Milk or Dairy products are one of our most versatile foods, and a staple in every pantry. It has been one of the quintessential ingredients throughout history not just providing us with nutrition but also amazing dairy products from cheese to ice cream without which our life would be less joyful.
The earliest historical evidence points out sheep and goats had been farmed as far back to 8000–10,000 years ago in ancient Iran and Iraq. Though around 4000 species produce milk, for the most part, milk and dairy products from goats, buffalo, sheep, and cows are commonly used by us.
Today the dairy industry has become gigantic and with it, diverse products can be seen in the markets that were not a few decades back. From the good old whole fat milk to low-fat ice cream and cheese are not easily accessible. But with so many choices it creates a conundrum, as at times people don’t even know about the product and its makeup, let alone how to use it. We will take a deep dive into the world of dairy and get to know more about these products and how they are made and its use. We’ll also try to answer a few questions people face when Cooking with Dairy.
Only a small handful of animal species contributes significantly to the world’s milk supply.
The most common dairy animal found in Asia. Though it was not native to the region but was brought there by Mesopotamia around 3000 BCE to the South Asia region and with time migrated throughout the world. Buffalo are sensitive to heat so spend most of their time in the water to cool themselves down.
Buffalo milk is much richer and fattier than cow’s milk, so it is commonly used in mozzarella production and the best mozzarella is made from it. Buffalo milk gives a richer flavor to the food they are used in. As there are extensively used dairy in South Asian cuisine if you want to make any food from this region use buffalo milk as cow milk won’t give you the same flavor as the traditional ones.
Goat is commonly found and native to the mountain and semi-desert regions, and its goat milk consumption is commonly found in Central Asia and Euro Asia. Due to its diet, the milk produced by goats has a very distinct and strong flavor hence more widely used in dairy by-products then being consumed as drinking milk around the world. Some of the world’s best cheeses are made using goat milk.
The milk produced in the first few days contained a high amount of antibodies which is a pale yellow to clear. After a few days, the animal produces white milk that is more widely consumed for drinking and cooking.
Water, fat, casein, whey, and lactose make up the basic components of milk. Though the concentration of each component varies from animal to animal. This impacts the taste and texture but also how it is used in cooking and to make other dairy products.
Percentage Of Fat In Milk
Regardless of the percentage of fat in milk, all types of milk have these essential nutrients; Calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and B12, Protein, Potassium, healthy fats, and antioxidants. The main difference just lies in the amount of fat in the milk by weight.
And one of the key components that are important in cooking is the fat quantity. Milk cultivated from buffalo and sheep has a higher amount of Fat amounting to 7.8 and 7.6, compared to Cow and goat with 4.4 and 4.5 respectively.
A common misconception is these milk are watered down to adjust the fat content in them but that’s not true actually. The fat content is removed before milk is bottled and then they add it again keeping percentages in mind according to the weight.
What is Lactose in Milk?
Lactose is one of the main carbohydrates found in the milk which is also known as “milk sugar”. The reason it’s called “milk sugar” as it comprises two simple sugars glucose and galactose, giving milk sweet taste and is provided 40% of the calories in cow’s milk.
Lactose is one-fifth as sweet as table sugar but does not dissolve like table sugar. So, once it’s reduced and is processed it gives the dairy product a sandy texture a perfect example is ice cream.
Though it is a very important element in dairy products it has some consequences to health, as the human body requires a special enzyme to digest lactose; and many adults lack that enzyme.
Homogenization process of milk
Homogenization is a process that breaks the milk fat globules into much smaller and more uniformly sized fat globules. This results in smaller milk fat globules that are less likely to separate from the rest of the milk. ensures that the milk fat globules do not combine and form a solid layer of fat when heated. This is important to understand in cheese making and Homogenized milk can not be used in the cheese-making process.
UHT Milk / Long Shelf Life Milk
Short for ultra-high-temperature milk, this is the non-refrigerated stuff you see in carton (sterilized and vacuum-sealed) boxes on supermarket shelves.
In UHT (ultrahigh‐ temperature) process milk is heated at the highest temperature of about 161°C for 20 s and then packed in sterile containers, which creates milk that can be stored up to 6 months without refrigeration. But it results in losses of some of the vitamins such as riboflavin, vitamin C, folic acid; also some of the proteins and gives the milk a slightly off‐flavor.
