While most people in the Western hemisphere are brought up thinking of milk as a cow product, in much of the world, goats are the primary source of milk. For a smaller homestead, goats make perfect sense. They take up less room, cost less to purchase and feed, and are easier to care for simply due to the smaller size. No matter which you decide to keep, or if you have both on your property, goats and cows provide a wonderful, self-sustaining source of delicious, high-quality milk that you can not only drink, but also prepare cheeses and butter from.
Whether you plan to pasteurize or not, proper preparation before, during, and after milking are the keys to great-tasting milk from your goat or cow. Keeping the area clean and the milk free of debris will go a long way to making sure it tastes fresh and delicious.
Goat Owners – Keeping Out the Buck Smell
Anyone who has spent any time at all around a herd of goats knows that bucks smell. The does (girl goats) do not have the odor many non-goat people associate with the species. However, that buck’s odor can travel a good distance, and it can adhere to the rest of the herd and end up tainting the milk. If you have a herd and your own buck to service them, keep the buck well away from the girls once he has done his duty and covered (mated with) them all.
The easiest way to keep the smell of buck off your does and make sure your milk isn’t tainted with the aromatic smell is to bring each doe to the buck individually for breeding and take them away as soon as the deed is accomplished. If your buck is lonely when not a part of the herd, get him a little wether (castrated male goat) to hang out with.
Clean Right into the Pail
Your milk can be tainted even before the first drop hits the pail. Make sure your hands are clean, and shave your girl’s belly, udder, and inner thighs, especially in winter months when they can be very shaggy. If your doe’s or cow’s coat is close and neat, simply washing the area before milking will help get rid of dirt, hair, or anything else they happen to be carrying around that could otherwise end up in the pail.
Don’t forget those feet! Clean your girl’s feet before sitting down to milk. Take a hoof pick and clear out any mud, dirt or other garbage she may be trailing around with her before it ends up in the bucket. Even just shifting around can send a hoof full of mud into the pail while you milk. Of course, if your girl’s foot ends up in the bucket of milk, use the milk to feed the pigs, cats or other homestead animals and wait until the next doe or cow, or wait for the next milking cycle to bring it in to the kitchen.
Be sure all of your equipment is spotless before milking. Old milk residue, soap residue, or just a buildup of dust from sitting on a barn shelf between milkings will turn the milk before you take the first sip. Wash or rinse out your pail (or the teat cup of a milking machine if you use one) every time.
To Pasteurize or Not to Pasteurize
I personally am not a big fan of pasteurizing. If you prepare your does properly and take the right care in milking, the product is fresh and tastes delicious. However, if you have young children, elderly members of the family, or anyone with a compromised immune system that will be drinking the milk, pasteurizing is an important step. Pasteurizing is also important if you need to store the milk for a long period of time.
The Good and Bad of Pasteurizing
Pasteurizing kills harmful bacteria that may be present. If you question the quality of the milk at all or if anyone will be drinking the milk that may be susceptible to stomach upsets (like the very young or very old), pasteurizing is important for health. There are equally good reasons that some people prefer not to pasteurize. Heating the milk changes the flavor. It also weakens the proteins in the milk, so making cheese is more difficult. Pasteurizing also destroys some of the vitamins milk naturally provides (which is why most store-bought milk contains added vitamins).
How to Pasteurize
If you want or need to pasteurize, it is not a complicated process.
- Pour all of the milk from your session into a large stainless steel pot. Stainless steel works best and is easy to keep clean.
- Place a candy thermometer in the milk. You can also use the thermometer to occasionally stir the milk during the pasteurization process.
- Bring the milk to 145 degrees quickly and then lower the heat to maintain that temperature for thirty minutes. You can also heat the milk to 165 degrees for fifteen seconds. Please see that the 145 degrees must be held for thirty minutes, and the 165 only fifteen seconds. While it may seem like a no-brainer that going for the faster process is better, it is easier to scald the milk at 165 by keeping it at the high temperature for too long. If you have the time and don’t mind paying attention to the process for a little over half an hour, the slower method is best.
- Stir the milk occasionally during the maintaining period to keep the heat even.
- When someone with a seriously compromised immune system will be drinking the milk, ultra-pasteurizing is sometimes required. Ultra-pasteurizing requires heating the liquid to 191 degrees. This will also provide a very long shelf life and is common in store milk. However, it is useless for cream, butter, or cheese.
- Immediately chill the milk to below 50 degrees by placing it in jars and putting in the freezer. Remove as soon as it is cool enough and put it in the refrigerator.
Caring for the Final Product
No matter what you decide on pasteurizing, you still need to strain the milk through cheesecloth or specially made milk filters. Straining the milk is an important step to remove any dust or debris that may have still found its way into the milk in spite of your best efforts in preparation. Milk strainers are available that fit into the tops of large-mouth Ball Jars to make straining even easier, and milk filters are made to fit into the strainer.
Always make sure you get the fresh milk into the refrigerator as soon as possible to cool it down quickly. Always use a clean container to hold the milk. Glass is a popular choice because it is easiest to clean. Plastics are porous and will quickly develop a sour smell that will transfer to even the freshest milk.