Raw Revalation

21 02 2007

When I was kid, Sometimes my family would get fresh, un-homogenized milk straight from the farm. It’s a fond memory for me since I’m quite a lover of dairy. I’ve been looking for that same experience here in my bucolic burgh. I’ve asked around, but sadly, no-one seemed to know anyplace this could be done.

Today at work, I was helping our price check coordinator research whether a certain milk was UHT or not. It got me talking about fresh farm milk and about Raw Milk which I’ve read about on several food blogs. Once I was done helping Julie I thought I would do a search to see if there were anywhere I could buy Raw Milk. First I googled “raw milk western ny” but it occurred to me that milk isn’t something you’d want to take on a long drive so I thought I’d narrow my search. Next I googled “raw milk hornell”, Hornell being the largest local town. I got a hit for a local oxygen bar that served raw milk. Once I got over the shock that a redneck wonderland like Hornell had an oxygen bar I was able to find out they got their Raw Milk from an Organic Dairy Farm right in Alfred, NY. The very town in which I live! It was under my freakin’ nose this whole time!

The Dairy farm has a website, so I was able to find out a couple of helpful details.  Things like, where the farm was, how much the milk would cost, and a phone number because the map they provided wasn’t very good.  I was also able to find their hours, only 2-5 on Tuesdays and Fridays.  I couldn’t just drop by anytime, today was the day and I was going to have to leave work a little early.  I called to confirm the location and set out to get my milk.

I was able to find the farm without any difficulty, but once I got there it was on both sides of the street and I wasn’t sure exactly where to go next.  Fortunately for me, the farmer was walking up the driveway (perhaps because he noticed my slow, uncertain driving) and he directed me to where I needed to go.  He introduced himself and seemed to recognize me from the phone call.  He walked me to the counter as he talked proudly of his operation and the quality of his product.  He told me what he was legally required to about raw milk and had me sign a waiver.  This is standard practice necessitated by New York State law.  He sold me a half gallon Ball Jar (who knew they came so large) and led me across the road to the milking barn.  He asked if I would like to see the operation, which I was quite happy to.  At the entrance was the large milk holding tank and past that the entrance to the barn.  There were a few cows in there, mostly lazing about since it wasn’t milking time.  The cows are grass fed and pasture freely and only have to come in for milking.  Most of the cows were outside eating grass through the snow.  He led me back to the milk tank past three cats sleepy quietly in a pile of hay.  He grabbed my shiny new ball jar and filled it right in front of me (also required by law).

He told me that Sunny Cove Farm was a closed system.  They breed and raise their own cows, the pasture them in their own fields which are fertlized with their own manure.  He showed me an award he had won for quality and described the store front he was building and where he intended to put the facade (which he pronounced with a hard C like Nicollette Sheridan in Noises Off).  He pointed out where he intends to build a sugaring house (the farm does organic maple products, organic meat and organic apples in addition to the milk).

This, I thought, is how it is supposed to be.  How often do we get to talk with the people who make our food?  To see where our food is coming from?  It’s good to see the pride someone takes in their product.  It’s good to see that the animals are being well-treated.  It’s good to see cute kittens sleeping in a barn.  I hope I can find more places like this where I can buy locally grown food.

Now, to the milk itself.  Raw milk, in case you didn’t know, means that it hasn’t been homogenized or pasteurized.  I suppose they use the term “raw” since pasteurization requires heating the milk, which alters its flavor.  And since it isn’t homogenized, the cream will settle on the top.  I poured myself a tall, satisfying glass of cold milk.  The conclusion? Best milk ever, and not shipped from some crappy factory farm.  Even if it were only as good as the regular milk I buy from the store, it would still be worth it.  But the milk is better–richer, creamier, tastier than any milk I’ve had before.  I guess, like Old Dirty Bastard, I like it raw.


Practical Applications in Chemistry

19 01 2007

This week I made my own Ginger Ale.  I’ve made lot’s of other home-made things before, such as my own hard cider, but this my first time making soda at home.    I’d have to say it was quite good.  Brighter and fresher than the stuff you buy in the store.  It’s perhaps not as spicy as your standard off the shelf number, but more delicious.  Plus, the natural carbonation makes for a smoother beverage.  It’s quite easy, here’s how you do it if you are interested.

Start with a clean 2 liter plastic soda bottle.  I must emphasize PLASTIC, do not use glass.  The fermentation process creates pressure which a glass bottle might not be able to handle. 

Using a funnel, put one cup of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon yeast into the bottle.  I used a granulated yeast that came with my home made hard cider kit.  The traditional yeast you can get in a grocery store will be fine.  Swirl the bottle to combine the ingredients. 

Grate 1.5 tablespoons of fresh ginger.  A finer grate will give you more flavor.  Combine the ginger with the juice of 1 lemon (you can omit the lemon if you like, but it’s a natural match for the ginger flavor and quite tasty).  Add the ginger and lemon juice to the bottle with the sugar/yeast combination.

Next, pour some water into the bottle and swirl to dissolve the sugar and combine the ingredients.  Top off with water leaving an inch or two of headway at the top.  Cap and swirl shakes just to make sure everything is well combined and distributed.

Let the bottle sit out for 24-48 hours.  It will tend towards the shorter length of time if it is warmer.  Be careful not to let the bottle sit out for too long, it will continue to build pressure and may burst if you don’t refrigerate it.  After 24-48, put it in the fridge and enjoy at your leisure.  Obviously, there will be sediment which you can enjoy much as you would pulp in orange juice, or just strain it out like I did.

For those of you who don’t know what’s going on in that bottle and don’t know where the carbonation is coming from, that’s what the yeast is for.  The yeast eats the sugar and expels carbon gas (as well as a little alcohol, the final soda will have an alcoholic content of about 0.5%) and the gas carbonate the soda naturally.

The nice thing about home made soda (or anything else for that matter) is that is not only better tasting, but healthier.  Of course, nothing with a cup of sugar in it is going to qualify as “healthy” exactly, it is still better.  Your homemade soda is not going to have the pernicious “high fructose corn syrup” in it, nor any artificial colors or preservatives.