Preserving Fresh Milk

 The first winter I had my first two dairy cows, I dried them both off at the same time and I canned and froze milk for the dry period.  Then for about six or seven years, I continuously had lactating cows and did not need to find ways to preserve milk.  Last winter when we went seasonal with the herd, I froze all the milk needed for the dry period.  This year, as I get ready to dry the herd off again, I decided to both freeze and can milk due to my limited freezer space.

Now, before getting too excited about canning milk, I must warn the reader that according to some sources, the USDA does not recommend canning milk at all.  Then, there are some sources that seem to feel the USDA approves only of pressure canning milk.  You will have to research the information and decide for yourself what you feel comfortable with for your family.  Here is a link to  Perky Prepping Grandma where the author gives her reasons along with documentation as to why she feels that pressure canned milk is safe.  She also provides a link there to the process for pressure canning milk.  In addition, here is a link to Mary Jane Toth's instructions for pressure canned milk along with her advice and recommendations regarding the subject.  Mary Jane is author of two books on cheese making and milking dairy goats and she and her family operate Hoegger Dairy Supply.

In spite of the warnings, there are a number of family cow owners who still can their milk the old fashioned way in a hot water bath canner.  I am not recommending that this method is for you and your family due to the strong warnings from the USDA against it but provide it here as a historical reference if nothing else.  Back in the day before Google and the internet, I looked Carla Emery's book THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF COUNTRY LIVING to guide me in my quest for homesteading and farming information. I am summarizing  Carla's recipe for hot water bath canning and including my personal notes:

*Fill your clean, sterilized jars with fresh milk from the cow after straining, leaving about one half an inch head space. (You don't want to pour cold milk into the jars and put them into the hot water as the jars will bust.  If you use older milk, it can actually curdle while being processed.  It's best to use milk straight from the cow fresh.  In the event you don't have that option, I suggest heating your milk to at least 100 degrees before pouring in your jars.)

*Wipe rims clean and place lids and rings on jars and screw down finger tight.

*Place jars in hot water bath canner with jars submerged about 1 inch under water.

*Heat to a gentle, rolling boil and then process for 60 minutes.

*Remove from boiling water carefully, making sure they have all sealed before storing.  Be sure to date your jars so that you know how long they have been stored as you use them.  Six months is recommended, but I have used them up to a year later.    

When milk is processed, it does change color and the flavor is greatly affected.  The closest thing that I can compare it to would be the canned, evaporated milk that you would buy in the grocery store.  I only use my canned milk for cooking things such as baked good, gravy or puddings.  When used in recipes, it is wonderful but isn't really the best for drinking.

The best way to preserve milk for drinking is to store your fresh milk in freezer safe containers or bags and store in the freezer.  Frozen milk is best used within six months.  A lot of people are put off by the texture of frozen milk and if that is something that is of a concern to your family, you can warm your milk up to body temperature (99-101 degrees approximately) and stir vigorously.  This will give the milk more of the texture that you are use to when drinking.


A Historical Account from a Journal Entry Dated 1950

The following is an actual journal entry that includes in it's story, Mike's grandfather, Boyd Cupp.  I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of Mr. Cupp and how he cared for his farm and animals.  Boyd Cupp milked Guernsey cows on his farm and also had a non paying position as a lay minister with the local Church of the Brethren community.  The farm mentioned is where Mike's mother still lives and the farm that we rent in addition to the 50 acres we have where our house is built.  

April 1, 1950

The week before Easter, a friend sent M money to buy a calf to raise as a family cow.  Fletch took M to get the calf this evening.  It was dusk when they got back, M and the calf crouching in the open trunk, their heads looking out together at the twilight and the radiant excited faces of L, K, G and M who had come whoopping when they saw the car coming up the lane.

A and the kids had been busy that afternoon in the straw shed making a pen of saplings and cardboard cartons.  "That wonderful Mr. Cupp," M said, "wants us to make a good start.  He says we are right to buy a calf.  A good beginning.  And to wish us luck, he sold the calf to us for $20 instead of $30.  How he loves each cow in his herd.  And how he knows them!  Whose grandmother, whose daughter is each one.  And how he feeds them!  Such a fat farm!

The calf was established in it's pen in the straw shed, and all evening, M or one of the children was there, talking to her, fussing around so she wouldn't be lonely.

