The Anatomy of Milk

Those of you who buy your milk from the store get it in it’s homogenized, pasteurized, sterilized, unmilkified form and thus know very little about it’s natural state. To you milk is a white, tasteless, odorless liquid that your mom tells you to drink and that you pour over cereal in the morning. No one lets it sit in their refrigerator too long, but if you did it would turn into a horrible, smelly, living thing that would crawl out and take over your entire kitchen with its repugnant.

When you milk a cow the milk comes out at body temperature, which is to say 90 some degrees. You put it in a one gallon glass jar (like the ones pickles come in at the grocery store that your mom never buys because you don’t need that many pickles) and you put it in the refrigerator. 24 hours later it is refrigerator temperature, and it has separated.

The top part of this anomaly is known as cream. The bottom part is milk. If you shake the jar up well the two parts will mix together. This is called whole milk. If you let it sit it will separate out again. This is why, if you live on a farm with cows, you always shake the milk before pouring it on your cereal. The longer you let it sit the more it separates. The cream on top is good for making butter and putting in coffee. The milk in the bottom does not make butter. So if you want butter you must skim the cream off the top. This is usually done with a ladle. (That’s a fancy word for a dipper.) The remainder in the jar is called skim milk.

We have now identified the three parts of the liquid that comes out of a cow. They are cream and skim milk, which mix together to make whole milk. All of this is very fine and well, unless you’re in a business like my family, where you have to have all three at the same time.

Before closing this simplistic primer on milk I’m going to test you to see if you’ve been paying attention properly.

You have a one gallon jar of milk. It has been sitting for 24 hours and the cream has risen to the top. You need one pint of cream, one quart of skim milk, and one half gallon of whole milk.

If you shake the jar you get whole milk, but then you have to wait 24 hours to skim the cream off the skim milk. If you skim the cream off to get the skim milk then you no longer have the necessary ingredients for whole milk.

Can you figure it out? If so, congratulations, and welcome to the life of a dairy farm.

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