I've been trying to make various fermentations using raw milk I obtain from a local farm. I've been making mostly yogurt and kefir but unfortunately most of my attempts to create these products result in a big chunk of curd surrounded by watery whey that smell of sour milk as opposed to delicious yogurt.
For both the yogurt and kefir, I've used various starters but the result is almost always the same despite the use of a yogurt-maker and careful attention to directions. Note: I have not had this problem using pasteurized milk to make yogurt. What is going wrong here? Is the natural bacteria present in the milk somehow interfering with my attempts? Can anyone offer some tips?
I grew up on raw goat dairy myself and yogurt preparation never seemed to be problematic. Don't know the details of it though. I know my mother now makes kefir from raw milk.
A word on bacteria in milk: there shouldn't be any. An udder is not a place where bacteria hang out. Any bacteria in your raw milk are from contamination after leaving the mammary. This is why handling of raw milk is so essential to getting good product/results.
A group of people from my CSA (the farmers and some of the members) have found that a pasteurized yogurt starter works best for fermenting raw milk into yogurt. We all got really lumpy yogurt from using a raw milk starter, and the product turned out really, really tart. Using a pasteurized starter allowed for more consistent culturing (at least for us). Find a pasteurized yogurt you like and go with that. I have tried several different store-available brands to get the ball rolling. Some give you a smoother, creamier result and some are a little more sour. Good luck!
I haven't ever tried making yogurt, but I make Kefir with raw milk - successfully. I do get a separation of the kefir and the whey - which I consider a good thing, as I can then pour off and save the whey, which leaves me with the delicious kefir.
The whey I bottle and refrigerate, to use when making mayonnaise, or kimchi etc.
I don't find raw milk to be at all temperature sensitive for kefir making. It just sits in my kitchen and takes longer when cold, less time when hot. Like today.
I have tried to make it with raw milk too -- yes never really turns out solid. I am far from being an expert --but maybe the reasons for "result in a big chunk of curd surrounded by watery whey that smell of sour milk" are 1) fermenting for too long (try a short ferment time) 2) it is too warm/hot.
Raw milk needs a little different handling than pasteurized milk when you're trying to ferment it. You're right, one of the reasons is the natural bacteria present in raw milk. This page has some good advice on fermenting raw milk into yogurt successfully:
I make kefir every day. No problems. Usually I give it a stir once or twice. Raw milk yogurt is runnier, but smoother than pasturized. Sometimes for yogurt I use the crockpot to create a warm water bath around jars, but it depends on the organisms and kind of yogurt. Visit Cultures for Health. They have good tutorials, and the products I've purchased have worked everytime
I've made many successful batches of yogurt from raw milk and I never used a yogurt maker. I just sat the warm jar, wrapped in a towel on my counter for 24 hours and had yummy yogurt at the end. I also just used regular whole milk yogurt from pasteurized milk as my starter in my raw milk yogurt. It turned out just fine every time!
I haven't tried kefir.
I have successfully make many batches of crème fraîche from raw cream. Love that ish and so easy to make! Here's a recipe:
How To Make Crème Fraîche
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
Combine 1 cup whipping cream and 2 tablespoons buttermilk in a glass container. Cover and let stand at room temperature (about 70°F) from 8 to 24 hours, or until very thick. Stir well before covering and refrigerate up to 10 days.
FYI, my home is about 72'F. Your home temp might affect your dairy fermenting success.