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Gold from Old Milk (aka: Ghee)

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

A question that comes up around the dinner table at the farm is: "How can anyone get by with just one milk share?" We have entire families that receive one half gallon of our milk, and that one jar is apparently all they use for an entire week. At the farm, we go through at least two jars of milk every evening at dinner. When we have surplus milk, like we do currently, each of us might consume half gallon during the day. A half gallon per person. So one half gallon per week just doesn't register.

Sometimes people have even told me that they couldn't get through a jar, so they had to dump it. I say "whoa!" Raw milk never really goes bad, it just transforms. The girls work very hard to make each drop of this elixir. They don't want to hear that it gets dumped....

With a little effort on your part, you can start experimenting with alternatives to dumping milk. When a jar of raw milk sits with a loosened lid in your clabber cabinet (your former microwave cabinet) with the wood stove heating up the kitchen, and the light you plugged into the former microwave outlet keeps the milk nice and warm, say 75 degrees, then the milk changes in a few days by fermenting. Some people would throw out this new creation without even asking: "I wonder if this still tastes OK?"

Raw milk that has fermented is actually the root source of all the "dairy products" that we have been convinced we have to buy rather than make. Butter, buttermilk, yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, and other things all originally came from the cottages of stressed out farmers that dumped their excess milk in a crock in the corner, left it sitting there for a few days, and then got hungry later and had to figure out how to make a meal from the crock of fermented milk.

Fast-food for hungry kids (like little miss muffet) was just a scoop of whatever came from the crock..."curds and whey" they called it to make it sound good. "There you go sweety. Enjoy that! Yummy" There was no need for a trip to McDonald's PlayPlace back then. Just a scoop from the crock of days-old fermented milk, a spider, and, voilà, you had a probiotic party.

Here at the farm, we know how to ferment milk. We also know how to neglect it for a really long time and overferment it, leaving it in the clabber cabinet until there is a strange and beautiful clabber and whey sculpture in the jar and colorful molds growing on top of the bubbly, very sour, smelly cream. Often the old fermented milk causes an involuntarily flinch when we take off the lid. 

The hogs and chickens don't mind, of course. They have yet to turn down a clabbered milk meal.  (don't ever throw it out, because it is too precious. You can leave it in your jar and return it.). The clabber, which is the layer of sour and tasty stuff under the cream, can always go to the animals. But clabber also is a blog entry in itself.

The cream is a different story, our current story. You see, there is gold in them thar creams, and its name is ghee. Even the really old and gross looking cream will yield some tasty ghee. 

Even if you only get one milk share a week and you can't make it through the jar, you can always ferment the remnant, scoop off the sour cream, and then save it in the fridge and do this every week until you have a bowl of sour cream big enough to whip into butter, even a month or two later. 

First, you skim the cream into a bowl. The picture below shows gross bubbly very sour cream that has been skimmed. What remains in the jar is clabber, a gelatinized, plain-yogurt-like substance.

At room temperature, you whip that cream with some kind of blender or food processor. As long as you skimmed only the cream layer, and didn't accidentally get spoonsful of clabber, it will separate into butter and buttermilk pretty quickly.

When it does and the butter has formed lumps in the bowl, pour the lumpy butter/buttermilk concoction into a colander or strainer. The liquid that comes out is buttermilk. If the cream was really overfermented, then you probably won't like the taste of the buttermilk, but you can use it for cooking (biscuits, pancakes, marinade, etc).  Squeeze most of the liquid out and then toss the resulting sour smelly butter into a crock pot. Render the sour, smelly butter into ghee. You just let it cook on low in the crock pot for a day or so until all the "solids" have sunk to the bottom and the melted butter doesn't bubble when you stir it (all the moisture has evaporated). Ghee then, is the best high temperature cooking oil on the planet. Cook your eggs in it every morning. Make your toast in it. Make popcorn with it. Saute onions in it. Make fried potatoes. Cook your steaks in it. It is a great treat that is simple to make. 

The photo above shows jars of warm ghee made from cream fermented beyond the "good butter" stage to the "ghee" stage. You can make ghee from any cream of course, but it is an especially good way to utilize raw cream that is overfermented and looks and smells like it should be discarded. Gold that can be had from old jars of raw milk.

Note: Do try this at home, but never with store-bought, pasteurized milk, even organic milk. Once it's homogenized and pasteurized, the magic and the gold has been stripped from commercial milk.

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