I have share members that have had other sources of raw milk in the past. A common comment from them has been how good the milk tastes from our cows. Some share members have even told me that the milk they were getting in the past from other places sometimes had a strange or "off" flavor.
So what makes the milk from our cows taste so good?
It's probably a number of things
What the cow eats will affect how the milk tastes. Cows that graze in the summer and eat hay in the winter have the best tasting milk. Many artisan cheese makers know this and only make cheese during the spring and summer months when the cows are on green grass. (*See note below)
One must realize that each cow will give milk that may have a slightly different flavor. Guernsey milk might not taste exactly like Jersey or Holstein milk. There may even be a slight flavor difference between two Jerseys. If ever given the chance to do a taste test, compair milk from several different breeds of cows.
Another very important aspect to having great tasting milk is making sure that the cows are healthy. We test our cows for TB and Brucellosis but beyond that, we are careful to make sure that the milk we share is free from mastitis or any other type of infection that might make the milk undesirable.
Before we milk the cows, we clean their teats and surrounding udder area carefully to make sure that the milk does not become contaminated and that the product is as clean as it can possibly be. We disinfect the teats with a water and iodine solution before milking.
Once the cows are milked, we bring the milk into the house immediately, strain it, and pour it into 1/2 gallon jars. I always make sure that the jars and lids are sterilized before using them. The milk is then placed in the freezer so that the temperature is brought down quickly. Once the milk has been adequately chilled, then it is transferred over to the refrigerator.
All the milk that is given to share members is no more than 24 hours old and most of the time, it is only 12 hours old.
After the milk has been poured into the jars, the milking equipment is thoroughly cleaned and sterilized. Getting the milk cleaned out of the milker and inflations as soon as possible keeps it from building up soap stone on the equipment and keeps unwanted flavors from developing in the inflations. We buy and replace new inflations regularly. (The inflation is the part of the milking machine that goes on each teat that the milk passes through into the bucket.) Replacing old inflations also helps to keep the milk tasting great!
We do our best to make sure that the milk we drink and provide to share members is as fresh as possible and tastes delicious. I was thrilled when a share member mentioned to me this past week that they had a 1/2 gallon jar of milk that they finally opened after 23 days. They told me the milk was as good as the milk they drank on day one. Now that's what I like to hear!
(* During the spring when the wild onions and garlic begin to grow, cows will eat them along with the grass and their milk will develop a strong flavor associated with the onions/garlic. There is no way to avoid this other than to keep the cows inside and feed them hay during that time rather than let them graze. Fortunately, this only happens for a short time during early spring.)
Additional note: When I originally wrote this, I failed to also mention how important it is for the share member to keep the milk as cold as possible. I always suggest that share members bring a cooler and pack ice around the milk for the trip home. In addition, make sure that your refrigerator is set on the coldest setting possible. Do not placing warm foods next to the milk in the refrigerator. Also, do not leave milk setting out on the counter for long periods of time. Fluctuating temps with the milk will keep it from staying fresh as long.