Friday, April 18, 2014

From Farm to Table Part 1: Home Pasteurization

 Several months ago, Dan and I were lucky enough to be able to get our hands on a home pasteurizer. Thanks to Starlite Dairy and Grain (Dan's family farm), we have now been able to open a door that leads to fresh milk, cream, butter and buttermilk. I'll do other posts on all of these I've just listed, but for now I want to focus on getting the milk from the farm to the table.

 The dairy milks right around 100 head of Holstein dairy cows, every day twice a day...even on Christmas! (GASP!) It's A LOT of hard work but also something to be very proud of. For years, however, no one would utilize the daily fresh milk that was right there on hand. We would all still go to the store and BUY  a product that was just worked so hard to produce. Trust me...I know! It was like a slap in the face to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and trudge through cow poo still half asleep and work for 3 solid hours before breakfast. Then go to Kroger's and do the grocery shopping and have to BUY the milk! Meanwhile there was a 2,000 gallon bulk tank just full of the stuff at the farm!

 Thanks to modern scare tactics, Dan and I at least were a little leery about drinking the milk fresh from the tank. There are still plenty of people who do father-in-law for one, as he grew up on the stuff and, though it can be debatable, he turned out OK in the end. I'm pretty sure the Amish and Mennonites who have dairy farms drink their milk straight from the tank too, and so did the whole flipping country back in the day. (The human race survived just fine before "pasteurization" became the "in" thing.)

 And what is "pasteurization" anyway? According to a book I have on hand, it means, "the process of heating milk to high temperatures to destroy harmful pathogenic organisms" (Helweg, Pg. 279).

 Not to be confused with "homogenization" which means, "the process of heating milk to break down the fat globules, rendering a uniformity to the liquid" (Helweg, Pg. 278). I think I've heard that goats' milk is naturally homogenized, but please don't take that as a fact. You can see the lack of homogenization in expressed human breast milk. After it has sat for a time, you can see the fat separated on top and you have to shake it up so that it's distributed throughout the milk before feeding it to baby. The exact same thing happens to cows' milk if it hasn't been homogenized yet. The bulk tank at the dairy that stores the milk before the truck comes and takes it away keeps it cool and "agitated" so the cream doesn't separate in the tank. The milk we buy from the store has been homogenized since you don't have to shake the carton up before pouring the milk on your cereal in the morning.

 Is anyone confused yet?

 So... we now have a home pasteurizer so we can drink the milk from form the farm and not have a need for an over abundance of toilet paper, Pepto-Bismol and Imodium!! Oh and a fragrant spray...

 The pasteurizer is pictured on the left. There is a heating coil in the bottom of it. The grey container in the middle is what the milk gets dumped into and sits in the bigger container. At the far right is our jar of fresh, or raw, milk.

Once the lid if secured into place on the grey container inside the pasteurizer, hot water is added until it covers the lid. The pasteurizer works faster if the water is hot since the goal is to reach a certain temperature and keep it for a period of time. We also discovered that milk taken from the tank immediately after a milking pasteurizes quicker since it hasn't sat in the tank long enough to cool down. At the end of the black hose coming out of the pasteurizer is a cork that prevents the hot water from draining out.

Next we add the lid and plug it in. Nothing has to be set and the pasteurizer buzzes when the milk has been pasteurized.
  After that, we unplug the pasteurizer and take off both the lids. The black hose is inserted in-between the grey container and the pasteurizer and cold water is ran through the hoses. The hose connected to the pasteurizer loses its cork so the cold water can drain into the sink. This step in the process is actually what takes the longest.

 Periodically, we test the temperature and when it feel pretty cool we transfer the milk into a clean jar and put it in the fridge. See how technical I get...I don't bother with a thermometer, my finger works great!

 And there you have it! The whole process takes right about an hour to do and we usually do it as we are eating dinner so we can unplug the pasteurizer once it dings and keep testing the temperature of the milk once it cools. Is it work? Yes, a little, but well worth the results! I grew up on 2% milk and Dan always drank Vitamin D. I can definitely taste a fresher product with this milk versus the after taste store bought milk has. Plus I know for sure that this milk DOES NOT contain the BST hormone that everyone is all up in arms about.

 The best thing is, it's free!!

  The farm to table process has not ended here. Home pasteurization is just the first step!

Helweg, Richard. The Complete Guide to Making Cheese, Butter and Yogurt at Home. Ocala: Atlantic Publishing Group, Inc, 2012.

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