Image by tellgraf
Raw milk is a luxury around this household. As I've mentioned before, we pay about $18 a gallon for our grass-fed, raw milk from a nearby farm. It is truly my liquid gold and I consider it more of a supplement for our family's health than just another food or ingredient in my fridge.
I know that I'm not the only one. For some of you, the cost simply makes buying raw milk an impossibility. For others, raw milk is illegal where you live or there is nowhere close enough for you to purchase it. You wish you could get it, but you just can't, and so you're left wondering what are the next best options in your situation.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon an excellent substitute for those of us who are making do with what we have and cannot buy any or much raw milk. I was reading Sue Gregg's Breakfast cookbook, when a recipe for Dan's Milk caught my eye.
3 1/2 cups fat free/skim milk (preferably organic and NOT ultra-pasteurized or UHT)
5 Tbsp heavy cream (pasteurized, but NOT ultra-pasteurized or UHT)
The basic concept behind this recipe is this: by using fat-free milk and adding cream, you are still not using a "raw" milk but you are avoiding the homogenization of the milk and cream (which alters fat structure and contributes to many health issues), which is one of the major issues with conventional store-bought milk. The other issues are pasteurization (killing important enzymes and destroying nutrients), as well as the quality of care and proper feed (ie. green grass) received (or likely not received) by the cows. For more on the issues with conventional milk and the reasons to choose raw milk, see the website Real Milk or this excellent post on it's benefits.
Obviously, this recipe does not address the issues of pasteurization or the ultimate quality of the milk. I still wouldn't recommend this milk for regular drinking and cooking. As it has been pasteurized, it lacks the enzymes to make it very digestible.
However, this milk is ideal for culturing! Since we buy only a small amount of raw milk, I keep it entirely for drinking and using as is and unfortunately am not able to use it for anything else. I then buy organic milk to use for making kefir and yogurt, both of which are cultured dairy products with beneficial bacteria to aid in digestion and absorption of nutrients.
I've always hated that I had to use homogenized milk for this purpose and was so thrilled to figure out a solution to get around it. Culturing really helps to minimize the loss of enzymes due to pasteurization, so this is very much a win-win solution!
Making your own yogurt and kefir is very simple to do. Here is a link to my own tutorial for making homemade yogurt. For those who would like to try kefir, here is a link to an excellent explanation of what kefir is and a tutorial on making it. One place to purchase kefir grains is through Cultures for Health (also a great place for lots of other cultures and starters).
I wanted to double check that this was a good idea, so I emailed the Weston Price Foundation just to be sure. I was pleased to get a very fast response from Sally Fallon-Morell herself (author of Nourishing Traditions), letting me know that yes, this is a great substitute for those of us who aren't able to use raw milk for our homemade culturing purposes!
Edit: Several people have mentioned that skim milk often includes dried skim milk powder, something I hadn't heard of before. I did check out Weston Price and read that the dried milk powder is often included (though not always listed in the ingredients) and that is is harmful because of the high temperatures at which it is processed and how the cholesterol is oxidized. I did a bit of research and confirmed that in Canada the dairy labeling laws are very strict and every ingredient absolutely must be listed. Read your labels and if it only includes milk and no milk powder, then your milk is fine to use. If it does include milk powder, look for another brand. I am using Valley Pride and/or Avalon (both from the same dairy in BC) and they do not contain skim milk powder. In the US, the labeling laws may not be as strict. Still, read your labels and if you are at all unsure, I would definitely not hesitate to contact the dairy or the company themselves and ask whether the milk that you are buying includes milk powder in it (and if so, find a different brand!). Thanks for the heads up about this issue, ladies!
Do you culture your own dairy products? Has anyone else been finding ways to substitute when raw milk just isn't available?