April 4 or 5, 1950

"I don't think the calf is doing so good," M said after the first few days.  "she is too quiet.  She doesn't have the joie de vivre.  She doesn't run or jump in the air.  She is too quiet.  Not good."

At first we thought M was too sensitive.  The calf ate.  Didn't have scours.  Perhaps she hadn't a lively temperament.  She lay in the sun, played with the children.  But M was worried that if anything happened to her first calf, she would lose her nerve.  It would be a bad sign.  We reminded her that all spring calves had had their troubles, and all spring, Doc Berry had been giving shots for colds, pills for scours.  Some calf always in trouble or just out of it.  M had been anxious over each one, and Madame had cried havoc and wolf-wolf so often in the kitchen that I was mildly fed up with the pessimism.  All the calves had recovered.  Why worry because this one was quiet?

Then one morning M knocked on the West Room door, as she always did, and came in and asked me to call the vet, Doc Berry.  "It is silly, I think, to spend $20, on a calf and not to spend another $2.50 on a vet when it is sick.  Something is wrong.  I don't know what she has, but she doesn't eat good."


So Doc Berry came and gave a shot to M's calf and to one of ours, said they probably both had colds, and to call him if they weren't better in 48 hours.  Everyone feels considerably cheered and M is pampering the calf with a little more hope.

"I do for the calf simply what I would do for a small child who is sick.  The rice water for the tender stomach, the coffee for blood and spirit."

All day she had been running from house to barn with rice water and coffee.  Sometimes, of course, the rice on the stove was forgotten, boiled over and burned.  There were cries of distress and Madame would appear on the gallery, wringing her hands.

But in spite of Doc Berry's shot and the rice water and coffee, the calf grew weaker.  It got to it's feet only with urging.  Thursday night, about ten o'clock, M came to the West Room door.

"Dear lady, I  know I am mad, but what is there to do about it?  I must live with my madness.  I think the calf will die unless Doc Berry can do something.  Will you do me the favor to call and ask him to come now?  I am afraid to wait until the morning.  I think it will be too late.  If I am mad, I am mad - nothing to do."

I called Doc Berry again, who in his horse croaking voice agreed to come right over.  M went up to the barn to wait for him, and soon afterwards, I heard his car.  When he had gone, she came down to the house.

"It is bad.  He says the calf has the bloody scours.  They nearly always die.  Now and  then one lives.  It is possible.  He has given me pills - sulfa, I think - to give every four hours, night and day.  If the calf lives another 48 hours, it may get well.  He says the rice water is good.  The coffee is good."

At about four in the morning, I wakened, hearing M's steps on the porch.  The calf still lived.  Perhaps it would pull through.  I slept again, dreaming it was miraculously recovered.


Today the house is deep in gloom.  The calf still lived but can no longer stand.  M was constantly at the barn.  Madame was full of sorrow for the young thing that must die and for the ill omen of this first venture.  We kept assuring each other that it was, after all, only a calf, but when M asked late Friday evening for the spirits of ammonia, K dashed frantically off to town, and even A got up in the night to give the calf it's pills.  But it died.

I had heard M or A up in the night at twelve and again at four, and thought surely the miracle has happened.

"And so it seemed to have, " M told me.  "When I went to the barn at four, the calf was standing!  It's ears were up, it looked bright, curious, well again!  And it drank all the rice water.  I threw my arms around it, and went back to bed, full of joy that the calf had recovered.  But at seven, it was dead."

After all the tender care and affection, dead.  Saturday morning, A dug a deep grave in the garden.  When he had finished, he went to the wall of the straw shed and removed some of the weather boarding.  Together, he and M lowered the calf into some burlap and carried it to the grave so as not to contaminate the barn yard.

(You may like to hear a good sequel to the unhappy calf story.  Mr Cupp, the full time dairy- man and part-time preacher who sold M her calf, insisted that he either give her another or return her money.  She felt that such generosity must be accepted and so she has another calf - a pretty little thing which has been from the start, she says, more lively and happy than the other.  In spite of the heartbreak over the first and anxiety over the second, M sought words the other day to tell Fletch that "life in America is an idyll - everyone is so kind, so gentle, so tender.  A man like Mr Cupp - so practical a man, with so beautiful a farm, to have the idee to give me another calf.  Mostly in life, the ones have have so generous a wish have nothing and those who could give, have not the wish.  Mr Cupp is a beautiful man.")


