“Top milk.” We need to talk about top milk.
The phrase “top milk” harkens back to the days when one would typically buy non-homogenized whole milk, also called creamline milk. After a couple hours of settling in the fridge, the cream would rise. Generally speaking you’d shake your bottle to redistribute the cream. Unless, of course, you had a recipe calling for top milk, in which case you’d pour off the settled cream with some milk in it.
You can still get non-homogenized milk at many farmer’s markets. But if you want to buy cream, what cream do you buy? Well, probably light cream. To understand why you need to understand a little bit about cream.
The difference between the types of cream is the concentration of the milkfat; or, to put it another way, how much milk is in the cream. Cream technically starts at 18% milkfat. Light cream tends to hover around 20%; but you can’t actually whip it. Light whipping cream is around 30 to 36% milkfat; it whips, but it still carries a risk of curdling in soups. Heavy cream is generally between 36 and 40%. The concentration of the cream you’d have in drawing your top milk would be a function of how you pour it and how generous the cow was feeling that morning; but as they also sold cream, if this was meant to be especially rich cream, they’d have said to use cream. So generally speaking, light cream (or a mixture of half-and-half and light whipping cream) is your Top Milk substitute when you don’t feel like going to the farmer’s market.
From a box sold in Louisville, Kentucky.
Peanut Butter Fudge (as written on the page)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup top milk
Boil till forms soft ball.
Remove from stove + add 1 tablespoon butter, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, vanilla.
Yesterdish suggestion: use 1 teaspoon as the amount of vanilla.