My First Cream


This is the cream line.

My first cream came off the top of a half-gallon pitcher of milk. The rest of the milk from the first day’s milking went down children’s throats before there was time for me to separate it. I guarded this pitcher against invasion and eagerly waited for the next day to take off the cream.

I used a small measuring cup to ladle it off the top and into a small bowl.

Then I transferred it to a small dispenser to use as coffee cream.

Because, be serious, it’s not enough cream to do anything else with. I got about 2/3 cup.

When I did a search about how much cream to expect from a gallon of milk, I found that commonly in the winter, you can expect a quart of cream per gallon, and in the summer, somewhat less. This difference is because most often cows are getting richer food in the winter (more supplemental hay and feed) than they are in the summer when they’re more likely on pasture. Still, per half-gallon, that would suggest I should expect a pint (if it were winter) and something less in summer. We’re in-between those seasons right now, but our cow is still mainly on hay and feed anyway. Two-thirds cup from a half-gallon seems pretty slight, so I’m wondering if my cream separating might need work. There was more cream in the pitcher, but I couldn’t get it out without getting milk mixed in with it so I stopped.

I’ve been tossing around the idea of putting the milk in a big glass jar with a spigot at the bottom (like a sun tea jar). Let the cream rise then release the milk out of the spigot at the bottom till all that’s left is cream. I may try that–when I find a big glass spigot jar.

I’m thinking a cream separator would be really handy, but they’re a little on the expensive side. Uh, I don’t think so!

How about some free advice instead? Help? I need cream.

Update: Thank you for all the tips! What’s working well for me now, thanks to your advice, is using a large bowl and skimming off the top. I’m getting much more cream that way!


  1. Jersey Lady says:

    OK,regarding cream…I actually have one of those table top separators we acquired somewhere along the line but have never used as it just looks like too much trouble to mess with for one cow.
    I have one of those spigot jars that I use sometimes. Mostly I just scoop off what cream I need. I keep my milk in 1/2 gallon RubberMaid pitchers that are made for mixing orange juice. They have a plunger deal with a handle that goes through the lid so you can stomp it up and down and mix in the cream.
    My MinniCow (Jersey) gives 25-28# of milk per milking times 2 equals 50-56# of milk per day.I think milk is 8.6# per gallon so that is about 6 gallons per day and 42 gallons per week.I get better than an inch of cream on the top of each of my pitchers.
    My kids are grown and gone and right now the chickens and pigs (who used to help us drink all this good stuff) are in the freezer so you can guess that with just Hubs and me, we are drowning in milk. I need to get serious on hard cheese because it will help use up more of the flood.Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the bounty, but right now my cup, and pitcher, and pail runneth over!

  2. etienetteblue says:

    How about one of those pint-size lucite gravy-fat separator pitchers. Should work to separate milk from the cream in a similar way and much cheaper than a separator. It would also be multi-purpose in the kitchen as well.

  3. Alison says:

    Hi I was curious so I did some google searching. I found a few cream separators that are cheaper than the one at lehmans. Good luck and have fun with your cream. ๐Ÿ™‚ ~A
    One was on

    One is a one made by a small family business.

    And one on a site I have not heard of before. ( I don’t know how reputable they are or not.

  4. Karen Anne says:

    Jersey, what are those #s standing for?

    I miss the way milk used to come for us city folks, in glass bottles with the cream on top.

  5. Sheila Z says:

    If memory serves me correctly the strippings (the last bit of milk in the udder are higher in butterfat) so that’s another reason why it’s important to milk the cow out completely at each milking. Your milk and cream production may increase as the cow gets more comfortable with you and lets her milk down better and you become better at milking her out all the way.

    Individual cows also vary greatly in butterfat production. You may have a cow that is just a low fat producer. It happens. Our cows were tested monthly and it’s amazing to have herd records and find out these differences. Breed averages put a Brown Swiss at around 4% butterfat, but individual animals can vary widely. We had Holsteins that consistently beat the breed average and produced double the average butterfat content. At the same time we had a Jersey that never made over 2% butterfat. Needless to say she was culled because besides being a crappy producer she had a bad attitude.

    The spigot jug sounds like a better solution than a separator. From everything I’ve read separators are a pain to clean. Not worth the time for one cow.

  6. Sheila Z says:

    I believe #’s means pounds. Milk is commercially sold by the hundredweight. There are 8.6 pounds to the gallon.

