Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Real old-fashioned milk

When I was young I used to drink milk for pleasure and I don't think it was just because I was a child. It was truly delicious but for years I haven't had milk that tasted anything like as good.

Today I did: Jess's Ladies Organic Special Breakfast Milk which I bought in the weekly farmers' market in Corn Street in Bristol. It was sweet and creamy without that slightly metallic taste I now realise most modern milk has.

According to Jess - aka Jess Vaughan of Hardwicke Farm in the Severn Valley in Gloucestershire - it's because it's not homogenized like practically all milk these days. Homogenization is a process that extends the shelf life of milk but also alters its structure, making it more indigestible and also less nutritious and less tasty. (You can see some of the sources Jess cites for this on her website)

The cows - or 'ladies' as Jess calls them - are also carefully reared, allowed to suckle their young and not milked while they are due to come into calf. "We know the ladies all by name and we milk them personally every day to make sure they're a happy, healthy bunch" she says.

The breakfast milk is extra rich with 4.5% fat compared to a maximum of 3.9% fat for whole milk, according to a profile on the farm in food writer Andrea Leeman's meticulously researched A Taste of Gloucestershire. And it won a gold in last year's Great Taste Awards.

You can buy the milk all over Gloucestershire, in Bristol and in one or two outlets in London from just £1.20 a litre - an affordable luxury if ever there was one. I'm going to use it to make my macaroni cheese for Cheese School this weekend but have a feeling it would also make the ultimate rice pudding.


  1. Where in London can you buy it? I will be in London for IWC next 2 weeks and I would love to try it!

  2. Hi Lisa - apparently it's available in Peyton & Byrne + the National Gallery café but prob worth contacting them for an update - It is well worth tracking down

  3. ahhh - lovely stuff! I get Jess's cream when I visit my cousin in Berkeley. Will now try to track this milk down in London. Thanks Fiona!

  4. As a postscript to all this I've been having the semi-skimmed milk in my tea and it tastes totally different - and much better. Allows the flavour of the tea to come through

  5. Hi Fiona:

    I agree that there's an enormous difference between commercially produced milk and milk sourced from small family-owned dairies.

    A few months ago I made the switch and now have unhomogenized milk delivered to my New York home weekly. It comes from a farm close by.

    While it does cost considerably more than Big AG milk, I feel it's completely worth it. And not just because it tastes fresher, creamier and more delicious than commercially produced milk.

    Humanitarian and environmental issues played strong role in my decision to quit buying commercially-produced milk. I was sold on my local dairy when their website copy said "Our cows are like family to us." You can read more about this wonderful farm here:

    Consumers are shocked at the prices of ethical, sustainable food because. In the US, many don't realize that factory farmed food are unnaturally cheap because of lobbying, regulations and tax breaks that favor Big Ag.

    All of us must get used to paying fair prices to farmers to get ethical, quality food--even if it means we eat a little less of these precious foods.

    I'll step down from my soap box now! Thanks for this important post.

  6. Thanks Lorraine for a great contribution to this debate. The thing is about real milk - for I feel we should call it that - is that it's really not that expensive. Like good bread and pasta it's one of life's affordable luxuries. Your farm, like mine sounds as if it totally deserves our support - and we get to drink great milk. A win-win situation!