Sunday, September 23, 2012

Milky mysteries and creamy conundrums

French milk, Ukrainian technology

Milk used to appear on the doorstep. A square wire basket with a moveable arrow lived outside the front door and, as if by magic, each day when we woke up, four silver-topped milk bottles sat waiting. Unlike Father Christmas, the milkman really does exist. The more modern habit is, of course, to buy your milk at the supermarket.

The other end of this tube is connected to a cow
This has felt increasingly strange to us as we can see cows from our house and there are four dairy farmers in our small village. A couple of times a week, a huge tanker arrives to take the milk away to a processing place (I don’t know where) then it’s bottled up and transported again to supermarkets, where we drive to buy our milk, cream, yoghurt and butter.

The recent row between farmers and supermarkets in the UK made us think about this again and a video on Karl O’Melay’s homesteading blog  provided the answer. We ordered a cream separator from Katya in the Ukraine now all we needed was a steady supply of milk, so I cycled off see Hubert, who has a dairy herd of around 40 Holsteins.

We agreed a price and, once a week I visit him during evening milking and fill up two 5 litre containers with unpasteurised milk, fresh and warm from the cow. Meanwhile, Gabrielle has assembled the cream separator and run some warm water through to bring the internal mechanism up to temperature. About ten minutes cranking gives us 600ml of cream and 9.4 litres of semi-skimmed milk. The downside is having to clean all the components of the separator afterwards.

Hubert’s family have been drinking unpasteurised milk for years without problems. The flock and the milk are monitored by the authorities and the coop he sells the milk to, so we feel there is minimal health risk; in fact we wonder whether it might actually be more healthy containing beneficial bacteria, enzymes and vitamins that pasteurisation would otherwise remove. It even seems to taste better, in our opinion. The entry in Wikipedia shows both sides of the argument, and is worth a read.” 

Our next project is to give the butter churning attachment a go and Gabrielle has yoghurt making on the list as well. If you want to have milk delivered to your UK door, this site might help. And, if you’re reading this in France and wonder whether they have “un homme du laitread this article (in French) of a French milk producer who’s looked across the channel for inspiration and decided to try delivering their milk “à la façon du « milkman » anglais”.