I love written words almost as much as I love cows and it was a pure delight to me when my dear father-in-law (now deceased) shared with me a hand typed copy of a journal.   I can still see the delight and anticipation shining in his eyes as he handed the paper to me to read.  I can't remember who actually gave Marcus the journal entry, but I believe it was a member of the Collins family.  The journal entries were said to have been  written by Margaret, wife of  Fletcher Collins.  Professor Collins, a neighbor of the Cupp Family was a " legendary professor emeritus of theater at Mary Baldwin College, was designated Cultural Laureate of Virginia, and established the Oak Grove Theaterthe secluded woodland stage he created with his wife, Margaret, which has nurtured countless actors and booked sold out perfomrances for decades: according to the information given by Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA.  To his wife, family and friends, he was simply known as "Fletch".

Just as a point of interest, although my notes are incomplete, the journal mentions Margaret being away for four days and returning with their new baby.  The dates of the journal coincide with the date of birth I uncovered for Margaret and Fletcher's  very well known son, Francis Sellers Collins.  Francis was born April 14, 1950 and is a physician geneticist noted for his discovery of disease genes and his leadership in the Human Genome Project.  He is currently the director of National Institutes of Health in Maryland.  

 The family interacting with the Collins Family in this particular story were Latvian immigrants who had found a place of refuge on the Collin's farm.  I believe my father-in-law told me that the Collin's opened their home to them.  It appears that the "Madame" must have assisted Mrs. Collins with helping in the main house.  I copied the journal as it was written with the exception of leaving out the full names of the Latvian family for the sake of privacy. 


Where Have All the Farmers Gone?

Are farmers at risk of becoming extinct?  Possibly to some extent.  While there are many reasons for the decline in agriculture as the chosen profession for today's younger adults, the fact remains that we may very well see a time when the majority of our farmers pass on and there are not enough younger farmers to take their place.

According to the Start2Farm.gov, a service of the National Agricultural Library (USDA):

"“We have an aging farming population. If left unchecked, this could threaten our ability to produce the food we need – and also result in the loss of tens of thousands of acres of working lands that we rely on to clean our air and water.” – Secretary Vilsack, August 12 Opening Comments to the Drake Forum on America’s New Farmers.

The average age of a farmer today in America is 57 years of age. Five years ago it was 55. We have had an increase of 30% of the farmers over the age of 75 and a decrease in the number of farmers under the age of 25 by 20%."
This subject happens to be one close to my heart.  My husband, Mike is a third generation farmer, is 54 years old and I am 47 years old.  None of our children or any of our nieces and nephews have chosen to pursue farming as an occupation.  Unless some of our grandchildren develop a love of farming, then what has been lovingly nurtured and tended to for three generations at the Cupp Farm will be no more.  This breaks my heart.  Of course, we would never try to coerce our children or grandchildren into a career that they don't willingly choose for themselves, but I do feel there are things we can do as adults to help the children learn to appreciate their farming heritage.  This doesn't just apply to farming families.  We need to be educating all of the children in our country of the importance of farming.  We should do so  not in an effort to convert them to choosing farming as a career choice (although that would be an awesome benefit) but rather to insure that regardless of a child's chosen path, he/she learns to really appreciate and support the farmers that put food on their table.  At one time it was common to have a kitchen garden and a family milk cow.  Now most of the families in the United States rely on a farmer to provide their produce, milk, and meat.  So many times, children are so far removed from their food source, that they don't even make the connection.  Unfortunately, a lot of adults are similarly removed.  I will never forget a conversation with a lady almost old enough to be my mother, who stated she didn't want my farm fresh eggs because eggs from chickens were disgusting and she would rather buy her eggs in the store.  I just had to shake my head and wonder if she knew that the eggs in the store came from chickens as well.

I believe educating our children is the key to insuring that we continue to grow future farmers and equally important,  a society that supports those farmers.  And how do we do that?  I have a few ideas that I would like to share.
1.  Make everyday activities into educational opportunities:  Talk to children of all ages about where their food originates.  Having eggs for breakfast?  This is a great opportunity to talk about chickens and the farmers that care for them.  Making a salad for dinner?  This is a good time to discuss how things grow seasonally.  One can expand the conversation to fit the age of the child. Look for opportunities to discuss farming and agriculture as you travel in the car or watch a movie.  Any opportunity you can find to discuss agriculture with your children is a learning opportunity for them as well as a way for the two of you to connect on this important issue.  

