Vermont law makers recently passed a bill doubling the limit on the sale of raw milk from 25 quarts to 50 quarts per day; and lifted the groundless ban on advertising. At $5 to $7 a gallon, 50 quarts per day is still just a small step in significantly affecting the viability of Vermont farms however, it is a leg-up. The new bill enables farmers to sell more of their milk directly to the consumer, bypassing the middleman, and increasing their profits considerably. As powerful as word of mouth advertising can be; it’s just plain nice to hang out your shingle.
With all this news about raw milk in the papers and having heard my friend Liz wax on about the magical powers and unrivaled flavor of raw organic milk, I decided to visit Live Water Farm in Westminster West. Bill Acquavita, his wife, Miriam and son, Taylor operate a small dairy farm with a herd of thirty Jersey and Jersey/Normandy cows. I brought two empty gallon pickle jars with me. Bill set them under the stainless steel spout of the milk chiller, its paddles slowly swimming, and dispensed two gallons of cream rich milk. This was not the stuff off supermarket shelves; this was the stuff from my childhood– served from a ceramic pitcher, with a layer of heavy cream floating on top; it was thick and tasted of warm cows.
Arriving home, I found I that in my zeal, I had bought an excess of milk. I hadn’t made yogurt for years but this seemed like a good time to resume the practice. I had learned to make yogurt from my mother-in-law when I was just married. She was Lebanese and yogurt was a major ingredient in many of her Middle Eastern dishes. When she needed a large quantity, she economics dictated that she make made her own. She would bring a gallon of milk to a boil on the stove stirring watchfully so as not to scorch — a scorched bottom would taint the entire batch with a bitter flavor. When the milk had cooled sufficiently to allow her to hold a finger in it for the count of ten, she stirred in some yogurt that had been saved from a previous batch. The lid was placed on the pot, the entire thing was double wrapped in fluffy bath towels, and left to rest on the back of the stove. Later that day the pot was unwrapped, the whey was drained off, and the yogurt was ready to use.
If my mother-in-law’s approach of yogurt making is too loosey goosey for you, you can easily follow an in-depth recipe off of the internet or email me and I’ll send you one.
One of the best parts of producing an entire gallon of yogurt is now you get to make lebneh, a lovely cheese, which my mother-in-law made by setting yogurt to strain. If she did this in the evening, we would have a creamy slightly tart ball of lebneh in the morning drizzled with olive oil, served with marinated olives and Syrian bread. To make your own lebneh; pour well chilled yogurt into multiple layers of washed cheesecloth draped over a colander. Gather up the edges and tie with string. Use the string to hang the bag from the faucet and leave to drain overnight. In the morning, turn the strained yogurt out onto a plate and serve. For a sweet version of this, add honey, raisins and chopped walnuts to the yogurt before straining. For a savory version add fresh herbs, chopped garlic, a touch of salt & some cracked pepper. Your yogurt cheese will last for about a week in the refrigerator, however, that would be rare in my house.
Although not a dietitian, Liz is my go to person for facts about nutrition. She tells me that whole raw milk is a traditional food with intrinsic healing properties. The cholesterol and saturated fats (butterfat) inherent in raw milk along with its naturally active enzymes, proteins, beneficial bacteria, and vitamins create a complete and properly balanced food. Raw milk is touted to promote health, protect against the development of allergies and help reduce asthma symptoms. Pasteurized milk cannot be fully digested by humans and has had not only the nutrition but also the flavor knocked right out of it.
Most milk drinkers these days stick to the lowest fat they can tastefully tolerate; until recently I was guilty of the same. I am now a complete convert to whole fresh raw milk. Its flavor and nutritional values are without comparison. I also like to support local businesses, especially farms. You can go pick up your own raw milk at the Live Water Farm seven days a week from 5:30 to 8:00 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm when Bill is milking. Bring your own clean container, preferably glass. I recommend wearing rubber boots or old footwear—you are visiting a true working farm. Your olfactory senses will be sated with the pungent smell of cows, and if you’re lucky as I was, you’ll be greeted by a sweet faced calf ready to take your fingers into its mouth and lick you with its sandpapery tongue.