HISTORY OF MILK

The history of milk is a fascinating journey that intertwines with the evolution of human civilization and the domestication of animals. As early humans transitioned from a nomadic lifestyle to settled agricultural communities, the realization that certain animals could provide a steady supply of milk marked a pivotal moment. The domestication of animals like cows, goats, and sheep was a transformative development.

Humans first learned to consume the milk of other mammals regularly following the domestication of animals during the Neolithic Revolution or the development of agriculture. This development occurred independently in several global locations from as early as 9000–7000 BC in Mesopotamia.

The history of dairy in the Indian subcontinent goes back roughly 8,000 years to the first domestication of zebu cattle, which is thought to have originated in India. By the beginning of the Indus Valley civilisation (c. 3300 – c. 1300 BCE), zebu cattle had been fully domesticated and used for their milk. Sheep and Goats were also domesticated. In the Vedic period (c. 1500 – c. 500 BCE), milk was one of the primary elements of the typical diet. Milk and milk products including clarified butter were consumed. Yogurt (curd) was another form in which milk was consumed during the period. The Vedas describe curdling of milk by mixing a portion of soured milk into it. They also mention curdling of milk by the addition of plant substances such as the bark of the palash tree and the fruit of jujube, which may have contained rennet-like enzymes. These are some of the earliest documented references to enzymatic cheese-making.

According to the Sutra literature, during the period c. 800 – c. 300 BCE, boiled rice with milk or curd continued to be a common food item. Cows used to be milked twice a day. The ones which were pregnant or undergoing their estrous cycle or nursing a calf of another cow were not milked. The preparation of payasa is also noted. Madhuparka – a mixture of honey with curds or ghee was used for welcoming guests. The preparation of a sweet with clarified butter as one of the ingredients is also mentioned.

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