"Wow, that is really good. That tastes so creamy!" "Now, that tastes like the milk we used to get out of the tank back on the dairy farm." Jackie's Jersey milk got raves from my taste test panel. Jackie's Jerseys (Terra Organica, Coop, Sumas IGA) is a dairy farm with 18 cows, all Jerseys. Eighteen cows is too many to be a hobby and nowhere near enough for a conventional dairy. The normal conventional dairy in Whatcom county has 500 - 600 cows. In California, dairies can have 10,000 cows.
To help visualize this cow, Elsie, the mascot of Borden's cheese familiar from the label, is a Jersey. (Despite Elsie's mug on the package, Borden's cheese tastes like glue.) Jerseys are small (800 to 1200 pounds) brown to grey girls, beloved for their sweet temperament and high-butterfat milk. They have very good grazing efficiency due to their small size, which means that it is possible to pack more Jerseys on a pasture and actually get more for the milk from the same area.
That genderless bovine on the Whatcom Transport Authority bus is a Holstein heifer, a young female whose udder will be noticeable after she calves, technically called a Holstein-Friesian. The familiar black and white Holstein is the mass market milk cow. Holsteins were brought to the U.S. in the 1850's and have been the dairy industry's cow of choice since. They remain popular because they produce abundant milk on grass. Which is interesting, because the big California dairies don't actually feed the cows on grass.
Holsteins have been bred to give astonishing milk production, in the neighborhood of twenty gallons of milk a day. There has been concern about using recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) to boost milk production even higher. By comparison, the famous prize cow in Ten Acres Enough (written in the 1860's, available in the library, well worth reading) gave five gallons a day and she was legendary throughout the whole county. All that hyped up milk production is hard on the cow. Modern Holsteins have a productive life of 4-6 years. In the 1920's, cows were expected to give 4 gallons of milk a day (already up from 1860 averages) and had a productive life of 12-14 years.
All of which would just be more about cows than you really wanted to know, except that Jackie's Jerseys got in trouble with the Raw Milk Police. There is no way to have a conventional dairy business model with 18 Jersey cows. However, Jackie's does raw milk, and it's really good stuff. They are targeting a niche market and the Raw Milk Police targeted them. Two people in Washington State got sick from e-coli recently. There was no evidence that the e-coli came from Jackie's milk, but it was the only thing that the investigation could find in common. Hence Jackie's was in big trouble.
This happens all too often. Joel Salatin tells exactly the same story of raw milk producers in Virginia in "Everything I Want to Do is Illegal". If anyone gets sick from e-coli, the milk is blamed, even though they could have contacted the bacteria cleaning up dog poop on the street or any number of other ways. If the dairy survives the investigation, the publicity alone may put them out of business. Grace Harbor went out of the raw milk business after an e-coli incident and even got rid of their cows for years.
When I heard about the e-coli incident, I ran out and bought a half gallon of Jackie's milk. It was such a hit, I plan to keep buying it.
It is seldom pointed out in e-coli scares that the human digestive system processes small amounts of e-coli very well. There were no Health Department inspectors checking the milk in our thousands of years of pastoralism. We are co-evolved with the little critters.
However, cows evolved to eat grass. Normal cow digestive system e-coli eats the grass the cows eat, breaking down the cellulose into vinegar. When cows are fed a high grain diet, they develop a different strain of intestinal flora. We are not adapted to it, and it can be lethal to persons with compromised immune systems. In California, the dry conditions allow keeping mind boggling numbers of cows. They are fed plenty of grain to keep milk production high. One dairy cow produces 148 pounds a day of manure. The poop product of 10,000 cows is difficult to imagine. In California, runoff from monoculture dairy production in a desert contaminated the irrigation water used for monoculture spinach production in the desert and bagged spinach sickened people all over the country.
What to do, besides staying away from vegetables that come packed in little bags of nitrogen? The local milk is very good right now. The rainy weather grew excellent grass. The taste test panel also really liked Fresh Breeze, which jumps through all the hoops to maintain organic certification and Twin Brook, which is "98% organic practices but paperwork free". Local conventional dairy Edaleen's milk was judged so far superior to Haggen's store brand (both available through WIC) that taste tester's shopping habits have changed.
Jackie's beat the rap. The State of Washington was able to identify the culprit DNA strain and it was not from Jackie's. Grace Harbor is back in the cow business, with a really good yogurt. Yogurt is a pasteurized product, unless of course you make it yourself from the other half of a container of raw milk.
1 quart raw milk
1 cup commercial yogurt (look for the label "contains live cultures", you want the bugs)
or 1 envelope yogurt culture (look for Yogourmet brand)
dial immersion thermometer (Cash and Carry, an excellent investment)
Warm milk to 120 - 130 degrees F. Ignore all propaganda about higher temperatures, otherwise why buy raw milk in the first place.
Allow to cool to 110 degrees. The really organized recommend immersing the pot into a larger pot filled with ice water for rapid cooling. This resembles work, so I generally just let it sit there and cool off. Add culture. Ideally, keep around 80 degrees for six hours until it sets. I put the oven on warm, then turn it off and set the pot in there.
This produces a thinner yogurt than commercial products, more like a yogurt drink. Attention to detail (rapid cooling, keeping it warm during culturing) will result in a somewhat firmer product. Flavor with a little vanilla and sugar or maple syrup, if desired. Really good stuff. Smash up some fresh strawberries and stir in the yogurt for an amazing beverage.