It was a clear case of bad news leading to other good opportunities. Our long time source of raw milk was discontinuing supply due to legal hassles. Why don’t people just stop buying a product instead of putting them out of business for all the other satisfied customers? However, after digging way down into a Google search, I found a small family farm in nearby Caldwell that sells raw milk. Sunnydale Farms
There was the minor adjustment of having a very specific pick up time, as they deliver to a couple of locations in my area, Nampa, Idaho; because not many customers would want to drive to a remote farm to pick up milk. It turns out this pick up location is closer than the other place I was buying milk, and Tanya, the mom of the operation, communicates very thoroughly about the whole process.
Another positive is it comes in half gallons jars, and there is definitely cream on top. Though the jars are glass, and thus a bit heavier and might break, I find the size easier to deal with for dispensing when I get home. The wide mouth means I can skim off the generous layer of cream if I want to. The smaller volume of milk per container means a more manageable size for handling in and out of the refrigerator. I do pour it into my own pitcher, a half gallon at a time.
All of the several gallons we have used over the past month have been great tasting. That is, they taste like refreshing milk. Whether I skim the cream or mix it in, the flavor is plain milk, without any funny flavors from the cream or evidence of odd things in the cows’ diet. They have two cows, as you can see from their website. I almost feel like I should go visit those cows and say, “Good work!”
When I have skimmed the cream, we have used the cream for everything from coffee additive to baking. I haven’t tried to make butter with this particular cream yet, though I have made butter in years past. I do love cream on my fresh strawberries. So far, I have stirred the cream into the milk for making a half recipe of chocolate milk and for some plain milk, but skimmed it out for making yogurt. Ah, the yogurt. It is such a beautiful, pale beige yellow color. It just looks sweeter than most store-bought yogurt.
Here is how I make yogurt (printable recipe below):
- Skim the cream down to about one inch, or however far you can get without mixing milk with it (it saves better without any milk in it).
- Heat the milk on medium-high heat to 190°F, while stirring frequently. If you are using pasteurized milk, you may not have to heat it as much, because the pasteurization has already inhibited the factors that would keep the yogurt culture from growing.
- Pour milk into shallow bowl to cool more rapidly down to 120°F ( I usually make sure it goes just below that mark to make sure it won’t kill the culture) Stir occasionally while cooling.
- Once milk is cooled to 120°, mix in 1/3 to 1/2 cup of yogurt. So far, I have always used some of the store-bought yogurt I have on hand, which is either Mountain High brand or Tillamook. I use a wire whisk to make sure it really gets mixed in.
- Put the milk-yogurt mix into wide mouth quart jars. I find it useful to use a common canning funnel, to have less trouble pouring into the smallish opening. I scoop most of the mix out with a cup measuring cup, until the bowl is almost empty, then carefully pour in the last. I usually end up with almost 4 quarts to process, depending on how much cream there was to remove.
- My Excalibur dehydrator comes in very handy at this point, as I simply put the jars in (with all the shelves removed) and set the temperature to 115°F, per instructions in the book that came with the unit. I have used my oven for this step, by preheating it to a certain point (which I recommend you look up, as I haven’t done it that way for a while), then turning it OFF and leaving the jars in for basically the same time.
- It is supposed to take about 3-4 hours for the yogurt to set. Once in a while, it doesn’t seem to be setting, but I have always taken it out at least by 5 – 6 hours anyway and it always sets up when cooled in the fridge. Some of the cream may settle on the top, but it can be gently stirred in after it is all cool.
We use the yogurt in smoothies, to make pancakes, in salad dressing. One daughter likes to serve a bowl of it, then top it with honey, walnuts, and banana slices. The smoothies often turn in popsicles, which my grandkids have come to expect I will have on hand. I do my best. Here is a printable pdf of the above recipe for making yogurt:
One other fun thing to use the cream for is the fastest yummy biscuits I have ever had the pleasure to make. My recipe is adapted from a recipe in James Beards’ American Cookery. (A cookbook which I do not personally have. My daughter shared the recipe with me.)
Do it this way:
Yummy Cream Biscuits
Prepare oven and baking sheet:
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- Grease half sheet pan with shortening. (butter tends to smoke, oil isn’t usually quite enough to keep breads from sticking)
Dip measure and mix:
- 1 cup of unbleached white flour
- 1 and 1/4 cup freshly ground wheat flour, ground from soft white wheat berries
- 1 tablespoon of baking powder
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I like to use turbinado sugar)
- slightly rounded 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
- Once those are blended, add 1.5 cups of fresh cream (store bought cream works just as well) and stir just until dry ingredients are evenly moist.
Drop and bake:
- Drop the batter in 12 equal spoonfuls, in a 3 by 4 array on the half sheet pan. You can add or take a little away as needed to make them all equal. Use fingers to gently press the raw biscuits all down to approximately 3/4 inches thick. This drop method is much faster, cleaner, and uses the dough more efficiently than rolling and cutting.
- Bake them for 12 – 15 minutes. I like to rotate the pan half way through the baking time for more even baking.
Here is a printable pdf of the biscuit recipe: Yummy Cream Biscuits
Sunnydale Farms recommends this blog by The Prairie Homestead, for some interesting and useful facts about how raw milk sours and can still be used. It may be convenient to buy things like yogurt, cream, and butter at the grocery store, and it does take some time to make these things from scratch, but if you gradually add them to your repertoire, pretty soon it will be more natural to at least enjoy fresh, homemade once in a while.