The modern milking machine and stainless steel tank, along with efficient packaging and distribution, make pasteurisation totally unnecessary for the purposes of sanitation. And pasteurisation is no guarantee of cleanliness. All outbreaks of Salmonella from contaminated milk in recent decades - and there have been many - have occurred in pasteurised milk..... Raw milk contains lactic-acid producing bacteria that protect against pathogens. Pasteurisation destroys these helpful organisms.
You will notice that on the GAPS diet we are not allowed dairy products that have not been fermented for 24 hrs. We are allowed to try and introduce raw milk only when we are tolerating cheese well.
A traditional diet encourages the consumption of mainly raw and/or fermented dairy and an avoidance of pasteurised and/or homogenised dairy.
Here I will try and answer four questions that you might ask about milk and dairy products.
What is raw milk?
What is the difference between raw milk and store bought milk.
Why is raw milk better?
Is raw milk safe?
To answer the first question, raw milk is, simply put, raw milk. Milk that has not undergone any treatment, straight from the cow. It has not been pasteurised or homogenised.
So this also answers the second question: store bought milk has by law to be pasteurised and the vast majority of it is now also homogenised. That means that the fat is distributed evenly throughout the milk and you don't get the cream rising to the top like you did in the 'old days' (you can see I'm not young!) Only the farmer who produces the raw milk from his cows can sell it and then only directly to the public, not through a third party. So you will never find raw milk on the supermarket shelves. You might funnily enough find raw goats milk in a health food shop or organic farm shop as the law is different concerning goats milk.
So that brings us to consider why raw/fermented dairy is better than store-bought dairy.
Being so used to milk in the form we know it well, it may surprise you to know that it has relatively only recently been drunk in this way. If you go back before 1750, you would have found Europeans taking their milk as yoghurt, curds and whey (hence the nursery rhyme, 'Eating his curds and whey') et cetera.
Unless you put dairy in the fridge, or pasteurise it, it will naturally separate into curds and whey. I see this daily with my milk kefir on the kitchen worktop. This seperation is caused by the act of lacto-fermentation. This is the process by which the lactic acid producing bacteria eat the milk sugar (which is called lactose) and the milk protein (casein). These are friendly bacteria of which we hear so much talk these days, which produce lactic acid which effectively renders the milk free from bad bacteria that would make it 'go off'. Once the process is complete the dairy can be kept without refrigeration for several days. In addition it is usually well tolerated even by folk who cannot consume fresh milk.
There are several issues with the way milk is produced these days. These centre around the methods used to increase milk yields, animal feeds, and the problems caused by pasteurisation and homogenisation. Fortunately, here in the UK it is still a common sight to see pastured cattle enjoying the green vegetation in the fields, at least in Summer. Unfortunately, this is becoming increasingly rare, especially in countries such as America, as farmers try to increase their yield at minimum cost and seem to be moving towards keeping their herds in enormous sheds and feeding them cheap food stuffs such as soy. Obviously how a cow lives and eats is going to affect the milk quality, not just the quantity, and that will be passed onto us as we drink it for good or for bad. The best milk, as Weston Price found when he studied peoples from all over the world and their diets, comes from pastured animals - as God designed it so to be.
Pasteurisation is of course something we have all learnt about at school - and taught that it was a good thing and no doubt it was at the time - to solve a problem. That being that with industrialisation, more and more folk were moving from the countryside into towns which grew into cities and they had to be fed. Food had to be produced in bulk, stored and transported long distances in order to feed the masses. Whereas drinking raw milk was safe when folk produced their own for their own families, suddenly the hygiene wasn't there to mass produce it and transport it and disease was rife.
Pasteurisation involves heating the milk to a high temperature. Whereas this destroys the harmful bacteria, it destroys the good too - the enzymes needed to help us properly digest the milk, especially calcium. This makes consuming pasteurised milk taxing on the body as it tries to digest something without the necessary enzymes to do so. In time, given genetic weaknesses et cetera, in susceptible folk this can lead to allergies and/or other chronic diseases. None of us know if we are susceptible until we notice symptoms. On the other hand, drinking raw milk brings much relief from symptoms for many folk.
