Saturday, September 12, 2009

Keeping A Family Cow

The Local Farm barn became a class room for a hands-on workshop on handling, milking and using the milk. Meeting, greeting and a brief word about the paraphernalia to be taken home at the end of the day by Debra Tyler our guide to cowdom. We brought Stormy a miniature jersey into the milking stable. Debra told us that "where you milk your cow should be a place where you are comfortable, relaxed and like to spend time". Letting down milk is part of the parasympathetic nervous system so a cow needs to be relaxed to let down her milk. Beginning by brushing Stormy and then washing her udder with warm water and a gentle dish detergent. " A cow has four quarters, four glands, four teats and ONE udder". So if one quarter is bruised or inflamed you can feed the milk from that quarter to your chickens or your pigs and still use the milk from the other three for yourself. Learning to milk followed. Make a tight ring with your thumb and first finger at the top of the teat. Then roll your other fingers down. Do NOT let milk flow backward up into the quarter. Another way of milking is to slide your thumb down.
After everyone had a chance to try milking, Debra brought out the milking machine and finished milking Stormy out. This took only a few minutes and someone asked, "wouldn't it be easier to just have a machine?" Debra answered, "once you get good at milking by hand it takes about twenty minutes to milk out your cow. It takes twenty minutes to wash the milking machine. You choose, twenty minutes under your cow or twenty minutes at the sink washing MOORE dishes".
The milk was poured through a milk strainer. Some people will fold a filter disk and put it in a funnel and pour the milk through the funnel into their bottles, others put a clean dish towel over a wide mouth jar with a rubber band around the outside and strain the milk that way.
We took a little bit of the fresh warm milk (milk comes out of the cow at about one hundred degrees F the perfect temperature for making cheese and yogurt) poured it into a quart glass jar and added about two tablespoons of yogurt mixed it up and then filled the jar the rest of the way with the warm milk. It then needs to be kept warm over night. An oven with a pilot light works well. Debra says "this particular batch has been going for over two years now. When I have to start a new culture Dannon yogurt works the best."
To the rest of the warm milk we added one half of a rennet tablet dissolved in a quarter cup of COLD water. Rennet is an enzyme found in the lining of a new born calf's stomach. Debra gets her rennet from New England Cheesemaking Supply company Then we put the bucket in a styrofoam cooler filled with warm water. Next Debra brought out a bucket of milk that had been sitting out at room temperature for two days so the cream had risen to the top and gone slightly sour. To skim the cream off the top we used a cup by pushing the bottom of the cup down and letting the cream slip over the edge. Not scooping out the cream just letting it slip over the edge.
When the skim milk begins to show through the cream when you lift your cup out it looks like blue swirls. Then we poured the cream into an old fashioned daisy butter churn and cranked it as fast as possible trading off when the cranker got tired. As the cream is agitated the fat globules bump in to each other and latch on to one another and get bigger and bigger until you have butter!
At first it just looks like milk, then it seems to get bigger and splashes up and sticks to the sides of the jar, it goes through a whipped cream stage then gets grainy and finally turns to butter! Be careful because if it's a hot day and you keep cranking after it has buttered, the butter will be beaten back into cream. While someone was cranking the butter we took the skim milk left over from skimming the cream to make the butter and put it on a hot plate to heat. When it was just scalding, bubbling around the edges and steaming a little, we added apple cider vinegar until it turned to a soft cheese.

Ice cream...need I say more? Debra brought a custardy thing that she had prepared the night before. Scald 3 cups whole milk over low heat. Stir in 1 1/2 cups sugar an 1/4 tsp. salt. Slowly pour the milk over 4-6 beaten egg yolks. Beat until well blended. Stir and cook in a double-boiler over hot water until thick and smooth. Chill. Fold in 2tsp vanilla.We
skimmed four cups of cream and poured the custardy thing and the cream into the canister. Then put the canister in the freezer and layered ice and rock salt around the outside.
The ice needs heat to melt and it draws it from the mixture in the canister, the salt speeds the process. Cranking at about 1 crank a second turns the dasher and beats air into the ice cream. When it gets stiff, crank like crazy for 1 minute, then let it sit for 1/2 hour. Serve and enjoy!At lunch time Debra brought out the renneted milk that had solidified into a curd. Then she cut the curd so it would separate into curds and whey.
We ate a luscious lunch and had a wonderful time!