Culinary Sleuth

What Can You Say About Milk?

by Lynn Kerrigan


I like milk.

When I buy milk I always reach for 2 percent milk. I know it's not as full-bodied (and fatty) as whole milk and not as thin (and tasteless) as 1 percent or skimmed milk. I'm used to the label.


But, the FDA decided I was confused and now milk products will carry new labels. Now, the current 2 percent milk shall be labeled either "reduced fat" or "less fat." 1 percent milk shall be called "low fat" or "little fat." They're even proposing yet another milk type—a cross between 1 percent and 2 percent milk. This shall be called "muddle the consumer milk." These new milk labels will certainly clear things up.

I'm not old enough to remember the milkman but I've seen old movies where a horse-powered milk wagon (really old movies) or milk van (the newer variety) carried bottled milk and sometimes other dairy products right to people's doorsteps. Some people had standing orders. "One quart a day, please." Others left little notes for their milkman if they wanted something extra. "Mr. Milkman: Add a little brick of cheese to my order today please." I have an old steel milk box with the name "Weaver Dairy" emblazoned on its side. People kept these at their door to hold their daily deliveries. I keep dry cat food in mine.

Milkmen always seemed to have a broad smile plastered across their faces. Perhaps that's because, according to milkman jokes, they delivered something extra to many lonely housewives. Perhaps they just truly enjoyed delivering milk.

Milk is only as good as what the cow eats. We've heard rumblings from "milk activists" who state that dairy farmers, in a bid to lower costs, give cows less nutritious feed and the dastardly results are passed onto the consumer. I usually ignore such rantings. I've yet to experience a media frenzy about "tainted milk."

Ever since pasteurization most, if not all, milk sold in the United States is safe. Louis Pasteur, a chemist who discovered that heat killed bacteria, revolutionized the milk production process. Pasteurization virtually eliminates any danger of milk-borne diseases. It's the most important contributor to a safe milk supply. Pasteurization doesn't sterilize but significantly reduces microbes, and inactivates enzymes, such as lipase, which promote rancidity. Pasteurization is the main reason for milk's extended shelf life.

The cream always rises to the top...


Homogenization, on the other hand, has no effect on milk's bacteria count. Homogenization takes the "old fashioned" out of milk. Your parents or grandparents may have told you they loved getting to the milk bottles first, to scoop the cream off the top before anyone else. without homogenization, we'd have that kind of milk. The process forces milk's butter fat globules through teeny holes to break them up so they stay "suspended" or permanently dispersed in the liquid instead of separating and rising to the top. Apparently the need to shake the milk was unacceptable to consumers, so homogenization became standard. Homogenized milk also has a smoother, richer texture and a whiter color than non-homogenized milk.

A truly unique drink...

We take milk for granted. Like bread, sugar and flour, it's always there, except for two years ago when my part of the country was buried under 36 inches of snow. Milk vanished from grocery shelves. Trucks couldn't get through to replenish them. It's the first thing consumers stocked up on. Other than flavored varieties, milk hasn't changed much. There's nothing "exciting" about milk. However, milk is a unique liquid. No other natural drink I can think of has such a creamy, smooth texture, tastes quite like it or is as white. No other natural fluid I can think of fills the body with as much protein, vitamin D and a host of other nutrients as milk does. It's no accident the word "silk" rhymes with milk. When silk was invented, its creators asked what shall we call it? It's smooth. It's lustrous. It's got a creamy sort of texture. It reminds us of milk. Let's drop the "m" add an "s" and call it silk. I have no documentation to back this up but I'm certain that's how it happened.

I could not enjoy coffee without it. My daily bowl of cereal would be sorely lacking if it wasn't available. I like milk.


Types of Milk


In one year, the average American consumes:
50 qts. milk

Milky ha-ha
Why is milk the fastest drink in the world? Because it's pasteurized before you see it! (Past-your-eyes—get it?)

Milk Information Providers:

Milk Processors Board

Dairy Farmers of Ontario

Milk Recipe:
Cinnamint Cappuccino

3 cups fat free skim or 1 percent lowfat milk
2 cups regular-strength brewed coffee
1 bunch of fresh mint, about 1/2 cup tightly packed
4 cinnamon sticks or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon mint syrup or 2 tablespoons creme de menthe, optional
1 small package cinnamon red hots
1 small bunch of fresh mintWash mint.

Remove about a dozen leaves and reserve for garnish. Combine 2 cups of milk, coffee, washed mint stalks and leaves and cinnamon sticks or powdered cinnamon in a small saucepan or microwave bowl. Heat over a medium flame or in microwave just until liquid starts to steam and a few bubbles appear; don't let it boil. Set aside and let steep for at least fifteen minutes and as long as an hour.

For foamed milk, place 1 cup of hot milk in a blender with the sugar. Blend until frothy, about 30 seconds. Pour coffee-mint mixture through a clean strainer into a pitcher; if it has cooled, reheat without letting it come to a boil. Stir in the optional mint syrup or creme de menthe. Divide coffee among three serving cups and spread foamed milk over each one. Garnish with red-hots or mint leaves.


Copyright © 1997, Lynn Kerrigan. No portion of this article may be reproduced for publication without express, written permission of the author.


This page created 1997 and modified February 2007