Milk of the gods
I know, I know. I suck at this blog thing. Consistency is...inconsistent. I have good intentions though and I do have many things to post...it's mostly the lazy in me that prevents my completion of them. At any rate, I'm here today! Aren't you so lucky!? So my DeJeWu's beyond being adorable produce the most luxurious milk. Yes, it's luxurious. Mostly, it's due to their unique phisiological make up but also due to creative cultivation. Stay with me here. What do you think about when you think about the food that cattle eat? Some of you super educated farmy ag kids will have superb answers here but the rest of us will most likely reply "hay" as a predominant food source. Drop mic and walk out.
WHOOOOOAAAAA Nelly.....not so fast! Come ride the Magic Annie Bus and find out more.
Hay is really a generic term for a cut, dried grass, legume or herbage. Straw is not hay...it. is. not. Straw is the shaft of what is left after cutting. So the stalks of say wheat grass, rye grass or barley grass. The tops are harvested by combine for the seeds (aka berries) at a certain height. Then the straw is what is left...then cut and baled. It is not nutritive. It's a bedding material and can also be a building material. I digress...hay! hay is really what we are talking about. Hay is cut at peak ripeness, allowed to dry in the field and then bundled. It retains nutiritve value thereby making it fodder or food for numerous animals. In its dry state hay can last many, many months and see farmers through the cold dormant winters. Most hay that people are familiar with is alfalfa (which is a legume and not a grass-still hay). There are other general hays but for the purposes of this post, I'll omit.
Thank you for bearing with that last bit because NOW is where my mad scientist comes around!
Marilyn, one of my most productive gals, is currently on tarragon hay. That's right. Tarragon. Here at Arable Farms we creatively select alternative hay types for the side effect of flavoring milk. This isn't such a crazy thought. Many a dairy cow have gotten themselves into a patch of wild onion and flat out ruined the milk for the next 48 hours. Incidentally, 48 hours is approximately the time it takes for off flavors to clear from the mammary system of a cow. Basil hay, oregano hay, etc..etc..etc and hay blends can all help impart flavor. Experimentation is needed to find palatble blends. Basil hay has produced some of the best and worst mozzarellas. This is one instance that blends even with common hay should be experimented with. Caprese salad with basil milk mozzarella cannot be beat. It's not overly basil but a steadfast lover to supple tomatoes and already present basil leaves. One particular blend that has produced that luxurious milk for the Arable team is what I call our "black licorice blend"--NO IT DOESN'T TASTE LIKE BLACK JELLY BEANS (though I do love them dearly). Anise flavors tend to have a sweetening effect on the palate. This inturn imparts a sweet flavor to the milk. In addition to the anise we also add fenugreek seeds as a supplemental feed for increased milk production as well as subtle maple flavor and sweetening. It's not overly sweet but an effect that makes it the number 1 milk in our blind taste tests.
Milk and the alternative flavor hays are really just a starting point for cheeses and butters as well. The flavors will intensify as cheese is made and aged. Nuances that were faint in the milk will come forward in the cheese aging process as oil soluable flavors will then be concentrated. Butters will be faintly stronger though not as strong as cheeses. Hint: cardamom butter is sexy. One could argue that there would be a lot of waste in the experimentation if the milk were unfavorable...perhaps...but if you have other livestock such as pigs or chickens, they will relish the milk. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
As a general warning, you should practice good husbandry regarding your animals and check with your local extension office or vet as to toxicity of some plants and or seeds before venturing down the road of flavor hays.
If you have questions regarding blends of alternative hays and or seed mixes please contact us. Our chef on staff will provide recommended blends based on desired flavor profile.
Sparkle On! Annie