Friday, December 16, 2011

Adventures with raw milk

When I decided to buy a herd share, I committed to getting two gallons of raw milk every two weeks. Quite frankly, this is a bit much for a household of one. I skim the cream off the top for my coffee, I drink some (usually as part of a fruit smoothy), I've made some cheese (not always successfully). Now I am making yogurt from an heirloom culture that is supposed to work at room temperature, so you don't need a yogurt maker.

At least, I hope I am making yogurt. It took me two tries to make the yogurt "mother". You see, making yogurt with raw milk is a little more complicated than using pasteurized milk, as the natural bacteria in the raw milk will slowly kill off the yogurt bacteria. So, instead of using some of the made yogurt for the next batch, one has to maintain a pure mother culture.

I don't know what went wrong with my first attempt at mothering. Maybe I did not get the milk warm enough to kill off the natural bacteria, maybe I added the culture before the heated milk had cooled enough, maybe my house is too cold. I had used a candy thermometer, a thermometer so old that the glass casing broke off when I washed it afterwards. Alarmed that there might be broken glass in my mother, I decided to throw it out, but let it sit anyway. It never really thickened up, so no loss there.

With the second batch, I used a dairy thermometer, then put the mother in the oven with the light turned on. I also put a remote thermometer in there, just to see how hot the oven would get with only the light burning. Turns out it gets to be 80F. No wonder bread rises so well in the oven.

So tonight I am making the yogurt itself, plus a new mother. I purchased the starter from Cultures for Health, a website that has all kinds of fermenty things. This particular yogurt culture, Viili, purportedly makes a mild, semi-thick yogurt. We shall see.

Then maybe I will try butter.

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