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While cows remain the number one producer, other animals such as sheep, goats, and reindeer also provide milk.
Milk is valued for its calcium content as well as a host of added vitamins, including D, B-12, and K. Whole, or full-cream, milk is high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Reduced or low fat products offer the same good nutrients.
The memories of a horse-drawn truck carrying racks of glass bottles filled with milk have long since given way to plastic and wax-coated containers stacked on refrigerated shelves.
The history of milk exists long before that, however, with consumption noted as early as 8,000 B.C. It was an exclusive privilege that did not spread to the masses until the 14th century or later.
The type of milk you choose will depend on the intended use. Buttermilk, evaporated, sweetened condensed, powdered, and liquid shelf-stable varieties are among the most readily available.
• Products sitting on the lowest shelf in the back row are usually the coldest. They will often have a later “sell by” date.
• For canned dairy products, check for dust and dents.
Homogenized milk will last for up to ten days in the refrigerator. Always follow the “use by” date and take the sniff test before pouring. Keep milk on an inside refrigerator shelf; never in the door.
Powdered milk will remain usable for several months if kept in a cool, dry spot.
Shelf-stable and condensed products can be kept for about six months unopened. Once used, refrigerate and consume within a few days.
Dairy is an essential part of the food pyramid and should be incorporated into most dietary routines. It would be difficult to obtain the recommended amount of calcium without some type of milk product.
The type of alternative ingredient you use will depend partially on the recipe:
• Nonfat milk is a great fat-lowering substitute for use in gravies and desserts.
• Whole or low-fat milk can replace buttermilk in some recipes, but the flavor will not be as rich.
Instead of regular homogenized milk, try:
• ½ cup evaporated milk plus ½ cup water