Land of Milk and Honey…

| 18th August 2012

Welcome back to Hen Corner!

We’ve just returned from a family holiday in France where we enjoyed it’s wonderful bread, wine, cheese and charcuterie. Whilst watching cows in the fields and enjoying the odd Creme Brulee, I wondered why most of their milk is UHT…

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Sticky Waterfalls?

Several years ago I was teaching at our church about Joshua leading the nation of Israel into the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. I must admit that hearing these stories as a child conjured up images of some super-spiritual Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory; yes milk and honey were good foods but surely a bit sickly after a while? I mean there’s only so many recipes that only uses these two ingredients, milkshake comes to mind as does yoghurt and honey, but then what?

As I looked at this story again as an adult I realised that milk & honey are indicators of fertility. If you have milk then you have cows, grass and general greenery. If you have honey then you have bees and a whole variety of flowering trees & plants throughout the seasons… Milk and honey are markers of rich, fertile land that will offer up many other harvests waiting to be enjoyed.

Dairy Farms…

I found myself thinking about such things at a time when our wonderful dairy farmers are being cheated out of a fair price for their milk and the world watches the ‘Isles of Wonder’ Olympic Opening Ceremony and ‘Jerusalem’ is sung proclaiming  England’s mountain green and pleasant pastures and I think, we do grass pretty well here, we do cows and milk – so how have we got in this mess?

It was a throwaway comment about milk at a Fair Trade breakfast that I went to nearly 10 years ago that sparked our journey to discover the impact of the food we choose on own our bodies, the environment, animal welfare, producers around the world and so much more.

Back in 2005, British Dairy farms were closing at the rate of one a day with farmers being warned that their industry could collapse in a few years and that we may be forced to import liquid milk from Europe. This reminded me of childhood holidays in France where we would hunt high and low for some chilled fresh milk, often to no avail. If we lose our dairy farms, will we begin to import vast quantities of ‘long life’ milk from Europe? Surely this will exacerbate the problem, devaluing our farmers and their cows even more? If we become reliant on imported milk, what will happen when increasing oil prices makes it unaffordable? Come on, we do grass, cows and milk really well – we must not let them go.
As a family we looked into the best way to support our dairy farmers as we shopped and were pleased to hear the story of how Abel and Cole partnered with Nick and Christine Gosling at Berkeley Farm Dairy allowing them the financial security to continue as an organic farm.

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So back to France…
The nation that is famous for it’s cheese and dairy desserts, yet fresh milk is just not available, why? I like to think that all the fresh milk goes straight into cheese making at the local fromageries, maybe it’s just the excess that is processed at Ultra High Temperature (UHT) to be stacked in supermarkets and larders across the country? Maybe it’s the sheer size of the country (more than twice the size of the UK yet same amount of people) that presents a transportation problem, or keeping it chilled with the warmer climate in the south? Maybe not as whilst France drinks 95.5% of it’s milk treated for a long life, sunny Greece only has 0.9% UHT, they love it fresh, and us? Britain uses 8.4% UHT and the rest fresh. Maybe they just like the taste of UHT and the convenience and reduced waste that it brings…

It wasn’t until the last day that we discovered that the fromagerie up the road, Bussion Blanc, sold fresh milk from its 80 freisian cows along with butter, cheese and yoghurt.

Fromagerie Marty about 5km away also produced wonderful cheeses from its 500 ewes and we bought both hard and soft cheeses for a picnic on our journey home.

Our favourite cheese that we tried this holiday was from a delicatessen in the medieval town of Cordes sur Ciel. Alongside his saucisson flavoured with Roquefort, he had an amazing cheese made from three milks (cow, goat and sheep).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it anywhere else during our holiday so will hunt it down again next time we go.

We’ve spent a lot of time looking at milk in this post, so the next one will definitely be about honey; hopefully ours that we are due to harvest in the next week or so.

We love a dairy dessert or two here at Hen Corner, Summer Pavlova is a top favourite; especially if I use the eggs yolks in a Creme Brulee! Leave a comment and tell us what your favourite dairy dessert is …

Book of the Blog Post: 

By Keith Abel

This week it has to be the book from the people that have helped me get my food shopping choices in order. On the real Hen Corner Bookshelf we have the original first edition hard cover version (signed by Keith!) and, as regular customers, are delighted with our annual Christmas present of the Abel and Cole calendar featuring even more wonderful recipes!

This book is available with many of our other favourites books from the Hen Corner Shop!

Other News:

  • Broody Butternut is sitting on 6 fertile eggs again; see our Chick Countdown
  • I made a mistake with the bees and will tell you all about it next time
  • We have started using beer traps for slugs; let them get drunk and drown!

Jobs for next week:

  • Track down that extractor to harvest the honey
  • Order some jars to pack it in
  • Keep the automatic watering on timer and hope for another week of sun

Have a good week yourself…

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