Farm Life Raw Milk

Raw Milk For Life

Raw milk, you guys! It’s God’s gift to mankind AND one of agriculture’s best kept secrets. Seriously, a disclaimer if you will, I am a huge proponent of real, unadulterated, unpasteurized, pasture fed, raw milk from healthy, disease free cows and a farmer you trust. I’m not only a proponent, I’m a producer and have been for over 7 years, and a consumer for a year prior to that. We began drinking raw milk for the health benefits and then our dairy farmer decided to take the winter off! Horrors! We just couldn’t live without milk (pasteurized milk is not something we would put in our bodies these days!), so when he decided to quit dairying, we made the huge decision to buy cows and a milking machine and have never regretted it!

People everywhere go to extreme lengths to get raw milk. They drive almost an hour each way to the farm. They pay what seems like exorbitant prices per gallon because raw milk farmers have to be self-sustainable, no government handouts here, and quality grass fed cows on minimum grain produce fewer gallons per day than their industry counterparts and are more expensive to feed, since in our case, we feed certified organic grain at milking time. Why are people convinced that getting raw milk is worth the expense?

For one thing, people are willing to spend a little more on food to save a lot at the doctor’s. If you could hear the amazing health testimonials we hear. People have had their IBS cured. Arthritis, eczema, thyroid issues, asthma, allergies, autistic symptoms greatly relieved and in some cases, disappearing completely. You see, raw milk is a living superfood. It contains hundreds of proteins, enzymes, probiotics, healthy fats, vitamins and calcium completely bioavailable to your body. Conversely, those same benefits are denatured, altered and destroyed by the high heat of pasteurization, which actually renders them not only useless, but in some people, harmful as the body mounts a histamine defense against all the dead bacteria killed in pasteurization. One of the enzymes raw milk contains is alkaline phosphatase, which inhibits inflammation in the body. Raw cream contains the Wulzen Factor the anti-arthritic nutrient which protects against arthritis, and is said to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness. It’s worth repeating: Pasteurizing milk destroys the Wulzen Factor and denatures the proteins, and destroys the enzymes and other life giving, immune boosting qualities found in raw milk. Pasteurized milk is processed milk, “fortified” with many add-ins as a result. And pasteurized whole milk is more processed than skim. Many raw milk advocates truly believe that pasteurized milk is the most allergenic product on the market today. (Raw milk consumption is not recommended by the FDA, do your own research before taking my word for it!)

Some history regarding pasteurization of milk. Louis Pasteur developed the pasteurization process for wine. Raw milk had never been a common agent for illness until the end of the 19th century when distillery dairies were introduced to urban areas as the answer to sudden population growth, as well as a convenient way to dispose of the unwanted byproduct of making alcohol. People wanted milk, but lived too far from farms with healthy cows where they could get quality milk. Dairy cows were crowded into feedlots near the cities and fed distillery waste that acidified their rumens and made the cows sick and diseased. This poor environment and diet combined with bad sanitation practices introduced a time when raw milk was unsafe and pasteurizing it seemed to be the answer. Today’s pasteurized milk also needs a long shelf life. It comes from innumerable cows from large confinement dairies all over the country and has to be freighted to stores before finally being consumed–this kind of milk from large confinement operations should be pasteurized both for safety and long shelf life. Ironically, in the case of UHT milk (ultra high-temperature pasteurization) this “dead milk” doesn’t even need refrigerated. Alternatively, producing safe, clean raw milk is possible these days, thanks to stainless steel equipment, refrigeration, testing, and a better understanding of germs, sanitary dairy practices and bovine health. And even if the fresh taste of your raw milk lasts only 8-10 days, when raw milk turns sour, it is still good for so many uses so we don’t waste it!

There’s so much more to the raw vs. pasteurized debate. I haven’t even mentioned the A1/A2 milk, how different breeds, like Holsteins (the industry standard because they produce huge amounts of milk) are more likely to produce the harder-to-digest A1 milk while Guernseys and Jerseys are more likely to produce the health promoting A2 milk. Raw milk from our Guernsey and Jersey cows TASTES amazing. Fresh and wholesome, not “cooked” as so many describe pasteurized milk. It has a nice 3-4 inch band of cream per gallon which is absolutely delicious in coffee and tea. Ours has an 8-10 day shelf life but the great thing about raw milk is that even when it starts to taste a little sour, it can still be incredibly useful and good for you. All those good bacteria have gone crazy–at the Weston A. Price Foundation’s Real Milk website they even share that science has shown that raw milk is anti-pathogenic! Cultured milk in the form of kefir, or clabbered milk (unpasteurized milk left on the counter to sour) are staples in homes all over the world. Sour milk makes great pancakes, smoothies, cottage cheese, and the sour cream at the top is delicious by the spoonful.

