Safely Handle and Store Raw Milk

Learn how to process raw milk in order to preserve taste and prevent spoilage.

| December 2015

raw milk strainer

The best milk strainers are made from stainless steel and include a funnel that fits both regular and wide-mouth canning jars.

Illustration by Elena Bulay

The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How (Storey Publishing, 2015) by Andrea Chesman is a simple-to-follow handbook to get curious foodies on their way to becoming self-reliant cooks and expand the horizons of experienced homesteaders. The following excerpt is from Chapter 7, “Fresh Milk.”

Buy this book from the Capper’s Farmer store: The Backyard Homestead Book of Kitchen Know-How

It is a happy homestead that can provide itself with plenty of fresh milk. You’ll enjoy drinking it, of course, and pouring it over your morning granola, but one thing is certain: when there are dairy animals in the barn, there is a surplus of milk in the kitchen. Whether you’re milking a cow or a few dairy goats, you’ll have extra milk, and you’ll have to find a way to preserve it. This creates a wonderful opportunity to make butter, cheese, yogurt, and, of course, ice cream. These preservation methods are covered in later chapters, but for now the focus is on how to handle all that fresh, raw milk in the kitchen.

Cow versus Goat

On a backyard homestead you are more likely to raise goats than dairy cows because of space constraints. A single cow requires about an acre of grass, while a quarter of an acre of pasture will support a couple of goats. Even if you don’t raise dairy animals, raw organic milk, from both cows and goats, is available for sale in many states. Even if your state does not allow the retail sale of raw milk, it may allow farm sales, or it may be possible to buy a “share” in a dairy animal, which will give you access to the milk. American dairy culture is exceedingly cow-centric, so most people are surprised at their first taste of (chilled) goat’s milk, which is noticeably richer than cow’s milk. Cow’s milk contains an average of 3.8 to 3.9 percent butterfat, while goat’s milk contains about 6 percent fat, about as much as the buffalo milk that’s used to make the best mozzarella cheese. It is also completely lacking in off-flavors or odors, contrary to some people’s expectations. As long as the milk has been collected in a sanitary fashion and the buck is kept away from the doe, there is no “goaty” aroma or aftertaste.

Raw cow’s milk is generally nonhomogenized, which means that the fat globules rise to the top and form a layer of cream. You can ladle off all or some of the cream for making whipped cream or cultured cream products (see chapter 15). Shaking the jar before pouring will ensure a good blend of milk and the remaining cream. In goat’s milk the fat globules are smaller and disperse more readily, making the milk naturally homogenized. Since the cream will not separate on its own, if you want to make goat’s-milk butter, you’ll need to acquire a cream separator.

Another difference you may notice is that goat’s milk (and sheep’s milk, too) appears whiter than cow’s milk because the milk does not contain any beta-carotene. In case you were wondering, relative to cows and even goats, sheep produce far less milk — about 1 quart a day, compared to 3 to 6 quarts a day from a goat and 2 to 4 gallons a day from a dairy cow.

mother earth news fair


Feb. 17-18, 2018
Belton, Texas

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!