Increasing the Butterfat in Milk 

Q. I'm unable to find a dairy that is willing to sell me raw milk, I'm very sad. My question is, how much heavy cream (not ultra-pasteurized) needs to be added to a gallon of 4% milk to get it anywhere near the average Jersey cow's milk?

A. About 3 - 4 oz of heavy cream. However, if you are making cheese, the normal milk will not hold the extra butterfat because the protein base has not been increased. Store bought milk is usually 3.25%.

Decreasing the Butterfat in Milk

Q. I am new to cheese making. l am buying raw milk, it is very high-fat. Can you tell me how to control the fat content in cheese?

A. In most milk, the cream will rise if you allow the milk to rest at a cool temperature (below 60°F for at least 6 to 8 hours).

You should then be able to carefully skim some of the butterfat off. This is usually done for Alpine and Parma style cheeses. The cream can then be used for making sour cream or butter.

Q. I have access to raw farm milk and I want to make Parmesan. All the recipes suggest half skim and half full cream. I'm not sure how I should approach this, as I'm not sure of the fat content of the milk.

A. A lot will depend on the amount of butterfat in the milk. The usual process (with Jersey milk) would be to bring in about two-thirds of the milk the night before and let the cream rise at a cool temperature. The next morning, you would skim the cream from that and bring in fresh full-fat to add to the skimmed milk.

Jersey milk is high in fat, so if your milk is not so high in fat, move towards 50:50 on the split.

Mixing Two Types of Milk

Q. I'm looking at your Ricotta Salata recipe. Can I use 25% goat's and 75% cow's milk? Or perhaps 50-50? 

A. You can mix the two kinds of milk, but the taste will be very different. With this cheese, you want high butterfat content, and goat milk has less butterfat than cow or sheep milk. 

Testing Acid Levels in Raw Milk

Q. Is there a way to test the acid level in raw milk? I am afraid to use raw milk because I don't know how much culture to add.

A. You can determine this by using an acid testing kit, pH meter or pH testing strips. Fresh raw milk should be at .16 - .18% titratable acidity (TA). If the milk has a high natural culture load, it may be slightly higher. The pH level for cold fresh milk should be about 6.7.

If the milk reaches a TA level of .19 - .20%, it would be better to make a higher acid curd production cheese, like cottage cheese. 

The other factor in raw milk is the natural enzymes which begin changing the protein and fat components shortly after the milk has been collected. Our rule of thumb, with raw milk, is to use it within 48 hours.

Once you find a good source of fresh, raw milk, you should be able to determine the right culture and rennet amounts within a few batches of cheese. Usually, we start with about 30% less culture than is used in a pasteurized milk cheese and adjust as needed for the next batch.

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