2.  Grow something.  Anything.  Even if you don't have ground to grow a garden or access to a community garden, plant something simple in containers and let the children in your life help.  Let them see the progress as the plant grows and produces.  And, if what your planted ends up dying, use it as an opportunity to explain that many times farmers face crop failure.  Anyone who gardens, produces crops, or tends to animals is going to eventually have loss and failure.  In addition, empathy for the farmer who struggles and joy for the farmer when he is successful is a good lesson.  
3.  I am not one to advocate everyone trying their hand at raising livestock.  There are so many people who do not understand the level of expense and commitment it takes to raise their own livestock.  However, if you are up to the challenge and have done your homework, raising livestock is a great way for children to learn more about the agricultural lifestyle.  If raising animals is not the right choice for your family for whatever reason, then see if you can find a working farm with livestock for your child to visit.  (Please be considerate of the fact that not every farm has very expensive liability insurance it takes to welcome visitors and be respectful of the fact that not every farm can accommodate visitors for this reasons or simply because of their work load.  Consider it a privilege when you are able to visit a working farm and don't begrudge any cover charge for your visit as it helps to offset the expense of the insurance needed to provide the opportunity to the public.)

4.  Support your local farm stands produce auctions, and farmer's markets and take the children in your life along with you.  In this manner your are teaching your children to support local business, and to make healthy choices while they absorb the ongoing educational opportunities of being submersed in agricultural environment.

5.  Introduce your kids of all ages to books and literature that promotes farming.  Even the smallest of children love books of farm animals.  Read with them and discuss the things your read.  If you are unsure of something, then take the opportunity to research an agricultural subject together.
6.  Take your kids to the pumpkin patch, the local orchard, or the small family owned creamery if you have one locally.  Visiting the County or State Fair is a fun agricultural related field trip for the family.  (Make sure to visit the livestock and home preservation sections of the fair and discuss what you see!)  Some areas host Agricultural Field Days which can be a great conversation starter for you and your children.

7.  Get involved in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program.  Don't just buy the products but talk to the children in your life about the products you receive and the work that was put into producing them.  Teach your children that we shouldn't take these things for granted and that someone worked very hard to provide this service to them.  
8.  Buy your milk from a local farmer if possible.  Depending on where you live and your personal preferences, you might be able to purchase raw milk or buy pasteurized milk from a small farm with a creamery.  Let your children help you make simple dairy products such as butter.

9.  Find blogs and Facebook pages on the internet that are age appropriate for the children in your life and share the pictures and stories with them.  A few to consider:  USDA for Kids, National Agriculture in the Classroom, My American Farm, National Agriculture in the Classroom, Education World, and others.   
10.  Get kids involved in agriculturally minded programs such as 4-H, Farm Based Education Programs, and  Farm to School among others.  
11.  Learn about food preservation, buy produce locally, and spend time together drying, canning or freezing summer garden goodness for future enjoyment.  A few links to help you get started:  National Center for Home Preservation, Ball Canning, and Canning Granny.  Here is a fairly simple and great starter project that I posted earlier on our blog for home canned grape juice.

My desire is that this blog entry will be an encouragement to all of us to support agriculture in every way that we can.  It may sound trite but No Farms/No Food is not just a nice bumper sticker but a reality.  It's up to all of us to see that our farms remain and that farming continues to be a career choice for our children.

Note:  Educating children about farm life is so important to me that I recently started a blog specifically for children.  I would love it if you would check it out and share it with the children in your life.  You can find T. Cupp's Junior Farm Friends at this link.  


Preserving Grape Juice ~ An Old Fashioned Method

If you have never tasted home made grape juice, then you need to try it!  The old fashioned method for canning grape juice is simple. One can put up a large batch of juice in a short amount of time.

This is a great activity in which to enlist the help of children to give them a "taste" of home preservation.  They will feel great pride in being a part of the process, especially when they are able to sample the juice and know their efforts helped produce it.

CAUTION:  Don't allow children to assist in the pouring of boiling water or in taking the jars in and out of the hot water bath canner.  These steps should be done only by a responsible adult.

