Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Milk 101

Good Morning!
Another hot one on tap for today.  So, let's talk about a tall, cool glass of fresh milk!  Or cottage cheese, anyone?  The GOOD cottage cheese that tastes nothing at all like "store-bought." 

Remember when "store bought" was a symbol of quality compared to "homemade?"  I do.  My mother made my dresses...but as a child I can remember pining for "store bought" dresses.  Now...it's the other way around:  "store-bought" food (milk) is the norm, and "homemade" is..well... the creme 'd la creme!

First, though, I thought --for those of you contemplating a relationship with a cow--it would be useful to show you a favorite tool.  We'll get to milk-management in a minute. 

Once you've "tamed" your cow, you'll either milk her by hand or by some other related means.  A one-cow family cannot usually afford a milking "machine," not to mention the burden of cleaning a big machine and the related equipment twice a day for one cow.

So, if you enjoy milking by hand, that's lovely.  As a heifer, however, Marigold's teats are still quite small and it's challenging to milk her, especially with arthritic fingers.  In fact, we learned that finding a milk cow with "good handles" is challenging in this day and age  because cows have been bred to have teats that easily accommodate a milking machine, and lengthy teats are not desireable for the professional dairyman.  That's one of the reasons we chose the Dutch-Belted as they have not been "cultivated" as have Holsteins and Jerseys.

When we had sheep, we discovered a hand pump that makes milking a breeze.  It has replaceable parts and we have used it over the past three years, even on a full-sized cow such as Marigold's mother.  It's called an Udderly Easy Milker and looks like this:

By the way, we use a little electrician's tape on the pump on the insert connection to stiffen it a bit.
Here's another view:

MM and I each have a pump and two quart bottles.   We each have "our own side" to milk.  The milker was invented by a man who personally speaks with you on the phone when you call to order parts! (Amazing in this day and age!)  It was developed originally for race horse mares, but has expanded into the worlds of goats, sheep and cows.  It keeps the milk completely protected from bacteria, it's EASY to clean, and EASY to use.  There's absolutely no stress on the cow whatsoever, and it's fast.  I takes us probably ten minutes of actual milking time to milk Marigold out completely, and it's done as she munches her little grain reward. (she does well on grass, but needs a bit of an incentive to come in for milking.  All we do is call and she comes.

If you're interested in looking more closely at the pump, go to


Marigold also gets a reward of a good brushing, fly spray to keep those pesky things at bay, and shows her pleasure by drooling--at least for the brushing, if not the fly spray! 

Right now, I am "long" on milk, having made a gallon of Mesophilic starter (the basis for most cheeses and other types of cultured milk), 2 quarts of yogurt starter, one pound of butter; a gallon of cottage cheese, one quart of chocolate ice cream, and there are four quarts of "drinking milk" on the fridge door.  I have three gallons of whole milk in wide-mouth jars on hand in the fridge...and still the milk keeps on coming!  So, what do I do?  With any "excess" I make Mozzarella, which is quick and easy.  Recipe is easy!  For complete ingredients and instructions go to:  Mozzarella Recipe  You can use this simple cheese on lots of different foods, and it's definitely a useful tool for taking up excess milk.  And BTW, I use New New England Cheesemaking for ALL my cheesemaking supplies.  They're real pros and even have an online Q and A where if you have problems, Jim Wallace will answer your emails directly and promptly.

Every week or thereabouts, depending on milk flow and our use pace, I will make cheddar cheese.  It's an all-day cheesemaking project and I arrange to have a bunch of inside jobs to accomplish without straying too far from the kitchen stove where I must stir the curds on a regular drumbeat.  I make a double batch of cheddar using four gallons of milk at one go.  I begin building a supply to age and have, in the past, been able to age some of my cheddar for up to two years. 

Finally.....though I haven't spoken much about them, there are the pigs.  Excess milk is always welcome on a pig's diet.  We have three--too many at the moment, but they do love milk.  As do the Border Collies, especially during winter.  The trick here is to treat the milk as food for all classes of animals and not feel that I am "throwing it away" by giving it to pigs and dogs!

That's enough for today!  Here's a photo of a cabbage taken this morning. So fresh and perky.  So far they are withstanding the 90's temperatures.  This harsh heat, though,  is hard on the animals, but overall, the veggies seem to be doing well.  Keeping water available to everything is key. 


  1. The little milking contraption is a new one on me -- we always milked by hand. But our Marigold's teats are smallish too -- I'll keep this in mind.

    Beautiful cabbage portrait!

  2. Hi, Elora. Even though it's not likely we'll ever have a family cow, I'm enjoying your posts about it so much. Fascinating to know that cows are now being bred to have short teats. Your milking contraption is a handy little thing and looks quite efficient.