What all of the items in the lady’s basket had in common wasn’t just their impending use in some kind of dessert, but the fact that all of them had been pasteurized. Pasteurization is the process of heating, and then rapidly cooling, liquids or food in order to kill microbes that may expedite their spoilage or cause disease. The French scientist who invented the process of pasteurization was Louis Pasteur. Unsurprisingly, his last name, Pasteur, is what gives this process, pasteurization, its name.
PASTEURIZATION VERSUS STERILIZATION
In any case, after something is heated during the process of pasteurization, it must be rapidly cooled thereafter. I’ll explain why that is the case in just a second. But, before I do that, you must realize that pasteurization is not sterilization. Sterilization is when you get rid of all living microorganisms on an inanimate object. Pasteurization is not sterilization because it doesn’t destroy every single organism in whatever food or liquid is being heated, namely, pasteurization does not destroy bacterial spores. These spores are basically really hardy forms of bacteria that must be super-heated to be destroyed. The heating process of pasteurization does not get hot enough to destroy these spores, but does get hot enough, for long enough, to get rid of disease causing microbes.
Now, if rapid cooling doesn’t occur after heating during pasteurization of something like milk, then heat-loving bacteria will use the increased temperature to their advantage and multiply like crazy. However, if we cool down the milk fast enough, we’ll slow down the growth of any remaining microbes just enough so they don’t cause us any significant harm.
So, in a nutshell, we heat up the milk to get rid of heat sensitive microbes, and then cool it down really quickly thereafter to make sure that the heat-loving bacteria don’t use the warm milk to their advantage and do not multiply in numbers large enough to cause us any harm. This process of minimizing the number of microbes in our food not only helps to prevent life-threatening diseases, but also decreases the number of microbes that would spoil our food, thereby wasting our money on short-lasting sustenance, such as milk, butter, and so on.
NUTRITION VALUE AND TASTE BOOSTING
Pasteurization is a compromise. If you boil a food, you can kill all bacteria and make the food sterile, but you often significantly affect the taste and nutritional value of the food. When you pasteurize a food (almost always a liquid), what you are doing is heating it to a high enough temperature to kill certain (but not all) bacteria and to disable certain enzymes, and in return you are minimizing the effects on taste as much as you can. Milk can be pasteurized by heating to 145 degrees F (62.8 degrees C) for half an hour or 163 degrees F (72.8 degrees C) for 15 seconds.
ULTRA HIGH TEMPERATURE (UHT)
Pasteurization completely sterilizes the product. It is used to created “boxes of milk” that you see on the shelf at the grocery store. In UHT pasteurization, the temperature of the milk is raised to about 285 degrees F (141 degrees C) for one or two seconds, sterilizing the milk.
WHAT IS VAT PASTEURIZED MILK?
Even beyond whole or 2%, there are many choices when we go to buy our milk these days. Let’s start with the simplest: homogenized or non-homogenized. Homogenized milk simply means that the milk has been processed so that the fat globules are evenly distributed throughout the milk. When milk is non-homogenized, the fat separates and forms a layer of cream on the top. You can either scoop off this delicious stuff and use it as a special treat in your coffee or drizzled on your morning berries, or you can shake the bottle and temporarily distribute the cream into the milk. Some people claim that non-homogenized milk is better for you as the processing that is used in homogenized milk isn’t heart healthy.
The purpose of pasteurization is to kill harmful bacteria that may be present in milk. UHP (or Ultra-Pasturized) means that the milk has ben heated to a very high temperature (280ºF for 2 seconds) making a very shelf-stable product as the milk can keep under refrigeration for several weeks. But usually we are purchasing what is just known and labeled as pasteurized milk, also called as HTST or High Temperature Short Time Pasteurization, in which milk is heated at 161ºF for 15 seconds. This kind of milk can last 2 to 3 weeks in your refrigerator.
With vat pasteurization, milk is held at 145ºF for 30 minutes and then quickly cooled. This retains a high percentage of the milk’s natural enzymes and beneficial bacteria which adds to the flavor and heath benefits of the milk. It lasts about as long in your refrigerator as HTST milk. Many people are turning to vat pasteurized milk as an alternative to raw (or unpasteurized) milk which can be difficult to get in some areas. It tends to cost a little more than conventionally pasteurized milk because the process is lengthier and therefore more expensive.
But how does vat pasteurized milk taste? While I like milk, I don’t generally drink it as a beverage anymore so I poured myself a small glass and took a sip. The texture was richer and creamier than my usual (2%, organic, homogenized, HTST pasteurized) milk. The taste was milk-like, only amplified with a fuller and richer flavor. It didn’t taste quite as sweet and had a slightly grassy finish. It was really delicious stuff, both on its own and in my morning tea!
The cost would prohibit me from buying this milk on a regular basis. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate for special occasions or an occasional splurge. I would love to cook with this milk, for instance, using recipes that would highlight its flavor, such as a panna cotta. Or a fresh, homemade cheese would be delicious.
