One person we used to get milk from was so persnickety about jars. There were very specific protocols about jar size and shape and cleanliness. She gave instructions on how to clean the jars even. We found this all so tedious, and we were even occasionally blase about all her little rules.
Now, I'm the milk lady. Today for the first time I heard myself being put out that someone wanted milk but did not bring jars. Then, my litany of complaints began playing in my head as I washed the jars that were returned. I just do not think you can fully understand why we milk ladies have all these dumb rules.
For example, if you take milk but do not bring back jars, I am short not the two jars for your gallon of milk, but four jars. We bought two dozen half-gallon jars when we started milking, and we thought we would not require people to pay jars into the pool. But, if we use two to four jars a day for fresh milk, we very quickly run out of jars. When we were the only ones drinking it, the jar juggle was no big deal. We emptied a jar and washed it and filled it the next morning. But our milk customers only see us once a week, so we cannot count on those jars for a week at a time.
Then there is the washing problem. Milk leaves a film of casein on the inside of the jars that is most easily removed with cold water. And when you do this initial cold water rinse, you actually have to be pretty thorough to get all the casein out. It's actually no big deal if people wash their jars by hand, but some people do use dishwashers. The dishwashers are a double whammy. They inevitably cook the casein onto the inside of the jars and they leave a nasty smell in the jars. So, I rewash the jars to get the smell out, and usually have to use baking soda to scrub out the casein film.
Also, our milk people like to do canning and most of them make kim chee. Let me tell you, if you reuse a pickle lid on a jar of milk. the milk will have a dill smell. And if the kim chee jar has not been washed with baking soda, your milk will have a lacto fermented tang.
Perhaps I'm too fussy about smells, but I do not think so. I always noticed when the jars from that other milk lady were not just right. Perhaps you think the little tea stain up near the rim of the jar is insignificant. But imagine yourself standing at the milk refrigerator grabbing the jar of milk. Which one are you going to pick? If you're like me, the pristine jar of sparkling white milk with no smudge in the cream line will be your top pick. And even if you're the person who gave me the tea stained jar, you'll begin to hold my cleanliness in question.
Finally- I have trouble explaining to people why a milk jug is not reusable. The fact is, the container must be a shape that I can convince myself is clean enough that you will not get sick from the milk I put inside it. And, I have an aversion to plastic.
Signed- the Cranky Milk Lady