This is a ton of information, I know. But you will be hearing more and more about raw milk as it gains in popularity and continues to be legalized in more and more of the United States. Currently, it is legal in 43 U.S. states to buy raw milk straight from the farm, or as part of a cowshare/herdshare agreement, or labeled as pet milk. Whether you agree that drinking raw milk is a good thing or not, we should all be able to agree that food freedom is important. Do we really need governmental control of what goes into our mouths? Am I wrong or is this a fundamental right, something so basic as what we choose to eat, especially when it concerns a product like milk, that has been around since the beginning of humanity and is known for providing life-giving nutrition from birth. As rational thinking adults, look at the research, talk to raw milk drinkers, see the proof firsthand and pursue health as you see fit. As for me and mine, we’ll be drinking raw milk for life!

Raw Milk

How to Second Ferment Kefir

The best kept secret about kefir is how much better it is when you “second ferment” it. Wow! Second fermenting powers up the nutritive value and further decreases the lactose content, and well, it just results in pure deliciousness because you add so many flavor combinations to it. So read on…

My favorite additions to infuse a second ferment kefir: an orange slice (rind, too!) and a vanilla bean, slivered lengthwise…

Simply put, a second ferment uses the kefir liquid leftover from the first ferment, after kefir grains are removed.

To a glass quart jar containing about 3 cups of your freshly cultured milk kefir simply add whatever fruit or spice or chocolate combo sounds good to you, lid the jar with a plastic lid, drape a dishtowel over the whole project to keep that kefir happy and dark, and wait as little as 6 hours or as much as 30 (personal preference–I’ve forgotten mine for 24 hours and it’s still good, but I like it best around 15 hours!). Shake occasionally (make sure that lid is tight first! and open it to release built up pressure especially if you are letting it ferment longer than 6 hours!) during the ferment process and before drinking. After however many hours you decide to ferment, add sweetener if you’d like and refrigerate. I promise, you will be hooked! You may decide you like kefir better blended in the blender before drinking, that’s fine. You probably want to remove the fruit rinds, cinnamon sticks, etc before you blend though!

A word to the wise, don’t be alarmed if your kefir separates and looks weird, it does that the longer you leave it on the counter, especially if you neglect to shake it a couple times in the second ferment process. It is not dead, you didn’t kill it! (just don’t leave it for more than a couple days…if that happens and it smells “off”, you will be glad you have kefir grains multiplying contentedly in that other jar with fresh milk in a ‘first ferment’ so you can try the second fermenting process another day!)

Should you lid it tightly or loosely? Boy, people do it both ways.My rule of thumb is loosely lidded for a first ferment, tightly lid it for a second ferment. With a second ferment you are steeping or infusing your kefir with yummy flavor. I’ve also read this past year more about how you want to anaerobically culture for the second ferment, so I tighten my lids for this part of kefir-making.

I am sugar free and my favorite sweetener for kefir drinks is liquid Sweetleaf stevia, the stevia clear option, which is available on Amazon and Thrive and in most health food stores. Sweetleaf also makes several other options for flavored stevia such as root beer, vanilla creme, hazelnut, etc.

Here are some delicious additions to try as you embark on your second ferment kefir adventure:

Orange Vanilla Kefir

My favorite! To 3/4 quart of kefir liquid add one orange slice and one vanilla bean (or up to a tablespoon pure vanilla extract). Leave the rind on your orange slice, and slice your vanilla bean lengthwise and open it up so all that good vanilla paste can flavor your kefir. I leave this blend in a glass quart jar on my counter with a loose plastic lid, covered with a dishtowel (to keep it dark!), for 15 hours and shake it if I can remember. When you’ve decided it is ready, you can remove the orange slice and vanilla bean (I don’t) and add a little of your favorite sweetener. I add liquid stevia to taste.

Raspberry Cacao Kefir

Whisk 1/8-1/4 cup cacao powder (to taste) into 3/4 quart kefir, add 1/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen), lid it and cover with a dishtowel, shake a time or two, and let ferment 6-15 hours ish. Add sweetener if desired, blenderize it if desired, refrigerate and enjoy!