  7. Kathy says:

    I used to buy milk from a neighbor down the road. It had a ridiculous about of cream. I honestly don’t remember how we used to seperate the cream, but I used to make butter with it in the blender. You put in the cream, a handful of ice cubes and start the blender. The next thing you know there’s little “marbles” of butter floating around. You strain those out, place in a bowl and salt lightly. The stuff was to die for. You can do the same thing in a canning jar, but you better have a good arm or some help. A tabletop model works pretty good too, the kind with the paddle inside the glass bottom. You can still find them on line and at alot of hardware stores. I see cheese of all kinds in your future. Much success to you!

  8. Becky says:

    For 4-h we made cream with our mixer. Took just a few minutes!!

  9. Becky says:

    Sorry we made butter, with our mixer.

  10. carsek says:

    The longer it sets the more cream comes to the top, but for the MOST crem you need a cream seperator. And it is a pain to clean but the most effective way to get cream. The leftover milk is called blue milk. Looks yummy!!

  11. Minna says:

    If you REALLY want to get a cream separator and don’t mind whether it’s a used one or not, you might try swapping stuff. I certainly have gotten a lot of things that way. And of course gotten rid of things I don’t need.

  12. glenda says:

    If you do the math, Suzanne (I just did but lost the darned post)your 96 oz/3/4 gallon of milk at 5% BF (breed average) would come to 4.8 oz of cream. You got 2/3 cup/5/.33 oz so she is going above the breed average!

    When you really see a lot is when she is giving 4-5 gallons of milk daily.

    I put my milk in a wide topped crock; let sit overnight, skimmed with a small metal ladle and saved until I got enough to churn.
    I still have my electric butter churn. My dear shorthorn’s BF isn’t up to butter-making proportion!

    I you are both doing great!

  13. trish robichaud says:

    i have never had the pleasure of tasting fresh milk .i missed out on alot of things in life that should have been how God intended.however, you all that have, make it alright by your farm stories. thanks i love it. what about semi freezing the milk? then just scrape off the cream. have a beautiful day everyone

  14. Jill Harper F says:

    I saw one of those big spigot jars at Walmart recently – not glass, plastic. I was happy about that because I want to carry mine out to the picnic table in the summer or to church and glass would be heavy and I’d worry about it breaking.

    Check with the summer/picnic items at walmart.


  15. Peggy says:

    When separating grease from meat juice I use a ladle. I push the bowl part straight down into the grease and remove grease only. When I get to the end when I see juice starting to go into the bowl of the ladle I remove the grease in the ladle even if it isn’t full.

    If you chilled the cream and whipped it you would have had a lot of whipping cream. Now if you want the cream to make something else you would be short. Your chickens were lucky, because I can think of lots of ways to use the milk.

  16. Karen Anne says:

    Thanks, Sheila.

    I don’t think I want to know what “culled” means…

  17. melissa says:

    A suntea pitcher seems like it would work. What about one of those measuring cups you can use to separate the fat from cooking liquids.

  18. KAR says:

    ‘Culled’ means used for other purposes, whether sold to someone else who doesn’t mind the cow’s shortcomings, or made into a picnic delicacy. (On a bun perhaps.) Although dairy cattle are not the first choice for meat for the freezer.

  19. Carol says:

    My grandparents only had one cow, but they used a separator (it looked to be cast iron??). Grandma churned butter by hand. We called the ‘blue’ milk buttermilk, and I thought it was delicious. I still have her butter bowl.
    When my mother was a child, Grandma took her extra butter (and eggs) to the local store to trade for other things. To her, shopping was “doing your trading”.
    Thanks, Suzanne, for reminding me of those days I spent with my grandparents. And good luck with your butter.

  20. Kathi says:

    I have goats, and was struck by how yellow your cow’s milk is – goat milk and cream are very white, and goat butter is also pure white (wierd looking!).

    We bought a cream separator on eBay for less, but it was still pricey. Goat’s milk has to stand for several days before the cream rises; it’s naturally homogenized.

    I’ve seen sun tea jars used to separate milk from cream.

  21. Jane says:

    How about a gravy/oil separator? It is the same principal, but should be quite inexpensive.

  22. Connie Crowl says:

    I bought a herdshare and pick a gallon of milk up on Mondays. I skim the cream and put it in a canning jar and freeze it. I do this until I have enough to churn butter in my 4 qt. electric butter churn. This works for me. Leave the all your collected cream out until it is room temperature then churn.

  23. Hlhohnholz says:

    A straight-handled ladle is the cheapest way to get the most cream off of your milk, but a separator is the easiest, and gives you ALL the cream, instead of most. ๐Ÿ˜€

  24. CountryBell says:

    I live on a dairy farm and of course, we use our own milk. I LOVE it…and I am always telling my husband to save me the cream (He likes to drink it as whole milk). I separate it after it has been chilled over night (it separates more and is thicker) and I use a ladle. I just skim it right off the top of the pitcher that the milk is in. Although…I am really liking the spigot idea. That is wonderful. You’d be sure to get the milk from the cream that way.
    I use my cream for many different things. I make butter with my mixer, make different sauces (alfredo!!), use it in coffee, make up a sweet cream drizzle for over top of warm fruit pies, add it to my mac&cheese and casseroles instead of milk…the possibilities are endless!!!!!
    I hope you enjoy your new cow, her milk and the cream. :moo: I LOVE it!

