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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pouring Milk Down the Drain

This Readers Write letter in the Yated today brings back bad memories of a sour milk experience I had once involving Chalav Yisrael Milk. I can't drink the stuff any longer.

Chalav Yisrael is not something that we keep and I often wonder how big of a dent keep chalav yisrael puts in the budgets of those who keep it. Several of my friends who keep chalav yisrael do have financial issues, but for them chalav yisrael is non-negotiable. But worse yet, the chalav yisrael milk spoils quickly and ends up in the trash, frustrating its drinkers, like the one who wrote the following editorial to the Yated. If anyone has tips on maintaining the freshness of chalav yisrael milk, offer them up. Who knows, maybe it will help someone in need.

Dear Editor,

Does anybody in the Tri-State area have a solution for me? I have a problem that when I buy cholov Yisroel milk, it spoils very soon. I admit that this problem is not as serious as the shidduch crisis or the fact that so many people in our community have fallen ill, but it is a problem nonetheless. Why is it that the cholov stam milk lasts and our milk doesn’t? It’s gotten so bad that I now put one bottle of milk in the refrigerator and the rest I put in the freezer so that it won’t spoil so fast. If you pay $2.79 for one half gallon and you end up throwing out a third, the money adds up. I know that I am not the only person with this problem, because people are always returning milk to the store. What’s the solution? What are the cholov stam dairies doing differently than our Jewish companies? If anybody has any answers, I’d like to read them.Thank you.

Milkless in Monsey

And while we are talking about eliminating food waste, I will offer a few tips of my own and I really want to hear your tips (especially MominIsrael and JugglingFrogs). We have cut down on waste significantly, but I still find some and I get really sad when I have to throw out food. Any tips on keeping children's' eyes and stomachs in sync would be highly appreciated too.
1. I tend to bake smaller challah rolls. We really don't want leftover slices sitting around because nobody wants to eat them, and during the week we usually eat dairy, which renders slices left on the table during Shabbat useless. After Shabbat, I try to remember to freeze leftover whole challah rolls immediately. There are some challah reciepes that call for stale challah processed into bread crumbs. That is a great use for leftover challah if you make kugel. I can't remember the last time I made a kugel.
2. The best storage containers are clear or at least semi-clear, so you can see what is inside. I try to keep leftovers in the front of the refrigerator and jars of things we don't need all the time like pickles at the back. Newer refrigerators have clear baskets for fruit and vegetables, and although I didn't appreciate having to buy a new refrigerator, I really am glad that my produce stares at me every time I open the refrigerator.
3. Plan menus in advance so you know what perishables and produce you need on hand. I've definitely preached stocking up on super bargains. But that does not work for perishables.
4. If your produce on hand is looking sad, make a soup or a rice or grain pilaf. The base of almost any soup and pilaf includes onion and garlic sauteed in olive oil. At least for me, celery is one of the produce items that I find ends up going bad because you don't need nearly as much as you have to buy. Lately, I've been cutting down on waste by sauteing celery alongside onions for pilafs.
5. Fresh herbs are probably the most frustrating produce item for the frugal homemaker. I haven't taken to growing my own and cutting straight off the plant, but I do try to cut down on waste by planning enough side dishes calling for fresh herbs so that they can be used up entirely. If that doesn't work, you can always make a rub for chicken by grinding herbs like cilantro and parsley in a food processor along with garlic, olive oil, and spices commonly found in middle eastern cooking like cumin, paprika, coriander, and turmeric. This mixture can easily be frozen in small portions and used as a rub for grilled chicken.

Let's here your tips.


AS said...

It sickens me to no end that people who are makpid on cholov yisroel have to throw money out the window becasue the milk companies are careless. Here is the answer to your question from Rabbi Yisroel Finman of Chai Kosher Consultations:

The spoilage factor comes into play from two sources. Firstly, cholov
yisroel companies routinely deliver milk through the night. The milk is
left in unrefrigerated areas, such as the hallways of yeshivas or behind the stores' rolldown gates. Secondly, many kosher retailers have inadequate refrigeration sysytems. Each hour that milk is left at room temperature will detract one day from its' shelf life. How can these companies sleep at night?

