Saturday, 10 August 2013




          Most farmers in Wayanad supplement their income through a little dairy farming. Besides keeping indigenous cows, these farmers also possess high milk yielding breeds like Jersey and Holstein-Friesian. Each of these cows give 10 to 25 litres of milk a day. The milk which is produced on the day of calving is often quite thick, buttery yellow in colour and smells of eggs. This first milk is so rich that the calf is not allowed to drink more than a couple of litres as overfeeding may lead to indigestion, diarrhea and death. Hence the farmers simply throw the excess first milk down the drain. Some farmers even discard the milk for the first and second week as well.

We were shocked to hear about such wastage which would add up to tens of thousands of litres of fine milk every day. This milk is so rich in fat, proteins, antibodies, calcium, vitamins and other minerals. Have you noticed with what love the mother cow looks at her newborn calf? Naturally, the milk would contain a good portion of this overflowing, unconditional love. How can it be wasted? We hear of so many little children dying of malnutrition and so many people going hungry around the world. Isn’t it right to wonder if it is not the callous wastage of food and the selfishness of humans which leads to such misery?

One of the reasons I freely share my recipes and thoughts with you is due to our earnest hope that the consciousness of many a human being may lose its hardness of heart and warm up with sentiments of love, of the joy of giving, of sharing, of caring for and of comforting all in need. Perhaps we could begin by avoiding wastage of food at home. Maybe we could share excess food, if any, with some neighbours who are old or infirm or poor or with hungry neighbourhood children. I hope we always remember that everybody is a child of Mother Earth and that everyone has a right to enjoy the magnanimous bounty of nature.

We asked our milkman to bring us this freshest first milk whenever one of his cows would give birth. I experimented with this milk and was able to create several wonderful recipes, one of which is the first milk pickle. My family just loves it. I am sure so will you.

To cook the first milk:

Collect as much excess first milk as may be available. Add salt to taste and stir well. Choose a non-stick bowl or vessel which will fit into a steamer. If the bowl is not a non-stick one, line it with butter paper or a non-stick cooking paper or a banana leaf and pour in the milk. Put it in the steamer and steam for 15 to 20 minutes. Open the lid and stick in the tip of a knife to check if cooked. When fully cooked, the first milk will become hard as cheese. Lift out the cooked milk and set aside to cool naturally.

When cool, overturn it on a cutting board, remove the butter paper and cut it into small cubes of around 1 centimeter. If there are too many, you can preserve the excess cubes in brine for later use. To make the brine, boil 500 gm. of salt per litre of water and then tip in the cubes. Boil again for 5 minutes and switch off the heat. When cool, transfer to a dry airtight container. Top it up with 100 ml. of vinegar, close the lid tight and store in a cool dark place. These cubes can be retrieved any time you wish to make more pickle or can be used in place of Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) or can simply be desalted (by soaking in water) and eaten like cheese.


     1)    Fresh or salted first milk cubes (see note) – 800 gm.
     2)    Gingelly oil (sesame oil) – 100 ml.
     3)    Mustard seeds – ½ teaspoon
     4)    Fenugreek seeds – ½ teaspoon
     5)    Peeled garlic cloves – 150 gm.
     6)    Pigeon eye chilies – 15 Nos.
     7)    Peeled ginger – 1 inch piece
     8)    Curry leaves – 1 sprig
     9)    Cinnamon stick – 2 inch piece
     10)     Cloves – 5 Nos.
     11)     Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
     12)     Hot red chili powder – 1½ teaspoons
     13)     Pickle powder – 5 teaspoons
     14)     Garam masala powder – ½ teaspoon
     15)     Mustard powder – 2 tablespoons
     16)     Sugar – 2 teaspoons
     17)     Salt – 1 teaspoon (for salted cubes) OR 1½ teaspoons (for unsalted cubes)
     18)     Water – 600 ml.
     19)     Vinegar – 100 ml.
     20)     Coconut oil or any other cooking oil to deep-fry the cubes – 500 ml.

To cook:

Set a wok or deep pan on high heat. Pour in the coconut oil. As soon as the oil is hot (it should not smoke), tip in the first milk cubes. Stir occasionally till the cubes are golden brown. As the cubes tend to do a little muttering and murmuring as they fry, please do not stand too close to the wok to avoid the chance spitting of hot oil. Once the cubes are golden brown, turn off the heat, lift up the cubes, drain off the excess oil and set aside.

Slit the pigeon eye chilies lengthwise on one side. Chop the peeled ginger to fine bits. Set a wok or a deep frying pan on high heat. Pour in the gingelly oil and throw in the mustard soon as the mustard seeds are about to finish spluttering, lower the heat and throw in the fenugreek seeds. Stir for a minute. Pull the curry leaves off their sprig and throw them in. Tip in the chopped ginger, the garlic and the pigeon eye chilies and stir for 4 minutes on low heat.

Now put in the turmeric powder, the chili powder, the pickle powder, the mustard powder, the garam masala powder, the cinnamon stick, the salt and the sugar and stir for a minute. Chuck in the fried first milk cubes and stir well for 2 minutes. Now pour in the water and turn up the heat. Once it comes to a boil, stir nicely for 2 more minutes and switch off the heat. Once cool, pour in the vinegar and mix well.

Transfer to a sun-dried, airtight container and close the lid tight. Keep undisturbed for at least three days at room temperature. Your mouthwatering first milk pickle is now ready to serve. Open the container and mix the pickle up nicely with a dry spoon. Enjoy with rice or with any other meal.

Bon appétit!!!

     1)    The first milk pickle tastes best when made using fresh first milk cubes. This time, I made the pickle using salted first milk cubes as fresh first milk was not readily available. While using fresh first milk cubes, take care to taste the pickle and add more salt if required.

     2)    First milk pickle, when prepared using salted cubes, can be stored at room temperature for a few weeks (if you can resist the temptation). However, pickle prepared using fresh first milk cubes has to be stored in the refrigerator.

     3)    If first milk is not available, do not fret but simply substitute the first milk cubes with Paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes. Happy? You have excellent Paneer pickle to enjoy!

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