Items needed:

Hot Water Bath Canner (Or pot large enough to hold jars covered with boiling water)
Rack for canner 
Quart Glass Jars produced specifically for canning (Jars not designated for canning can crack and break during processing.)
New lids (small or wide mouth depending on the size of your jars)
Metal Rings/bands to screw down on top of the lids
Sugar (optional)
Pot or Kettle to boil hot water
Old Kitchen Towels and cloths for cleaning up spills and to set the hot jars on once removed from canner (Grapes/Grape Juice will stain, so it's best to use old cloths you don't mind getting soiled.)
Jar Lifter
Grapes (Approximately 5 pounds will make seven quarts if you use 2 cups of grapes per quart.)

If you are new to canning, here is a couple of good posts from other sites to help you familiarize yourself and get your started:

1.  Wash and sterilize your glass jars.

2.  Fill your canner or pot with enough water to cover the jars when they are submerged and put on the stove to begin heating.  (It takes a while to get that much water to a rolling boil if you are using a quart sized hot water bath canner.  

3.  Fill your kettle or additional pot with water and heat to boiling.  (This water will be used to pour over the grapes in jars.  

Next few steps are fun for the children to get involved:

4.  Wash your grapes.  Hopefully you can find grapes that have not been sprayed.  Either way, wash them well because spiders, spider webs and bugs like to hide in the clusters  

5.  Remove grapes from stems.

6.  If you are using sugar (or other sweeteners) pour into bottom of glass jars.  (Suggested amounts are 1/4 to 1/2 cup per quart.)  I do not sweeten my grape juice.  Sugar is not necessary for preservation and is only added for taste.  Note:  You may see sugar in the bottom of your jar after your have processed the juice.  It sometimes takes several days for the sugar to dissolve in the jar.  

7.    Put 2 cups of grapes in each quart jar.  (Some recipes call for as little as 1 cup of grapes per jar, but we like our juice more concentrated.  One can always dilute the juice later by adding more water adjusting to individual taste.)

These next steps should be performed by an adult as children can easily get burned:

8.  Pour hot boiling water over the grapes (and sugar if you added it) filling to 1/4 of an inch from the top of the jar.  (Spacing is important when you are canning, so always follow the instructions regarding the fill line.)

9.  Carefully wipe the rims of your jars.  You don't want any juice, sugar or debris on the rims as this could keep the lids from sealing properly.  

10.  Place your new lids on the jar.  (Follow the manufacturer's instructions for prepping lids.  It use to be that one was instructed to place the lids in hot water before putting them on the jars.  Recently, some of the manufacturers have changed the instructions for their lids and boiling them in hot water first can actually cause them NOT to seal properly.  Each box of lids will have the individual manufacturer's instructions written on them.)

11.  Tighten down (finger tight) the bands/rings over the lids.

12.  Place your jars in the canner once the water has come to a boil.  Always be very careful as you work around the boiling water.  It's really easy to get burned.  The water should cover the tops of the jars.  You want them to process at a gentle boil.  

13.  Process for 15 minutes. (Some recipes call for processing as little as 5 minutes but I chose to process for the longest recommended time.)

14.  Carefully remove jars and place on towels in a safe place where they will not get bumped, pulled from the counter/table by little hands or burn someone while they are cooling.  As the jars begin to cool, you will hear the lids pinging.  It's always fun to enlist the help of the children to count the jars as they seal.  It's a great feeling to know they have all sealed properly.  

15.  When the jars are cool and sealed, you should remove the rings.  Leaving rings on the jars sometimes causes them to rust and they can be very difficult or next to impossible to remove.  They are only needed temporarily until the lids have sealed.  

16.  Wipe down your jars to remove any sticky residue, label the lids if you like.  I always at least put the year the item was canned on the lid so that I can rotate my stock.   Storing  your juice in a cool, dark place is the best way to preserve the quality of the product.  

17.  Allow your grape juice to set on the shelf for several weeks to  a month  before sampling.  Simply strain off the juice from the grapes, dilute if desired (or not if you like a stronger taste) and enjoy!  I actually drink the juice and then  smash and pour water over the grapes that remain and get a bit more juice from them!  You could also use a cheese cloth or flour cloth and squeeze the grapes into the jar of juice or simply just eat the yummy grapes.  

Note:  This may seem complex and overwhelming if you are inexperienced with canning, but once you get into the swing of it, canning grape juice is actually quite simple and moves along rather quickly.  In my opinion, it's a great first time project!