Homogenisation further damages the milk. If you are interested, you can read about it here:
So why is raw milk better? We have seen that since it hasn't been pasteurised it therefore has it's enzymes in tact, and so is easier for the human body to digest, but there are many other benefits as shown by these articles:
It is also probiotic, which means that every time you drink it, you are filling your gut with friendly bacteria, which could produce a die-off effect. Because of this, should you be in a position to try it and would like to, it would be wise to start with a small amount and build up slowly.
So finally is raw milk safe. YES! In our modern age with the resources to have good hygiene.Sally Fallon says:
There is a good article here too:
Where can you find raw milk?
Here in the UK you can look on the Natural Food Finder website for a map of raw milk farms. You may find raw goat's milk is easier to find.
If you can't or don't want to drink raw milk, then what is next best? Milk from organic, grass-fed cows that has preferably not been homogenised. We get ours from Abel and Cole, but you could try another organic delivery service. Waitrose sell 'Duchy Organic milk' that is not homogenised. Or you can buy Yeo Valley milk in supermarkets but this tends to be more pricey.
Again see this table:
If you would like to try fermenting milk/cream, it is really very easy. See my pages here.
Start with the best milk you can afford. The fermenting process will put some goodness back into the milk.
If you would like to try milk kefir, please ask before you buy as I might have some I can post to you, with instructions.
Although one doesn't want to over do snacks on the GAPS diet, they do have their place to add variety and to help children and young people (and us young at heart folks!) to 'stick' to it. Remember that ideally 85% of what we eat should be meats, vegetables and fats, keeping fruit and baked goods to be eaten between meals so that they don't interfere with digestion. Ideally , sweeter things should be served with fat (like butter or cream) to 'iron out' blood sugar spikes.
Our routine involves a mid-morning snack, usually served with cream or with a milk kefir smoothie.
If you are not doing GAPs but would like to reduce your dependence on grains or are grain-free, these make a delicious alternative,
To this end I like trying out new ideas. Here are three of our latest favourites. The first was inspired by a recipe in the Daily Telegraph's New Year fitness programme. The second is a chocolate cake that has evolved by trial and error. The third is a recipe you will find anywhere, with a GAPS twist. All rely on dates to sweeten them. I have found 'Whitworths block dates' to be the most cost effective way of buying dates.
50g linseed (flax seed) - from the health food shop or a superstore
1 cup walnuts (100g)
1 cup dessicated coconut (85g) preferably free from additives)
1 cup dates (180g) soaked in water to soften them
50g butter melted
1 heaped tablespoon peanut butter ('Meridian' brand is GAPS legal)
1. Grind the flax seeds to powder (I use my smoothie maker for this).
2. Chop the dates up small in the food processor.
3. Put the linseed in the food processor with the walnuts and add the dates (minus the soaking water -
you can drink that!). Mix together.
4. Melt the butter.
5. Add the melted butter, peanut butter and coconut to the date mixture and mix it all together.
6. Put in a prepared, greased, lined 8x8 baking tin.
7. Bake for 20 mins Gas 4, fan 160 deg., other 180 deg.
Nothing earth shattering here, though I tried to use dates to sweeten them to lessen/replace the sugar/honey. Obviously we can't use any kind of thickener as used in conventional recipes. Sons thought they were wonderful.
1. Soak 5 or 6 dates or equivalent from a block in a mug of hot water. Once soft, blitz them (just the dates) with a stick blender.
2. Take as many egg whites as you have (4 is a good number to make a good sized batch)
3. Whisk until they stand up in peaks.
4. Carefully fold in the dates.
5. Then measure out 2 cupfuls of desiccated coconut ( for 4 eggs whites) and fold that into the mixture too. (Or how ever much it takes to get a mixture that holds together)
You could add some cocoa, vanilla (make sure it is GAPS legal), or raisins or other dried fruit as long as it still holds together when you put spoonfuls on a greased and lined baking tray.
6. Pop in the oven Gas 4, fan 160 or 180 deg. and check after 10 minutes. Coconut burns quite easily.
Most of my crops are now visible, which is great, but they now require a lot of attention.
Growing your own is not the easiest way to ensure fresh, local, produce but it is very rewarding. It does require time and effort though.
Be sure to water regularly according to the plants' needs.
Onions don't require gallons of water, only some now and then if it's really dry, but as they are in the same bed as our carrots, which do need water, they get done anyway!
Some plants need plenty of water though, and they include squash and pumpkins and runner beans. Seedlings of course need to be kept moist.
