We have some beautiful goats to milk every day. Each one has between 1 and 2 liters of milk a day and we make cheese and milk kefir with it. We never pasteurize the milk, since we never drink it fresh, and we make the cheeses with the David Asher's technique, which we tell you about right here.
Milk: fresh vs fermented
We should all have access to milk, at it is a basic product. But should we drink fresh milk? In general, milk is bad for adults; it causes allergies and breaks down our digestive system. Without having consulted experts and only using logic, I have personally come to a conclusion:
As humanity, we have been consuming fermented milk for millennia and only since a few years we are drinking "fresh" milk.
In the past, the only way to preserve milk and trade with it was by fermenting it. When we didn't even have glass jars with tight lids, we had to ferment the food so that the acidity of the fermentation preserves the food.
That is why we have been consuming fermented milk for millennia in the form of kefir, cheese, yogurt ... Producers used the fermentation to keep it edible, to transport and sell it. It has been the invention of the refrigerator that has allowed us to consume milk as we do now a days.
During fermentation, microorganisms pre-digest some nutrients, transforming the food and increasing its digestibility.
If you do not know fermented foods, take a look at the A Beginner's Guide for Home fermentation, where we also tell you about kefir, which we will talk about later.
Maybe the human digestive system has gotten used to digest fermented milk but has not been yet adapted digesting fresh milk. We may need another 10,000 more years of humanity so our digestive systems to get used to digesting refrigerated and pasteurized milk. Or maybe not.
Anyway, we always ferment the milk at El Campichuelo, to preserve all its microbiota and not alter it under refrigeration. In this post we tell you how.
Kefir as culture
Kefir is the fermentation of milk with specific granules that contain yeast and bacteria. These microorganisms feed on the sugar in milk (lactose) and convert it into lactic acid, carbon dioxide and alcohol (although kefried milk has an extremely low alcohol content).
Kefir grains ferment milk into a some kind of healthy, sour and somewhat runny yogurt.
Kefired milk is a drink, but it is also a healthy microorganisms culture that we can add to raw milk to protect it. When we add a tablespoon of milk fermented with kefir to the raw milk; we introduce in the raw milk a colony of symbiotic microorganisms that will consume its nutrients, reproduce and expand until they occupy all the space and, in this way, we create a controlled and healthy fermentation.
When the lactic space is occupied by controlled microorganisms and an foreign microorganism settles in the milk, the culture of bacteria that we have inoculated into the milk will make impossible the development of microorganisms which not belong to our culture.
To learn more about these concepts you can watch the videos, read the book or attend David Asher's courses . Most of their material is in English.
We like David Asher's method because it uses natural ways to make cheese. The cheese industry has changed a lot, not so many years ago rennet was obtained from the stomach of lactating ruminants. Nowadays laboratories synthesize bacteria and enzymes that less than 100 years ago were obtained from nature.
David Asher comments that milk is an alive food with a really fragile microbiological ecosystem. By varying the ambient temperature of the milk by refrigeration its microbial profile changes, and, by pasteurizing it, we destroy all microorganisms. The natural path of milk always ends in fermentation; When milk acidifies in the stomachs, it turns into cheese, although this has not been fermented and curdles only due to heartburn.
If you are interested in knowing more about how the milk curdles, you can read the post on Ways to curdle milk. When we ferment the milk, it stabilizes and then we can preserve it, this time in the fridge with the aim of stopping the fermentation.
In the past and without knowing about, milk was cultured in the wooden containers used in the collection and processing of the milk.
The wood is a porous material in which bacteria develop. So using the same wooden container for milking day after day, some of microorganisms in milk is established in the wood, culturing the fresh milk of the next days by contact.
Culturing milk has been an ancient technique, although it was not known that it was being carried out.
Starting from healthy animals and healthy milk, the protection of the milk increases as it is reinforced by the inoculation of the microorganisms impregnated in the wood, which come from the milk milked in the previous days. Today it may seem unhygienic, but nature continues its cycles regardless of our judgments and if we have survived as specie, it is, in part, because this method is not so unhealthy.
Noelia Marcelino, a Benedictine nun with a doctorate in microbiology, has been making raw milk cheeses in wooden barrels using the traditional method from the Auvergne region in France at the Regina Laudis Abbey in Connecticut since 1977.
In 1985, a listeria outbreak caused by fresh Mexican cheeses made in California claimed dozens of victims in the USA and the FDA began cracking down on raw milk, imposing the use of stainless steel instead of wooden vats. Noelia took on the FDA with an experiment: she inoculated E. Coli into milk. The result was that, in the cheeses made in stainless steel, the E. coli populations thrived even after the cheese had matured, whereas in the cheese made in wooden vats, the E. Coli bacteria were gradually extinguished. Noelia came to the following conclusion:
The bacteria reproduced in the wood protected cheese from E. coli.
With this experiment, by the way too brief explained, Noelia Marcelino provided the theory that wooden vats contain lactic acid bacteria that fight pathogens. In addition, she managed to keep its wooden barrels in cheese production. If you want to know more, I think I remember that this event is mentioned in the chapter "Earth" of the Netflix series "Cooked" , based on the book by Michael Pollan.
To see a practical and current application of what we have exposed in this article, we are going to summarize the way in which in El Campichuelo we make raw goat's milk cheeses, with cultured milk with the microorganisms of milk kefir.
- We milk the goats and strain the milk.
- We heat it to 90º F (32ºC), add 1/4 of the rennet dose and a little kefried milk.
- We let it rest in a pot for 24 hours to curdle the milk.
- We hang the curd on a cloth for 6 hours to drain it.
- We salt the cheese and wait 2 hours to finish draining on the cloth.
At this point it can be eaten as fresh cheese or added spices and kept in the fridge for 2 weeks. We age it a bit, so we press it to finish draining the last drops of whey and then we leave it in the fridge to ripen it. This is David Asher's basic goat cheese technique, next year we will encourage ourselves to do the aged cheese technique with the development of Geotrichum candidum, so we'll tell you how it works out for us!