Monday, April 12, 2010

Filtering Milk with Snails!!!

Filtering Milk

If you have been following the controversies regarding pasteurization and homogenization of milk, you probably already know more about milk than you ever wanted to know.  However, there is one aspect of milk that isn't controversial-filtering it.  As far as we know, all milk is filtered while it is still warm from the animal.  It is passed through a cloth or paper filter to remove hairs or pieces of straw from the milk.  (Some farmers use our butter muslin for this purpose, cleaning and sterilizing it between milkings.)

Snail Slime

There was a time, however, when cheese making supplies were not available by catalog or online.  We recently published "Cheese and Fermented Milk Foods" by Kosikowski and Mistry, and in Chapter 20 of the second volume, we found an interesting tidbit . . .

It seems that a long time ago, in isolated farmhouses, there were no filters available to cheese makers.  However, they did not appreciate having hairs, dirt, straw, etc. in their milk and cheese.  When the animals were milked, the milk was cooled in shallow pans in caves.  At some point, snails accidentally fell into the milk.  A mucous secretion spread over the milk, trapping the dirt "through some specific particle charge."  The milk beneath was clean!

So, this became the filtering method and living snails were placed in the milk to clarify it.  According to the authors, "Later experiments showed that this application of snails gave a very efficient cleaning."

Well, it certainly is better for the environment than any man-made filter.  It sounds like an interesting science project for a student to try.  (Inspiration might be gained from the video below.)  If anyone does it, please take pictures and let us know about it.  You are guaranteed headline coverage in our newsletter!


English Vintner said...

In my winemaking we add things like bentonite, a clay to the wine. You mix the clay with water and then to the wine. The clay mixes with the wine and than using gravity drops to the bottom dragging down particles making the wine clear without using a filter.

It sounds like sort of the same thing is happening here.

Thanks for the article!

Jeri said...

One of our customers thought we were advocating the use of snails to filter milk and pointed out that snails carry salmonella. So, please be advised that this article was meant to be informative only. We will not be carrying snails in our catalog anytime soon!

Jenny said...

I don't think I could quite stomach that...