Courtesy Susy Morris/Flickr
If you have a household dairy and milk dairy goats, you’ll want to process your homegrown goat’s milk so it stays fresh and yummy as can be. As soon as you finish milking, take the milk to your kitchen or dairy processing area without delay. Then follow these steps.
Processing Goat’s Milk
Pour the milk through a stainless-steel strainer lined with a milk filter into clean glass containers with lids. (Buy milk filters at a farm store; you can use coffee filters, but they cost more and don’t work nearly as well.) Quart canning jars with lids work perfectly.
Cool the milk as quickly as you can. Some folks put containers in the freezer for 10 minutes, then transfer them to the refrigerator for further cooling. Mom immerses them in the sink in ice water. She freezes water in secondhand plastic containers to make large ice cubes to cool the water faster. After 15 minutes or so, dry off the jars and pop them in the refrigerator. Raw milk should stay good in the fridge at 40 degrees F or cooler for five or six days when handled this way.
Raw Versus Pasteurized
Raw milk can be a controversial subject among farmers. Keep in mind that all raw dairy products have the potential to transmit disease-causing organisms to humans, among them pathogens that cause serious diseases like tuberculosis, brucellosis, diphtheria, scarlet fever, listeriosis, E. coli and salmonella. However, millions of people around the world consume raw milk every day without getting sick because the pay careful attention to the health of their animals.
Read up on the raw versus pasteurized milk debate before you decide to drink milk raw. Mom and Dad have used raw milk for many years and wouldn’t dream of pasteurizing my girlfriends’ yummy milk, but if you decide to pasteurize, you’ll probably want to buy a pasteurizer because pasteurizing on the stovetop is exacting work. To learn how to do it on the stove, read Oregon State University Extension Service’s bulletin “Home Pasteurization of Raw Milk.” You can also read about pasteurizing at the bottom of the HobbyFarms.com article “How to Milk a Cow.”
Freeze Milk for Later
When your cow, doe or ewe produces more milk than your family or bottle babies can use, freeze some for later. Raw milk freezes better than pasteurized milk, and sheep’s and goat’s milk freezes better than the milk from cows; however, all milk can be safely frozen with minimal loss in quality if the milk is handled right. Start by adding a pinch of baking soda to each canning jar of milk and shake it up before cooling. This helps keep frozen milk from separating when you thaw it out.
Mom double-bags surplus milk. She pours each quart canning jar into a sturdy zip-top freezer bag, then sets the bags in a towel-lined container in the freezer overnight. The next day she places two quart bags inside of each gallon zip-top bag for long-term storage. She also writes the date on all of the bags using a permanent marker. That way she knows to use the older bags first.
If you freeze milk it as soon as it’s cooled and you thaw it slowly in the refrigerator, little or no separation will occur. Don’t freeze milk that’s been sitting in the refrigerator for more than 30 minutes, and never thaw milk in hot tap water! If you do and the milk separates, it’s still safe to drink but it will look really disgusting. Whirring it in a blender will help its looks—but not much.
Feed Is Everything
One more thing I should mention is that the forage and feed a cow, doe or ewe eats, and the scents she inhales can flavor her milk. The best way to avoid off-flavors in goat’s milk is to keep does away from stinky, studly bucks in rut and out of stinky barns. Eliminate plants that flavor milk from your dairy producer’s diet, or at least feed them no later than five hours before milking. Plants to avoid include alfalfa, soybeans, rye, rape, turnips, cabbage, horseradish, marigolds, kale, flax, chamomile, fennel, daisies, cress, wild garlic and onions, ragweed, mustards, yarrow, wild lettuce, buttercups, sneezeweed, pepperwort, cocklebur, buckthorn, bitterweed and wild carrot.
Plus, when milk cows, goats and sheep ingest certain plants that are poisonous to us but not to them, residues end up in your milk supply. Abraham Lincoln’s mother died after drinking cow’s milk tainted with white snakeroot. It can still happen. Be careful!
Do you have a livestock or wildlife question you want me to answer?
Please keep in mind that I receive a lot of questions, so I won’t always be able to answer each one immediately. In the case of an animal emergency, it’s important to reach out to your veterinarian or extension agent first.
Learn more about keeping a small-farm dairy:
- Raising Dairy Goats for Milk
- Got Homegrown Milk?
- Infographic: Rumination Station
- Homemade Soap: Milk and Vegan Options