Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Cow Shares, homemade butter and cheese making.

Several months ago we purchased a cow share from The Sweet Land Farms .
What is a cow share?  A cow share allows you all the benefits of owning your own dairy cow, but none of the work! Virginia Department of Agriculture wants all milk sold to be heavily processed. It is not legal to sell raw milk. So to receive fresh, unprocessed milk, you need to own your own cow so you can drink it how ever you like it.
When you purchase a cow share, you purchase a portion of a cow and then pay a monthly boarding fee for them to board/feed your cow for you. Since we own a share of the cow, we get a part of her milk production. 

 In 2013 after we lost our home in a fire we rented a house that was right next to The Sweet Land farm. These lovely Jersey cows hung out right behind the house munching on the fresh green grass.  We saw first hand how they were treated, met the folks that run the farm and watched the cows lazily hang out in the grassy fields and line up when it was time to milk.   It was definitely a local business we were happy to support. The cow share provides us with one gallon of fresh raw milk each week.

Jersey milk is high in natural butter fat content.  See all that lovely cream at the top of the jars? Each week we skim that off to make fresh butter. Sometimes, i'll make butter with the cream from one half gallon and use the cream from the other to make Red Pepper fettuccine.  It's so good!!   We really don't drink a lot of milk, so the one gallon per week is the perfect amount. Sometimes we only make it through 1 half gallon by the time we are picking up milk again, so i use the extra milk to make Mozzarella cheese.  This is something i have always wanted to do and i was quite surprised how easy it is. 

i followed the directions from The Cheese making website. First i separated some of the cream from the milk. Then i put the milk in a non-reactive pot and added 1 1/2 tsp citric acid. i heated the milk to about 90 degrees F. i do not have a digital thermometer, so i used a candy making thermometer.  Once the milk reached the correct temperature i added vegetable rennet and let it sit for about 5 min. Then you cut the curds, and heat them up again to about 105 F. remove from heat and stir for a few minutes. Then drain the curds, reserving the whey for ricotta. Press out any remaining whey and microwave about 30 sec.  knead and reheat another 30 sec or until the cheese reaches 135 F. It will be very hot.  

Knead the cheese as you would bread dough, and it should begin to stretch.  Continue stretching it, and stretching it and then form it into a smooth shiny ball. That's it!! Then i use the left over whey to make Ricotta

This is what you can get out of one gallon of  raw milk. i made about 12 ounces of fresh mozzarella . A ball of fresh butter, around 1 cup of buttermilk, around 1 1/2 cups of fresh cream and 1 cup ricotta cheese. i also had over a quart of whey, which can be added to soups and smoothies etc.

Although my goal has always been to milk my own dairy goats, it just hasn't work out for me yet and i admit i am really enjoying the cow share. If you are interested in learning more about raw milk and cow shares check out  to find a farm near you.  i highly recommend that you visit the farm, meet the farmers, meet the cows and see their milking practice. 


  1. Love it! You are really making the most of your cow share! Here is VT, we are able to sell milk off the farm without having to do shares. Relatively new changes to the law and great for small farms like ours!

    1. One of the hard things for me with mozz is doing it without a microwave. I have to heat up water, not too hot though, in something that I can reheat the cheese in. I have found it hard to do just right.

    2. Yeah, having the microwave made the mozz really easy! i followed the 30 in mozz recipe, and although it did take longer than 30 min...i can see how the more you make it the easier it would be. You should definitely give it another try! We really enjoy the fresh cheese. Do you make any other cheeses with your fresh milk?