Raw Milk – yum yum yum

A few years ago, I decided I wanted to make mozzarella cheese – who doesn’t.  So I got books (my ideas always start with a book, …..or a few books) and then I realised I needed “raw milk”.  That’s milk straight from a cow’s bum – well, technically you got me there, it does in fact come from the udder, but when we were kids it was “yuk, has that milk come out of the cow’s bum?” followed by “I’m not drinking that”.  Followed years later by niece and nephew asking the same question as Sis and I gratefully drank their portion. Which goes to prove what goes around comes around.

I digress.  I needed Raw Milk, unpasteurised, non-homogenised, unadulterated, whole creamy milk – and I couldn’t find any in the UK.  I did visit a local herd, but was advised it was illegal for him to sell me milk, I could find the stuff if I lived in the US, but my locale seemed deplete of the stuff – and then I found a supplier who used to visit Egerton Farmers Market.  Joy.  Shortlived Joy.  I made cricket balls and burnt my hands.

Recently I’ve that hankering for the pure white stuff again and am more than delighted to have discovered Hook and Son (http://www.hookandsonfarmshop.co.uk/). Not quite on my doorstep, but they deliver (by courier) direct to my door.  I order a week’s worth and store a few bottles in the freezer just in case.  I’m recycling too.  The bottom of the plastic bottles are an ideal size to start my sweetcorn seedlings in and the polystyrene is going to be (eventually) used as insulation in the new potting shed!

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I am trying to make rice pudding, but this has so far not been successful because …. well, we drink it all before I get around to it.

Delving deeper into the Hook and Son website, I discovered Steve Hook also made a movie, released in 2013, telling the story of how “….he and his father Phil (who) together decided to turn their back on the cost cutting supermarkets and dairies to sell direct.”  I can’t believe that our local indie cinema didn’t show this, but then again, I might have missed it.  What a beautiful film and what a star Ida was!  I’m going to see Rams tomorrow (A hard-drinking Icelandic farmer (Theodór Júlíusson) and his estranged brother (Sigurður Sigurjónsson) band together to save their flocks of sheep from authorities who want the animals destroyed) and I rather think these would have made good back-to-back viewing!

I could kick myself for not being aware of Hook and Son before now.  Milk is a precious commodity, it is a super food in it’s natural state yet most of the time it is sold as a loss-leader by supermarkets. This cannot be right. This is not right.  I would rather pay the correct price for my milk and support the person who works bloody hard to produce it. There are far too many “bargains” to be had out there, a lot of stuff to waste our money on, but when it comes to thinking about what we ingest and paying for quality I do wonder why we squeal about price so much.

 

The cream experiment 

I recently saw a tweet from Joanna Blythman reporting the upsurge of homemade butter and I realised it was one of the food items I’d not “had a go at”!  Unbelievable considering that as a child, my sisters and I were wont to decant the cream off the top (we’re talking about a million years ago, when non-homogenized milk was delivered in glass bottles, by the milkman, on an electric float) put it in some tiny plastic Tupperware pots, that mum had obviously allocated for curry powder or celery salt and shake the buggers like mad.  This would eventually, by magic, result in butter.  We’d throw away the liquid and the remaining yellow blob, warmed by excited hands, would be spread onto a bit of white sliced (also delivered by the breadman in a lorry) and consumed.  Snack enjoyed, we’d move off to find some other messy/destructive activity that would no doubt result in being chased up the stairs by mum wielding a slipper.  Was this really just 45 years ago……. oh, happy days!

So determined to go the whole hog with home produced sour dough loaf, plus homemade butter, I got hold of 2 litres of double cream (and, I should probably add, with apologies to my husband, a further cook book “Forgotten Skills of Cooking” by Darina Allen – second hand mind you) and proceeded, an hour before we were due to go out, to make butter.  It couldn’t have been easier, or more exciting.  I poured the whole lot of cream into the big bowl on my stand mixer and set it to a steady, sedate speed and watched as first it thickened, then suddenly, in an instant, separated into the required scrambled egg appearance.  It dutifully sloshed around the bowl in what I’ve now discovered is creamy buttermilk until I scraped the massive lump of newly made butter off the balloon whisk.  The bit i’d never practiced with my rudimentary, cream-off-the-top experiment, was expelling the excess buttermilk after draining.  Not having access, to a set of fridge chilled butter pats, I stuck my hands under the cold tap (they were warming up caused in part by husband reminding me that I was supposed to be getting ready to go out), broke off wodges (technical term for cold, slimy, lumps of yellow stuff) and began to squeeze.

 Little spurts of liquid decorated the tiling around the kitchen sink, but it was working.  I could imagine that the butter pats, as a novice, would have hindered me, but I definitely will invest in a set before the next batch is made.  In my rush, my hands were heating up, so I had to do a quick squish and squash and then chuck the lot in the fridge.

before it went into the freezer
before it went into the freezer

Ultimately I have produced one heck of a lot of lovely butter – mine was unsalted, due to lack of “dairy salt”, again another purchase will be made before the next batch.  But the stuff is freezable so I reckon I’ll not need to purchase any butter for the next couple of months.  Is it more tastier….. hmmmm.  The provenance of my cream was not particularly special, just a 2 litre plastic jug of the stuff, but the fact that I got it for a fiver and have produced about one and a half kilos of butter, I’m pretty pleased with the result. I will have another go, with salt this time and maybe a different quality of cream – but what fun.  Oh and the buttermilk was used in scones and a chocolate cake, so I should add that to the thriftiness equation!

