Thursday, May 21, 2009

Raw Milk and easy homemade yogurt

We were gifted with a surprise 2 litres of raw milk from a friend on a nearby farm (thank you Rosemary!) I was surprised to realize I had never tasted raw milk before in my life. The cream that rises to the top certainly is divine. It's currently illegal to sell raw milk in Ontario it's not that easy to come by (unless you find a farm family who will gift or barter it to you).

Many Ontarians will have heard about Michael Schmidt, the farmer from Grey County who tried numerous times to offer raw milk to his long list of customers who clamour for it. He set up a dairy co-op (Cow Share), with members "owning" their cow, while Schmidt housed, fed and milked them. Members would then be able to pick up their raw milk as necessary - a great arrangement, until the government caught up with him and shut that project down. He has been battling this out in the courts for years, even doing a hunger strike at one point to raise awareness about his cause and legalizing the sale of raw milk. When recently interviewed on CBC radio, he made a good point - we can purchase almost anything else in a raw state in the store (raw fruit, vegetables, meat, sushi, etc), not to mention cigarettes and alcohol (which have obvious health impacts), yet consumers aren't given the right to buy raw milk if they so choose. (see

So we felt blessed by this unexpected gift of the precious raw milk. There are many theories about the health benefits of raw milk as well as other traditional foods (see, for example, As we are not in the habit of drinking cow's milk, but do love to make homemade yogurt, I decided to make up a batch of yogurt last night. This morning, we had the richest, creamiest dense yogurt we've ever tasted! With canned peaches from last summer and homemade granola it was quite a breakfast treat, more like dessert really!

Here's the recipe (plus a few tips from my mom, who grew up on a largely self-sufficient farm in the 1950's). I'm going to attempt to make mozzarella with the remaining milk, something which is difficult to do with regular store-purchased milk as the high pasteurizing results in problems with cheesemaking (at least in the reading I've done, and the one dismall attempt at making mozzarella last year which resulted in something more like cottage cheese crumbs!). With the left-over cream I'm going to make butter.

Easy Dependable Yogurt (from Simply in Season)

4 cups (1 litre) raw or store-bought fresh milk
1/8 cup yogurt starter
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup (optional)
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
fresh fruit (optional)

1) Put milk in saucepan and scald by heating until tiny bubbles form on edges of the milk, but do not bring to a boil. Pour into another container to cool. Insert cooking thermometre to measure temperature.

2) Fill canning jar or thermos with hot water. Set in hot water bath (in a baking pan). Wait for milk to cool to 105-110F / 40-45C.

3) Once milk reaches the desired temperature, stir in yogurt starter (we use 1/8 cup natural yogurt left-over from last batch, or live-culture natural plain yogurt from the store). Empty canning jar or thermos, pour in milk mixture and screw on the lid. Do not move this canning jar or thermos during incubation period.

4) After 4-6 hours, check yogurt for desired consistency. The canning jar/thermos should stay at aroun 105-110F / 40-45C for the full length of incubation. Tips on keeping the jar warm: - keep in warm water bath, and continue to top up the warm water during incubation time
- wrap jar in towel to keep insulated
- keep jar in oven with pilot light on (or lowest setting)
- keep jar in cooler/ice chest that's filled with hot water
- set jar in pan of warm water on the stove and occasionally turn the stove on briefly
- set jar under a tea cozy

5) Do not stir finished yogurt too much. Fold in sweetener and fruit. If you forget about the yogurt and leave it too long, pour off water (whey) that forms on top and add additonal sweetened if necessary.


  1. I grew up in Southern California. We would made a twice-weekly trip to Alta-Dena dairies, the only dairy that (legally) sold Certified Raw Milk. One of the pleasures of my childhood was being the first one to open a bottle and get the sweet cream from the top. Delicious. It's also called 'Green Top' milk in the UK, but it is very hard to come by.
    Imagine my surprise and excitement when I moved to France, spent 3 weeks living at a B&B on an Organic Dairy farm. Our first morning there was a pitcher of fresh milk in the fridge, my little girls went crazy for the taste. Raw milk, freshly "squeezed" that morning.
    I'd cycle back there, after we moved into our apartment in town, about once every two weeks loaded down with empty plastic 2-litre water bottles which the dairyman would fill for me with fresh, raw, organic milk straight from that day's milking. For the princely sum of 1 euro a litre.
    Can you imagine the horror in the eyes of someone from the USDA?
    Now, I buy raw (cow, goat or sheep) milk at our local farmer's market. Very civilised.

  2. Where do you find your yogurt starter? We got a yogurt maker as a gift and I'm not sure where to purchase these things to get it started! Thank you!

    1. You can use yogurt from a store that has live bacteria in it, such as Balkin Style Yogurt... any yogurt that lists live culture in it will work.