Saturday, April 26, 2008

Fresh "Moloko"

Kiana's fingers are being "nursed" by a two day old calf, while Isaac and Adam watch.

Knowing the dangers of store-bought milk: hormones, antibiotics, unhealthy diet and lifestyle of cows, homogenization, and pasteurization (killing all of the good enzymes), plus learning many of the the benefits of pure, unadulterated straight-from-the-cow milk (now called "raw milk" although this is a misnomer in that it presumes that milk must be cooked), brought me to a private dairy farm Thursday afternoon where I bought my very own share of a real live cow.

In Alaska (as in many states), it is illegal for an informed, conscientious, peace-abiding citizen to buy raw milk (or more accurately, it's illegal to sell it). It is a controlled substance. It's really ridiculous when I think about it. In Alaska it's also illegal to drive without a seat belt. I personally support this law wholeheartedly, but I've heard people grumble about that risk being their own personal right. However, in James' traffic engineering experience, he recently learned that the state spends 1 million dollars on each traffic fatality. Wow. It seems like they might actually have a bit of a right to say, "You are required to wear your seat belt and cut down your chances of dying in a car wreck by 75%." However, I don't see this with milk at all. If I did get sick because I drank contaminated milk, it probably wouldn't kill me and I would pay any medical bills. However, drinking milk chock full of antibiotics, hormones, damaged fats (through homogenization) and empty of any good qualities (through pasteurization) just might kill me and the state wouldn't even care or lift a finger to help me. I love politics . . .

This pretty lady is "Cadbury." When the fields behind her are green, she will be eating in them, but for now, like all of us, she has to deal with the mud.

Anyway, one of the loopholes currently available to health conscious, whole-foods connoisseurs like myself, is to buy a "share" in the cow itself so that I'm not "buying" someone's milk, I'm only taking the share of milk that my share of cow produces. Several families from church are doing this as well, so we'll be able to take turns picking up milk for each other before church on Wednesday evenings. So now, every Wednesday, I will bring home this sweet, wholer-than-whole milk in my new sun tea jar. After 24 hours in the fridge, a thick layer of cream rises to the top which can be skimmed off for cream (in coffee or tea) or to make whipped cream or butter. Because the milk has not been altered in any way, it can be easily used to make kefir, yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, soft cheese (like feta or mozzarella), or (with a little more time and effort) hard cheese. The by-products of all of these products (whey and buttermilk primarily) can then be used to soak grains before cooking them, in place of milk in recipes, to feed animals, or to drink yourself. Of course, as you have probably been wondering, since I grew up with store bought milk, I know how to do none of these things. So, I have a lot of learning to do!

Besides Nourishing Traditions, which has a nice section of helpful dairy information, there are many other useful sources out there. Highly recommended (but as of yet unread by me) is The Untold Story of Milk: Green Pastures, Contented Cows, and Raw Dairy Products by Ron Schmid which covers both the reasons behind raw milk drinking and the recipes of how to use the milk. A somewhat older book, The Complete Dairy Food Book: How to make everything from Cheese to Custard in your own Kitchen by Annie Proulx is the one I am currently reading. I don't believe it's in print anymore, but I'm excited that I can buy my own used copy for only a few dollars since I think it will be a useful resource. Proulx's book gives a thorough "milk history" of our nation, then covers milk products one by one showing how to make them as well as how to use them in recipes. Definitely one I won't want to return to the library!

There are many resources on raw milk online as well, of course. Here are just a few that I recommend :

Real Milk Facts

TIME article

A campaign for Real Milk

Another note that makes all of this particularly difficult for our state right now, is that our (still very beloved) Governor Pallin, was forced to close down Matanuska Maid Milk--our only local creamery which took milk from local dairy farms and processed it to make different milk products packaged to go to local stores. Now these poor farmers are forced to pour out the milk that they make into the fields. Thankfully, there is a private creamery that hopes to open soon. From a locavore perspective, not being allowed to eat local, available food and being forced to buy the same food produced and processed in another state, is extremely frustrating. Thankfully, I can have a cow share and maybe soon there will be good cheeses and ice cream from our new local creamery. Let's just hope they keep it organic as they have advertised!


  1. I'm so glad you guys found some raw milk. We can buy it here without a problem, and I recently found some that's actually affordable. We can also buy great eggs at the same place. It makes me crazy when I think of all the ways we are restricted from being healthier. I know that isn't the intention, but I also believe big business is being protected by laws that are supposed to be for our benefit, but really only benefit them.
    On the topic of health, are you guys able to buy good fish inexpensively there since you are so close to the source?

  2. James and I looked at each other, "Buy fish?" We aren't much into fishing, but generous brothers and sisters who are give us several fish each summer to stock in our freezer. During the summer season, I suppose the fish in the stores would be cheaper, but there is plenty to be had at church functions and friend's houses. In the winter, it's pretty expensive. Most people we know vacuum pack their fish and freeze it for use over the winter. I guess wild Alaska salmon is something we take a bit for granted. I am going to try to be more deliberate about getting some of our own this summer! What I'd REALLY like, though, is some moose meat!

  3. Moose meat? Really? There was an episode of The West Wing about that.

    Anyway! My father worked for a farmer for the first several years of my life (actually, he still does... another story), brought home cow's milk (it's called raw milk? really?), and so my parents never bought milk at the store until I was school-aged. Then, I refused to drink the store-bought stuff for years because it didn't taste right.

    So, congratulations on your new adventure!


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