How to eat colostrum
Colostrum is essential for newborn calves, very beneficial to humans, and – as Sheryn has discovered – simple to cook and delicious to eat.
Once the calves have had their share, I have previously fed any leftover golden colostrum milk to the pigs. They enjoy it.
I’ve always been aware of colostrum’s importance to the newborn calf, and vaguely conscious that some entrepreneur was marketing it as a health supplement. But when my husband and father-in-law would line up for their annual elixir, I would wrinkle my nose. It’s thick and creamy and slightly strong in taste, but my refusal to drink it was more psychological than anything else.
Then an Indian friend came to stay during calving. He was horrified when I ‘wasted’ the remaining 10 litres of colostrum my little Jersey calf couldn’t drink. He rhapsodised nostalgically about ‘first day lollies’ and told stories of lining up and treasuring the once-a-year treat.
I had never even thought about cooking with it. Research unearthed a few recipes from the Middle Ages and India and so many health benefits I could call it a medicine.
The golden touch
According to the marketing, consuming colostrum (bovine colostrum being apparently identical to human colostrum) will reset my hormonal system back to levels associated with youth, boost my immune system to its top fighting form, restore my digestive system to optimal function, and provide my body with every basic essential nutrient known. Oh, and it will help me win an Olympic medal in swimming.
It does this with prebiotics, probiotics, immunoglobulins, IGFS (insulin-like growth factors) and oligosaccharides (which reverse wrinkles). There are a host of other unpronounceable contents but the gist is it’s good for you.
I couldn’t find any information that said I had to be less that six hours old to get the full benefits (as does a calf) or whether all these goodies survive the cooking process, but certainly the original, raw, fresh colostrum is undoubtedly beneficial.
Colostrum cooking experiments
When I started cooking with it last year, I found it incredibly easy, resulting in a beautiful texture and flavour. Of all its components, it is the high protein content of colostrum that influences the cooking.
Basically, colostrum cooks like a milk and egg mix. Bake it slow as a crème brulee, baked custard or bread and butter pudding. Its taste is a little more delicate than an egg and milk mix, and the texture is somewhat smoother.
By itself it is bland, but with a sweetener and flavourings it is an exquisite sweet dessert. I used honey or sugar, vanilla and nutmeg as those are the flavours I like, but Indian junnu or possu calls for sugar, pepper and cardamom or saffron. The Scandinavian dessert kalvdans is just the addition of sugar and salt. All these recipes are slow baked or steamed until set.
The only trick is to get the consistency right and as every cow and milking is different, this can only be done by trial and error. One reference said to bake a small amount in a dish to see how it set first, but I just made mine up and hoped for the best and they all set beautifully.
First day milk is too strong and the recommendation is to dilute this with normal milk, one cup of colostrum to anything between two and six cups of milk. Since I didn’t have any normal milk, I simply used second day milk which was perfect.
Colostrum is a thick, yellow first milk from a cow that has just calved.
A cottage-style cheese made from colostrum.