Just when you think there is nothing much new under the sun, you discover there is. Well, not new exactly, but you get my drift.
I grew up in rural Lincolnshire but, unlike just about everyone who has since contacted me about this, I don’t think I ever drank raw (unpasteurised) milk. I can recall an old fella that used to cycle to the dairy farm every morning with a small metal churn hanging from his handlebars – I now realise what he was up to. I had of course had sterilised milk – which still makes me think nostalgically of early package holidays – you’re still hard pushed to get fresh pasteurised milk in most of southern Europe, but it has taken a fair few years ( I won’t say how many) for the moment to arrive when I finally got to try raw milk.
Raw milk is not, of course, without controversy. It cannot be sold in shops or supermarkets, but only at the “farmgate” direct to the consumer by the dairy that produces it. In many countries, including Scotland, it is illegal to sell it full stop. This fact makes me feel as if I have done something enormously risqué and gives me a slight thrill – I recognise this is a bit odd. I wouldn’t consider getting a parking ticket a thrill, or parking on double yellows. I guess it is a bit more like people eating cannabis in their brownies in Holland who would never dream of it usually, just because they can there and they can’t here. Now I’m rambling.
Raw Milk is, of course, unpasteurised and as such, contains a range of bacteria, some of which may be a little (or a lot – like e-coli) undesirable. However, an increasing number of people believe that the risks are now sufficiently low (the farms that can sell raw milk are highly regulated) that the perceived benefits outweigh them….and that the much better taste makes the miniscule risk of infection worth taking. Fans of raw milk also argue that it is much healthier and better for you, pointing to the enzymes and nutrients it contains that would otherwise be killed off and that it is much easier to digest than pasteurised milk.
I am not, let me say, one of those evangelical types – I don’t hold with paleo diets and “clean food” fashions, although I do like fermented stuff (or pickled as we used to say). Each to their own, of course, but I fast run short of patience with these sorts of fashionable fads, especially if it is thrust down my throat (as it were) or held out as somehow morally superior. I have no issue with pasteurisation – which has bought healthy milk to the masses with very little risk (and please, I know that dairy is itself controversial, I do know that cow’s milk is designed for baby cows not humans etc etc).
All that said, I like to live on the edge a bit – so I was totally up for trying raw milk for the first time (this counts as “on the edge” for me) at a recent food fair at Clumber Park in North Nottinghamshire, courtesy of the Welbeck Estate (producers of the magnificent – and, of course, unpasteurised – Stichelton cheese). Welbeck Estate sells the raw milk from their own herds at farmer’s markets and food fairs (permitted under the law as seen as an extension of the “farm gate” provision), oh, and if you should ever visit the estate (which you should, it has a lovely cafe and a fabulous farm shop) they even have a vending machine that dispenses raw milk.
Anyway, I digress, so having purchased my Stichelton Cheese and Stichelton Toasts, I ventured to try the Raw Milk. I had it in my head that it would be a harsher, more tart, more sour experience compared to the pasteurized variety. I don’t know why, I guess somewhere in my brain is the idea that boiling something weakens the flavour and that therefore the original was probably strong tasting. Well not so with raw milk… It is fresher, creamier (slightly yellow in colour) and very rich, it coats the tongue like a comfort blanket.In fact, it tastes wonderful.Like fresh cheeses (see my other post, if you’re interested) raw milk varies in flavour according to the time of year – spring grass will produce a different flavour from cows over-wintering and it changes from cow to cow and herd to herd.
I could happily drink this stuff by the glassful, it is great on cereals and in tea and now I am going to venture into recipes and yoghurt-making to see how the raw milk differs or behaves differently. In a blind tasting the daughter professed not to be able to tell the difference, but I put that down to an immature palate……I can tell the difference and I am converted. The challenge is sourcing – I need a dairy a bit nearer than a 70 mile round trip.
Do you drink raw milk? Do you have any recipes that you think benefit from using raw milk against pasteurised? Please point me in their direction if so!
I am such a rebel.