My challenge to steer clear of supermarkets…. for a month

OK, I might be setting myself up here, given I work from 9-6pm, don’t get to go out at lunchtime and even if I did, work in the countryside, nowhere near a shop, but I’ve just taken the rash decision to steer clear of supermarkets – for a month.  If successful, I’ll continue to steer clear of supermarkets!

This should not be as difficult as it sounds because:

  • I don’t have kids 🙂
  • I already make my own bread
  • I work for a wholesale local fruit and vegetable supplier
  • I have a freezer stuffed with recently made butter (oops)
  • I live near the fantastic food hall “Macknade Fine Foods” …. whom I’m more than happy to plug
  • There are frequent farmer’s markets in Faversham town

So easy……  hmmm, famous last words.  Why am I doing this?  I’ve long been a follower of both Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall (even attended one of his “nose to tail” pork weekends when I was flushed with cash) and Joanna Blythman (read “Shopped” on holiday one year and now keenly follow her work) and both have shaken me out of my apathy – or line of least resistance – and made me want to stop shopping in supermarkets.  I knew I should have done this years ago when a Manager in Sainsbury advised they didn’t stock gorgeously sweet, plump muscat grapes because “there’s no call for them”.  I was dumbfounded, if you’ve ever tasted a muscat, you’d shun the tasteless green pimples pushed by supermarkets.  The only reason for them not being stocked is probably down to price (I suspect they are costlier than the loss-leaders currently being stocked) and ripeness – ripe ones are rather delicate meaning supermarkets would encounter a high degree of damaged fruit.

I know i’m going to struggle with washing items – clothes and dishwashing – but I do know that Ecover refill empties at other farmer’s markets.  Also, think of the packaging i’ll cut down on.  It has to be a good idea.

So here goes……….

Ched Evans just won’t go away/”sorry” is the hardest word…..

Really interesting blog on the BBC today (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-30697264), Jon Kelly has taken the time to investigate a lot of the myths and stories surrounding Ched Evans and he raises and provide answers to some interesting questions.  The main thrust of the piece is whether or not the general public would have had more sympathy for the man if he had apologised for his actions.  This is something I picked up on when I first blogged on the subject. Apologies go a long way in this world, sometimes apologising for things you don’t think are wrong, but those offended do.

As Jon Kelly says in his piece, Ched Evans obviously believes himself innocent, but what he did was morally wrong.  To argue the toss about whether or not he committed a rape, rather ignores the fact that your moral compass must be severely out of whack if you believe it acceptable to have sex with someone so drunk that they cannot even stand up.  The law doesn’t deal in morals though, only facts.  What you do may be morally wrong (or indeed right) but our laws are not in place to guide us through that morass.  And one persons opinion of what is morally correct will always differs from another’s.

So the argument rages on over whether he should or shouldn’t be employed.  It’s still a bag of snakes whichever way it goes and it still reflects supremely badly on the multitude of people with convictions who have accepted what they did was wrong, have paid the price (in jail time or not) and are trying to move on with their lives.  It serves to keep the discussion alive I suppose, but to use a good old football analogy, not the game of two halves, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to be given the opportunity to work, earn money and look after yourself.  Or do we want all our people with convictions just to survive off the state?

I was in prison and you saw the chance for a cheap story

A blogger after my own heart – lovely piece James Christie, highlighting more sloppy journalism from the Dundee Courier.

James Christie's personal blog

I was disappointed, but not at all surprised, by in the Dundee Courier on 16th December 2014. We were invited to be shocked at the lavish fare on offer to prisoners in local jails. The headline and first sentence set the tone.

“Christmas feast for prisoners doing porridge”

Criminals doing porridge in prisons across Tayside will be treated to lavish Christmas meals with all the trimmings.”

Feast? Lavish? All the trimmings? That is not reporting. It is a verdict, that the prisoners are receiving high quality meals, by implication meals of the standard one would expect in a good restaurant and certainly of a higher standard than they deserve. The article is opinion masquerading as reporting.

The choice of the first word of the article is interesting. Criminals. Yes, prisoners have, by definition, committed a crime. But when should we use that word? While they are engaged in a criminal…

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Bun in the oven

So the bread maker broke - back to the old ways.
So the bread maker broke – back to the old ways.

I do have a bread maker, but last loaf I made ended up as a battered piece of dough, baked in the corner of the bread bucket.  Think something has gone horribly wrong.  Anyway, no worries, in my new world of shedding stuff, I’d be pleased to see the back of it – it takes up too much space in my galley kitchen and if I can make a loaf with just the big mixer, why not.  So it’s in my vicious oven now, getting roasted to within an inch of it’s life.