I’m curious how the lower pasteurization temperature and lack of homogenization would affect recipes. Has anyone had any experience with this?
It should be said that the milk I tried was from St. Benoit, a Sonoma County based dairy that makes great yogurt and some of the best yogurt cheese I’ve ever tasted. They use Jersey cows which are known to produce richer, creamier milk. A quick Google search reveals that many smaller, family-owned dairies across the US are using the vat pasteurizing process and that the milk is less expensive (as with most things!) than it is here.
WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF PASTEURIZED MILK?
The trouble with milk pasteurization is that it can undermine the quality of the milk. Not only does pasteurization kill bad bacteria and pathogens, it also kills or severely damages some of the most important nutrients in the milk, nutrients that make milk the whole, nutrient-dense super food that its proponents claim it to be.
If you’d like to try raw milk, I encourage you to become familiar with the safety considerations. An excellent resource is found in the chapter “The Safety of Raw versus Pasteurized Milk” in Ron Schmid’s book The Untold Story of Milk. Ultimately, it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of any food, raw or pasteurized. Pasteurization doesn’t guarantee safety, as contamination can and does happen after milk is pasteurized. When looking for a safe source of raw milk, look for a dairy that feeds its cows grass and has a reputation for high quality. If you’re in a state such as California that allows the retail sale of raw milk, look for dairies with certified raw milk. Some dairies, such as Organic Pastures, post results of inspections and laboratory analysis of their milk on a regular basis. If you have seriously compromised immunity or are taking immunosuppressive drugs, be particularly diligent about your source of raw milk, or consider skipping dairy altogether.
THE BENEFITS OF PASTEURIZED MILK
Pasteurization is a simple process in which milk is heated to 161º F for 15 seconds. This safe, well-tested process turns raw milk into the pasteurized milk that you can buy at the grocery store. Currently, with many people turning towards “whole foods” and away from processed foods, some people are questioning the benefits of pasteurized milk and milk products. Is pasteurized milk really safer? Is it just another form of processing that should be eliminated?
Raw milk can be a source of pathogens that cause foodborne illness that can result in sickness, hospitalization and death. This is because milk may be contaminated in a variety of ways. Pathogens can be spread through feces, water, soil that may be on the cow’s udder, sores on the teats, or from the hands of the dairy worker. Microorganisms such as Salmonella, Listeria, Yersinia, Campylobacter, Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium bovis, Coxiella burnetii, Brucella, and E. coli are killed or greatly reduced by pasteurization.
Although some claim that raw milk has improved nutritional value, cures diseases, and even tastes better, raw milk has no scientifically documented health benefits. It is strongly discouraged for children, those that are pregnant, elderly, and those with weakened immune systems because they have the greatest risk of food borne illness from raw milk and milk products. Pregnant women also run the additional risk of miscarriage. Is pasteurized milk really safer? Yes! Pasteurization is not just another form of processing that should be eliminated. It is not a process that is mandated to save time or money, but rather a process that is designed for the safety of the consumer.
IS PASTEURIZED MILK UNHEALTHY?
It has fewer enzymes than raw milk but it’s not unhealthy.
Pasteurization kills pathogens that might get in the milk from commercial dairy practices.
I drink raw milk, use raw butter, because I trust the farm I buy from. Their cows are pastured and not cooped up and their machinery is sparkling clean, and they only milk 8 cows at a time, so no crowding, no poop contamination. And of course they clean the teats well too.
But pasteurized is good for you too. It’s just a personal choice for me to buy raw.
No. They pasteurize it so you don’t die of tuberculosis and various other bacteria. It doesn’t TASTE as good, but it’s safer.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T DRINK PASTEURIZED MILK.
First of all, please understand that I do not recommend drinking pasteurized milk of any kind — ever. Because once milk has been pasteurized it’s more or less “dead,” and offers little in terms of real nutritional value to anyone, whether you show signs of intolerance to the milk or not.
Valuable enzymes are destroyed, vitamins (such as A, C, B6 and B12) are diminished, fragile milk proteins are radically transformed from health nurturing to unnatural amino acid configurations that can actually worsen your health. Finally the eradication of beneficial bacteria through the pasteurization process actually ends up promoting pathogens.
The healthy alternative to pasteurized milk is raw milk, which is an outstanding source of nutrients including beneficial bacteria such as lactobacillus acidophilus, vitamins and enzymes, and it is, in my estimation, one of the finest sources of calcium available.
Raw milk is generally not associated with the health problems linked to pasteurized milk, and even people who have been allergic to pasteurized milk for many years can typically tolerate and even thrive on raw milk.
However, some people may still experience problems, such as upper respiratory congestion, when drinking raw milk and the difference between the breeds of cows the milk comes from appears to hold the answer.