Small Scale Farming: Dairy Products

In this excerpt of their 1973 book on small scale farming, John and Sally Seymour explain the process of making staple dairy products as cream, butter, and cheese.

| July/August 1974

  • 028 small scale farming - dairy products
    In small scale farming, one or two cows will give all the milk necessary to make a variety of dairy products.
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    Various implements used in butter, cream, and cheese making.

  • 028 small scale farming - dairy products
  • 028 small scale farming - dairy products 2

Ah, the vicissitudes of time. Two years ago, when there were NO currently relevant small-scale-farming introductory handbooks available, many of us welcomed the publication of Richard Langer's Grow !t! with open arms. Now that we're all older and more experienced, however, some folks find it increasingly easy to criticize that breakthrough beginner's guide. Which brings us to another breakthrough book that is just as important (probably more so) now as Grow It! was two years ago and which may well come up for its share of criticism in another 24 months or so.

Be that as it may, John and Sally Seymour's record of 18 successful years on a shirttail-sized homestead in England is important now and should offer welcome encouragement to today's back-to-the-landers both real and imaginary. I'm serializing their book Farming for Self-Sufficiency: Independence on a 5-Acre Farm and am sure that many readers will want a personal copy for their home libraries. This installment covers dairy products. — MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors

if the butter do taste a little of the Swedish turnip, it will do very well where there is plenty of that sweet sauce which early rising and bodily labour are ever sure to bring.  

William Cobbet  

Milk Facts

Milk is one of the most complex organic substances that one could possibly imagine, and the extraordinary things that it will do, and that can be done with it, are legion. Long before the word 'plastics' was invented people were making knitting needles and spectacle frames out of it.

If you leave fresh milk alone in the summer time it curdles. This is because the lactic acid bacteria (Streptococcus lacticus) feed upon the lactose which is one of the constituents of milk (its sugar in fact) and change the lactose sugar into lactic acid. As the milk becomes more acid the isoelectric point is reached and at this point the particles of the milk no longer repel each other, but come together into what we call curd. Milk curdles best in warm weather or in warm climates (at about 77° F or 25° C). We consume a great deal of naturally curdled milk: it is acid in taste, but mildly acid and very good and digestible. In South Africa it is called dik melk and is a major article of diet. The South Africans have a refinement of dik melk which they call calabash. It is made in this way: milk is put inside a hollowed-out calabash and allowed to curdle. Every day some of the curdled milk is taken out of the calabash and some more fresh milk put in. Before it is taken out the calabash is shaken like a cocktail shaker. As the weeks go by the taste of the stuff that comes out of the calabash gets stronger and stronger until it is simply delicious. You must never 'starve' it, or it will turn bad: every day some must be taken out and some put in. I have drunk from a calabash which had been kept going thus for six years, and I kept one going myself for a year. I know somebody who does it in Wales, but in a bottle.

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