Don't Cry Over Unrefrigerated Milk: The Mystery of Mini-Moos Explained

Ask ten people to name something that goes sour, and eight of them will say milk (the other two, star-crossed, will say love). We've all poured chunky curds onto our bran flakes, not realizing that the carton-full had passed its prime and was well on its way to feta. Not a pleasant morning surprise.

So how, if milk is one of the least stable things we can think of, can they put half and half into little plastic containers that require no refrigeration and can be left in a saucer on the top of a table in a hot diner in Texas all summer? Cloning sheep is one thing, but no-refrigeration milk? Is it a miracle or a monstrosity?

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Apparently, the process doesn't require Dr. Frankenstein. Heat milk to 161 degrees and it's pasteurized; heat it to 278 for just a few seconds (so it doesn't cook) and you also kill the spores that cause it to break down slowly, thus resulting in what's called UHT: "ultra-high-temperature pasteurization" or simply "ultra-pasteurization."

Ultra-pasteurization creates "shelf-stability" - meaning it doesn't go bad for a long time. But UHT does have its drawbacks, as anyone who's tasted the milk they sell in Europe in cardboard boxes can tell you: not only does it not taste a little chalky, but some nutrients are lost in the process. Still, now that people are used to putting the chem lab that is Coffee-Mate into their java, the slightly odd flavor of Mini Moos compared to regular half and half is unlikely to register.

So, dear reader, raising my mug of morning joe to you, I say miracle not monster! Yes to Mini-Moos! Up with counter-top creamer!

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