My Raw Milk Journey, Part 2: Couah

This is Couah (accent on Cou, which rhymes with the first three letters in “mouse”).  I don’t know what breed of cow she was, maybe a Red Holstein or a Guernsey…it never occurred to me to wonder, she was just Couah, the beloved family cow who’d been there since before I was born and always would be.  She was the wise and gentle matriarch of the herd.  Over the years, she birthed many calves, and in her way, she was like a mother to us too – certainly the feeling she emanated when I pressed myself to her huge flank was that – warm and maternal.

The cow lying behind her was her daughter Bunta, which means "multi-coloured one" in Low German.

Every morning and evening she lumbered into the barn and to her feed trough for milking.  She munched corn, wheat and all manner of yummy things that come from a sack while my mother or father drew up the milking stool and the cats gathered ’round, smacking their chops.  Sometimes Couah quarreled with my mother during milking and refused to eat.  More than once, Mom had to tie her tail up and out of switching distance.  Maybe her feed got stale or lacked the nutrients she needed that day, or maybe she just had a bad day.

I milked sometimes, but my fingers were too little to fill the pail.  When it was full and Couah had licked the last morsel of grain from the corners of her trough, she returned to pasture with her udder relieved and her belly filled.  Mom or Dad filled a pan with milk for the cats and toted the rest to the house to be strained.  I still have that old strainer.

Back then, the straining cloth was a piece of white and purple gingham.  It’s a little disconcerting now, to think that we used only one cloth to strain milk all those years.  Maybe Mom had a big piece of it that she used up bit by bit.  Or, maybe we ingested a lot of bacteria.

When Couah was about six months pregnant, she would dry up until her calf was born three months later.  During that time our taste buds had to adjust to pasteurized milk from the grocery store.  For me, it took about a week and it was a mouth-curdling business every time.

Couah provided enough milk, cream, cottage cheese and butter to feed our family of twelve, plus extra for Mom to sell and earn some spending money.  If it was illegal back then, she either didn’t know it or wasn’t concerned.  I fondly remember making butter now, but it was tedious work then.  Mom filled a mason jar with cream and I shook it until the butter came.  It felt like hours, but I can do it now in about fifteen minutes, so it probably didn’t take as long as it seemed to.  I shook and shook and the cream splashed in the jar; my arms ached and I thought the butter would never come.  Then splashing turned into plop, plop, plop, and like a miracle, an island of yellow butter arose out of a sea of thin white buttermilk.

To make cottage cheese, Mom set a pot of skimmed milk in a warm room.  Within a day or two, the milk soured and acquired the consistency of yogurt, a process called clabbering, although we had no such delightful word for it in German.  Reader, when I say sour, you musn’t think of pasteurized milk in the fridge past it’s best before date.  That’s not clabbered.  That’s rotten.  Mom slowly heated the clabbered milk until curds formed and separated from the whey.  She drained the cottage cheese and stored it away for delicious glomms werenikje (cottage cheese perogies) and fried glomms küchen (cottage cheese cookies).  Here’s my recipe for glomms küchen.

1 pound or 4 cups dry-curd cottage cheese (as opposed to cottage cheese in cream.  Costco has good dry-curd cottage cheese).

3 egg yolks

2 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix these good things together and form into patties, just like hamburgers.  Coat them in a bit of extra flour and fry them in oil or butter over low to medium heat until the outsides are brown and crispy.  This recipe yields about seven glomms küchen.

These are a bit dark. Shorten the frying time if you prefer them lighter.

As children, we doused them with syrup like pancakes, but many people eat them plain.  They are considered lowly, weekday victuals to be eaten with equally modest fare such as beans and fried potatoes, but I reckon they would taste just as good on Sunday after church.

It would be nice to have a dairy cow again, but Albert and I aren’t ready to commit to milking twice a day, and she would yield much more milk than we could possibly use.  It would be great if we could leave the cow and calf together and only milk when we needed some, but no cow would be down with that.  They are creatures of habit and solid routine.  When it comes to milking, they demand that you’re all in or all out…

I’ve got the answer: a cow share program.  One cow with fourteen owners who each do the milking once a week.  It’s perfect!  Anyone want to split a cow?  I call the front.

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