Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Artisanal Dairy Products

It seemed only a matter of time before the concept of boutique wineries and small-batch distilleries would encourage a similar trend among mainstream food producers. The NY Times' Marion Burros reports on the artisanal products that more and more small dairy farms are selling directly to the public:

Anne Saxelby had what she calls an “aha moment” a couple of years ago when she drove upstate to try the cultured butter made by Evans Farmhouse Creamery in
Chenango County. Ms. Saxelby, who owns Saxelby Cheesemongers in Manhattan, said that for all the butter she had eaten in her life, “I had really never had butter before — this is butter.”

More and more people across the country are being treated to the same aha experience as they find a burgeoning variety of fresh dairy products made in small batches on little farms and in small creameries. And it’s worth the extra money.

These artisanal operations are turning cow, goat or sheep milk into simple, straightforward foods like crème fraîche, butter, buttermilk, ice cream, puddings, custards, yogurt, yogurt-based sauces and yogurt drinks. Many of these dairies also sell unhomogenized, and in a few cases even unpasteurized, milk with an old-fashioned farmhouse flavor.

. . . Chalk it up to a lucky confluence of events. Most small dairy farmers cannot keep afloat selling milk to large processors at commodity prices, so those who are trying to survive are looking for alternatives. At the same time there is an increasingly sophisticated public that appreciates the difference between mass-produced dumbed-down food and the handiwork of a small dairy that has learned to produce exceptional butter or yogurt or ice cream by doing it the way it was done before World War II, when there was a creamery in every town.

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