AUTHOR: Julia TITLE: Raw Milk and Cookies DATE: 1/30/2010 07:56:00 AM ----- BODY:
As the sun begins to peer through the trees, Chris is out in his yard tending to his animals – two horses, 4 cows, 2 pigs and a dozen chickens. With the exception of two cows (who were born on his farm), they were all rescued from neglectful owners.

I visited the farm early last Sunday hoping for a chance to milk Melissa, the 6 year-old Jersey cow. Chris made no promises:

You're welcome to visit the animals any time. They do love visitors, and I like showing them off. Getting the opportunity to milk my cow is a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

Melissa allows me to milk her because she knows and trusts me. We've developed a routine, and she knows that I'm going to look out for her well being, and am going to be kind and gentle with her. If a strange person attempts to handle her udder, she's probably going to be upset. She's going to walk away, and might even kick. It's likely that she won't "let down her milk" as well, and will be disturbed for the rest of the morning. Let me put it this way: how comfortable would you be allowing a stranger to put his hands on your body? Jersey cows have personalities and feelings. They really are unique creatures. They aren't milk machines that plod through life (although the food industry typically assumes such a thing).

On the other hand, Melissa is an amazing cow. While most cows would not allow themselves to be milked by anyone if a stranger walked into the barn, Melissa tolerates visits from the oil truck, the propane guy, and various and sundry visitors. She will tolerate noises, distractions and changes to the routine better than most. She just might get fussy about touches from strangers.

If you'd like to visit, and watch, you're more than welcome. You might get lucky, and she'll allow you to milk her. Just don't set your heart on it.

When I arrived, the animals were roaming around the yard, with minimal fencing to keep them at bay. They had barns where they could retreat from rain, snow and wind. Otherwise they walk around, unfazed by the sub-freezing temperatures.

Chris finished his chores, and led Melissa to the front driveway where she’s fed and milked. First he brushed her coat.  This helps rid her of loose hair that might otherwise fall into the milk. Then he sanitizes her udders with a vinegar and water solution. Finally, he rinses the “line” by pulling a few ounces of milk out of each udder.

He milks by hand: pinching the top of the udder with the base of his thumb and first finger, and then squeezing out the milk with a firm tug. The milk flows out in a steady, rhythmic stream.

After the first two udders are drained, he lets me take a turn. I pet Melissa, showering her with affection in hopes that she will let me also milk her.

Indeed, I’m able to milk her. I have a few false starts with handling the udders, trying to squeeze the milk. I’m timid -- fearful that I will hurt her, I don’t tug hard enough. I get the hang of it and the milk starts to flow, though not as vigorously as when Chris did.

In the end we Chris got about ½ gallon of fresh milk. The milk is poured through a coffee filter to strain out any hair which may have fallen in.

In its natural state, the milk is about 5% fat. Since it is not homogenized, the cream rises to the top, and after 24 hours, I can separate low-fat milk from the cream. I poked a whole in the bottom of the milk jug and let the lighter milk, which had settled on the bottom strain out.
Raw milk is not readily available. State health boards fear that the naturally occurring bacteria are harmful. In Massachusetts, dairy farms need a special license to sell raw milk and are inspected monthly. Nonetheless, farmers often choose this option because tends to be a economically more viable option for them than selling to dairy conglomerates like Gaerelick. Consumers prefer it because the enzymes and probotics in raw milk have been shown to have many health benefits and actually tend to be safer than pasteurized milk. And folks that have lactose intolerance fair better with raw milk because of the increased lactase.

For more details about raw milk, you can read here.

And what better way to enjoy the sweet, creamy, fresh taste of raw milk than with a plate of cookies!
Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe is adapted from Bo Friberg, my pastry instructor in culinary school.   
4 1/2 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
3 oz. brown sugar
3 oz. white sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
6 1/2 oz. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
6 oz. chocolate chips

1.  Using the paddle attachment of a mixer, cream the butter and the sugars at medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine.
2.  Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.  Add the butter mixture and mix over low speed until combined.    Stir in the chocolate chips.
3.  Using a spoon, measure out about 2 tbs. of dough.  Use your hands to shape into a ball and place on a cookie sheet.  Continue until all the dough is formed into cookie balls.  At this point you can freeze the balls to bake later or bake all immediately.  Make sure you properyly space them so there's about 2 inches between them.
4.  Bake at 375F for 10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly brown and the middle still looks a bit sticky.

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----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Melissa DATE:1/30/2010 10:35:00 PM What luck that Melissa (heh) was feeling comfortable with you. :) That's just so awesome.

I remember when I was a kid living in New Hampshire, we had this program at my elementary school where they brought animals in to show us. I don't know exactly how that worked or what the program was - I was 6 - but I remember meeting an owl and a boa constrictor... and one time they brought a cow (!) and a few of us in my class, including me, got a chance to try milking it. Very memorable experience indeed, but as you indicated, not as easy as you'd expect.

Alas, I've never actually tasted the raw milk. Is it sweeter? More sour?

P.S. Way to tease me with the sort of photos of you! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous we are never full DATE:2/01/2010 12:45:00 PM we recently saw raw milk for sale near my parent's house outside of philadelphia. it's was about $7 for a gallon. we would've picked it up if we didn't have to drive it back to nyc w/o refrigeration but you have definitely made me want to try it. thanks for this post! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous noble pig DATE:2/01/2010 05:06:00 PM Oh you are brave...I'd be scared of those udders, LOL! ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger Julia DATE:2/02/2010 10:41:00 AM Melissa -- the milk is definitely sweeter. My guess is that all milk starts that way and loses some as it ages.

WANF -- I imagine it's cold enough outside, that you'd be fine, non?

noble pig -- I was scared... but not of the udders ;) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Anonymous Erin @ Big Girl Eats DATE:2/03/2010 01:50:00 PM This is so cool! It makes me want a really good glass of raw milk, some cookies and a visit to a farm :) ----- COMMENT: AUTHOR:Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types DATE:2/04/2010 05:44:00 AM Wow - I'm not sure if I would be so brave, but what an excellent experience. And I can imagine the taste of the raw milk with cookies was fantastic! ----- --------