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.
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
1/2 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.