Making Buttermilk

Written by Gianaclis Caldwell, The Small-Scale Dairy provides knowledge on every aspect of milk and milk production, from start to finish. Below are some excerpts and photographs from the book. Enjoy!

On Animal Suitability:
What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns. The volume and components; innate flavor and aesthetics of the milk; your land, including available feed, topography, weather, size, facilities, and neighbors; your personal disposition, market issues regarding not just the milk but also surplus animals, and the availability of good starter stock.


On Milking Parlor Cleanliness:
The milking parlor is the first time that the otherwise sterile milk in the udder will be exposed to the environment- through open-air milking or through air that enters the milking equipment during machine milking. It is your first opportunity to either keep the milk as the animal created it or allow airborne bacteria, yeasts, molds, and microscopic debris to contaminate the pristine liquid. Even if you follow all the procedures for clean udders and teats, the air in the parlor must be clean as well.

Milking Parlor

On Buttermilk:
If you are lucky enough to have access to farm-fresh raw cream, you are in for a treat when you make cultured butter. Most commercially available butters are made without the addition of any starter cultures, although some brands such as Organic Valley and Vermont Creamery make lovely pasteurized cultured butters. Butters can be cultured naturally by allowing the raw cream to ripen for a period of time- allowing the natural bacteria to develop- or through the addition of ripening starter cultures, or both! Raw-milk butters can be made with or without culturing. Cultured butters have a more complex flavor and aroma, thanks to the development of a small amount of acid, as well as flavor and aroma compounds produced by the bacteria, but they are also more prone to rancidity.

Making Buttermilk

On Cream:
If you have access to fresh cow’s milk, then you know the beauty of bovine milk’s ability to “cream.” Large fat globules easily clump and rise in cow’s milk, thanks in part to the presence of a protein type called “cryoglobulin” that attracts fat globules. Think of the fat globules as little balloons rising to the top of the milk. As the cryoglobulin collects the little balloons, they form large groups of balloons that rise even more quickly. Goat’s milk not only has smaller, less dense milk fat globules, but it also lacks the clumping protein. Goat’s milk will eventually separate, but it takes much longer and never will be as complete as what happens with cow’s milk.