  25. cake says:

    You will have better luck with ‘skimming the cream’ if you use large stainless steel bowls or crocks. Put your whole fresh milk in the bowl, refrigerate, when the cream rises you can ladle it off the larger surface with ease. Then you can decant the milk into a pourable pitcher.

  26. Abiga/Karen says:

    My goodness. I so want a cow now! But I want a nice friendly good natured cow. I have heard such horror stories about trying to milk stubborn cows. We had trouble enough milking the goats like you had trouble with Clover. Blessings.

  27. Patrice says:

    I’ll be curious to see if you try the big glass jar with the spigot. I would think it might work. Getting cream off was always the most challenging part for us. I learned to put the milk in the fridge first so it can all get to the top. A wider container makes it easier to skim with a ladle. I don’t recommend making too much butter with the canning jar/shake like crazy method. It will kill your arms. We’d have every member of the family shaking because hubby and I had overdone it. At one point I remember handing it to my toddler and getting her to jump up and down to shake it. The first time she thought it was fun. AFter a few times she said “no thanks mommy” and ran off to play. :moo:

  28. Michelle says:

    We always put our milk in the frig; the cream gets firmer and easier to skim off that way.

  29. Anne says:

    Sorry, this is obviously going to be an “I’m from the city and have never been on a farm” question, but do you at all pasteurize your milk? Does it taste very different from store-bought milk?

  30. Debbie in Memphis says:

    Would a baster work to get the cream? My grandparents used to raise dairy cows, but I don’t remember what they used to get the cream off the top. But now I wish I had a cow…I’m having dreams of fresh milk and cream and all the wonderful things I could make with them.

  31. Patti says:

    Hi Suzanne. I was a very, very little girl(about 3 or 4) when my parents lived on a farm in Missouri. I can’t remember too much about it, but I thought I had seen my mom (or heard her talk about it)strain fresh milk through cheesecloth into a very large wide mouth jar. I do know that this was to strain out any “milking debris” that may have gotten into the bucket my dad used when he milked the cow. I think she then put the “good” milk in the fridg. The cream would rise to the top and coagulate so it was easier for her to scoop it out (I think she just used a spoon). We didn’t have an authentic butter churn that I can remember, so I have no clue how she “churned” the cream into butter, but I know she did it somehow. Does anyone else have similar rememberences?

  32. Trina says:

    A girl I used to work with Mom had a cow and she would freeze the cream until she had enough to fill her ice cream maker and make the BEST homemade ice cream ever!!! :cowsleep:

  33. Zabby says:


    I have a gravy separator like etiennette blue mentions, but it holds a quart. Bought it from a shmancy ktichen stuff store going out of business. Same idea as the spigot Suntea jar but easier to fill, empty, and clean. The spout comes from the bottom, so you poour off the broth from your roast and the fat stays on top.

    It works very well to separate the fat from the broth for gravy and I bet it would work for cream.


  34. lavenderblue says:

    When you read “Little House on the Prairie” type books, they talk about “skimming cream from the pans”. Wonder if that means you get more cream by pouring it into flat pans to set? Of course they didn’t have Sun Tea jars….

    One lady I know told me she always churned her butter for dinner by using the jar method and rolling it back and forth on the floor with her toe as she rocked her babies. Since you don’t have a baby maybe you could churn while you rock and knit?

  35. Johanna says:

    My friend Beth uses a turkey baster to get the cream off the top. It’s delicious whipped and used on very chocolatey desserts! Or in coffee. Or on your oatmeal in the morning…!!!

  36. Nursecookie says:

    I think your idea of a bottle with lower spiket is a good one. But does it have to be glass?? I got one of those plastic picnic jugs with spiket at the bottom last year at Walmart for $1.00. Its 1 1/2-2 gallons. The top screws off and has a large opening. I’ve also seen them at the dollar stores cheap.

  37. Nursecookie says:

    And when I graduate from kindergarten next week, maybe I’ll learn to spell spigot. I’m good at many things, but spelling isn’t one of them. ๐Ÿ˜•

  38. Ted says:

    Actually, most antique separators go for about 100-200 dollars… USD. Don’t waste money on a brand-new cheap plastic one!