Charlie Hall said...

We don't keep CY in part because of the unreliability of supply, in part because there are some kosher dairy restaurants that we enjoy that are owned by non-Jews, and in part because CY cheese and ice cream is not as high quality. (Try Cabot's OU Kosher Sharp Cheddar and you may never eat CY cheddar cheese again.) But we also save quite a bit of money by eating CS. A CS kosher dairy cake at Stop and Shop costs half what a similarly sized CY cake from a Jewish bakery costs and tastes just as good.

Leah Gayle said...

My great-grandfather owned a dairy farm, and today we own shares in a herd of cows and receive fresh, unpasteurized milk every Tuesday, two half gallon glass bottles. We only use this milk for drinking, not for cooking - I buy milk from the grocery store for cooking, which is, of course, supposedly pasteurized. (Both are kosher, so there's no difference there.) Invariably, the fresh milk outlasts the store-bought milk, which should theoretically be impossible since the store bought milk is pasteurized. So I have for some time had serious doubts about the quality of the pasterization process used by the kosher milk producers that we have tried. I think they are doing something wrong - no doubt some shortcut of some kind do cut costs. As for how to keep it fresh longer, really all you can do is turn down your fridge to a colder setting and put the milk all the way in the back. You might, just out of curiosity, try transferring the milk to glass containers as soon as you get it home. It's possible, I suppose, that the cardboard cartons are defective - not the processing. If what they say above is true about leaving it in warm places, you might try switching to a larger retail store that is open 24 hours.

Ariella's blog said...

Actually the quality in maintaining freshness of chalav Yisrael has improved a great deal. I find it usually keeps fresh for close to a week now, though you must always take the NYC date stamped (which is several days earlier than the other date on it) as an indication of how many days of usability you have. I've also noted that some stores' stock offers chalav Yisrael with much later dates than others. For example, when I came home with a half gallon of Golden Flow from Brach's, I saw that the nearly finished chalav Yisrael that I had picked up in Gourmet Glatt (which has somewhat higher prices on the milk) had a later date than the milk I just bought -- 5 days later! If you buy it from a store that still takes pride in serving its customers, the store will take it back for exchange if it has spoiled before the date stamped on the bottle. Now that milk prices have escalated tremendously, the difference between the chalav Yisrael and regular milk price is actually not that great. In some stores the price is nearly the same for the half gallon size. You only really save more on the regular milk if you purchase the gallons at places that have them on special for, say $3.29, $3.49 or $3.69 a gallon, depending on where you are. Paying the $4 that some stores charge does not offer great savings at all.

The real difference in cost is that chalav Yisrael ice cream NEVER goes on sale for $2.99 a container, and the yogurts never go on sale for 2 or even 3 for $1 as the Dannon ones do. There is also a higher price for cream cheese and cottage cheese, though the difference in price on the solid cheeses is very small. And chalav Yisrael hot cocoa mix costs far more than the Nestle's that often is on sale.

Looking Forward said...

(firstly, we don't live near new york and have to import and freeze our cholov yisroel milk)

When ever we get new york cholov yisroel milk (new square, ahava) it always goes bad so quickly. It freezes even worse, and milk that was good before it was frozen and would have lasted for 3 days wont last 12 hours after being frozen.

By comparison when we get pitsburg milk, it'll keep for a week whether frozen or not (obviously after de frosting).

and also, I notice that you get better results defrosting milk in the sink, and then putting it in the fridge before its fully defrosted (the ice in the milk will keep it from getting above refrigeration tempreture.)

Anonymous said...

As was previously posted there are many reasons your milk is spoiling quickly. CY is a total ripoff and it's the producers who are ripping you off.

