Hand-Skimmed Milk Question

Reader Ellen asks:

I’ve been trying to track down the answer to this one for a while…maybe you or some of your dairy chemist followers can [help]? I am looking for a (ballpark) estimate on the fat content of manually skimmed raw milk. That is, I let the cream separate in my half gallon of milk for a day or more, then I remove as much of the cream as is possible with a scoop of some kind. Any idea what the approximate fat content would be of the remaining milk? (The milk is from pastured cows, though I really don’t need that level of accuracy.)

My feeling is that’s going to be a bit of a toughie, Ellen, as the fat content of milk varies with the breed of cow and, at least to some extent, seasonality. I don’t know the answer, but are there any Joe readers out there up to the challenge?

12 thoughts on “Hand-Skimmed Milk Question”

  1. Hi Joe, at last a question I can actually reply to 🙂

    Most milk contains between 3% and 5% milk fat, depending on the breed of cow. Freisian breed run to 3% – 3.5%, Jersey have the highest ratio , well, here in New Zealand anyway, at 5%, but also have a lower total volume of milk per cow. Crossbreeds can be slightly higher, Jersey x Freisian can equal 5% with a larger volume of milk.

    If you can extract 50ml of cream per litre of milk, (sorry, it’s been a while since I dealt in imperial measurements) then you will have extracted 90% of available butterfat, there will still be some globules left, but without a really good cream separator at hand, it isn’t worth the trouble. Use the whey for making ricotta, or quark type cheese.

    1. Warren, we take the world of a New Zealand dairy farmer seriously in these parts. Thanks for the reply!

      – Joe

    2. This is great Warren, thanks! I haven’t the faintest idea of the breed of cow from which I obtain my milk – will have to follow-up with the farmer. Sounds like I’m getting somewhere around a 1% lowfat milk product with my (incredibly imprecise) separation and removal methods.

      Thanks, Joe, for such an informative and speedy forum – very cool!

      1. Stay tuned, Ellen! As competent as Warren is there may be other takes on the problem!

        (No offense, Warren)

        – Joe

  2. I get raw milk from a neighbor farmer who has a sweet little Gurnsey/Jersey mix. There is usually about 2 inches of the richest cream imaginable sitting on top every 2-quart jar. I’m a lucky gal for it. I usually ‘scoop’ most of the cream off a la Ellen for my morning coffee. I seem to end up with a roughly 2% milk that makes passably good hard Italian cheeses.

    However…if I try to scoop then whip this cream, it NEVER whips up. Neighbor-farmer has no idea. My guess is that I end up scooping a little too much milk up with the cream? If anyone has a more precise method for removing cream without fancy high-tech cream-separator gadgets, I am all ears!!

    1. Hi Beth!

      I think the most likely explanation is that as luxurious as the cream is, it doesn’t contain the necessary proportion of butterfat. That’s a very common thing, but by all means see if a more refined scooping technique solves the problem. I’ll be keen to hear! Thanks for the note,

      – Joe

  3. Beth, I’ve had a similar problem trying to make butter from my cream – it takes FOREVER to churn (delicious once it does, but gives my Kitchenaid a real workout). I’m going to try to let the milk separate a bit longer, to see if I can get better separation and a higher butterfat density.

  4. Warren,

    I am curious as to your calculations? The raw milk I get on average has 500ml of cream after 2l of milk settles for 24 hours. How by only removing 100ml from the 2l am I getting 90% of the butterfat?
    I was under the impression that by removing 250ml of cream I would be left with milk that is roughly 2.5% instead of the 5% I started with.
    Is this correct?

  5. Beth and Elin,
    I’ve become something of a raw cream expert. I hand skim and come up with a whippable and easily buttermilk product in the winter, and butterable with some effort but not whippable in the summer (pasture v hay/silage feed changes).
    The key is allowing it to gravity separate for a couple of days until you have a definite line of demarcation. After that you have to skim and leave the last 1/4″ or so of cream behind. That cream is very “wet”, which is to say, mixed with milk. For whipping you want cream only.
    It never whips as stiff as the centrifuged cream from the store, but I have been able to get cream stiff enough for typing desserts and even for making mousse.

  6. every week I get 2 or 3 half gallons of raw milk, we let it rest for 24 hours and than scoop of the cream till half an inch is left on the milk. The cream I keep in the frige for it to get 3 or 4 days old. Than I take it out the frige and let it get to room temperature, about 4 to 5 hours. Than I use a glass bottle 2 to 3 times bigger than the amount of cream . Close it tied with the lid and by hand start shaking the bottle. Before 5 min only the cream turned in to butter and milk. Than I let the milk drip of ( I use it later in my fruit shake) and rinse the butter a couple of times with ice cold water. Delicious raw butter every time.
    Important for making this is the older cream, and the room temperature . I make my own raw yoghurt too

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