Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I Scream, You Scream

I've learned quite a bit about cows this year. Of course, I came to Caretaker knowing little more than that cows are the first step in ice cream, and therefore worthy of all due reverence and respect. Having spent the past few months living around them, moving them from pasture to pasture, and, as of late, milking Chloe, my appreciation has matured, and I have come to consider them a critical element for a farm.

First and foremost, we keep cows for fertility. All winter long, our cows spend their nights in the barn, where they ruminate, moo, and poop. Every morning, we send them back out to a snowy pasture and muck out their stall. The accumulated manure from a winter's worth of long nights forms the base for all of the compost that we spread on our fields and use in potting on our transplants.

Additionally, our elderstateswomen cows Lucy and Lukey provide us with two calves each year, which we raise for beef. Chloe's calves will be sold either as 4-H Heifers (if female) or as beef (if male). In that respect, then, our cows are a renewable resource, giving back to the farm each year.

In my opinion, Chloe is the real star of the show. Learning to milk has been a lesson in bovine anatomy and health certainly, but it has also reinforced farm values of patience and persistence. As I now know, you have to milk out all of the regular milk in order to get to the cream. There are no shortcuts or exceptions, and if you neglect to "milk her out," she'll give less milk the next time you milk. So you have to milk for as long as she keeps giving, even when she kicks with devilish precision for the bucket, even when she shuffles sideways into a corner, even when she somehow knocks the lid off the grain container, sticks her head in, and somehow contorts herself so that she is perpendicular to her normal milking position. Despite all of this, I'm totally in love with Chloe and the daily gift of milk which she gives us.

Walking out to work in the fields, I used to look in at the cows (who don't often deviate from a strict schedule of graze-ruminate-graze-chill-ruminate) and think to myself, "what a sweet life. they just eat and sleep!" Recently my perspective shifted, however, when I realized that cows require the near constant feeding to sustain their body mass on a diet of grass. If you or I tried to eat grass, we'd literally starve, as the energy to extract nutrients from pasture would exceed the caloric gain. But cows, with their four bacteria-rich stomachs, are able not only to survive on grass but to thrive on it. For our cows, grazing is quite literally their job, and they do it with a diligence that would make a drill sergeant proud.

In honor of our cows, here's a recipe (I've been terribly lax in my recipe posting, though I have been cooking plenty of delicious things) worthy of truly good milk. If you have the good fortune to have access to Jersey cream, try this one out. You won't be disappointed.

Lavender and Honey Ice Cream
This is a custard-based ice cream recipe, so it works best if you make the custard ahead of time and then throw the cream in and churn it all while you are eating dinner. The ice cream will be ready as soon as you finish you meal. It goes extremely well with a chocolate zucchini cake...

6 T honey
4 egg yolks
2 t cornstarch or arrowroot powder
8 lavender spikes (the flowery bit)
2 cups milk
2 cups cream (whipping cream, if you are buying it at a store)

Put the honey, cornstarch, and egg yolks in a medium-sized sauce pan. Whisk them together, and add in the lavender flowers (stripped from the central stem) and a little of the milk.

Pour the rest of the milk into a small saucepan and heat it to a boil, stirring. Pour the milk over the egg yolk mixture, stirring constantly as you pour.

Return this custard mixture to the stove top and cook over low heat, stirring constantly until it thickens (this will happen sooner the creamier your milk is. Don't use skim, I beg you. ) Do not let it boil. Once the custard has thickened, remove from heat and let cool in the fridge for a few hours.

Once the custard is cooled and thick, add in the cream and churn in an ice cream churn.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

Sorry I have been so negligent in my comment-leaving-ness! I have to say that this ice cream recipe sounds DEVINE. I am always a fan of anything with lavender and/or honey in it, so I'll have to steal my brother's ice cream maker and give this a try.

Miss you terribly and cannot wait to see you in November!