March 24, 2010

It's a beautiful day in Pennsylvania!

Good morning! It's a lovely sunny day today. My friend is celebrating her last birthday today. From here on out they will all be anniversaries! And when I reach my birthday, I'll be the same age as she so I like the way she thinks!

This is the beginning of my experiment in blogging about trying harder to do all the things described above in my blog header. All about who the green, herbal, natural me really is. Unfortunately for you, this is also my journaling blog so you may have to weed through the stuff I write.

As the story unfolds, you'll learn things about me, about my love of herbs and the many different "Back to Basics" things I'm trying to incorporate into my life. I think I should have been born at least 100 years earlier, but God knows best. I'd be very happy living in a cabin in the woods, having to spend my day growing and making things to feed my family from the abundance around me and care for their needs, be it emotional, physical or whatever. My dream is to be a "woodwife" of sorts. Problem is sometimes I'd like to take my family there and live like hermits. This fallen world gets me down from time to time.

So...onward with what you came here for.

I made a trip to the dairy farm this week. Humans are the only mammals who drink milk after they are weaned. We've made it into an entire food group! I'm trying to eliminate as many artificially processed foods from our diet as possible. The many natural processes humans can use to culture milk are beneficial to us because they begin to break down the milk proteins, add probiotics, make digestion easier because the process has already been started, and this makes the nutrients more readily available. In times past, these processes prolonged the shelf life of dairy products. Think aged cheese.

You might be wondering why raw milk is better than processed. Let's start at the beginning. Raw milk separates into skim milk and cream. Is that a bad thing or a good thing? Milk also contains enzymes that God put there to help us digest the milk sugars and proteins. Good things right? Because milking conditions can be less than what is considered sanitary, raw milk could be contaminated with bacteria including e-coli. This can be very dangerous as a toxin and can lead to serious health issues and even death.

Pasteurization - As you know from your high school biology class, this process involves heating whatever you're trying to sanitize to a high enough temperature to kill any harmful bacteria present. But, guess what happens to the enzymes and helpful bacteria that are there to help us digest the milk? Yep, they're gone too. What does that mean to us? Well it makes it harder for some folks to drink milk because of lactose intolerance and lack of proper enzyme activity to utilize the nutrients.

(BTW, raw milk sours as it ages but is still safe to use up to a point. Pasteurized milk doesn't have it's natural enzymes to protect it so it is open to contamination and colonization by whatever bacteria is floating around. It putrifies or rots. Not good!)

Homogenization - is the process of reducing the size of the fat globules in the creamy part of milk so they will mix in with the milk rather than separate. They are emulsified. This makes the milk nice and creamy and never needs stirring or skimming. But, in His perfect plan, God made different elements of our food in sizes that, as they are digested and prepared for use by the body, they are reduced to the proper size to pass through our digestive tract at the proper place and be recognised by our body as something it can easily use. If the globules are reduced in size but not predigested, they pass through our digestive system at the wrong place in the wrong state and our body says, "What is this? What am I supposed to do with it?" I don't know where it's supposed to go." So it treats these renegade molecules as foreign substances. Also not good.

Hey, don't take my word for anything you read here. Check it out.

So what am I really getting around to? Yogurt. A cultured milk product that is really good for us. It is full of active cultures that aid in colonizing our intestinal tract with good bacteria. Probiotics. This can support the beneficial bacteria that are supposed to grow there and it can also help to recolonize our system after the natural bacteria has been killed by antibiotic use. Antibiotics, being undiscriminating, basically pasteurize our bodies to eliminate overgrowth of harmful pathogens and in the process kill off the good ones too. These pathogens are bacterial, not viral, so unless a virus has caused an infection (which means there is now bacteria involved), antibiotics don't really help. But you knew that, right?

All that to get to the fact that I made my own yogurt from raw milk that I bought from a local dairy farm whose thorough procedures at making a safe, clean milking environment, lack of growth hormone use, limited use of antibiotics and free range grazing for their cows make me feel confident that what I'm buying is healthy and safe to use in it's raw form.
I decided to make a traditional yogurt using a store bought organic yogurt as a starter. My friend taught me how to do it the "Old World' way that they learned from their grandmother.
Bring 1/2 gallon of milk to a boil over low heat. You can do this with direct heat and a watchful eye or in a double boiler. The reason for this pasteurization is to remove bacteria that will compete with the yogurt culture. So you're saying, "Hey, I thought you just said that was bad!?" Hang on, we're going to replace those enzymes with other enzymes from the culture in a controlled trade off. Relax. Remove the milk from the heat and allow to cool until your little finger can be held in the milk for 10 seconds with out making you holler! Grandma was so technical! Remove the milk scum and mix it with 2T of store bought, organic yogurt. Add this to the milk in a glass jar. Cover the jar with a plate and wrap in towels to keep it warm. Allow to rest for 8 hours or overnight. Refrigerate to chill and enjoy! The results were good. Homemade yogurt is a little thinner than store bought. I'm not sure why.

I also tried a Greek variety. The Greek yogurt has a little different flavor than the traditional variety but surprisingly, the traditional is more sour. What makes them different? I don't know. This calls for more research. Both contain the same live cultures. Where did these cultures come from? I don't know...somebody's grandmother living in a cabin in the woods probably caught them from the air in her milk crock and found that it was a good, healthy thing. A blessing from God.

2 thoughts about my meanderings:

English Vintner said...

I know that, at least with the yogurt we buy (we buy it sometimes, make yogurt with it, then forget and eat all the yogurt up, and have to buy more :) from the store they actually add something like gelatin to the yogurt to make it thicker. Yes, they CHEAT! :) I don't know if they did that with the organic yogurt you got or not.

Just thought I would put that out. :)

Zachariah English

wanderer said...

You are right, Zach. Even our organic yogurt contains pectin. It does make it a little creamier but the taste is close.

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