Difference between Pasteurized and UHT Milk
Pasteurization is the process of quickly heating at 71.6°C for 15 s and then cooling the milk to temperatures high enough to kill any contaminating bacteria present in milk.
Flavor of Milk
Fresh unpasteurized and non-homogenized milk have a distinct sweetness from the lactose and very slightly acid. The aroma comes from the short-chain fatty acids present in the milk which also keep milk liquid at room temperature and give it a fruity note.
But these flavors are greatly affected by the diets of the mammal. Diet with low in fat and protein and produce a less complicated, mildly cheesy flavors compared to the sweet, raspberry-like aroma with a high amount of fat and protein.
Pasteurization and cooking of milk also change the flavor of the milk. When cooked at 76ºC or above for a short time, develop a light flavor of vanilla, almonds, and cultured butter. While prolonged boiling caramelized the sugar gives the butterscotch flavor to the milk
Cooking With Milk
Usually, the milk used in cooking is primarily used for cooking of a batter or dough, custard, or pudding. As it’s usually mixed into a batter, its primary purpose is to provide moisture and also to contribute in flavor, texture, and primarily browning of the final product.
Whereas when milk is a predominant ingredient in food such as soups, sauces, and beverages such as hot chocolate, coffee, and tea, careful attention needs to be given. In making these things, scalding of milk can cause skin forming on top resulting from evaporation of water. This can be minimized by covering the pan or whipping up some foam which minimizes evaporation. Scorching of the milk protein at both is also another concert that can impact the flavor and texture of the end product. To avoid that adding a little water in the pan before adding milk will reduce scorching, or preferably use a heavy, evenly conducting pan and a moderate flame helps minimize scorching.
Also, other ingredients can cause curdling, ingredients such as acidic fruits or liquids from fruits and vegetables and in coffee, tannins in potatoes, coffee, and tea. The best way to avoid this is by controlling the heat at a lower temperature of 60 to 65.
Common Milk and Dairy Products
Let’s look into common dairy products used regularly in the kitchen. Though there are countless dairy-based products in the market, these are some common dairy products that we use in the kitchen and you should have in your pantry.
Mostly when looking over recipes over the internet you usually see a different type of milk product. There is no need to panic as you can use whole milk or unless you are on a diet you can use any kind of reduced-fat milk in the recipes as it won’t affect the outcome of your dish, though I usually cook with whole milk.
Butter is fat and water; the supermarket standard is 80 percent, which means 20 percent is water; higher-fat butter tends to be higher quality and better tasting. Always buy unsalted butter, also called sweet butter; store extra sticks in the freezer, not the fridge (You can store butter sticks in the freezer for 6 months). Margarine is not butter and is not made from dairy, so you need to be careful when substituting margarine with butter
What is Buttermilk?
This tangy, thick, and sometimes lumpy liquid isn’t at all what it used to be, which the liquid that remained after churning butter was. Now it’s made from milk of any fat content, cultured with lactic acid-producing bacteria, so it’s more like thin yogurt than anything else. Usually, it’s used for baking, flavoring mashed potatoes, or making cold sauces, dips, and dressings.
Buttermilk is a high-protein liquid but is low in fat around 0.5%, low‐fat (0.5%). With industrialization and higher demand for buttermilk, this process has changed considerably.
Modern Buttermilk is produced by using Low-fat milk, by introducing bacteria that produce lactic acid, acidifying the milk giving it the sour and tangy flavors. The incorporation of bacteria causes curdling of the proteins that are present in the milk. Once curdled diacetyl creating bacterias are also introduced that give buttermilk its buttery taste.
How to Make Buttermilk
To make buttermilk from regular milk you need to “sour” regular milk. Let 1 ¾ cups of milk come to room temperature (or microwave it for 30 seconds or so). Stir in 2 tablespoons white vinegar and let the mixture sit until thick and lumpy—about 10 minutes (you’ll know). Use it as a direct substitute for buttermilk. You can keep buttermilk in the refrigerator for 2 weeks but never freeze it.
