You’ve likely seen the recent headline reporting 7% of Americans think that chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
Well maybe just a little. It’s true that we have become more removed from farming– fewer family and friends with first-hand experience to show us where our food originates. (So in case you’re in the 7%: chocolate milk is made by adding cocoa or chocolate syrup to white milk, not by brown cows.)
To keep us all in the know, here’s the background story of a few other dairy favorites. Feel free to share with your friends and neighbors, or offer up at trivia night.
- Butter– This yumminess is made when fresh milk from dairy farms is collected and taken to the creamery. The cream is then separated from the whole milk and pasteurized by heating it rapidly to a high temperature, helping butter stay fresh longer and eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria. Once pasteurized, the cream is beaten until it thickens naturally into butter. The remaining liquid (buttermilk) is drained off, and the butter is mixed and blended. Lastly, salt may be added.
- Buttermilk– As noted above, the term buttermilk is used to refer to the liquid that’s left after butter has been made from milk or cream. However, most people refer to the slightly sour tasting milk purchased at your local grocery and used in cooking. This buttermilk is made from active cultures added to milk, causing the tart taste. While buttermilk may be an acquired taste for some, it’s an excellent milk for create moist, flavorful baked goods and to tenderize meats. (Fun Fact- here’s how to make your own buttermilk at home!)
- Cheese– Natural cheese is made from four basic ingredients mixed together: milk, salt, a “good bacteria” and rennet, an enzyme. Here’s how it’s made:
And in case you’re curious, here’s more about the difference between natural cheeses and processed cheeses, each of which start as milk.
- Whey– A byproduct of the cheese-making process, whey is created when special enzymes are added to milk to separate it. (See rennet above). Two parts form: curds and whey. The curds are used to make cheese, and whey protein is left over. Because whey is a source of high quality protein it often serves as a key ingredient in some drink mixes, protein bars and other foods. What a great use for leftovers!
- Cottage Cheese– Made by acidifying milk, cottage cheese is the result of separating curds from whey. After the curds are formed, they’re rinsed and some salt may be added. It’s thought that cottage cheese was one of the first cheeses made in America when Europeans settled here.
- Yogurt– Yogurt is made by taking milk and then adding in good bacteria. These bacteria, are starters or “cultures” for yogurt. The milk is then kept warm at a specific temperature so the bacteria can work, changing the milk’s natural sugar (lactose), thickening the milk more and giving it a tangy flavor. Sweeteners, flavorings and other ingredients can also be added. Lots of tasty and nutritious yogurt varieties can be found in the dairy aisle, including low-fat, fat-free, Greek, Icelandic style, Australian style and more.
- Kefir– Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. It is traditionally made from cow’s milk, and is slightly thick, like a smoothie, with a tart flavor. Some recent research suggests that Kefir may play a role in gut health, but more studies are needed to verify the claim. Additionally, it may be helpful to people who are lactose intolerant as the fermentation process removes most of the lactose.
Now you’re in the know.