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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Culturing Milk

At first I thought the practice of culturing milk might be a strange topic for a survival/homesteader blog, but the longer I considered it, the more I thought it appropriate.  If things go south, as many are predicting they will, it's a strong possibility that life as we know will be turned on it's head.  Every aspect of our lives will be affected:

-how/where we live
-how/where we work
-how/what we eat
-how we educate our children
-how we care for the very young and the very old
-how we celebrate
-how we reproduce
-how we worship

Every aspect of our lives will be affected.  It's hard to wrap your mind around that, isn't it?  It's hard to imagine that we'll be living *intentionally* and our every action can and will impact almost every aspect of our lives.  Life will be about getting the most "bang for our buck", from food, money, clothes, education, faith.  There will be no more disposable income, disposable appliances, disposable family and friends.  No more throwaway cars.  No more junk food.  We'll be playing for keeps.

So what does all of this have to do with milk?

Let me tell you.

In the world to come, I can see us eating very differently.  Once the price of food has skyrocketed and the MREs run out, we'll likely return to a system of local/seasonal diets and food will have value beyond that of gold and silver.  In that case, preserving food and getting the most nutritional value possible out of that food will become top priority, especially for the mamas in the family. 

Thus, culturing milk. 

Cultured or fermented milk is a very practical way to extend the life of milk as well as adding a real punch of nutrition into an already nutritionally-dense food.  There are so many ways to culture milk, some simple, some more sophisticated, that I'm only going to cover a couple.  Yogurt and kefir are by far the easiest ways to culture milk.  All you need is fresh milk, a culture additive and a thermos.  That's it. 

For yogurt, start with the freshest milk you can locate and warm it to 180 degrees then allow it to cool to 100-110 degrees.  Add yogurt culture, stirring gently and then process in a thermos for 6-12 hours.  When the yogurt begins to set up, pour it into a covered container and refrigerate.  I like extremely thick yogurt, so I strain mine using a collander and cheesecloth (and a big bowl to capture the whey for later use.)  There you go.  Fresh yogurt.  What's wonderful about this process is that you can use a small amount of your fresh yogurt as a culture for your next batch.  As you all know from the various TV commercials, yogurt is crammed full of calcium, Vitamin D and probiotics and is especially nice topped with some homemade jam or honey.  When you're feeding someone with a tiny tummy or diminished appetite, yogurt packs a lot of nutrition into a very small portion.

Kefir is another simple cultured milk product.  Like yogurt, it is packed full of probiotics---the good bacteria---and is supposed to be a real boon to the digestive/immune system, especially following a course of antibiotics.  Again, you start with fresh milk, culture or kefir grains and a thermos.  Warm the milk to 86 degrees, add the culture and keep warm in a thermos for up to 24 hours.  The result is a tangy, slightly carbonated milk product that can be used in smoothies, drank straight up or used in baking or cooking.

Other ways of culturing milk include cheese, butter, buttermilk and I'm sure there are dozens of other practical ideas.  I just wanted to throw out a couple.  If the time comes that we need to eat food with the greatest nutrional and caloric impact, cultured milk products should be high on the list!  Not only do they keep a long time, but the probiotic boost can do wonders for our immune systems during times of stress or sickness.  If you've never tried your hand at homemade yogurt or kefir, now is a great time to start!



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Gen-IL Homesteader said...

We were getting some raw milk for a while last year, and I made lots of yogurt with it. It's so wonderful to make something like that for yourself. And yes, it is hard to wrap my mind around the fact that life could someday be VERY different than it is now. It's almost impossible to fathom!

BTW, thank you for giving me another gift idea! My sister always buys kefir, and I'll bet buying her some kefir grains to make her own would be a great gift!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! Would love to try and make yogurt, but will try my hand at butter first. That's my goal for the winter. Would love to get raw milk, but thinking we are going to get a cow in the spring. Looking like some Dexters in our future. Need the meat too.

Andrea said...

Hey Shelly-WOW on the backyard cow! If you'd like to try the yogurt, I'd be more than happy to share a bit of culture with you. Email me :)


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