Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Milk Heaven

Yesterday my quest for raw heavy cream to make butter brought me to Hendricks' Farms & Dairy in Telford, Pa -and some unexpected surprises. For starters, the farm is an amazing example of what someone who really wants to minimize their energy consumption can do if they put their minds to it. The main building that houses the milking operation and cheese making facility and retail outlet is heated by a wood furnace that is fueled by wood that would be otherwise destined for a landfill. Well water is cycled through three separate closed-loop processes before it ultimately sent back into the farms aquifer via a pond.

The farm is amazingly clean. The main building, which is made from a shiny white composite plastic material, is power-washed regularly to keep it gleaming and safe for food production. The floors are immaculate and even the air in the barn smells clean -which anyone who has ever been to a farm will immediately understand to be the result of superior design and placement of the the buildings and slavish devotion to maintenance.

I spoke at length with Trent Hendricks -who owns and operates the farm with his wife Rachel- and who showed me around while talking about his operating philosophy and the kinds of products and ideas he wants to put out there into the food-os-spehere. He's already producing over a dozen different types of cheese, Rachel makes beautiful soaps, I saw grass fed beef that was so marbled with fat it could pass for wagyu if you squint. The milk which comes from Ayrshire cows shows all of the subtle nuances of flavor that you expect from milk from grass fed cows that has not been cooked, but it's texture confused me a bit when I compared it to the raw, nonhomogenized milk that I bought last week from Bethany Farms. There was no cream on the top and no lumps of butterfat clinging to the sides of the container. My first thought was huh, this is homogenized? So, I emailed Trent and this is what he wrote back

No, we have Ayrshire cows. The fat molecules of the Ayrshire milk are the smallest of the Dairy breeds. That is important for two reasons; easier to digest, and they break down more consistently in aged cheese due to the uniformity of the fat molecules. The milk is around 3.8% fat but takes days to separate and will not separate fully.

And check this out, Trent gave me four pounds of pork belly so that I can finally make Ruhlman's pancetta. (I'm so psyched.)

Hendricks' Farms & Dairy is Certified Humane but as Trent put it, all he did to get the certification was invite the Humane Farm Animal Care folks in to look at what he was already doing. Frankly, I was not surprised by this. I've long believed that if you make it your mission to grow and cook the cleanest, best-tasting food possible, the natural result will be humanely treated animals and minimally polluting methods of agriculture.

And is it ever a pleasure to see this in action!

Hendricks' Farms and Dairy
202 Green Hill Road
Telford, Pa 18969


The Foodist said...

bah you beat me to it Bob. In the process of scheduling a walk through of the farm for sometime next month myself!

Ed Bruske said...

lovely, wish the farm were closer to us...