Raspberries I find can do with a bucket on them every night when it is dry, once they have flowers. Don't forget the strawberries, but be careful not to let them get too wet or the fruit rots - hence they don't love damp spells when the berries are ripening (like at the moment!).
Anything in pots need to be remembered, especially in dry spells.
Don't forget the rhubarb. It performs better when well watered, just don't put the water on the crowns or they will rot, water round them instead.
You will find a multitude of small weeds appearing now, especially with rain to encourage them! Some, like dock and dandelion which have deep roots, which need to be completely removed, can be dug out with a small trowel while they are still small. Other small weeds can be hoed off. When the soil is dry and hard, pull the hoe over the bed taking off the leaves of the plants and these shouldn't re-grow.
By keeping on top of them now, you can save yourself a lot of time and trouble later on. Just be careful not to take up your plants with the weeds!
Once your crops show above ground they really need vigilant nurturing.
Slugs and snails can destroy your crop in a day and so I do resort to slug pellets. I try to use environmentally friendly ones and even then only sparsely, but without them my efforts could easily go to waste. Check your plants, especially after rain, for signs of attack
Check the back of brassicas (cabbage/kale/cauliflower/broccoli) regularly for butterfly eggs. They look like a regiment of small yellow dots and you need to either squash them off, or remove the leaf they are on before they hatch.
Last year I kindly denoted them to nature loving Son 2, who reared them into cabbage white butterflies - through the chrysalis stage, which was absolutely fascinating. He was so delighted when his first butterfly emerged.
Put straw under strawberries, so the fruit has something soft to ripen on and to keep them off the wet soil. Then net them, but please make sure birds can't get under the netting and get trapped.
Remove yellow leaves from brassicas.
Continue to plant successional rows of seeds. Things like lettuce and spring onions can be sown through until the end of June and some into July.
Pick herbs regularly to encourage them to grow.
Hopefully we shall have our first taste of home-grown strawberries soon. Lavishly coated in sour cream and honey! Can't wait!
'Since hormones, including insulin, depend on fat for normal production and functioning, eating fat is essential for our survival'
Those of you who watch us more closely, or who have had the unfortunate experience of being our guests, will know that we are obsessed with fat. We live on it!
Very often I go to get my groceries and will get into conversation with someone - be it the shop keeper or other customers because they have made a comment that suggested low fat is best. The Sons could write the script for me! This low fat notion runs very deep in us. And yet, how interested most folks are in what they eat, when they stop to think about it. Many are quietly suffering all sort of health complaints that they would love to see improve and most are amazed when I tell them that fat is not bad and we live on it and we've lost weight!
Now I can't offer the GAPS diet as a fix all. It's far from that and nor is it suitable for everyone, but I have learnt that fat is crucial in our diet, but not any fat, only the right kind.
So what is the right kind?
Saturated animal fats: butter, lard, ghee, tallow, goose fat, fat in meat, full fat milk, cream (though dairy comes with a caveat of avoid it if it's pasteurised or homogenised - raw is best, or soured if not raw - I'll write a post on this in the future.)
Other: e.g. coconut oil and cold extracted virgin olive oil.
In other words, all the fat the world tells us we shouldn't eat! You know the script - 'it'll clog up your arteries, it causes obesity, it makes you ill!'
So I no longer for example, buy extra lean mince, but look for the fattiest. We gobble the fatty rind of belly pork slices with relish, knowing that the fat is doing our bodies good and as I've said in an earlier post, not making us fat! Rather it keeps us satiated in a way that carbohydrates can't. It did dawn on me that only a few years ago, if someone like me now had invited us to a meal, I would have cringed at all the fat being eaten!
If you are not on GAPS but want to follow a more traditional diet, then eating fat will go top of the list and you will want to become diligent in checking the ingredients of any products you buy. Cheap fats (like rapeseed oil) are used plentifully in processed, packeted foods, and are often rancid and toxic to the body. They cause disease and are best avoided. Things to avoid include butter substitutes, margarines, condiments such as mayonnaise, sandwich spreads, packets of biscuits/ bread/ cakes, cream substitutes, ready meals. Don't buy low-fat anything.
So why the obsession with fat? Listen to Dr. Schwarzbein:
Or listen to this:
The benefits of saturated fats - the much-maligned saturated fats .... are not the cause of our modern diseases. In fact, they play many important roles in the body chemistry:
I know I prefer the taste of natural fats to man-made ones. So enjoy without guilt!