If you’re someone who raises cows and knows the joy of fresh milk, then you also know the dangers that can come with not handling raw milk properly. Raw milk is milk that does not go through a pasteurization process. The dictionary defines pasteurization as “partial sterilization of a substance and especially a liquid (such as milk) at a temperature and for a period of exposure that destroys objectionable organisms without major chemical alteration of the substance.” So, what are the keys to knowing how to store raw milk?
Storing Raw Milk for Safety
Pasteurized milk is safer for people to drink as it has a less chance of containing organisms and bacteria that could make us really sick. However, there are both pros and cons to drinking raw milk because while there might be a higher chance of organisms being in the milk, there is also a higher level of vitamins and nutrients that are heat-sensitive. This means that when the raw milk undergoes the pasteurization process, a lot of these health benefits also goes with it. Dang it!
Health benefits of raw milk include beneficial bacteria, food enzymes, and natural vitamins. Purchasing raw milk from a farm not only can be beneficial to your own health, but also helps support the local economy. Milks that have undergone pasteurization have a longer shelf-life, which means they can be transported for miles. This shuffle of milk from farms to big grocery stores across the country can add to pollution and your carbon footprint. By choosing to purchase milk from a local farm (or by using milk that you get from your own farm!), you’re helping the environment.
Health Safety 101: How to Store Raw Milk
There are some key components how how to store raw milk that can ensure you and your family can reap the benefits of raw milk without getting sick.
Clean your cow’s udders with a hot rag
If you’re milking your cow yourself, you’ll want to wipe off her udder with a hot, clean towel. Remember, it is natural for your cows to want to lie in the cool grass throughout the day, and she might have laid down in mud. To prevent bacteria from mud and dirt getting into your milk, you can take a hot, wet towel and clean her udder. You can also be sure to spray some of the milk from her udder into a cup or on the ground in order to flush out bacteria from the tips of her udder. This all helps to ensure the raw milk you are getting from your cow is a cleaner.
Use a stainless steel bucket while milking
When milking your cow, be sure to opt for stainless steel and NOT plastic or glass. Plastic is much more porous and can be harder to clean, and bacteria as well as scents can find their way into the material much easier than stainless steel. Glass, while not as porous as plastic (and can be great for storing raw milk!), is not the best material to use while storing milk as you are milking. This is because it can easily fall and shatter, thus becoming a danger to your cows who are roaming around.
Glass bottles are the best for storage
Once you have successfully milked your cow, you’ll want to store that raw milk in glass containers. This is an important step for how to store raw milk. This is because it stays fresh for longer than it does in plastic containers. If you purchase raw milk from a local farm or farmer's market, and they do not offer their milk in glass containers, that is fine! Most of the time when farms do not offer glass containers, it balances out thanks to a large creamline and the milk cooling system used at the farm. The longer the creamline, the the longer your milk was last and stay fresh for you to use and enjoy in recipes (like this cold brew-coffee!).
Freeze your raw milk with baking soda
If you think you cannot finish your raw milk right away before it will expire in the fridge, then you can actually freeze it! Here are some great tips for how to store raw milk and freeze it for freshness:
- If you use glass containers, be sure to leave some room at the top for expansion. As the milk freezes, it will expand, and to avoid the milk from bursting out of your container, give it a little bit of “breathing room.”
- Use baking soda! You can ass 1/2 tsp of baking soda to a gallon of raw milk in order to help minimize the amount of clumping the occurs when you thaw the milk. Freezing milk is a great idea if you are trying to make a raw milk-based baby formula.
- When you thaw your raw milk, be sure to place it in a bowl of cold water. While you might think it makes more sense to put it in warm or even hot water, it is essential to keep it in cool water to ensure that the milk stays cool throughout the entire thawing process. This is important for the safety of your milk.
- Freeze your milk ASAP! The best time to freeze raw milk is at its freshest. When you freeze it this way, you are ensuring a longer shelf life and more safety.
What can I make with raw milk?
If you are new to using raw milk, you might be wondering what the best recipes are to enjoy it! Aside from making baby formula (and we discussed earlier!) you can also try and make kefir or yogurt. If you're never heard of kefir, you'll be delighted to know about the health benefits of drinking it is. These health benefits include:
- It can help boost your immune system, so you can fight off sickness better (yay!).
- It can fight against cancer.
- It is amazing for building strong bones.
- It can help with gut health and is full of probiotics, which can make your tummy and digestive system happy.
As you can see, there are amazing uses and health benefits for raw milk! If you store it safely, you can enjoy them, but beware of improper storage which can lead to serious illness.