinking of making my own yogurt again, & still may.
After reading Nina's book, I noticed that my favorite local brand contains some powdered milk. My mom, in interest of 'lowering her fats' (tho she still cooked with unrefrigerated, polyunsaturated & hydrogenated oils!) drank a mix of 1/2 powdered, 1/2 fresh milk. Planck comments that dried milk powder "is created by spray-drying, which creates oxidized or damaged cholesterol." & this, in turn contributes to atherosclerosis! Skim milk, yogurt, some cheeses often contain powdered milk!

I'm glad to have found a local farm & dairy that operates much like the Wilsons did - you bring back your jar, choose your product, leave your money, how simple is that? They also have a credit card machine, tho as any small business owners know, the cc companies take a 'toll' on each end, ~ 3% in our office, plus .18c per swipe! I'll write checks :)


Walk in the Woods said...

Oh good for you! I am blessed to be able to grow a good deal of my own food and to have access to small, local farms ... farms that feed their four-leggeds a NATURAL diet in fresh air and sunshine ... and silage in winter!

Oh yeah - there's nothing like real and happy food!


And thanks so much for visiting and commenting on our blog!

peppylady said...

I really like raw goat milk and would like to find a source for it.
I don't do margarine.

We don't have much spring sign here but what is very small.

Coffee is on

Dia said...

Yes, isn't it great to be able to grow our own food & have access to small, local farms!! Yum :)

Peppy - thanks for the cuppa - I like goat's milk, too! I think the dairy I found has some - didn't have any the day I visited. If there are other local farmers. you might ask!

Lisa said...

Great post on the benefits of raw milk, Dia!

Kookoolan used to have goat milk, but they sold their goats last summer or fall. I can get the contact information for the people who bought most of them to milk. One of my friends also bought one of the goats, but she's not milking her right now.

We are so lucky to have an amazing network of local fruit, vegetable, dairy and meat farmers (if one is a meat eater!).

We don't do margarine either. It's all real fats around here.