Get it Before the FDA Does


I have this ongoing plan to live on a raw food diet for an entire week and post about the results. Occasionally I get attracted to weird schemes like this – I think of it as my Neolithic side. However, I’m a busy boy, and planning out the menus would take too much of my time at present. (Also, the weather is getting colder, and my plan met with strenuous opposition at home. Soon I was faced with the probability of making two complete dinners each night, one raw, one cooked. That was way too much work.)

However, and on the same theme, I am lucky enough to live in one of the few states where raw milk sales are legal. Raw milk is milk that hasn’t been pasteurized and homogenized on its way from the udder to you. It’s the milk from your early childhood (or mine, anyway) that came in bottles with a foil cap that had to be peeled off, the milk that separates out into cream and buttermilk. It is illegal in many places due to the joyless nature of the health watchdogs who believe eating anything that was eaten for thousands of years before the advent of food irradiation will result in instant death. The FDA reports, for example, that 200 Americans became ill from consuming raw milk or raw milk products in 2002! Considering there are 76 million reported cases of food poisoning in the USA each year, 200 from milk doesn’t sound that risky to me.

The other great thing about raw milk, and here is where I am going to end my rant, is that you can use it to make butter. Not only is homemade butter almost ethereally rich and creamy, making it is a great workout!

Homemade Butter

You will need:

raw milk

a quart-sized jar

Depending on where you are, raw milk can be either hard to find or downright illegal. I get mine through a friend who has a contact in a farm share. Ask around. Try the cheese counter at your farmer’s market. Look online. It is worth it.

Pour the raw milk into the (very clean) jar, leaving a couple of inches of room at the top. It speeds things up immensely, and yields more butter, if you include as much of the cream from the separated milk as possible, but I like to drink my raw milk as well, so I generally don’t let it separate out and accept the smaller quantity of butter as a fair compromise.

Put the lid tightly on the jar and shake it.

butter 1

Keep shaking it.

butter 2

Who told you to stop? Shake that sucker.

butter 3

Tired? Maybe a friend would like a turn.

After about 20 minutes (I’m being optimistic about your arm strength), the milk will start to get all clotty at the top. You’re nearly there! It won’t look exactly like butter yet. It will look like thick foam. Open the jar, scoop it out with a fork and pat it together. It may seem like slop now, but it will quickly harden up.

As it hardens, you can rinse it under the tap to get rid of the last of the milk. Make sure you use very cold water, or the butter will melt all over your hand. Put it in the fridge for a few minutes, and shape it into a ball with gentle pats. See how much harder it is getting?

Now – repeat with more milk.

The leftover skim or buttermilk (definitions vary) is good for making pancakes, I’ve been told, but I don’t like pancakes, so I guess I’ll never know. Try it and tell me.

final butter

6 comments to Get it Before the FDA Does

  • Matt

    I did this at a Thanksgiving get-together one year . . . so, so tasty.

  • WarPig

    I use heavy cream for the same thing.

    The reasons pasteurization was enacted were 1) raw milk was and is still, worldwide, a major carrier of tuberculosis; 2) it can also transmit e.coli; 3) shelf life is far longer when pasteurized.

    Ultrahomogenization takes care of the milk and cream separation problem.

    I’ve been to lots of countries where raw milk is a staple. They all have TB problems. With the current outbreaks of resistant TB strains – no thanks. I’ll take my milk the way Louis Pasteur intended.

    Although I do admit I drank raw milk on the farm as a lad. We’d wait until it cooled in the cold water bath, then draw off the cream for coffee, whipping and cereal. But the cows were checked for TB on a very regular basis.

    As a result of raw milk consumption, the first time my brother and I got the subcutaneous TB test in school it went absolutely bananas. We had angry red knots on our forearms the size of bully taw marbles. False positives, thankfully, but we switched to pasteurized milk after that and no more false positives. Old Doc Woodmancy said that (later) when I caught pneumonia twice in a row, that if I had still been drinking the raw milk I probably would not have revived (I technically died for three minutes – third grade time frame. I had pneumonia in both lungs and they were 80% filled – they had to inject raw, household ammonia through my ribs into the lungs to break it up). What about the milk would have caused me not to revive her never said; but it scared the hades out of a 9 year old kid. ;-)

    I have avoided raw milk ever since, but will eat cheese and butter from raw milk with enthusiasm. Doc didn’t say squat about butter and cheese. :-)

  • Orv

    To be fair, to know how significant 200 cases of food poisoning is, we need to know the total number of people who drink raw milk. It’s presumably a pretty small group, which makes comparing to 76 million cases of food poisoning in the entire population a little fishy.

    Now, I generally support people putting whatever they want into their own bodies. I just hate seeing statistics abused. ;)

  • I wouldn’t exactly call it statistical abuse since I am not showing correlation. My intention was to get you to think about the significance of the risk. It is clear that 200 out of 76,000,000 is a small proportion. If, for example, all foods that cause food poisoning were consumed in equal proportion to raw milk, the average American suffering food poisoning (about a quarter of the population!) would be consuming 380,000 different foods per year. Clearly untrue, so there are riskier foods – leafy vegetables, for example. It has been estimated that 1-3% of all milk consumed in the US is raw, which you have to assume represents a dataset larger than 200 people by orders of magnitude. I’m not denying the evidence that raw milk is far riskier than pasteurized with regards to bacteria, parasites, and viruses, mind. Merely that the risk is at the same time far lower than your risk of illness from obesity and that ol’ number one killer, heart disease, from merely being an average American. Or eating lettuce.

  • WarPig

    Actually, to be statistically significant, we’d have to know how many people drink raw milk on a semi-regular basis, and their health histories. With milk, as I mentioned, food poisoning is not the major issue. Milk was pasteurized primarily to reduce transmission of tuberculosis. However, there are many other diseases cows have which can be transmitted by raw milk, e. coli for one, salmonella for another, as well as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy. Also Brucellosis, Q fever, Staphylococcal and Streptococcal infections and Foot and Mouth Disease.

    Then, with unpasteurized milk, you also have to trust the handlers and milkers are all disease-free. Humans can transmit typhoid fever, scarlet fever, diphtheria, septic sore throat, and infantile diarrhea. And when the milk is not pasteurized, you also have to worry about all other diseases and impurities present in a farm/stables environment which may infect the milk. Feces, pus, fly droppings, cow dander, aflatoxis, scarlet fever, typhoid, shigellosis, mycotoxins, gas gangrene, listeria, anthrax, etc.

    Go ahead and enjoy! ;-)

  • Just found your blog today & love it!

    My Girl Scout troop learned how to make butter when I was a child – but we put a wooden clothespin in the jar before shaking. It creates more agitation & thus, butter faster.

    You might try something similar – wood seems awfully porous to me, eek! – and see what happens!

    Good luck – and thanks for the great writing!