Eating Your Curds and Whey

By using natural, raw milk from her cows, Mary Lou Shaw explains how she makes dairy products including butter, yogurt, and a variety of cheeses.


| June 2016



Dairy products

Raw, unprocessed milk—whether from dairy cows on a farm or a milk goat on a small homestead—is the key to making a plethora of nutritious food staples for your home.

Photo by Fotolia/julijadmi

Mary Lou Shaw is a former physician, current homesteader, who has seen the consequences of unhealthy eating firsthand. These experiences have shown her the difference that good eating habits can make. And the easiest way to eat healthy? Grow your own ingredients. While processed foods put people at risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, farming, gardening, and eating food that only travels yards to the table promotes a return to a healthy lifestyle where you are directly involved in the creation of your meals and assured of their quality. In Growing Local Food (Carlisle Press, 2012), Dr. Shaw discusses her personal change to homegrown ingredients, how she’s found success on the farm and in the garden — from planting seeds to food preservation — and tips for how you can do the same. In her book are dozens of original recipes to browse, too, a great place to start searching for uses for your fresh ingredients. Healthy eating has to begin somewhere. Whether on an acre of land or in a garden box, it could begin with you.

Fresh Milk is a Nutritious Food

It’s fun to have our own milk, but you don’t have to have cows to do this. Even two acres are enough for a couple milk goats that can provide you with milk and wonderful cheese. The only problem is that animals don’t have an “on-off” switch. When they have their babies and the milk arrives, the amount can seem overwhelming. Perhaps the ideal situation would be to have dairy animals for each neighborhood so both the milk and the chores could be shared. Here is how we manage the milk on our homestead.

When our two Dutch belted cows have their calves, they each give about five gallons of milk a day. Our home abounds in milk and cheese and other dairy products at this time, but we also have the work of the other farm animals, a large garden and other family chores. We’re gradually leaning how to weave the milk-processing chores into our busy schedule.

First of all, we try to stagger the cows’ births by two months so the peak quantities of milk don’t coincide. The calves continue to nurse until nine months of age and by four or five months can consume all their mothers’ milk. This still gives us at least six of the busiest months of the year to deal with surplus milk.

Step one is to drink all we can. Raw milk is more of a food than a beverage, and I love its complex and delicious flavor. Its natural bacteria are helpful “pro-biotics” for the gut. People with lactose intolerance can drink it because it contains the necessary enzymes. European studies show that children who drink it have less asthma. We drink it because it’s available and tastes great!

The cows give far more milk than what we can drink however, and when the first cow has her calf in April, the race begins. Yogurt is a daily staples at our house and is easy to make. I save about 1/2 cup of yogurt from the previous batch and mix it with a quart of milk right from the cow. This is kept about 100 degrees F. until the next morning when I wake up to fresh yogurt for breakfast. Yogurt-makers can be either electric or insulated containers.





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