Cacao Kefir

Whisk 1/8- 1/4 cup cacao powder into 3/4 quart kefir and add favorite spices. I like to add a cinnamon stick (or 1 tsp cinnamon) and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Lid it, cover it with a dishtowel or stick it in a dark cupboard, shake it now and then and let ferment a few hours to desired taste. Add sweetener–honey is good in this one!

Tea-steeped Kefir

Two different variations on this one. To 2-3 cups kefir add a favorite tea bag or two. Chai tea is great with a cinnamon stick added and maybe some vanilla. Or, Teavana has a Lavender-Citrus tea that I really like with a sliver of lemon peel added. Lid it, cover it or place it in a dark place, shake it occasionally during the second ferment. Because you are “steeping” tea in a room temperature product, I like to let this second ferment for a minimum of 12 hours but often up to 24 hours. And I leave the tea bag(s) in the kefir when I refrigerate it. Before serving, sweeten with honey, stevia, or your personal favorite!

Cinnamon Vanilla Kefir

In a glass quart jar, whisk 1 teaspoon cinnamon into 3/4 quart kefir and add a vanilla bean or a tablespoon pure vanilla extract. You could also add a cinnamon stick and cut back your powdered cinnamon to 1/2 teaspoon. Add a sprinkle of nutmeg or pumpkin pie spice and lid it, cover it with a dishtowel, shake occasionally, and let ferment for 6-24 hours. Sweeten it with honey or stevia or your favorite sweetener and refrigerate. Shake before serving.

Now don’t forget to release any pressure build up if you shake your kefir up in a jar with a tight lid! Unscrew the lid after shaking and let that pressure off and then tighten the lid again. The longer you let it ferment, the more effervescent your kefir will become, especially if it had natural sugars like fruit steeping in it. I love it somewhat bubbly!

These are just a few that we’ve tried and enjoyed. Do you have any favorites to share in comments?

Raw Milk

Raw Milk Kefir Yogurt

Kefir yogurt is AMAZING! Thick and delicious and EASY to make. And best of all, no raw milk gold is harmed in the making of this nutrition rich gut-healing treat. Big thank you’s to my good friend and milk customer, Lalana, who brought me my first kefir yogurt to sample, told me how to make it, and got me hooked!

Kefir yogurt made with raw milk from my cows, sweetened with a little stevia and raspberries …

Raw milk in all its glory is full of living enzymes, probiotics, good bacteria. It’s fantastic for your immune system, and has powerful anti-microbial qualities that actually kill pathogens! Raw cream has an amazing quality called the Wulzen Factor which prevents and protects against arthritis! Sadly, pasteurizing raw milk, even heating it up to 118 degrees or higher, destroys so many of the benefits. Many yogurt recipes call for heating up your milk to temps above 118 before adding your yogurt cultures.

Now raw milk yogurt can be successfully made at low enough temps to preserve the nutrition and disease fighting qualities in raw milk, but getting a *thick* yogurt (as opposed to a runny, smoothie quality) consistency can sometimes be tricky. Unless you make kefir yogurt with your raw milk!

Wait! Are you not a fan of kefir?–You need to know that kefir yogurt is delicious! It’s thick and incredibly, there’s no kefir “tang” to it. At least not in my experience! My friends and I are so excited about how easy it is to make, how perfect it is consistency-wise, that I can’t wait to share the process here with you today!

If you are new to the kefir making process, check out this post about kefir here. Assuming you already have a half gallon jar of kefir fermenting in the dark of some kitchen cupboard, you are ready to go.

Blending the kefir before pouring it into colander makes a smoother yogurt…

First, strain out enough kefir grains to get your next jar of kefir going, set that aside to replenish with fresh milk ASAP, and get a large clean plastic colander out and line it with about five wet coffee filters. My colander is large and five filters is about right. I use unbleached filters from Walmart (a 50 pack is about $1), and getting them wet first helps with the draining process. Place however many filters you need around the edge of your colander to cover all the drain holes, and then add one to the very middle bottom for good measure. Remember, kefir doesn’t like metal, so always use plastic colanders and spoons when working with kefir. Cleanliness is important too! This filter lined colander will be home to your kefir yogurt for the next 48 hours, and it needs to fit over a bowl large enough to hold a quart or so of liquid whey that will be draining off of your yogurt. Got the colander ready? Okay!