If you're going to pay that kind of money for milk, ditch the CY and buy organic. I buy organic milk from Fairway that has a sell-by date of a month and more ahead of my buy date and it keeps very well.

As I don't use a lot of milk I have kept it up to the sell buy date at which point I usually throw it out anyway.

Selena said...

Cholov Yisroel can be a very expensive chumra to keep. I know a family who was having trouble paying their tuition. They asked a shaila to their rav, what should they do. He asked what chumras are they keeping and when they told him Cholov Yisroel, he told them to stop. They are now saving 30 dollars a WEEK on their grocery bills.

As for celery, I also have trouble with throwing it away. I have 2 tips:

1. I have a great recipe for meatballs with a sauce made from celery and peas. It uses almost a whole head of celery.

2. I sometimes buy the loose peices of celery. It is a few more cents per pound, but then I can buy only the 3 peices I need, rather than a whole head.

I do make a veggie soup almost every week, and that does help me get rid of older produce.

Orthonomics said...

I think the real cost of Chalav Yisrael is in the price of other products besides milk. I can get ice cream for $1.99 (Breyers). I (almost) never pay for that $0.50 for a yogurt. Thousands of products are OUD. I'm not surprised that a family could end up ahead $120 a month ($30 * 4).

Ilana said...

Just this week I was thinking about how to reduce food waste in our house, especially of fruit. I've tried hiding the newer fruit in the back of the fridge so that people will eat the older fruit first, but we often just forget it's there and then it gets old! Sometimes I don't know where to put away new fruit since the fruit drawer is full of older fruit. I got fed up with wasting food, and consulted with my children. Here's the system we came up with. I hope it will help!

I usually do my food shopping on Mondays. We decided that every Sunday afternoon I will inventory the fruit and put older fruit into a plastic basket in the fridge. The newer fruit will go into the fruit drawer on Mondays, but we will all take fruit from the basket before we start on the fruit in the drawer. I think this will help a lot. Plus, my kids really like fruit salad, so I can always use older fruit that way. Wish us success!

Commenter Abbi said...

Old challa slice solution: French Toast.

I learned from my neighbor to make it a standard dinner for my kids.

Who doesn't like french toast?

mother in israel said...

Third time lucky. I hate comment verification. But the comment gets more coherent each time!
1. Herbs. Wash, shake dry, spread sprigs on a tray and freeze. Then freeze in a bag to use one at a time. Or share fresh herbs with a friend. Or chop with garlic and soak in olive oil for pesto. Or wash and dry very carefully, and keep in the fridge in a glass jar.
2. Celery. I always separate the stalks and wash them all, so they are ready to use in soups and casseroles. You can freeze them raw whole, sliced, or chopped. You can saute chopped celery, with or without onions, and freeze in small portions. I add celery to everything and never need to freeze it.
3. Fruit. Square Peg's point is excellent, we need to find ways to use up the old food before eating the tempting new produce. Think about how you will use up the produce when it's fresh, not just before it goes bad. I use most of the weekly potatoes for Shabbat, but I cook them pareve so that I can use them in other recipes during the week. I make a mental note of how many are left raw, in order to plan how to use them up (for lunch with cottage cheese? in quiche? casserole? vegetable soup? mashed potatoes? if desperate kugel or cholent for next shabbat?) It depends how many are left, what quality, and what I want to combine them with. Sometimes I just cook them all; they are fine in the fridge for a good few days. Old fruit is good in a challah/bread kugel with eggs, sugar and milk. My kids love microwaved sliced fruit, cook and stir occasionally until covered with juice; don't add water.

Lion of Zion said...


"I've also noted that some stores' stock offers chalav Yisrael with much later dates than others."

i once had a long conversation with the owner of a local bagel store about CY. she told me she is amazed at the dates she sees stamped on new CY deliveries, as there is not way milk can stay fresh that long.

miriamp said...

