Various Milk Products: Cream, Buttermilk

When milk is left standing the fat comes to the top, and when the milk is drunk the first portion taken tastes much better, and is also more nutritious, owing to the fatty content. The upper part of the milk contained in a bottle or in a large pan is the cream, or, as it is called in Carlsbad, the “schmetten,” or “sahne.” The name “obers” used in Austria fully explains itself.

The chief characteristic of cream is its great amount of fat, out of which butter is formed. Formerly the cream was obtained by leaving the milk undisturbed in a cool place, in large vessels or pans. In many sections—in Flanders, for example—it is still done in this way, as I have myself observed ; and since the milk sours so easily, and also absorbs any kind of unpleasant odor, the farmers are very particular in keeping every one outside of these hallowed precincts. It is a very interesting fact that these farmers are most careful in not allowing their wives or their maids to enter while pregnant or during their menstrual period. They probably attribute some injurious influence to the changed condition of the breath, owing to the prevalence of gastric disturbances at such times. When we consider how easily a slight souring of the milk may occur, their anxiety does not seem to be unjustified. As a matter of fact, the cream obtained in this primitive way often has a slightly acid taste, and sometimes it is positively sour. It was consequently a blessing for the milk industry, when its centrifugal treatment was inaugurated. The Alpha separator invented by the Swede, Bernström, has probably proved to be the most efficacious. With this mechanical device great cleanliness is possible, and the quantity of cream and butter obtained is greatly increased. Souring of the cream is also prevented; it always remains sweet.

Cream is a food of great nutritive value, and has a very pleasant taste. It is much indulged in—in the form of whipped cream (with 40 per cent. fat)—by the young girls in Germany. To be sure, it has the disadvantage of being very indigestible, like fats in general, and when, therefore, these young maidens indulge in their favorite tarts with whipped cream, about two hours before their evening repast, they spoil their appetites for this much more important meal, thus causing a deficit in their diet. Taken after a meal, cream is a splendid agent to promote fattening. As every one knows, it is also used in coffee, and greatly improves its taste. In the kitchen it serves as an addition to soups—thus increasing their nutritive value—to meat gravies, etc. As already mentioned, cream contains a considerable quantity of many important nutrient salts. It contains much more magnesia, and iron, in particular, than whole milk.

The portion of the milk which is left after the cream has been taken off is the skim milk, which, unfortunately, too often masquerades as whole milk. It is, to be sure, not so very poor in nutritive qualities, as it still contains the casein and the sugar content of the milk, and also some little fat, except in the case of milk which has been centrifugally treated, in which there is very little fat. This milk is very useful when it is employed in making bread, for bread is not at all rich in albumin—especially rye bread—and what there is is not well assimilated. The nutritive properties of bread are therefore much increased by the addition of milk. “Milk breads” and “dairy breads” are much used in Vienna and throughout Austria in general.

A very useful milk product is the fluid which remains after butter has been made, namely, the buttermilk. This is probably used in no country to the extent that it is in Holland. It is, highly recommended by our Dutch colleagues, and not without reason, since it is particularly easy to digest. This is quite comprehensible, since the butter, containing all the fatty and indigestible component parts of the milk, has been removed. The lactic acid which is contained in buttermilk, which has not been centrifugally separated, makes it all the more valuable, because of the properties which we have already mentioned. According to Rivet, the bacterial flora is no greater when buttermilk is used as food than is the case with maternal milk.

Buttermilk has a favorable action upon the bowels, and is also mildly diuretic. In view of the above, and when we remember that it also contains very valuable nutritive sub-stances, we must consider it as the most healthful milk drink. According to Kirchner, its composition is as follows

water 90.50 per cent. Fat 0.85 per cent. Proteins 3.75 per cent. Milk-sugar, lactic acid 4.15 per cent. Ash 0.75 per cent.

In Holland buttermilk is usually made from sour milk, and its action is consequently more beneficial than in that which is obtained centrifugally.

Buttermilk can be made at home by anyone, by simply beating or churning sweet or, preferably, sour milk. A very practical apparatus for this purpose is manufactured in various sizes in Zeist, in Holland, which can be taken along when traveling, so that one is able to prepare one’s own buttermilk at any time or place.

When milk turns sour, the casein is eliminated owing to the action of the lactic acid, and the milk coagulates. This can be even better accomplished by the addition of a ferment,—rennet. The entire casein content is then eliminated in a very short time, and a light-yellow fluid remains, which, after the butter is removed, forms the whey. This is the milk fluid deprived of casein and of the greater part of its fat, so that the sugar is the only remaining nutritive substance. Since the amount of sugar varies between 4 and 5 per cent., whey is not to be recommended for diabetics. On the other hand, it may be most beneficial in the treatment of constipation, and in diseases of the stomach and intestinal canal.

In health resorts, such as Carlsbad, whey is often used to supplement the general treatment. It likewise contains a certain quantity of lactic acid, usually from 3 to 4 per cent, which adds to its beneficial effect.

According to Fleishmann, whey is composed, in the following proportions, of

Water 93.31 per cent. Fat 0.10 per cent. Albumin 0.27 per cent. Milk-sugar and lactic acid 5.85 per cent. Salts 0.47 per cent.

All things considered, buttermilk is preferable to whey, and, first of all, for the reason that it is more nourishing. Whey is, however, more easily digested by weak stomachs. It may also be mentioned that whey is rich in certain nutrient salts, such as calcium phosphate, of which it contains 21.04 per cent., and calcium chloride, of which the ash contains 49.94 per cent.