Most Americans drink milk each day, but very few people understand its history or production. In her James Beard award winning book, “Milk, the surprising story of milk through the ages: along with 120 adventurous recipes that explore the riches of our first food,” Anne Mendelson sets out to demystify the beginnings and current perspectives on taste. She creates an informative approach to the grocery store labeling of raw vs. pasteurized, organic vs conventional. The book contains recipes ranging from homemade yogurt, sour cream, and true buttermilk and it highlights cultural regions around the world (Turkish Style Yogurt, Polish Cold Beet Soup, & Russian Pot-Cheese Fritters). Most of the recipes require non-homogenized milk, which can be difficult for some people to locate. Fortunately, we have a variety of raw milks to select from living in the Pacific Northwest.
While Michael and I did not test out any of the recipes, we did purchase three types of milk for a small taste to determine if we could taste some of her descriptions in “Milk.” Since eating cookies is usually involved with milk consumption, I made the Cooks Illustrated Big Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin cookies as an accompaniment. The Milk selections were as follows:
- Dungeness Valley Creamery Whole Raw Jersey milk ($6.99 64oz, independent privately owned in Sequim, WA)
- Sunshine 2% Reduced Fat milk ($2.99 64 oz, independent privately owned in Portland, OR)
- Organic Valley Family of Farms Reduced Fat 2% Ultra Pasteurized milk ($3.99 64 oz, family cooperative in Northwest)
We decided to double blind the samples and decode them at the end, so we could be as objective as possible. From the outset, we noticed that there was a clear difference in color of each type of milk. The Organic Valley and Sunshine appeared bleach white, whereas the Dungenness Valley reflected a creamy yellow tone. Sunshine’s texture coated my mouth, more than the Organic Valley’s watery consistency, and had a hint of sweetness. It tasted like the milk from my childhood basic grocery store. Finally, the Dungeness Valley’s buttery, nutty, richer flavor cleared the path as the distinct winner. Although the most expensive, Dungeness Valley was well above the other two and after reading Mendelson’s “Milk,” you learn why it is critical to seek out the Jersey cow milk for the “real” milk flavor. For example, Jersey cows produce less pounds of milk compared to the conventional cow and the molecular structure (large milk fat globules), density, and texture of Jersey milk results in an earthier, rustic flavor and darker color.
We’re gearing up to add some other local milk into another taste test, including SeaBreeze Farms among others. And, if you haven’t tried the Cooks Illustrated Big Chewy Oatmeal-Raisin cookies, they go perfectly with a glass of Dungeness Valley Milk.