I don't think switching from CY to CS would save us very much. What's the price difference on a big stack of American cheese (you have to buy Jewish brands anyway, there is no generic non-Jewish brand that happens to be Kosher the way there is with cream cheese) and on string cheese? That's the only dairy in the house. Oh, and J2 pizza (we pay $9/box) but isn't most frozen Kosher pizza CY anyway? We don't drink milk. (Got out of the habit when we moved to where you have to order it special, but didn't get it every week even before that.) We buy parve ice cream, but only as an occasional treat. (1 milk allergic, 3 lactose intolerant family members + mostly shabbos use anyway) We rarely get yogurt. True, we'd get it more often if we could get the CS, but that only means it would wind up costing us more than it does now. Dairy snacks that are also available parve like crackers and pretzels are annoying to keep track of in a mostly parve/fleishig house, and Drake's Cakes being off limits saves us money and lbs.

But we're probably the only family that works for.

miriamp said...

Oh, and I really miss chocolate bars, but again, that saves money and lbs, since we don't go out of the way to buy CY chocolate, we just do without unless it's special for YomTov or something, and then we buy parve stuff. Has anyone noticed that there's no Kosher parve chocolates anymore, outside of Heimish brands? I can get parve chocolate chips (for baking and snacking) from Walmart and Stop & Shop, but that's the only parve non-heimish chocolate I can find at all!

Anonymous said...

I think suggesting families give up CY for financial reasons as it seems to be here comes accross as a bit dismissive of minhagim that have significant importance to many frum families. There has been a lot written in chassidus of the effects of eating CY v. CS (clearly not a topic to be debated here) and i think an off-hand remark doesnt really show much sensitivity.

There are many ways to keep CY while not spending too much on dairy. I for one, am very careful to check the dates and buy only the "newest" milk. if there is only milk that i know was in the store earlier in teh week, dont buy it, b/c i dont want to have to waste it. also, like the poster above said, you can always just buy less dairy products. noone NEEDS yogurt every day. I really limit the ice cream, shredded cheeses, etc. that i buy and often will use soy/rice/almond milk or products instead. there are plenty ways to be financially responsible while still keeping CY, it just requires some change in habits, which i know isnt easy, but is certainly do-able.

Anonymous said...

I used to live in Monsey...

Cholov Yisrael milk goes bad quickly because the frum stores think they are above health codes and basic sanitation. I remember seeing large pallets of milk and eggs left on the hot sidewalk outside Rockland kosher for hours on hot summer days. A friend of mine shared a hot car trip for 2 hours with a pallet of gefilte fish from Monsey to Lakewood in the Monsey-Lakewood van (unrefridgerated). There's a good reason cholov yisrael milk goes bad fast.

On a similar vein, I went to a chassuna at Beis Faiga in Lakewood. Not only was there no soap in the bathroom, there was no soap dispenser (meaning, they weren't just out, but didn't think washing the hands beyond a two-handled cup was important). The people serving FOOD used the same bathroom. Ever wonder why dysentery is a common affliction in the more frum communities? Now you know...

Anonymous said...

There is a great difference between two large CY brands in Brooklyn in terms of how long they last. NYS Assemblyman Hikind has mentioned it on his radio program (you could call his office for details). I can personally attest to it. When I used one brand soilage was a serious problem. When I switched it almost disappeared.

Anonymous said...

Another Jewish Accountant – There is one reason and one reason only to keep CY and that is to provide Yidden with parnasah. Period. All the other fluff about minchagim and chumras is just a wool over people’s eyes. If Yidden cannot compete with the regular market and provide their product at the same price and same quality, then there is no obligation to keep CY. IMO Yidden hike up a price and because they know that ignorant people will buy their product anyway. There is a word for this kind of practice = monopoly.

As far as yogurt is concerned; yes it is necessary to eat yogurt on daily basis. There are numerous studies which show that one yogurt a day prevents infectious deseases, especially in women.