  39. Diana H says:

    I know some folks who have a goat and when they want to milk it (they actually have several) they put it up a ramp onto a platform in their little barn and the goats head goes into a hole so it can eat a treat of something that is on the other side. They then lift the goat’s leg back and put it into a loop strap they have on the wall behind the goat. Then they milk em with no trouble. Their kids milk all the goats so this might be why. I saw it done and the goats seemed happy about it.

    I dont have a cow nor a goat (hope to one day) but I do nurse my baby (lol) and they do say that you should nurse completely on one side before switching so that the baby gets some of the richer ‘hind milk’

  40. LauraP says:

    If you’re not stripping out at each milking, you’re not getting the richest milk and are missing a good portino of the butterfat. Also, in the pictures your cow looked a little on thin side — not much different than mine now, which is just what happens after a rough winter, especially if she’s had a calf on her. Milkfat goes up when they regain condition and with richer feed. And as someone said, it also varies from one cow to the next.

    For skimming, find something with a thin edge. Stainless steel gravy spoon or ladle, stainless steel measuring cup — all the stores around here have them, so they must be the thing now. Those rounded edges on the plastic measuring cup aren’t so good for skimming cream – you can’t get the thinner layers without getting too much milk, too.

  41. Ulrike says:

    I admit I’ve never separated cream from milk before, but my first thought was a turkey baster. Suck that cream right off the top! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  42. LK says:

    I have some things to add.

    I find that if you wait a minimum of 48 hours after milking, you will get most of the cream. You need to use a shallow spoon to skim it off with, as other things will grab the heavy cream and you will end up with milk mixed in. Then when you try to make butter, it won’t work. You want no or extremely little milk in your cream. The heaviest always works best. If you get too much cream, you will need a dasher-style churn (you can make these homemade, you know).

    To get your cow to give more cream, give her barley chop (2 ice cream pails once a day or if you do 2ce a day, 1 gal./milking). We find that we get 1 qt. of heavy cream off of 1 gal. of milk this way (and this is “skimmed off the top” cream). If you don’t use as rich of a chop (such as oats), you will get less cream. Our cows both loved it and reward us with LOTS of wonderful, tasty cream. As the weather warms, you will get more milk and richer, more yellow cream with the greening up of the pasture.

    I would think that a jar with a spigot would leave too much milk in the cream. Thought about doing that, nixed that idea quickly. IF you can find something that truly has the spout on the bottom, this has been done in the past, and does work. A baster can work. I have used one, but prefer skimming.

    You can find separators for less if you ask around. Make sure that it does work and is missing NO parts before purchasing. You need to make sure that the set screw is not missing from the bowl (the part that spins). We have a hand-crank from 1927 and a newer (50s-60s) motorized one. Our separator is missing its set screw. It gives VERY skim milk and hard cream this way. All it takes is a little 5-10 min. massage to make butter. I like a little more cream in my milk, though, so I skim.

    I clean our stainless steel separator parts in the dishwasher. To get it extra clean, use 1 T. of citric acid in with your dishwasher det. These parts are generally the bowl. To clean the spouts, you can use a baby bottle brush.

    Make sure that your fridge is at a temp. of 32*-40*F. This is the ideal temp. I would highly advise getting a fridge thermometer to make sure that your fridge is cold enough. We find that it stays sweeter longer this way. We have had it remain good for a minimum of 5 days at this temp.

    I would HIGHLY recommend getting the book, “The Family Cow” by Dirk van Loon published by Storey publ. It will have all kinds of ready answers to any of your questions. It is very thorough…an excellent book! :moo:

    We don’t pasteurize. If you have proper hygiene in your milking process, you shouldn’t ever need to do so. Only if your milk is unfiltered, your cow’s udder is unclean, if your cow stirs the milk in the pail with her foot, will you get sick. You throw that kind of stirred milk out (or give it to the pigs)! It is not the good “chocolate” milk! :bugeyed: Pasteurizing kills the good along with the bad, and when your milk goes sour, it is rotting. When unpasteurized milk goes sour, it just goes sour. Another thing, I have found that I get sick on warm bought milk and not with warm raw milk. I don’t like the thought of dead things floating around in my milk either. :no:

  43. Glenda says:

    Here is just a thought from personal experience. Could your cow be holding out on you? Willow was through two calves. I accidentally found out when I delayed milking one morning and for some reason she completely let down. I was amazed at the cream and the amount of milk…yet her udder seemed flabby before. I just didn’t know how flabby it could be!

    The old rule of thumb when dairying was fiber makes butterfat (cream); protein (grains top quality hay or forage makes volume.

    I am doing once a day milking now and am getting about a quart per gallon of cream. Willow is getting very little grain and is on spring grass where the protein content is very high. I am close to drying her, May 29th.

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