Local Cows Give the Best Milk...Did You Not Know?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

You know about my chicken obsession, but did you know that cows were my very first livestock fascination?  Although I spent most of my childhood in the very urban and congested Hackensack, New Jersey, I actually was born and initially raised in Sussex County, New Jersey which, if you've never been there, is a beautiful corner of the world, filled with lakes and rolling farmland.  When people think "New Jersey," they invariably conjure up one of the highways going through a place like Hackensack and few people ever know how beautiful the rest of the state is.

Anyway, growing up in Sussex County meant being neighbors with lovely cows across the road from our farmhouse.  I could go over and visit "the moo-moos" and loved how gentle and slightly smelly they were.  I have a vivid memory of being in a barn laying in prickly hay and looking up at the hay dust undulating in the sunlight streaming through the slatted barn boards.  Heaven.

Cows are awesome, despite what those methane, global-warming Cassandras would lead you to believe (and FYI, they are referring to cattle in the heinous and congested feedlots being pumped full of corn, not the grass fed milk cows I'm talking about).  I am incredibly lucky to have a fabulous local dairy, Hillside Farms, in Trucksville, PA, just a few miles from my house. 

And I mean lucky!  Hillside (who has as its official name, The Lands at Hillside Farms) has ventured into what many farmers are calling "agritainment" or "agritourism" which basically means offering customers a value-added experience.  In this case, Hillside has a great store which offers not only their glass-bottled milk but also their ice cream and showcases other local farm products.  Their ice cream flavors change regularly and their milk falls into two main categories, their regular milk from their Holstein cows as well as the cows of local dairy farmers (which are probably also Holsteins) OR the utterly and sinfully rich and delicious milk from the herd of Jersey cows also kept right on the farm.  These cows are treated with kindness in the manner of a farm from a previous generation and not fed hormones or other chemicals that would interfere with their health or other natural processes.

Yes!  We're back to Jersey!  Okay, so Jersey cows are a breed from the Isle of Jersey, but where do you think the state's name comes from?  The Jersey Shore reality show?  Hardly (although Snookie would be a GREAT name for a cow, don't you think?).  Jersey cows are some of the smallest cows (right around 900 pounds, so picture them as a good St. Bernard smaller than a Holstein) and very gentle if raised with kindness.  They were a good breed for the family who just wanted one or two cows to keep them in milk, butter, and cheese since children could easily care for them due to their docility.  And did I mention how delicious their products are?  Jersey milk has some of the highest concentration of butterfat and butterfat=deliciousness.  I used the "Hillside Gold Heavy Cream" for my ice cream this summer and it was so amazing their were times I had trouble recognizing commercial ice cream as the same product. 

Keeping along the "agritainment" idea, visitors are welcome to walk around the beautiful land at Hillside and admire the livestock.  Suburb husband is always infinitely patient with me since he knows that it's not possible for me to NOT visit the chickens while I'm grabbing milk for the week.  Previously I thought Hillside only had some Rhode Island mixed hens and some really ridiculous looking Polish Silkie chickens, but when a big event occured one day, I had to park in a farther removed lot RIGHT NEXT TO THE BUFF ORPINGTONS!!!  How awesome is that?? They are so friendly they just walk right up to the car vocalizing and even the skeptical eye of suburb husband softened a little as they clucked gently at him.  Some day, my little ones.  Some day.

You can see how pretty the glass bottles look and it's true that the milk tastes better (Warning: you can become a real milk snob as you begin to taste little overtones of paper and waxes from supermarket milk once you've had bottled milk).  My mother will no longer have regular half-and-half in her tea - it has to be Hillside half-and-half.  You just bring back the empties when you get your next milk and they refund a chunk of the purchase to you, so while the initial cost of buying milk seems extraordinary, subsequent purchases aren't that much more than supermarket milk or cream.  The caps can be recycled with your plastic, or in my case, used as cat toys (Gussie loves playing floor hockey with a Hillside cap).

Don't want to make the trip out to Hillside Farms?  You can get home delivery!  EIO Pennsylvania has partnered with local farmers and vendors to offer home delivery of various produce and milk products so busy people can have food delivered right to their door - you can even buy the insulated milk box similar to what your grandparent's might have had!  When it's this easy to support your local dairy farm, how can you say no?


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