Put your remaining strained kefir liquid into a blender and blend it well for about 30 seconds. We’re creaming it up. Carefully pour the blended kefir into the colander-nested-into-a-bowl setup, cover it with plastic wrap and stick it in the fridge. After 24 hours, remove it from the fridge and pour off the whey that has collected in the bottom bowl–this will keep that bottom bowl from overflowing by day 2. Back to the fridge it goes; it will continue to thicken over the next 24 hours at which point you are ready to enjoy some yogurt!

Take a large glass or plastic bowl and carefully turn your colander full of kefir upside down over it. Tap the colander a bit until the kefir collapses into the bowl beneath. Now take a spatula and working with your clean fingers and the spatula, peel the wet filters away from the yogurt and discard. Discard the filters, NOT the yogurt!

Stir the yogurt briskly with a whisk or the spatula–I despise cleaning whisks but you really do get a more shiny, smooth yogurt when you go the whisking route–and your kefir yogurt is ready to doctor up to your delight. Pictured below are my preferred additions…a little liquid stevia to taste, and blueberries and raspberries. The quart jar pictured holds the whey–aka: liquid gold–which is a probiotic POWERHOUSE that you dare not waste. I will post more about whey another day, but one of my favorite things to do with it is to steep a bag of tea in it and leave it covered with a towel on the counter for 24 hours, then sweeten it with stevia and enjoy! The half gallon jar on the far right, is my next batch of kefir ready to go for more yogurt…

You can also sweeten your yogurt with sugar, fruit jams, honey, fresh diced strawberries. I am sugar-free so I stick with stevia or monks fruit extract. We are in love with this way to use up kefir, and raw milk from our wonderful Guernsey and Jersey cows.

Health Raw Milk

Milk Kefir FAQs

Gorgeous day today to take mineral around the twenty-four hundred acres that my cowboy husband looks after all summer. Youngest daughter and I tore across green pastures in the Polaris Ranger, seat belts on!, while hubby four-wheeled alongside in his ATV. Blue skies, frisky heifers, creek crossings, and 4,000 lbs of mineral parceled out amongst 8 locations. We left before lunch and got home just in time to milk the cows at 3 pm! Hungry? No problem. A glass of kefir was just the thing. Need another hungry mouth to feed? Let me introduce you to kefir.

What is Kefir exactly and what are its health benefits? Kefir is a yogurt-like product, a fermented milk drink that is thick, creamy, and has a bit of a tang. It is made with milk and Kefir grains, which are a collection of live beneficial bacteria and yeast. Kefir is a probiotic. It actually colonizes the digestive tract with good bacteria, whereas the good bacteria in yogurt simply feed the good bacteria which are already in your gut. Kefir is rich in protein, and packed with nutrition containing good amounts of vitamins A, B2, B12, D, K, magnesium, phosphorous, and an abundance of the essential amino acid Tryptophan which has a calming effect on nerves. And how many people do you know that have to take a digestive enzyme before they eat certain proteins? Kefir has an amazing quality of replenishing your body’s enzyme stores which aids the body in digesting various foods. Kefir is a drinkable supplement for good overall health and immunity. Remember good health begins in the gut!

What’s the difference between the bacteria contained in yogurt and those found in kefir? Kefir has several major strains of bacteria not contained in yogurt. Kefir contains what’s called “right-turning bacteria” and yogurt contains “left-turning bacteria”. The 30-50 friendly bacteria in Kefir can colonize/repopulate your gut, they stick around and work for you building your immune system and killing pathogens. The 7-ish friendly bacteria in yogurt are transient, keeping the digestive tract clean and providing food for the good bacteria that live there, but these bacteria move on through and need replaced. Both kefir and yogurt are good at restoring the body’s ecosystem after consuming antibiotics or experiencing food poisoning.

Can I have Kefir if I’m lactose intolerant? Generally, people who are lactose intolerant can handle kefir since much of the lactose (milk sugar) is consumed by beneficial bacteria and yeasts during the fermentation process.

What kind of milk should you use? You can make kefir with raw goat or cow’s milk, as well as whole milk, or lightly pasteurized milk. I am a huge believer in the health benefits of raw milk from a clean source of pasture fed cows/goats, but you can make kefir from store-bought pasteurized milk. Just go with the lightly pasteurized, non-homogenized variety and know that it doesn’t perform as well with low-fat milk.