Anonymous said...

mlevin, i will respectfully disagree with your comment. I will not say my way is better than your way, as clearly we will not reach agreement on this one. However, if you learn chassidus and try to follow its precepts in your daily life (as i do) keeping CY is very important. The reasoning has nothing to do with providing anyone with parnasah. I assume the cost is higher than that of non CY products becuase they are manufactured on a much smaller scale, and have additional costs to produce (extra mashgiach).

that said, there is no reason it should spoil any quicker, and as I said, i dont find that i waste milk due to spoilage. based on other comments above, it seems that I am lucky that the market i shop at (and distributor) keep the milk refrigerated to maintain (not increase) shelf life.

Anonymous said...

CY milk will also do better if you buy it at a non-Jewish store (like ShopRite, Pathmark, SFW, etc) that happens to carry it, than if you buy it at a Jewish store. The non-Jewish stores will be much more careful with refridgeration and food safety. Ironic that the people who are supposed to crave life and health are so amazingly careless with it.

jewchick said...

mlevin - thank you for pointing out the health factors. Milk and yogurt are a very important part of the whole familys diet. Especially young children, women, and older adults. No one should be missing out on the importance of the calcium and the bacteria in yogurt because CY makes it too expensive.

Anonymous said...

Another Jewish Accountant - Since when Chassidus is more important than health, morality, ethics and satisfaction with life?

You are advocating that people who follow chassidus eat only CY or no dairy products. That is detrimental to their health. You also advocating that CY is more important then not cheating your customers and treating the merchandise for your customers with respect (timely refrigeration of CY).

As far as your excuse for extra cost is conserned, those are just excuses. Definition of CY is that it's Jewish milk, milked and run by Jews only. No extra cost for mashgiach needs to be done. There is no need to certify on regular basis that worker is Jewish. As far as farm size is concerned, that is not an excuse either. Either expand your business or close it. There are plenty of small goyishe milk farms and they somehow able to provide a competative price.

What it boils down to is that these Jewish farmers know that many people will pay extra for CY despite how poor they are. In other words they artificially hike up a price. If people realized that CY is not a requirement, they would simply stop buying CY until prices comedown to the CS prices. Until that time they are being cheated and their rabbis close their eyes to the theft.

Anonymous said...

We live on a failry tight budget, but manage to stretch it quite far. We hardly ever go out. We cook all our food ourselves from scratch (no intstant mix or pre-cooked, frozen things.) This is for two reasons - it is healthier (you know exactly what is in your food) and also it is much, much cheaper.

We always get the supersale items. If we don't need them right away we freeze them so they keep better.

When I cook, I often cook twice or three times the amount we need, and freeze the food. That way we never feel the need to order take away food, because there is always an easy option in the freezer to heat up, and it takes as long to heat it as it would to wait for the delivery.

Rather than going out we entertain at home. It is cheaper for us to provide nuts, some drinks (maybe even a bottle of wine it is in the evening)and home made snacks than for us to have two drinks and a snack in a cafe/restaurant with friends.

I love my freezer (if you couldn't tell already.) I freeze everything. I buy vegetables and fruits when they are cheap and make sauces, cakes, pies, quiches, lasagnas, stews etc and freeze them for later use. This is a major saving point in our shopping. We also bake our own bread and challot in bulk and freeze. We bake our own cookies, and make our own sweets. Things that are made for you are so costly, and this is where we save a lot of money. (Baruch H' we both like to cook and bake!)

I am flexible. When I go to the supermarket or the market I have a general idea of what I am going to make, but if the ingredients are very expensive, I opt for other cheaper options.

I buy things in bulk. Tinned goods, dry goods, toiletpaper, soap, detergent etc don't go bad, and can be organized accordingly. A good storage place/room cannot be overestimated! This means that I don't ever have to buy things at a more expensive price. I buy when it suits me, not just because I need it at that moment, which means that i will wait until they are on sale, or part of a deal. Then I buy a lot.

I guess the bottom line is I live like they did in the 'good old days.' I plan ahead and cook for myself. I follow the seasons when it comes to meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. And I stock up.

Good luck!