Welcome to the third installment in our Good, Better, Best series. I fully recognize that some of you have very tight budgets or only have access to mega-marts due to your locations. Others will have the funds and availability to choose the best of the best. Either way, this post isn’t to condemn someone who can’t pick the best of every option, it is to help you make the best decision you can with what you have, where you are.
This week’s installment is on choosing dairy products. This post is to help you decide what is the best option for your budget. We will not get into dairy vs dairy-free, whether or not you should consume dairy, and the like. If you are currently buying dairy, this is to help you decide what is the best option for your budget. This posting is my opinion, and after research, you might reach a different conclusion. If you do, please comment and share what you found and your reasoning. I’m always open to changing my opinion and updating this post if new or different information comes along.
Best– raw and unhomogenized, 100% pastured, organic or ‘not-certified but organic practice’
Better– VAT pasteurized but not homogenized, 100% pastured, organic or ‘not-certified but organic practice’ that has been kefired or otherwise cultured
Good– Organic, VAT pasteurized but not homogenized that has been kefired or otherwise cultured
Poor– Any milk that has been ultra-pasteurized. Conventional or organic, pasteurized and homogenized milk, even if cultured. Use coconut milk instead (we will cover this next week).
But I Thought Raw Was Important!
It is. It is very important and I strongly recommend you find and consume raw milk if at all possible. However, you can replace some of the beneficial properties lost during pasteurization by kefiring or otherwise culturing the milk. There is no way to make up for or remedy the homogenization of the dairy. That is why I consider homogenization to be a no-no and pasteurization acceptable if you absolutely can not locate or afford raw, as long as you culture the milk.
What is Homogenization?
Homogenization is where the fat droplets in the milk are forced through an extremely tiny sieve under very high pressure (as high as 14,500 psi) and broken up so they will distribute evenly throughout the milk. The tiny fat droplets apparently coat the milk proteins (casein) and protect them from digestion in the stomach, allowing them to make it into the small intestine intact. This has some benefits to the producer- they can standardize the milk into full fat, 2%, and skim. The excess fat becomes profit in the form of butter and cream as raw milk is normally 3.25-5% or more fat, depending on the breed and diet. The milk no longer separates in the jugs, is whiter, the milk lasts longer and the consumers don’t have to shake the milk. But at what price? With just a quick glance online, I found information liking homogenization to a variety of conditions including heart disease, atherosclerosis and food allergies since the undigested proteins make it to the digestive tract intact.
What is Pasteurization?
Pasteurization is where a food product is heated to a specific temperature for a specific length of time and then quickly cooled. This has the effect of killing the living cells and the bacteria in the food. The reasons cited vary from a longer shelf life to ensuring that no potential pathogens survive. The aim is that 99.999% of the living cells be killed from pasteurization.
There are multiple pasteurization options. VAT pasteurization requires the milk be held at 145 degrees for 30 minutes. Ultra-pasteurized milk is held at 280 degrees for 2 seconds. Flash Pasteurization requires 160-165 degrees for 15-20 seconds. In some of these processes, pressure is also used. With the exception of VAT pasteurization, these are all industrial processes you would not find in a home kitchen. The higher the heat, the more affect on the flavor of the milk.
You can reintroduce good bacteria into pasteurized milk by culturing it. Dairy kefir grains, for example, will introduce a wide variety of beneficial probiotics into any fluid milk, including raw milk.
How Do I Culture Milk?
The most common way to culture the milk is to use kefir grains. Kombucha Kamp sells kefir grains or you can pick them up from friends willing to send you some of their extras for the cost of shipping.
Other Dairy Products
It’s difficult to find cream that is not ultra-pasteurized in a mega-mart. Check your local Health Food Store to see if you can find it there. Health Food Stores also carry a variety of aged raw milk cheeses. You can also get raw milk cheese from a variety of companies that ship. The back of the Wise Traditions Journal is a good place to locate farms that ship aged cheese. By law, raw milk cheeses must be aged a minimum of 60 days. Cultured butter is where the cream is cultured with beneficial bacteria prior to making the butter. You can get cultured butter at the health food store and via mail order. Health Food Stores also carry pastured butter from Organic Valley, but it is made out of pasteurized milk. For ice cream, I recommend you make your own using cream that hasn’t been ultra-pasteurized. You can add extra nutrients in the form of pastured egg yolks when you make your own, too. The best cottage cheese I ever had was from an Amish Farmer.
KerryAnn Foster runs Cooking Traditional Foods, the longest running Traditional Foods Menu Mailer on the internet. KerryAnn has over nine years of traditional foods experience and is a former Weston A. Price Foundation chapter leader. Founded in 2005, CTF helps you feed your family nourishing foods they will love. Each mailer contains one soup, five dinners, one breakfast, on dessert and extras. You can learn more about our Menu Mailers at the CTF website. For a free sample Menu Mailer, join our mailing list. You can also join our forum to chat with other traditional foodists and learn more.
This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.