What kills Kefir? The only thing that will damage or kill your kefir is neglect or heat. Kefir needs fed fresh milk to stay alive. So if you forget about it, it will starve and die. Heating it up will also kill it.

What if I need a break from making kefir? Easy. Going on vacation, or just want a week off? After straining your kefir grains and covering them with fresh milk, place the jar in your fridge where the colder temps will slow down the fermenting process allowing the kefir to slowly feed on the milk sugars. Going to be gone for 2 weeks or more? Use a bigger jar and more milk for 2 weeks. Or find a kefir babysitter. Need a longer break? Kefir grains also freeze well. Simply place them in a freezer baggie with some fresh milk and freeze. When you are ready to thaw, place them in a jar of fresh milk on your counter and just give them an extra day or two to get back in business. They may seem sluggish and you may think they are dead but jut keep the faith, Sistah (or Brother!). If you need to, drain off the two day old milk and place the grains in fresh milk again. They will revive. Kefir is amazingly resilient.

What is the difference between store-bought kefir and homemade? Store bought kefir usually contains high fructose corn syrup or sugar, which defeat the purpose of consuming kefir for health purposes. Sugar feeds yeast and homemade kefir helps rid your body of yeast. Some say that store-bought kefir is made from artificial kefir starters which don’t contain the multitude of goodies that traditional kefir starters do.

How long does kefir need to culture? Allow it to culture for 18-36 hours. The length of time depends on personal preference, the temperature in your home and if it is in direct sunlight or not. Kefir likes darkness and warmth. Longer culture time results in a more sour flavor. We like to culture ours for 24 hours, and then double ferment it for another 12-20 hours.

What is double fermented Kefir? It’s recommended to substantially increase the good bacteria in kefir, and to further decrease the lactose content. It also improves flavor. The second ferment uses the strained kefir, ie: what’s left after you remove the kefir grains. The kefir is left on the counter for an additional 12-24 hours, usually with something fun added for flavoring, like a strip of orange peel and a vanilla bean. Yum!

Homemade kefir is simple to make. Here is how you do it!

Kefir doesn’t react well to metals so you will need to use glass or plastic utensils and containers. It also thrives in darkness and a warmer environment (72-86 degrees F), so I don’t have much success with it in winter unless it’s kept near our wood stove. Here’s what you need to have on hand:

  • a glass quart or half gallon jar (depending on how much you want to make)
  • a plastic lid for the jar OR a coffee filter and a rubber band to attach it to the jar’s neck
  • a plastic colander for straining your kefir grains
  • a plastic spatula or spoon
  • kefir grains–can be purchased online, or from a fellow kefir “connoisseur”. Check eBay or your local chapter of buy, sell, trade. Kefir multiplies like bunnies so you are sure to find someone with extra on hand who will sell them to you for the price of shipping
  • milk
  • a towel to drape over the kefir during the 24 hour fermenting period, or a dark cupboard

So you’ve received your kefir grains and you are ready to roll. Put them into your glass quart jar and fill with milk to within 2-4 inches of the neck of the jar. A good ratio of kefir grains to milk is 1-2 TB kefir grains to 2-3 cups milk. It’s not an exact science. Once you’ve been doing it a while, and have cups and heaps of kefir grains, you will be using way more grains than you need to and might even decide to ferment a gallon of kefir every other day because you like it so much! Now you need to cap your jar and shake it . You will do this every so often in the 24 hour fermenting process. It’s okay if you forget, I forget all.the.time. and it still does its magic. After shaking, loosen the lid–kefir builds pressure as it ferments and you don’t want your jar to explode! Place jar in a dark cupboard or drape a towel over it and check it after 24 hours. You can let it ferment for 48 hours if you want it extra tangy, it’s up to personal preference, but after 24-48 hours it’s time to feed those grains so they don’t starve to death.

So after 24-48 hours, get your plastic colander out and spoon out the kefir grains. Many times mine are on the top of the jar, but sometimes they are down on the bottom. You can gently pour the kefir jar contents into the colander, removing the larger, clumpy almost cauliflower-like kefir grains to a clean canning jar so you can begin the process of adding milk and making your next batch of kefir. Your kefir will have gelatin like globs in it, that’s fine, and sometimes my kefir grains are tiny (see kefir grain pics above) but they are powerful and keep on keeping me in kefir! Now you have kefir–the strained liquid, and you may choose to do a second ferment with flavors added, or refrigerate it and use it for all kinds of yummy healthy boosting treats!

More to come on kefir!