When it first touched our lips, all we could think of was the hairy, humped creature it came from. We wanted answers to our paranoid questions: When was this stuff shipped? Has it been properly refrigerated? Will we be projectile vomiting within a half hour? How did someone manage to get a seven-foot-tall animal to stay still long enough to be milked?
After a few sips, though, our fears of impending illness and the image of frothy milk being squeezed from the teats of a kicking dromedary were replaced by pure enjoyment. The milk was grassy, startlingly sweet with a sour edge, and textured like a light kefir. If not for the multiple warnings we'd received about drinking too much camel milk at once, we would have been happy to guzzle an eight-ounce glass in one sitting. But when it comes to potential colon explosions, we err on the safe side. Yeah, you read that right. Camel milk is known to loosen the bowels, especially within the first few weeks of consumption, which makes it a popular remedy for constipation.
See also: Minnesota's camel milk black market
In recent years, camel milk has become a superstar in the world of natural medicine. In fact, it supposedly has all the nutrients needed to sustain a human being through the day. It contains high amounts of lactoferrin, an antimicrobial said to fight infections, tumors, liver diseases, and diabetes. Camel milk is also touted by some devotees for its ability to lessen symptoms related to autism and Crohn's disease, and since it's low in lactose, it's easily consumed by lactose intolerant individuals.
But as we mentioned in yesterday's post, most of the fresh camel milk shipped across the United States is unpasteurized and, therefore, illegal. The issue of pasteurization presents quite the conundrum. On the one hand, camel milk enthusiasts claim that the milk loses its nutritional benefits after being pasteurized. On the other, unpasteurized milk presents the potential for contamination and illness.
Honestly, we weren't too worried. Over a three-day period, we consumed about 24 ounces of raw camel milk with no ill effects.
Camel milk is delicious on its own, but at the suggestion of camel milk campaigner Dr. Millie Hinkle's website, we added a teaspoon of maple syrup to a four-ounce serving and were brought to a completely different universe. It's like ketchup to french fries, peanut butter to jelly, barbecue sauce to chicken -- camel milk and maple syrup are a match made in desert animal heaven. The concoction removes the sour notes and can stand alone as a breakfast drink, dessert, or a nutritional supplement. If the concept of camel milk freaks you out, this is the perfect place to start.
So how would camel milk fare in a blended drink?
We started by concocting a chocolate camel milkshake. Since camel milk is relatively watery and we wanted to avoid adding another straight dairy product, we opted to use half a packet of chocolate pudding mix as a thickening agent. In addition to the pudding mix, we added three tablespoons of chocolate syrup, a cup of ice cubes, and a cup and a half of camel milk. It was amazing! The camel milk stood out only slightly, with the tangy sweetness being its most distinct characteristic. Our camel milkshake was like Mike's Hard Lemonade for camel milk haters -- it's got all the benefits, minus the strong taste.
Next up, camel milk smoothie. We used a half cup of pineapple juice, frozen peaches, strawberries, mango, pineapple, and 12 ounces of camel milk. It tasted like a regular smoothie, but sweeter and smoother. Again, the milk was barely noticeable. We gave a glass to a friend who disliked the milk on its own, and it was gone within minutes. Camel milk officially proved its versatility.
When we spoke with Adbi Ahmed of Safari Restaurant for our recent post on camel meat, he also mentioned that camel milk will get you drunk after it sits out for a few days. In an episode of Vice's Fresh off the Boat series, host Eddie Huang drinks camel vodka extracted from steamed distilled camel milk. By day five of drinking just the refrigerated milk, we swear we felt a little silly.
If you'd like to avoid a sketchy search for raw camel milk in the Twin Cities, you can purchase camel milk chocolate, lotion, serum, or soap online. Another option is to buy powdered camel milk, but it's pricey and, according to some, removes the nutritional benefits. Your best bet is to wait until summer, when a number of camel dairies will start selling and shipping pasteurized camel milk. And who knows? We may start to see it on co-op shelves within a year or two. But the product ain't cheap. Camel milk currently sells for $10 per pint, and since the United States isn't exactly a camel-heavy country, that price isn't likely to go down anytime soon.
Verdict: Plate, if you can get your hands on it.