Sour Cream and Cottage Cheese from Raw Milk Recipe

Discover how to turn raw milk into nutritious sour cream or cottage cheese in just a few easy steps.

| May 2019

sour-cream
Photo by Getty Images/tashka2000

Though I relish any opportunity to patronize nonsanctioned markets, I have not had to resort to civil disobedience for access to raw milk. I’ve had the privilege of living with a small herd of goats for thirteen years now. For me the connection to these goats — at present Sylvia, Lovegoat, Lynnie, Lentil, Luna, Lydia, and the reigning queen of the herd, Persephone — has been a great and unanticipated benefit of community living. On my own I would never have the wherewithal to sustain the twice-daily ritual of milking. I like to do other things too much, and I love travel and spontaneous adventure. However, since I share the milking with other people in our collective, it’s rare that I milk more than one or two days a week, and when I go away there are others to keep things going. Food production and community building go hand in hand. Sharing the awesome responsibility of milking goats has enabled me to participate in their care without being in any way burdened.

I love these goats. I talk to them, and I wrestle with them, too. Their individual personalities and their capricious collectivity have given my life an additional dimension that it did not have without them. They are our symbiotic partners here on this land. They “browse” the mountainside munching on leaves, lichens, flowers, and seedpods, incorporating that rich phytochemical diversity — which we humans are unable to access directly — into their delicious milk. We try to take good care of them, and they provide us with milk that couldn’t be fresher or more local.

The milk flow is seasonal. In the late winter it can taper off to almost nothing as pregnant goats are “dried up” and milk production is reduced by more limited grazing opportunities and the hard work of staying warm. Spring brings new kids and a renewed milk flow, which increases into the summer — at which point we get up to five gallons a day — just as the summer’s relentless heat and bugs send people off on travels and reduce our human population to its annual minimum. Inevitably we run out of refrigerator space to store the milk, and as milk accumulates we turn it into kefir, cheese, yogurt, and sour cream.



One advantage of raw milk over pasteurized milk is that rather than “spoiling” into something putrid or rotten, it sours in a fairly predictable way that generates most of the dairy products we know and love. Milk that has not undergone pasteurization is host to Lactobacillus and other types of lactic-acid-generating bacteria. As it ages, the milk becomes more acidic. This acidity both protects the milk from potentially disease-causing bacteria and curdles the milk, coagulating fats and separating them from the watery but still protein-rich whey. The familiar dairy products all occur along this spectrum of milk acidifying itself.

Milk can also be cultured. Culturing milk involves adding to it specific live microorganisms. Yogurt is the product of culturing, made by introducing to milk, via a spoonful of a previous batch, various lacto-bacilli and a specific coagulating bacteria, Streptococcus thermophilus, that is active only at temperatures around 110 degrees F (43 degrees C). Kefir is another cultured milk, a tart and often effervescent drink that is some-times described as “the champagne of milks.” The culture for kefir comes not from a previous batch of kefir but from symbiotic colonies of bacteria and yeast; these small, rubbery white “grains” look like some-thing between curds of cottage cheese and cauliflower florettes.






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