I’ve gotten into the raw milk craze in these last few months and it’s worth spending a few words proselytizing on behalf of that cause. Mind you I’d nearly cut dairy out of my diet until I finally tried raw milk. Going as far back as childhood, I’ve had belly troubles and worse. These days I guess they’re calling that “I.B.S.”. Allergies have been another bane to my existence, and a little bit of cheese now and then is enough to make me take notice. But when I visited All Grass Farms in Dundee, IL, one of only a few farms in the state legally permitted to sell raw milk for human consumption, I figured I’d at least give it a try. I wanted to see what all the craze was about.
It was love at first chug! I only started out buying a half gallon, but I probably finished most of that on the drive back to Chicago. As soon as that first swig hit my mouth I could feel it going to work. My tongue and throat felt tingly with whatever probiotic mojo the milk was working on me. I finished that half gallon before the next day was through, and the whole while I could feel my entire gut getting familiar with its new inhabitants. It felt a little weird at first, but it wasn’t at all uncomfortable. It was almost like I was getting healthier, or growing new intestines. At the risk of sounding crass, pooping is something I don’t usually look forward to, but the raw milk was a big relief in that department as well.
Within a few days I drove back out to Dundee and picked up a few more half gallons. I quickly figured out that I could easily down half a gallon of raw milk a day, and realized I needed to start stocking up. It’s worth mentioning here that my day-to-day occupation as a carpenter in the film industry means that 82 hour work weeks are something I have to put up with. As a diabetic, figuring out how to maintain a healthy diet in the midst of an impossible schedule has been a challenge, to put it mildly. Within a month of adding raw milk to my routine I had dropped five pounds. Bringing a thermos to work was enough to keep me going through those twelve hour days without giving in to whatever donuts and snacks might otherwise be tempting me. A half gallon a day has been my average consumption, but some days it’s a little more or less. There is a little bit of a bother with phlegm-iness, but it’s outweighed by the overall benefits I’ve noticed, and probably the biggest factor limiting my consumption of raw milk to half a gallon per day.
A trip from Dundee to Chicago is most of half a day for me. Throw the occasional seven day work week in the mix and it’s hard to figure out how to keep my fridge stocked. I’ve noticed that raw milk still tastes fresh for a few days, and is drinkable for about a week, but that’s more often than I can make it out to Dundee without milk turning funky. It doesn’t spoil, by the way, but begins to turn into something that would probably become cottage cheese if I let it go any longer. Instead, I decided to fill the freezer with raw milk as soon as I got home. And that’s how I broke a few mason jars.
The key to freezing any liquids in glass jars is to keep the contents below the shoulder of the jar. That’s all you need to know. My first few attempts I left what I thought was ample room at the top of the jar, and the glass still broke, despite there being plenty of “head space” even after the milk had frozen. A little help from the internet and the obvious dawned upon me. That milk had nowhere to expand when it came up against a literal bottleneck, and something had to give, which of course was the glass. I’ve frozen several half gallon jars since then, and I’ve started resorting to this neat trick. I fill the jars about midway into the shoulder, and screw the lids on tight. Then I place them UPSIDE DOWN in the freezer, usually on a folded cloth towel. When the jar is upside down, there’s still about an inch of head space left in the jar, and there’s no bottleneck for the frozen milk to run up against. I’ve frozen at least half a dozen jars now with no more breakage. Perhaps I’ll update this post with pictures the next time my schedule cools down.
Raw milk thaws out perfectly well, and tastes just as fresh as when I brought it home. I shake it several times as it’s thawing out, and also as it’s freezing TBQH, but it could probably be left well enough alone and do just fine. It does take something more than a full day for a half gallon brick of frozen whole milk to return to liquid in the refrigerator, so plan accordingly. My last trip to All Grass Farms I stocked up on four gallons of milk in half gallon jars. I’m thinking maybe I should invest in a pony keg or maybe a small tanker truck.
A few post-scripts related to raw foods and processed foods: After becoming accustomed to the raw milk diet, and only drinking super high quality local organic milk (shout out to Kilgus Farmstead) when I couldn’t score the raw stuff, I had a chance to drink some of that incredibly filtered and reconstituted milk which I won’t list by name brand here, but it was on set while I was working one day and I mostly wanted to see how horrible it was. It tasted completely dead to me, like a cardboard imitation of what milk should be like. I understand that more and more folks are having all sorts of dietary problems these days, but I’m convinced that the answer is to return to natural foods and not to find even more ways to process and adulterate foods beyond recognition.
I’ve also been downing raw honey by the tablespoon with my morning tea, especially during peak allergy season (ingesting local pollen is a great way to deal with that problem), and I’ve noticed no real problems with indigestion or glucose levels. One morning not so long ago I was feeling under-caffeinated on my way to a side job, so I stopped at Panera and drizzled some of their honey into my black tea, no more than a teaspoon I’m sure. I was almost immediately overcome with heartburn and I couldn’t stop belching fire. Whatever fauna are living in that raw honey, they’re obviously helping me digest the stuff, and I don’t think I’ll eat honey again unless I know that it’s the raw deal.
Thanks for reading and be healthy everyone!