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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Raw milk and Yogurt

Did you know that humans are the only mammals who drink milk after they are weaned? We've made it into an entire food group! I'm trying to eliminate as many artificially processed foods from our diet as possible. The many natural processes humans can use to culture milk are beneficial to us because they begin to break down the milk proteins, add probiotics, make digestion easier because the process has already been started, and this makes the nutrients more readily available. In times past, these processes prolonged the shelf life of dairy products. Think aged cheese.

Let's start at the beginning. You might be wondering why raw milk is better than processed. Raw milk separates into skim milk and cream. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Milk also contains enzymes that God put there to help us digest the milk sugars and proteins. Good things right? Because milking conditions can be less than what is considered sanitary, raw milk could be contaminated with bacteria including e-coli. This can be very dangerous as a toxin and can lead to serious health issues and even death.

Pasteurization - As you know from your high school biology class, this process involves heating whatever you're trying to sanitize to a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria present. But, guess what happens to the enzymes and helpful bacteria that are there to help us digest the milk? Yep, they're gone too. What does that mean to us? Well it makes it harder for some folks to drink milk because of lactose intolerance and lack of proper enzyme activity to utilize the nutrients.

BTW, raw milk sours as it ages but is still safe to use up to a point. Pasteurized milk doesn't have it's natural enzymes to protect it so it is open to contamination and colonization by whatever bacteria is floating around. It putrifies or rots. Not good!)

Homogenization - is the process of reducing the size of the fat globules in the creamy part of milk so they will mix in with the milk rather than separate. They are emulsified. This makes the milk nice and creamy and never needs stirring or skimming. But, in His perfect plan, God made different elements of our food in sizes that, as they are digested and prepared for use by the body, they are reduced to the proper size to pass through our digestive tract at the proper place and be recognised by our body as something it can easily use. If the globules are reduced in size but not predigested, they pass through our digestive system at the wrong place in the wrong state and our body says, "What is this? What am I supposed to do with it?" I don't know where it's supposed to go." So it treats these renegade molecules as foreign substances. Also not good.

Hey, don't take my word for anything you read here. Check it out.

So what am I really getting around to? Yogurt. A cultured milk product that is really good for us. It is full of active cultures that aid in colonizing our intestinal tract with good bacteria. Probiotics. This can support the beneficial bacteria that are supposed to grow there and it can also help to recolonize our system after the natural bacteria has been killed by antibiotic use. Antibiotics, being undiscriminating, basically pasteurize our bodies to eliminate overgrowth of harmful pathogens and in the process kill off the good ones too. These pathogens are bacterial, not viral, so unless a virus has caused an infection (which means there is now bacteria involved), antibiotics don't really help. But you knew that, right?

All that to get to the fact that I made my own yogurt from raw milk that I bought from a local dairy farm whose thorough procedures at making a safe, clean milking environment, lack of growth hormone use, limited use of antibiotics and free range grazing for their cows make me feel confident that what I'm buying is healthy and safe to use in it's raw form.

I decided to make a traditional yogurt using a store bought organic yogurt as a starter. My friend taught me how to do it the "Old World' way that they learned from their grandmother.

Bring 1/2 gallon of milk to a boil over low heat. You can do this with direct heat and a watchful eye or in a double boiler. The reason for this pasteurization is to remove bacteria that will compete with the yogurt culture. So you're saying, "Hey, I thought you just said that was bad!?" Hang on, we're going to replace those enzymes with other enzymes from the culture in a controlled trade off. Relax. Remove the milk from the heat and allow to cool until your little finger can be held in the milk for 10 seconds with out making you holler! Grandma was so technical! Remove the milk scum and mix it with 2T of store bought, organic yogurt. Add this to the milk in a glass jar. Cover the jar with a plate and wrap in towels to keep it warm. Allow to rest for 8 hours or overnight. Refrigerate to chill and enjoy! The results were good.

Homemade yogurt is a little thinner than store bought and at first I wasn't sure why but after reading the label on the store bought variety, I've realized that they add pectin to their yogurt, just like you would add to jelly. It's not bad for you but it's an extra step in the yogurt process and it doesn't change the taste. Maybe I'll try adding some to my yogurt sometime.

UPDATE: I'm learning more and more about whole foods and those unknown factors that are inherent in them that give a synergy to their health building qualities in a raw or natural state that we can't always define.

All that to say...I've changed the way I make yogurt...but just a little. I no longer bring the milk to a full boil. I do warm it on the stove until almost to the finger hollering stage and remove from the heat. From there, it's the same. The idea here is to create an environment that will be condusive for the yogurt cultures I'm adding to grow, grow, grow. If I'm confident enough to drink the milk raw, why would I want to kill off all the reasons I drink raw milk in the first place?  I don' I'll just enhance them with other healthy cultures.
Also, I've learned that whey is a wonderful thing so after the yogurt has cultured, I'll often drain off some of the whey for use in fermenting, etc. This takes care of the thin yogurt, too. When it reaches a nice texture, kinda like Greek style yogurt, I put it in the fridge. To take this a step further, you can make your own cream cheese.
You might also like My Own Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt.

I'm sharing this post with Jenny Matlock and friends @ Alphabe-Thursdays
Wildcrafting Wednesday


  1. Thats exactly how my own grandmother taught me to make yogurt. I'm always thrilled when others adapt this way rather than buying all the gadgets that other methods dmnd.

  2. a thoroughly interesting post! I've never liked milk, but I love all milk products. Go figure! {:-Deb

  3. Truly educational perspective on why milk isn't all that good for most humans including me. Too bad coz I love milk, but wouldn't want to go through all the hassle of drinking raw milk. As for yogurt, I like it so-so, and I know it's god for you. However, I won't be making it from scratch. I'll just buy it in the store whenever the mood strikes me. You'll be happy to know, though I do sub my daily supplement intakes with acidolphilus to improve my digestion tract. =D

    Come by to read today's post:

  4. Great ‘Y’ post - love yogurt too!

    Happy Alphabe-Thursday!



  5. I have been reading more and more about this recently.

  6. I try to eat yogurt, but some of it is really not so yummy!

  7. I love my yogurt made with the fresh goat's milk. I did want to add that other mammals would drink milk if they had access. You can actually find some cows that will nurse each other, or some will nurse themselves. Humans just have it down to a science by robbing other species.

  8. Aaah, now I understand why the yogurt here tasts pasty, and the yogurt I used to eat in Holland was thinner, without the pasty taste!

  9. This is quite interesting to me. I've had raw milk yogurt before and I always liked the tang of it. Anything dairy seems to be coating my throat in an unpleasant way right now. But I really appreciated you sharing this knowledge with us.

  10. Hi thanks for the information! I've been trying to make yoghurt from raw milk (without any pasturisation) and now I see why it wasn't working (although I have a book about house cows which claims to have done it successfully, that's the only reason I tried). Anyway, I agree with you that you just want to heat it enough to allow the yoghurt culture to get started and not kill too much of the good stuff in the raw milk. I've got used to the thin texture now and I quite like it.

  11. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday! :)


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