You’ll see all sorts of confusing labels for cream used in recipes or Cooking Cream found over the internet that are primarily written by chefs and cooks who have that crème available to them. The different labeled cream signifies the fat content in it, though each one has its uses in the culinary world the kind you want is cream without any additives or emulsifiers, and not ultra-pasteurized (this takes longer to whip and has a distinctive, definitely cooked, flavor). Generally, 1 cup of cream whips up to about 2 cups.
Have you ever whipped cream that was warm or over whipped the cream? You likely found cream whipped in this nature was oily or tasted kind of like butter. To understand what happens when we whip cream, we need to understand what is happening to the fat particles present in the heavy cream during the whipping process. During the mixing process, the large fat particles break and shear into smaller ones. The air that interacts with the fat particle is then trapped inside these small fat particles which increase the volume of the cream. These fat-air particles are supported by proteins present in the milk to give it stability by connecting them. Stop whipping too early, the whipped cream would collapse. Whip too long, and the fat particles will become too small for protein to cover them resulting at the beginning of butter.
Half-and-Half / Half Milk Half Cream
Half milk, half cream, with a fat content that can range anywhere from 10.5 percent to 18 percent. It’s nice in soups or sauces when you don’t need quite the richness of heavy cream. There’s no need to panic over Half and half cream substitute when asked for this type of cream you can substitute it in the recipe by using the cream that is available in the local store, using half the amount as written in the and substituting the rest with whole milk, you can vary the ratio of milk and cream so can have the richness in the dish to your liking.
Cream cultured with lactic acid bacteria to make it thick and produce its characteristic tangy flavor. Cooking with Sour cream can be tricky because it can curdle—though not as quickly as yogurt—so add it to other ingredients over very low heat. Sour cream has a fat content of about 20%. You can find sour cream in the superstore but they are expensive, and like many cooking ingredients you can substitute with some cream and lemon juice.
When whipping cream, make sure it is chilled which makes it easier to whip, and while whipping cream put the bowl over some ice to make sure the cream does not become hot make it difficult to whip. To make sour cream thinner, add a little more cream. If you are having trouble getting it to thicken, add more lemon juice.
To substitute Sour Cream use 1 cup of cream with 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice and 1/4 tsp. salt or to your taste. Place the cream in a bowl, make sure the bowl is clean with no fat or water. Add the lemon juice and whisk vigorously, until the cream is thickened. Mix in the salt and you are done! Use the sour cream immediately or store in the fridge, in a covered container, for up to two days.
Like sour cream, this is thick, rich, tangy, and almost decadent. But it can be hard to find and expensive. Crème fraîche has a fat content of about 30% and is thicker, has a richer flavor, and is less tangy than sour cream. You can also make Creme Fraiche with yogurt: Put 1 cup of cream in a sterilized and clean small glass bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons of buttermilk or yogurt. Cover it with cheesecloth or any breathable material and let the mixture sit at room temperature (21 to 24 degrees C) until thickened, anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Cover tightly, refrigerate and use within a week or so.
It is Cultured milk, made with bacteria that produces its unique flavor and texture. Unlike many Western and Asian countries, you can find freshly made yogurt at your friendly neighborhood milk store, which is full of live active cultures (which are good bacteria we need for our gut), as usually in many Asian and European countries pre-packaged yogurt that is found is made with using gelatin, gums, or stabilizers to give it the consistency and make it last longer on the shelf. Prepackaged yogurt is available in whole, low-fat, and nonfat versions, as well as all sorts of crazy flavors. But you can flavor yogurt yourself; you can also make it yourself. It can be warmed gently but not super-heated or it will curdle. In recipes, whole-milk yogurt that is found at the milk store and the prepackaged ones always gives the richest results. You can refrigerate yogurt for 2 weeks.
How should dairy products be stored
- Most dairy products should be refrigerated in their original (or clean glass) containers, ideally at 4.4°c or less. (Many kinds of cheese can be held at room temperature for hours or even days.)
- Pour off what you need, then immediately return the rest to the fridge; never put unused milk or cream back in the carton or container, or it’ll cause the whole batch to spoil faster
- Things placed in the refrigerator door are prone to a warmer temperature, therefore it is not advisable to store milk there
- Store cheese and butter are tightly wrapped in the refrigerator because the fat content has the tendency to absorb odors from their surroundings. You can freeze unsalted butter for a month or so without noticeably affecting its flavor (and salted butter somewhat longer), but don’t freeze milk or cream